Forever immortalized in the classic Lou Reed tranny anthem “Walk on the Wild Side”, where the avante-rocker croons,
“Holly came in from FLA, hitchhiked her way across the USA, plucked her eyebrows on the way, shaved her legs, and then he was a she…”
And ever since those heady daze and nights at the Factory and on the set working on films Holly transformed herself into a larger than life drag icon. This and with a lot of hard work appearing and performing around the world has made her a living legend in her own time.
It was early June way back in 1996 and I was having a grand time as I had just finished attending a major drag event at the Playboy Mansion and had landed interviews with trans-drag celebs like Frank Marino, Joey Arias, Karen Dior (RIP), Sherry Vine, Jane County at the Viper Room (where River Phoenix died from a speeedball overdose two weeks later) and more. At the time every week I would get the latest issue of LA Weekly to see what was happening on the scene.
Did my panties melt and my bra straps shred when I noticed an advert announcing that the famous Andy Warhol Superstar Holly Woodlawn would be performing a piano act- solo cabaret show at Club Checca on Santa Monica Boulevard? You betcha!
Right away I set my heart on not only accessing a pass to see Holly perform at the club; I was going to ask her for a sit down meeting to interview her for TV Epic magazine.
At that point in time I was so new and fresh that I was just realizing and experiencing my life long dream and goal to be a Press/Media person. Easy for me to remember how I did my research and finally managed to get in touch with Holly’s agent and manager. Roberto called to tell me that they would have to clear my request with the management at Club Checca. A few days later the phone rang and I was told that I would be given a VIP/Comp to go see Holly’s last show at the venue on a Sunday night.
Before the show started it was obvious that Holly could have booked herself a three to six week run as she had a legion of fans and admirers in attendance. Even though a freak storm had hit and it was raining cats, rats and Double D bras outside it was a Standing Room Only crowd.
As I sat and sipped a glass of fine wine Holly hit the stage to a standing ovation. When she tinkered at the piano to warm up the crown and herself she talked about Andy, Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground and then she told us a cute story about Nico and then one about the late – great Jackie Curtis.
Before Holly hit those opening notes to “Walk on the Wild Side” she mentioned how overjoyed she was when Little Joe had come in the night before to see her perform.
Holly lamented just a bit about how life is short and sweet and how it was sad that most, if not all, of these people Andy attracted were damaged souls that had a common bond of being “star struck”. Driven to express themselves, develop what art and intellingencia they had to work with. Thing is Andy selectively picked them because they all had talent on similar and different levels and they all craved access to a stage to perform on and a camera to be in front of.
This was heady stuff for a group of mostly half-way functional and totally dysfunctional sex and drug addicts. Along with them all being major attention monsters and camera whores!
Also as we all know many who were part of the Andy Warhol clique and were involved with him when he was holding court and creating his world famous art were destined for cult status! They were a very talented but also very self absorbed and self destructive group of individuals. Andy supplied them with drugs and a place to party, act out and most importantly perform and help him create his art! A place where some say the bottom line was that he exploited and drained them of their creative juices.
Andy Warhol was an insanely talented and manipulative ringmaster who presided over a group of lost souls, kinetic artists and performers like Holly. Again many feel Mr. Warhol used and some say abused with no conscience the people he called his friends. It was written that the death of Edie Sodgwick was a result of her becoming involved with Andy and the rampant drug fueled party scene he created and encouraged! A party life that consumed and destroyed her
Holly Woodlawn appeared in the Andy Warhol films “Trash” and “Women in Revolt” in the 1970’s and more recently in “Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss” and “Milwaukee, Minnesota”. She was most recently seen in the summer of 2008 on stage in the drag benefit show, “When Queens Collide” in Tinsel town. For an update on Holly and to see what new projects she is involved in do visit her website www.hollywoodlawnsuperstar.com.
In the late 1970’s Geraldo Rivera interviewed Holly on television, asking her: “What are you? Are you a woman trapped in a man’s body? A transvestite? A transsexual?” Holly replied, “But darling, what difference does it make, as long as you look fabulous?” Today Holly is as fabulous as ever, she lives in West Hollywood, where she works on her cabaret act and keeps the legend alive – she loves to hear from fans.
One can go though their whole life and exit this planet and really not leave anything. I see the really dead person as the proverbial and very real unknown soldier from the Civil War.
Gone and off this planet so long that there is nothing, nada to mark his life, time and presence on this planet. Now there are some who are fortunate who live to become well known, loved by many and respected. We have those who are blessed with something very special that all the gold in Ft. Knox and all the cash reserves in the World Bank can not purchase! I see that it could be a God given gift. It is called charisma and I have met and had a cocktail or two with Holly Woodlawn! Holly has it with a capital “C”.
Now what Holly has that Andy started for her and she created is what we call a legacy! The next time you hear that Lou Reed song that has a little sing-along hook line that goes, doot, de da, doot, doot, doot, doot, doot…
By Marlayna Lacie
This article was originally published in Transformation 69 May 2005