BEAUTY ICON OF THE WEEK: CANDY DARLING
Candy Darling (November 24, 1944 – March 21, 1974) was an American actress, best known as a Warhol Superstar. A male-to-female transsexual person, she starred in Andy Warhol's films Flesh (1968) and Women in Revolt (1971), and was a muse of the protopunk bandThe Velvet Underground.
Candy Darling was born James Lawrence Slattery in Forest Hills, Queens, son of Theresa Phelan, a bookkeeper at Manhattan's Jockey Club, and James (Jim) Slattery, who was described as a violent alcoholic. There is some conjecture around her year of birth. According to former Warhol associate, Bob Colacello, Candy was born in 1946, while IMDb has listed her year of birth as 1948. Her friend, roommate, and posthumous editor, Jeremiah Newton, states that she was born on November 24, 1944.
Candy's early years were spent in Massapequa Park, Long Island, where she and her mother had moved after her parents divorced. Her half-brother Warren, a product of Theresa Slattery's first marriage, left home for the U.S. military, leaving Jimmy as the only child. Warren later denied his connection to her.
She spent much of her childhood watching television and old Hollywood movies, from which she learned to impersonate her favorite actresses, such as Joan Bennett and Kim Novak. In 1961 she signed up for a course at the DeVern School of Cosmetology in Baldwin, on Long Island. She claimed to have "learned about the mysteries of sex from a salesman in a local children's shoe store" and finally revealed an inclination towards crossdressing when her mother confronted her about local rumors, which described her as dressing as a girl and frequenting a local gay bar called The Hayloft. In response, Jimmy left the room and reappeared in full feminine attire. Her mother later said that, "I knew then... that I couldn't stop Jimmy. Candy was just too beautiful and talented.
Late at night, Darling would often take a short taxi ride to the LIRR train station, avoiding the attention of neighbors she would receive if she walked. There she would take the train to Manhattan, frequently sitting across from Long Island starlet Joey Heatherton. Once there, she referred to her Cape Cod-style home, at 79 First Avenue in Massapequa Park, as her "country house" and hung out in Greenwich Village, meeting people through the circle of Seymour Levy, on Bleecker Street.
Darling met Jeremiah Newton in the summer of 1966. Newton was on his first trip to the Village from his home in Flushing, Queens. The two would become friends and roommates, living together in Manhattan and Brooklyn until the time of Darling's death in 1974.
Her first assumed name was Hope Slattery. According to Bob Colacello, Darling adopted this name sometime in 1963/1964 after she started going to gay bars in Manhattan and making visits to a doctor on Fifth Avenue for hormone injections. Jackie Curtis stated that Candy adopted the name from a well-known Off-Off Broadway actress named Hope Stansbury, with whom she lived for a few months in an apartment behind the Caffe Cino so that she could study her. Holly Woodlawn remembers that Darling's name evolved from Hope Dahl to Candy Dahl and then to Candy Cane. Jeremiah Newton believed she adopted her forename out of a love for sweets. In her autobiography, Woodlawn recalled that Darling had adopted the name because a friend of hers affectionately called her "darling" so often that it finally stuck.
The Warhol years
Before they met, in 1967, Darling saw Andy Warhol at the after-hours club called The Tenth of Always. Candy was with Jackie Curtis, who invited Warhol to a play that she had written and directed, called Glamour, Glory and Gold, starring Darling, as "Nona Noonan", and a young Robert De Niro, who played six parts in the play. It was performed at Bastiano's Cellar Studio on Waverly Place. Taylor Mead brought Warhol to see it and afterwards went to the club Salvation in Sheridan Square, where he was joined by Candy and Curtis at his table.
Warhol cast Darling in a short comedic scene in Flesh (1968) with Jackie Curtis and Joe Dallesandro. After Flesh, Candy was cast in a central role in Women In Revolt (1971). She played a Long Island socialite, drawn into a woman's liberation group called PIGS (Politically Involved Girls), by a character played by Curtis. Interrupted by cast disputes encouraged by Warhol, Women in Revolt took longer to film than its predecessor and went through several title changes before it was released. Darling wanted it called Blonde on a Bum Trip since she was the blonde, while Curtis and Woodlawn told her it was more like "Bum on a Blonde Trip", titles which were both used in the film during Candy's interview scene.
Women in Revolt was first shown at the first Los Angeles Filmex as Sex. Later it was shown as Andy Warhol's Women, an homage to George Cukor. Unable to get a distributor for the film, Warhol rented out the Cine Malibu on East 59th Street and launched the film with a celebrity preview on February 16, 1972. After the screening there was a dinner in Candy's honor at Le Parc Périgord restaurant, on Park Avenue, followed by a party at Francesco Scavullo's townhouse, where they watched TV reviews of the movie, some of which called it "a rip-off", and that it "looked as if it were filmed underwater," and "proves once again that Andy Warhol has no talent. But we knew that since the Campbell's Soup cans."
Among the guests at Darling's party were D.D. Ryan, Sylvia Miles, George Plimpton, Halston, Giorgio di Sant 'Angelo and Egon and Diane von Furstenberg. Jackie Curtis stood out in the cold, along with other gate crashers. When a security guard asked, "My God, what are they giving away in there?" one of the guests responded, "Would you believe, atransvestite?"
The day after the celebrity preview a group of women wearing army jackets, pea coats, jeans and boots and carrying protest signs demonstrated outside the cinema against the film, which they thought was anti-women's liberation. When Darling heard about this, she said, "Who do these dykes think they are anyway?... Well, I just hope they all read Vincent Canby's review in today's Times. He said I look like a cross between Kim Novak and Pat Nixon. It's true - I do have Pat Nixon's nose."
Candy Darling went on to appear in other independent films, including Brand X, by Wynn Chamberlain, Silent Night, Bloody Night, as well as a co-starring role as a victim of trans-bashing in Some of My Best Friends Are...
She also appeared in Klute with Jane Fonda and Lady Liberty with Sophia Loren. In 1971 she went to Vienna to make two films with director Werner Schroeter; The Death of Maria Malibran, and another one that was never released. Her attempt at breaking into the mainstream movie circuit, by campaigning for the leading role in Myra Breckinridge, (1970) led to rejection and bitterness.
Her theatre credits include two Jackie Curtis plays, Glamour, Glory and Gold (1967) and Vain Victory: The Vicissitudes of the Damned (1971), She was also in Tennessee Williams' play,Small Craft Warnings, at the invitation of Williams himself. She starred in the 1973 Off-Broadway revival of The White Whore and the Bit Player, a 1964 play by Tom Eyen. Darling's character, a Hollywood actress known only as "the Whore", was based on Marilyn Monroe. As a review of the play stated, "With her teased platinum hair and practiced pouts, Miss Darling looks like her character and resolutely keeps her acting little-girl-lost. The role-playing aspect works to her advantage. She could, after all, be a male lunatic pretending to be the White Whore."
Illness and death
Darling died of leukemia on March 21, 1974, aged 29, at the Columbus Hospital division of the Cabrini Health Center. In a letter written on her deathbed and intended for Andy Warhol and his followers, Darling said, "Unfortunately before my death I had no desire left for life . . . I am just so bored by everything. You might say bored to death. (D)id you know I couldn't last. I always knew it. I wish I could meet you all again."
Her funeral was attended by huge crowds, including friends Pat Ast and Julie Newmar; a piano piece was played by Faith Dane; Gloria Swanson was remembered for saluting Darling's coffin.
Candy Darling was cremated, her ashes interred by her friend Jeremiah Newton in the Cherry Valley Cemetery, located in Cherry Valley, New York, a tiny historical village located at the foot of the Catskill Mountains.
Portrayals in film
A feature length documentary on Candy, titled Beautiful Darling, premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival (or Berlinale) in February 2010. The documentary features archival film and video footage, photographs, personal papers, archival audio interviews with Tennessee Williams, Valerie Solanas, Jackie Curtis and Candy's mother, as well as contemporary HD interviews with Holly Woodlawn, Fran Lebowitz, John Waters, Julie Newmar, Peter Beard and Taylor Mead. Chloë Sevigny narrates the film, voicing Candy's private diary entries and personal letters. The film was directed by James Rasin and produced by Jeremiah Newton and Elisabeth Bentley.
Portrayals on stage
Candy was portrayed by Michael-August Turley in the New York City production of "Pop!" by Anna K. Jacobs & Maggie-Kate Coleman, directed by Robert Marshall Heller, December 2008.
Candy was also portrayed by Broadway actor, Brian Charles Rooney, in "Pop!" a new musical by Anna K. Jacobs & Maggie-Kate Coleman, at Yale Repertory Theatre, directed by Mark Brokaw (Broadway: After Miss Julie, How I Learned to Drive, etc.): November - December 2009
In popular culture
- Darling is the subject of The Velvet Underground's song "Candy Says" and was one of several Warhol associates mentioned in Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side".
- In The Rolling Stones song "Citadel", released in 1967, Candy Darling is mentioned along with her friend Taffy Tits.
- Peter Hujar's photo, "Candy Darling on her Deathbed" was used by Antony and the Johnsons for the cover of their 2005 Mercury Music Prize-winning album I Am a Bird Now.
- Greer Lankton famously made a bust of Candy that was displayed at the 1995 Whitney biennial.
- An image of her, taken from Women In Revolt, was also featured on the front cover of the 1987 single "Sheila Take a Bow" by the English group The Smiths. The last song on lead singer Morrissey's solo album You Are the Quarry is called "You Know I Couldn't Last".
- Candy Darling's letters, sketches and journal entries were compiled into a book titled My Face for the World to See by Hardy Marks publications.
- The song "Queen of War" by French artist Electrosexual features a sample of Candy's voice from the film Flesh, directed by Paul Morriessy.