Friday, 27 May 2011


Transgender pioneer Candy Darling with Andy Warhol (Photo still from Beautiful Darling)

(May 27) In 1958 fourteen-year-old Jimmy Slattery wrote in his dairy, “Someday I'll be a movie star, that's it, and I'll be rich and famous and have all the friends I want.”

Then one day he did, as pioneering male-to-female transsexual Candy Darling, who escaped Long Island to become become part of Andy Warhol’s circle at the Factory in New York before dying in 1974 at age 29 of lymphoma.

Now the documentary film Beautiful Darling chronicles the short life and times of the popular 1960s actress and notorious transvestite. Candy's career took her through the raucous and revolutionary Off-off-Broadway theater scene and into Andy Warhol's legendary Factory where she became close to Warhol and starred in two Factory movies, Flesh and Women in Revolt. Candy then used her Warhol fame to land other film roles, and even Tennessee Williams cast her in his play Small Craft Warnings.

Darling was the muse of the protopunk band The Velvet Underground (she was the subject of their song Candy Says) and was one of several Warhol associates mentioned in Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side. Darling is also mentioned in the The Rolling stones 1967 songs Citadel.

Darling dreamed of becoming a Hollywood star but, as film critic Barbara Vancheri of  the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette accurately notes in her review of the film, which is winning raves right across the board, “The documentary dances around the suggestion that Candy was forced to be a hustler to survive. But since it counts devoted friend Jeremiah Newton as a producer, Beautiful Darling teeters on the brink of darkness but never dives in, preferring to only delicately dent the cocoon Candy had spun for herself.”

Many of the celebrities interviewed in this film include Fran Lebowitz, Paul Morrissey, Julie Newmar, Jeremiah Newton, John Waters and Holly Woodlawn, and there are clips with the late Tennessee Williams and Andy Warhol. 

One celebrity not interviewed, however, is poet and literary legend John Giorno, first superstar of the Factory. That’s Giorno sleeping in Warhol’s 1963 eight-hour-long film Sleep, and that’s Giorno you see in Warhol’s unreleased Handjob, which focuses on Giorno’s face while he masturbates.

John Giorno (Photo by Rolline 
Laporte, courtesy John Giorno)
I befriended Giorno when he came to Montreal in 2008 for the Festival Voix d’Amériques. I took John out for steak and smoked meat at Schwartz’s, and plenty of beer and tequila at The Copa on The Main, and he shared many stories, like why  he and Warhol really split in 1964. 

“It was complicated – I was [the Factory's] first superstar and he was getting rid of me,” John told me. “It was the beginning of a pattern [for Warhol]. William Burroughs came to New York in 1964 and [artist] Brion [Gysin, pictured on the cover of Burroughs's book Junk] became [my] lover and these two were staying at the Chelsea Hotel. It was two different worlds. And Burroughs was my door to political activism. So I went into a whole other world. [Then with Andy] it’s like, you know, they don’t answer your phone calls. Or they say, ‘I told so-and-so to invite you.’ That’s what happened. It wasn’t just one moment. There was never any fight. But that whole art world was an enormous influence on my work.”

As for Candy Darling, she died of lymphoma in New York in 1974. But in her deathbed letter addressed to Warhol, she wrote, ""Unfortunately before my death I had no desire left for life . . . I am just so bored by everything. You might say bored to death. Did you know I couldn't last. I always knew it. I wish I could meet you all again."

Darling was 29. Her funeral was attended by huge crowds and Gloria Swanson was remembered for saluting Darling's coffin.

Beautiful Darling opens at Montreal’s Cinema du Parc for one week only, May 27 to June 2. For a list of other cinemas, surf to the official Beautiful Darling website.

1 comment:

  1. Johanna Nutter27 May 2011 at 13:48

    thanks, bugs. i saw john in 2008 and fell in love with his poetry and the way he spoke it. especially "welcoming the flowers"...