Holly Woodlawn

Puerto Rico

born: October 26, 1946

Holly Woodlawn is a Puerto Rican-born transgender actress and former Andy Warhol superstar, who appeared in his movies “Trash” (1970) and “Women in Revolt” (1972).

Born Haroldo Santiago Franceschi Rodriguez Danhakl in Juana Díaz, Puerto Rico, Woodlawn adopted the name Holly 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.

Woodlawn grew up in Miami Beach and in 1962 left, heading north. She recollects that "I hocked some jewellery 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.

Woodlawn met Andy Warhol at the Factory, at a screening of Flesh. Through him she met Jackie Curtis, who cast Woodlawn in her play Heaven Grand in Amber Orbit in the autumn of 1969. In October 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 George Cukor, supported by others, was petitioning the Academy to nominate her for best actress for her work in Trash[citation needed], however, nothing came of this campaign.

In May 1971, Woodlawn replaced Candy Darling at the La Mama Theatre, New York in a production of Vain Victory written and directed by Jackie Curtis. She was arrested and briefly incarcerated in Puerto Rico after being caught shoplifting. Woodlawn created a stir when she was arrested in New York City after impersonating the wife of the French Ambassador to the United Nations. When arrested, she was taken to the Women's House of Detention then transferred to a men's facility when her biological sex was discovered.

In 1972 director Robert Kaplan and cinematographer Paul Glickman concocted the idea of a movie whose premise would be using a transvestite as the lead in a film without revealing the sex of the actress. Woodlawn played a young, starstruck girl hoping for success as an actress in New York City. The film, "Scarecrow in a Garden of Cucumbers", was a low budget, 16mm, unsuccessful musical feature. The song "In The Very Last Row", written by Marshall Barer, was performed by Bette Midler.

In 1977, Woodlawn moved to San Francisco. She returned to New York later in the year, appearing on Geraldo Rivera's talk show, before being jailed again in 1978 for violating terms of probation. She was released on the appeal of politician Ethan Geto, who helped organize a benefit for her.

By 1979, she surrendered to a faltering career, cut her hair and moved back to her parents' home in Miami, while working as a busboy at Benihana.

Woodlawn continued to make cameo appearances in plays and films such as Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss throughout the 1980s and 1990s. After Warhol's death, she was interviewed frequently on his life and influence. She currently resides in West Hollywood.

Woodlawn began performing in cabaret shows in sold-out New York and Los Angeles performances in the early 2000s. She continues to travel with her cabaret show, most recently appearing in Kraków and London in 2008.

Lou Reed refers to Woodlawn in his song "Walk on the Wild Side," in the opening lyric "Holly came from Miami, FLA." 

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