All Photos: Alan Mercer Make-Up: Theresa Ford
Stylist: Irene Soderberg
Photo Shoot Coordinator: Joseph Anthony Goodwin
The legendary Lou Reed song ‘Take a Walk on the Wild Side’ opens with a reference to Holly Woodlawn, indelibly imprinting her story in American pop culture. "Holly Came From Miami, F-L-A..." are the beginning lyrics forever describing Holly's arrival in New York City and ultimate imprint on the landscape of 1970s chique.
Born Haroldo Santiago Franceschi Rodriguez Danhakl in Juana Díaz, Puerto Rico, Holly grew up in Miami Beach, where she came out at a young age. Holly is best known as an Andy Warhol Superstar and has appeared in his movies ‘Trash’ in 1970 and ‘Women in Revolt’ in 1972.
The name Holly came from the heroine of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany's,’ and in 1969 added the surname from a sign she saw on an episode of ‘I Love Lucy.’ After changing her name she began to tell people she was the heiress to Woodlawn Cemetery.
In 1962, Holly left Florida, heading north. She recollects that "I hocked some jewelry and ... made it all the way to Georgia, where the money ran out and ... had to hitchhike the rest of the way" to New York. By 1969, she had considered sex reassignment surgery, but decided against it.
In October of 1969, she was given a bit role in ‘Trash,’ but so impressed director Paul Morrissey that she was given a much larger role. In 1970, she received word from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that the legendary Hollywood Director, George Cukor, supported by others, was petitioning the Academy to nominate her for best actress for her work in ‘Trash,’ however, nothing came of this campaign.
In 1982, Holly was hired by the producers of ‘Tootsie’ to coach Dustin Hoffman in his role as 'Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels' in the art of being a man acting as a woman in films.
Holly’s autobiography, ‘The Holly Woodlawn Story: A Low Life in High Heels’ was published by St. Martin's Press in October 1991. The book chronicles Holly’s life as a "shopaholic," boozehound, drug abuser, and cross-dressing "glamourina."
Holly Woodlawn continued to make cameo appearances in plays and films such as ‘Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss’ throughout the 1980s and 1990s. After Andy Warhol's death, she was interviewed frequently on his life and influence.
Currently, Holly can be seen making three cameo appearances on Season One of the critically acclaimed amazon original program ‘Transparent.’
Special THANKS to Joseph Anthony Goodwin.
AM: Holly I think it’s so fantastic that you are on ‘Transparent.” How did that happen?
HW: A friend of mine called me and told me amazon was making a new show that I would be perfect for and it was about a seventy year old divorced man with children, who wants to become a woman.
AM: Did you ever think there would be a show like this in your lifetime?
HW: Never! I practically started the whole thing in the 70s. When I did ‘Trash’ for Andy Warhol, I never thought I’d see it in a regular theater. I thought it would stay underground.
AM: Not only that, ‘Trash’ has lasted and still has legs and you weren’t even supposed to be in that movie were you?
HW: No, they didn’t know who I was yet. I told an underground magazine interviewer I was an Andy Warhol Superstar already and they published it. Paul Morrissey was upset about it, but he wanted to meet me. He was intrigued by my boldness. I went to his office and he asked me why I was lying about being cast in the movie. I charmed him enough that he gave me a one scene part that he paid me $25.00 for. He liked me enough to put me in the whole movie and the rest is history.
AM: Wow that made your whole career!
HW: I sure got more than my 15 minutes.
AM: Now the ‘trans’ world is a very big topic.
HW: It’s about time. There are so many talented people in the world who are transgender and now they’re being recognized.
AM: Do you have an opinion on Bruce Jenner?
HW: I really don’t care about Bruce Jenner. That’s his life. I don’t like any of that Kardashian thing. I can’t be bothered with any of them.
AM: How old were you when you realized you wanted to be a different gender?
HW: I was six years old.
AM: Did you let people know?
HW: As much as I could.
AM: What did your parents think?
HW: My parents didn’t know anything until I was sixteen when I ran away from home. The story is documented in Lou Reed’s famous song ‘Walk On The Wild Side.’ I couldn’t stay in Miami. I wanted to be in New York where the lights, the action and the people are.
AM: Did you always want to be an entertainer?
HW: Yes, I just didn’t know what or how.
AM: Do you find acting creatively fulfilling?
HW: Yes, even though I only did 5 minutes in ‘Transparent.’
AM: I’d love to see much more of you in the next season of ‘Transparent.’ Do a lot of people want to interview you?
HW: Yes, I do a lot of Q and A’s. I’ve also done my nightclub act in New York and in Europe. I’m more appreciated on the East Coast and definitely Europe.
AM: When was the last time you saw ‘Trash?’
HW: Last year they had a screening with Joe Dallesandro in a cemetery! It was screened at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. (laughter)
AM: I love your autobiography from 1991, ‘A Low Life In High Heels.” Was it therapeutic to write your life down?
HW: Yes, I finally realized how funny I was. I also realized how much I LIVED and had a life.
AM: Do you have any future plans Holly?
HW: There’s talk of making a documentary on my life. Also I sold the rights to ‘A Low Life In High Heels’ for a film to be made from that. I just returned from Austin, Texas where I was part of the Austin Drag Festival with Charles Busch and Lady Bunny.
AM: Did you have fun and enjoy Austin?
HW: Yes I did have fun and the event was a huge success, but Austin gave me allergies!
AM: People think of you as always glamorous Holly. Do you try to maintain that image?
HW: Either I am dressed up to go out or I slop around the house in shorts and a t-shirt. I’m still the same person no matter what I’m wearing. Now we can wear anything anytime. When I first ran away to New York you could be arrested for female impersonation.