Andy Warhol superstar, drag queen, and actress Holly Woodlawn recently chatted with Bradford Shellhammer about her performance tonight in Chelsea, why she hates Los Angeles, and how Auntie Mame saved her life.
Hi Holly, How are you?
Your name is Brad?
Yes, Bradford Shellhammer. I go by Bradford.
Use that name! We were both born with great names. It means we come from good breeding. You are German? I am German too. I was born in Puerto Rico but from Germanic decent. My mother is Italian and French. I am a white woman.
How did your parents meet?
My mother’s family moved to Puerto Rico during World War II. My dad was in the military and was stationed there and that is where he met my mother. I still call my father “Darling.”
How old are your parents?
They are 80 and 85 and they still think I am out of my mind. I have no siblings so when they are gone it will just be me. I am going to be 60 in two weeks. I have lived so many lives.
Which of those lives has been your favorite?
My favorite life? You are making me think here, Bradford. Luckily, my brain is all that works these days. I still have a fabulous face, but the other bones don’t work like they used to. My favorite life is the one I am living now because I have forgotten all the others.
How did you become Holly?
I was born Harold Ajzenberg. I left Miami because I would have been tarred and feathered there. I hitchhiked and the song lyrics are true. I met Candy Darling and Jackie Curtis and they introduced me to Max’s Kansas City and then to Andy. Andy treated us like movie stars. We were on welfare and we were so poor, but at night we went to the most amazing parties. Diana Vreeland parties. I lived a double life, I did not know who I was: fabulous at night and queen of the cockroaches by day.
After the jump Holly discusses her love for Babs, why Paris Hilton needs to eat something, and Joan Rivers’ penis.
You are no cockroach Holly!
I am. I am their Queen. You can use Raid. And they come back. I will not die. I have lived in the most despicable apartments with cockroaches and I know they never die. They may go away. But they always come back. I am just like that.
What performers do you love? What music do you listen to at home?
I don’t own a cd player! I am from the old country. I have a VCR and I watch pornos, Cleopatra, and Auntie Mame.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
It is Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame. Whenever I am depressed I play that movie and when it is done I feel fabulous. My favorite scene is the morning after one of Mame’s parties and Vera opens the window and exclaims “Oh, that moon is so bright!” And it was the sun! I would be dead if not for that movie.
What is the oddest thing of Andy Warhol’s that you have kept?
I don’t really keep material things. The only thing Andy ever gave me was a shoe painting with diamond dust. After Andy died I sold it so I could pay my rent. I am telling you the truth. What he really gave me was memories. If it was not for Andy I would not have been Holly. He made me a superstar. He gave me that. I will have that for the rest of my life. He put me on the map.
You live in LA and people have such a love/hate thing with Los Angeles. Do you love it or hate it?
Do you want the truth? Everyone looks like Paris Hilton (spoken in a Spanish accent). If I see another blonde with a Chihuahua I will get arrested for murdering some skinny white girl. And they all have cell phones. I wish they would eat their cell phones. They need to eat something! I am moving to Kentucky to an artist’s colony in Paducah which is a lot like South Beach was before Versace came along.
I know you do not put much value in material items, but what is your most prized possession?
My Sanity. What is left of it.
I know you love Barbra Streisand. Have you two met?
No and the two of us in the same room would be too much. There is a play called When Queens Collide. That is what meeting Barbra would be like.
Tell me about your show this Tuesday?
I will be doing Holly’s Follies. These are the songs my friends want to hear me sing. Just like Babs. I have Joan Rivers’ pianist. I kept thinking my friends were saying “Holly has Joan Rivers’ penis.” I have not had a sex change and if I did I would not want Joan Rivers’ penis!
I always thought she was a drag queen.
She is nuts. Well, we are all a little cookoo. That is why we flock to NYC, right Bradford?
People ask if I would live my NYC life again and I say yes and no. Yes to the parties. No to the cockroaches.
Holly, what makes you happy?
My key to happiness is to lock the door and not let people bug the shit out of me. Actually it is Cleopatra, a glass of wine, a cigarette, and two good friends. That will make anyone happy.
Your book A Low Life In High Heels is being made into a movie, right?
Yes. It is being made. The money has come through and Euan Morton is playing me. He played Boy George in Taboo. I am doing a cameo at the end singing with Lou Reed, Mich Jagger, and David Bowie.