Holly Woodlawn, Transgender Star of 1970s Underground Films, Dies at 69

nytimes.com by William Grimes Dec 7, 2015

Holly came from Miami F-L-A,

Hitchhiked her way across the U.S.A.,

Plucked her eyebrows on the way,

Shaved her legs and then he was a she.

Holly Woodlawn, a transgender actress who achieved underground stardom with her affecting performance as a starry-eyed down-and-outer in the 1970 film “Trash,” died on Sunday in Los Angeles. She was 69.

The cause was complications of cancer, her manager, Robert Coddington, said.

Ms. Woodlawn had been in the outer orbit of the Factory, Andy Warhol’s studio headquarters, when she caught the attention of Paul Morrissey, Warhol’s partner in making experimental films like “Chelsea Girls” and “Flesh.” Mr. Morrissey cast her in “Trash” as the long-suffering paramour of a heroin addict who lives in squalor on the Lower East Side, played by Joe Dallesandro.

Her sassy, improvised dialogue and her vulnerability touched audiences and critics, many of whom were desperate to find a glint of redeeming light in a relentlessly sordid film. “Holly Woodlawn, especially, is something to behold,” Vincent Canby wrote in his review for The New York Times, “a comic book Mother Courage who fancies herself as Marlene Dietrich but sounds more often like Phil Silvers.”

With great aplomb, Ms. Woodlawn took her place in the Warhol pantheon alongside two other freshly minted stars, the transgender actresses Jackie Curtis and Candy Darling. Together they brought a daffy, deadpan style to Mr. Morrissey’s next film, “Women in Revolt,” also produced by Warhol, a satire on the women’s liberation movement, with Ms. Woodlawn playing a nymphomaniac fashion model who detests men and joins the militant organization P.I.G. (Politically Involved Girls).

“I didn’t know what the movement was when I made it,” Ms. Woodlawn told The Village Voice in 1970, before the film was released. “They told me you play a leader in women’s lib, and in my first scene I said, ‘O.K. girls, let’s get out and vote.’ ”