Holly Woodlawn, transgender actress for Warhol, dies at 69
Holly Woodlawn, the ebullient transgender actress who starred in Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey’s 1970s films “Trash” and “Women in Revolt” and was immortalized in the first lines of the Lou Reed song “Walk on the Wild Side,” died Dec. 6 in Los Angeles. She was 69.The cause was cancer, said her former caretaker and friend Mariela Huerta.Born Haroldo Danhakl in Puerto Rico and raised partly in Miami Beach, she took on the name Holly Woodlawn after running away from home as a teenager and hitchhiking to New York City.
She became a performer with the Play-House of the Ridiculous, what fellow Warhol acolyte and performer Penny Arcade called “the original glitter-glam queer political rock-and-roll theater of the ’60s.” Ms. Woodlawn was soon on the periphery of Warhol’s Factory scene, a hodgepodge of artists, musicians and hustlers.And although the pecking order in that scene was ever-shifting, Ms. Woodlawn, cast in two Warhol films, found herself at the center of it for a time.“Trash” (1970) told the tale of heroin addict Joe (Joe Dallesandro) and Holly (played by Ms. Woodlawn) trying to eke out a living — by, among other schemes, faking a pregnancy to get welfare. As with much of Warhol’s filmography, “Trash” is a study in contrasts: amateurish, pioneering, ridiculous and brilliant.“Holly Woodlawn, especially, is something to behold,” New York Times film critic Vincent Canby wrote, “a comic book Mother Courage who fancies herself as Marlene Dietrich but sounds more often like Phil Silvers.”“Women in Revolt” (1971) — in which Ms. Woodlawn and two other “female impersonators,” as the New York Times put it at the time, play women struggling with female liberation — was “the ultimate put-down of women’s lib, as well as the ultimate endorsement.”Of Warhol’s stunt casting, Ms. Woodlawn said, “I think that basically Andy just loved glamorous women, and around that time, he just didn’t know any.”Ms. Woodlawn was soon featured in “Walk on the Wild Side.” It began: “Holly came from Miami, F.L.A. / Hitchhiked her way across the U.S.A. / Plucked her eyebrows on the way / Shaved her legs and then he was a she / She says, ‘Hey, babe, take a walk on the wild side.’ ”Despite a degree of critical acclaim for her film roles, Ms. Woodlawn couldn’t find mainstream success. For the rest of her life, she was a performer on the margins — doing cabaret shows, making appearances at Warhol-related events and writing a memoir, “A Low Life in High Heels.”Her cult following won her parts in such independent films as “Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss” (1998) and “Twin Falls Idaho” (1999). More recently, she appeared in the Amazon comedy series “Transparent.”