Pioneering transgender actress Holly Woodlawn dies at 69

Holly Woodlawn performs at the Joe Fresh Art Basel Party in 2011 in Miami, Florida. (Marc Serota/Getty Images for Joe Fresh)

Holly Woodlawn, the transgender actress who became a “superstar” muse of Andy Warhol, has passed away from cancer at the age of 69. Born Haroldo Dahnakl, Woodlawn grew up in Miami and ran away to New York at the age of 15. She lived in poverty there for several years, until she met Andy Warhol in 1968. Woodlawn went on to star in Trash, a Warhol-backed film about impoverished couple living in the Lower East Side of New York City. Woodlawn’s improvised performance was so riveting that the Oscar-winning director George Cukor launched a write-in campaign to land her an Academy Award. The campaign was not successful, but Woodlawn went on to appear in a second Warhol film, Women in Revolt. She famously inspired the opening verse of Lou Reed’s 1972 song “Take a Walk on the Wild Side”: “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. She says, ‘Hey, babe, take a walk on the wild side.”

After fading from mainstream consciousness in the 1980s, Woodlawn experienced a career boost in the ’90s, when she appeared in the independent films Billy’s Big Hollywood Kiss and Night Owl. Most recently, she made an appearance in the Amazon hit series Transparent.

Woodlawn’s friend and Trash co-star announced her death in a Facebook post on Sunday. “I arrived to the hospice and went to Holly’s room, #403,” he wrote. “I was next to her talking and telling her all the love that was being sent her way from everyone. It was like she knew I was there.”

Read the full story at Vulture.

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