Holly Woodlawn, One Of Warhol’s Greatest Superstars, Has Died

holly-360x447Holly Woodlawn, a trailblazing trans entertainer who emerged in the early 1970s as one of Andy Warhol’s most dynamic superstars and who inspired a verse of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” has died in Los Angeles at age 69 after a long battle with cancer.

Joe Dallesandro, another great Warhol performer who appeared with Woodlawn in the groundbreaking 1970 dramedy Trash, announced the passing of his friend and former costar with a message posted to his Facebook account.


He later revealed that Woodlawn died in his arms as he read messages he’d collected for her from friends and fans.

In July and October, we reported on the grave illness Woodlawn faced and the crowdsourcing campaign that had been organized to help make her final days as peaceful as possible.

Woodlawn, who reportedly considered gender reassignment surgery in 1969, was a singular entertainer. Her impact in Trash was so significant that no less than legendary director George Cukor petitioned the Motion Picture Academy to nominate her for an Oscar for her work in the film. Unfortunately, the movie’s success didn’t lead to many other parts for her. She later established herself as a popular cabaret performer, however. Her memoir, A Low Life in High Heels, was published in 1991 and offered a rollicking account of her colorful life. At one point the book was reportedly optioned to become a film, with Madonna said to have expressed interest in portraying another trans icon, the late Candy Darling. Woodlawn appeared in the  pop singer’s video for her 1992 hit “Deeper and Deeper.”

In addition to inspiring countless other trans performers, perhaps Woodlawn’s most enduring legacy is the memorable first verse in the Reed classic:

Holly came from Miami F.L.A.
Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she
She said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side,
Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side.

Filmmaker Mike Stabile, acclaimed for Seed Money, a riveting doc about vintage gay porn director Chuck Holmes, is currently working on a documentary of Woodlawn. In October, Stabile told Queerty that Woodlawn was one of the last “trailblazers who didn’t give a fuck what society thought.”

She’ll definitely be missed.

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  • Tony Chaplinski

    don’t know if I would use the word superstar

  • George Kopczynski

    It’s so sad. Her walk on the wild side is over. You will be missed.

  • Desert Boy

    I met Holly once. We chatted for 10 minutes. She was hysterically funny and very nice to me. RIP Holly.

  • Andrew Carmona

    Can I use that bottle now?

  • Janna Burgart

    ‘Looking forward to the documentary.

  • alphacentauri

    Rest in peace.

    The only person who was a superstar that was in the Warhol factory crowd was Edie Sedgwick.

  • DarkZephyr

    Awww I had thought that things had gotten better for her. :( This is very sad. RIP Sweet Lady.

    And I see no need to denigrate her status as a superstar, folks. What’s the point?

  • DarkZephyr

    Besides, the term “superstar” is one that Warhol himself used for his actors and actresses, it was a “Warholism” and I am sure that was the way in which Queerty was using it.

  • Matthew Rettenmund

    @Tony Chaplinski: She just died, way to go making the first comment snarky. But you should Google around. A “Warhol Superstar” is what his performers were called. It was ironic and a way of being subversive toward the film establishment.

  • jag4313

    Very sad to hear of her passing. However, 306 is my lucky number and she died at 3:06pm and was in room 306. WTF!

  • Daggerman

    …there were some wonderful bits in her memoir book, Low life in high heels. I really would love to have met her….do have a peaceful journey my darling, if there is an after life…

  • BJ McFrisky

    That pic is exactly what I envision Giancarlo85 looks like.

  • Vegas Tearoom

    Quick, quick, check the pulse of Mink Stole!!!

  • dwes09

    @BJ McFrisky: And it is these self-absorbed, empathyless comments (and your breeder-like right wing snark) that make so many find you offensive. Even if you are a paragon of gay beauty (which i strongly doubt as you’d be less bitter and have some charm), a comment like this is simply a bad reflection on you as a person.

  • o.codone

    @BJ McFrisky: hahahhahaha. It is, except Giancarla is a shorter, hairy, brown version.

  • Brian

    In those days, homosexual male culture had this realness about it. Male homosexual desire had an edge which had not yet been dulled by the gay rights movement, a movement which basically turned us into obedient, harmless creatures who love our segregated spaces and want to appear nice and fruity in case we scare women.

    Andy Warhol and his stable of performers and associates such as Holly Woodlawn were part of this subversive culture which I’m afraid has vanished.

  • mgkbus

    Another great part of Gay history lost. At least, she will be remembered as a part of cinematic history, art history and musical songdom.

    I still wouldn’t touch that bottle though…

  • inbama

    Move to Russia or any Muslim country, and you can have all those thrills once again.

  • Joe

    Rest in Peace Miss Woodlawn. You will be missed and thank you for everything!

  • BJ McFrisky

    @Brian: True dat, Homes.

Comments are closed.