Holly Woodlawn  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

"Holly came from Miami F.L.A.
Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she"

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Holly Woodlawn (Haroldo Santiago Franceschi Rodriguez Danhakl; October 26, 1946 – December 6, 2015) was a transgender Puerto Rican actress and Warhol superstar who appeared in his movies Trash (1970) and Women in Revolt (1972).


Early life

Born Haroldo Santiago Franceschi Rodriguez Danhakl in Juana Díaz, Puerto Rico, to the former Aminta Rodriguez and an American soldier of German descent, and grew up in Miami Beach, where she came out at a young age. 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.

In 1962, Woodlawn left Florida at the age of 15, 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 City. By 1969, she had considered sex reassignment surgery, but decided against it.


Woodlawn met Andy Warhol at the Factory, at a screening of Flesh (1968). 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, 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 assigned sex at birth was discovered.

In 1972, director Robert Kaplan and cinematographer Paul Glickman concocted the idea of a movie whose premise would be using a transgender woman 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 busser at Benihana.

Back in New York in the mid 1980s, Woodlawn became a featured singer in Gabriel Rotello's Downtown Dukes and Divas revues at clubs such as The Limelight and The Palladium, and a star of various musicals and revues mounted by the songwriting and producing team of Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman. In 1991 she published her autobiography, the Holly Woodlawn Story, "A Low Life in High Heels" with writer Jeff Copeland.

During the 1990s, Woodlawn achieved a modest film and theatrical comeback, making cameo appearances in productions such as Night Owl (1993) and Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss (1998). After Warhol's death, she was interviewed frequently on his life and influence. At the time of her death she resided in West Hollywood where in the late 90s she participated in riot grrrl shows with Revolution Rising, and recorded spoken word for songs and experimental recordings by the band Lucid Nation.

Woodlawn began performing in cabaret shows in sold-out New York and Los Angeles performances in the early 2000s. She continued to travel with her cabaret show, most recently appearing in Manhattan's Laurie Beechman Theater in 2013.


Woodlawn fell seriously ill in June 2015, and was hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. She was so weak that physicians feared for her life. Tests later revealed that she had lesions on her liver and brain.

Woodlawn died of brain and liver cancer on December 6, 2015. She was 69.


Lou Reed refers to Woodlawn in his song "Walk on the Wild Side", whose opening verse describes the hitchhiking journey and gender transition of "Holly" (said to be from "Miami, F-L-A") to live as a woman in New York City. The words of which read as follows "Holly came from Miami F.L.A. Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A. Plucked her eyebrows on the way Shaved her legs and then he was a she"....


Year Film Role Notes
1970 Trash Holly a.k.a. "Andy Warhol's Trash"
1971 Women In Revolt Holly
Is There Sex After Death? Herself
1972 Scarecrow in a Garden of Cucumbers Eve Harrington / Rhett Butler
1973 Broken Goddess
1979 "Tally Brown, New York" Herself
1993 Night Owl Barfly
Madonna: Deeper & Deeper Music Video Herself
1995 The Matinee Idol Party Guest
Scathed Miss Antonia Curtis
1996 Phantom Pain
1998 Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss
Beverly Hills Hustlers
1999 Twin Falls Idaho Flamboyant at Party
2002 The Cockettes Herself Documentary
2003 Milwaukee, Minnesota Transvestite
2004 Superstar in a Housedress Herself Documentary
2006 Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis Herself Documentary
Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film Herself Documentary
2007 Alibi Gracie
2009 Heaven Wants Out
2010 Beautiful Darling Herself Documentary
The Lie Cherry Post-production
2011 The Ghosts of Los Angeles Holly Short
2012 She Gone Rogue Aunt Holly Short
2013 Continental Herself Documentary
East of the Tar Pits Mattie YouTube Release
Year Title Role Notes
1971 An American Family Herself 1 episode

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Holly Woodlawn" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools