When you’re a Warhol superstar, no one expects you to live very long. Holly Woodlawn a.k.a. Haroldo Santiago Franceschi Rodriguez Danhakl (you can see why she changed her name and gender) was a rare exception to this rule. Among those to stay traditional in dying young were Ondine, Candy Darling, Edie Sedgwick, Jackie Curtis and Nico. But Woodlawn’s death at the ripe old age of 69 (of course, she would choose this year to go) makes her something of an anomaly in the company of Joe Dallesandro and Ultra Violet (who also died in their 60s and 70s, respectively). Hard living can either destroy someone or make them stronger; in Woodlawn’s case, it was clearly the latter.
Woodlawn’s meteoric rise to New York fame was in large part due to Jackie Curtis, whom she met through Warhol after encountering him at a screening of Flesh in 1968. By 1970, Woodlawn had delivered the one-two punch of Trash and Women in Revolt. It was perhaps because she rose so fast that she had to fall so hard, often getting arrested for such petty crimes as impersonating the wife of a United Nations ambassador. When the acting work started to dwindle, Woodlawn packed it in to head back to Miami for a bit, where she would live out the briefly tragic existence of being a busser at Benihana. It wasn’t until the 80s and 90s that Woodlawn’s cult status would re-emerge, landing her starring roles in revues for downtown clubs du jour like The Palladium and, most importantly, a cameo with other Warhol favorite Udo Kier in Madonna’s 1992 “Deeper and Deeper” video. Her autobiography, A Low Life in High Heels, was even in talks to get produced by Madonna with the pop star in the role of Candy Darling, but, alas it never panned out–which is, perhaps, what ultimately led to Woodlawn’s catty comments toward M during an interview in 2010 for the Torino Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
And while Woodlawn may have left the party too early, there’s no denying she had a lot of fun while the going was good. As the last of the glamorous transes once stated, “Little did I realize that not only would there be no money, but that your star would flicker for two seconds and that was it. But it was worth it, the drugs, the parties, it was fabulous.”