Holly Woodlawn‘s friends and admirers have been on the death watch for the past few days. Her old pal, actor Joe Dallesandro, has been really good about keeping us all updated and took print-outs of well-wishers final farewells to Holly this afternoon. Sadly, she just left the planet. She was 69.
For those of you who don’t know Holly Woodlawn, she was born Haroldo Santiago Franceschi Rodriguez Danhakl in Juana Díaz, Puerto Rico and grew up in Miami Beach. Holly came out at a young age and adopted the name Holly from the heroine of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and in 1969 added the surname from a sign she saw on an episode of I Love Lucy. After changing her name she began to tell people she was the heiress to Woodlawn Cemetery.
In 1962, Woodlawn left Florida at the age of 15, heading north. She recollects that
“I hocked some jewelry and … made it all the way to Georgia, where the money ran out and … had to hitchhike the rest of the way” to New York City.
Woodlawn met Andy Warhol at the Factory, at a screening of Flesh (1968). Through him she met Jackie Curtis, who cast Woodlawn in her play Heaven Grand in Amber Orbit in the autumn of 1969. In October, she was given a bit role in Trash, but so impressed director Paul Morrissey that she was given a much larger role. In ’71 she was cast along with Jackie Curtis and Candy Darling in the now cult classic, Women In Revolt.
After a series of parts in Warhol films and LaMama productions Woodlawn moved to San Francisco in ’77. By 1979, she surrendered to a faltering career, cut her hair and moved back to her parents’ home in Miami. During the 90s, Woodlawn achieved a modest comeback, making cameo appearances in plays and films such as Night Owl (1993) and Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss (1998). After Warhol’s death, she was interviewed frequently on his life and influence. Lou Reed famously refers to Candy, Joe and Holly in Walk on the Wild Side. The opening lyric is
“Holly came from Miami F.L.A.”
And the rest, as they say, was Herstory.
UPDATE: From old pal Gabriel Rotello, late Sunday night on Facebook;
“I just wanted Holly Woodlawn’s friends to know that her passing was very peaceful. I happened to stop by at the final moment and she was surrounded by friends, surrounded by love, and there was a great sense of calm, serenity and acceptance in the room. Just a couple of weeks ago she had been chattering away full of stories and smiles and I left for NY confident she’d be around for a while. But just days later she slipped into unconsciousness, and today she quietly slipped away. So it seemed very merciful, for which we should all thank the goddess.
We should also thank Constance Cooper, Penny Arcade and Robert Starr for their selfless work making her last months secure and comfortable. She was very grateful to them, and touched by all the people who contributed to her care. I am too.”
And this from Harvey Fierstein;
“So very sorry to say goodbye to Holly Woodlawn. She was a piss and a half. Knew her most of my life. In fact, a hundred years ago I begged Madonna to buy Holly’s life story, A Low Life In High Heels, and star in the movie as Candy Darling. The movie never happened. I even tried to sell it as a TV series. Maybe these days it could happen. But executives were scared of it back then. Three cheers to my sister! Holly Woodlawn was no less than an American original. Superstar indeed!”