Candy came from out on the island
in the backroom she was everybody's darling
But she never lost her head
even when she was givin' head
She says, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
Lou Reed - "Walk on the Wild Side" - Transformer - (1972)
The Candy in Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild side is Candy Darling, a once well-known drag queen and actor associated with Andy Warhol. She is considered to have been the most appealing and most believable female of the transvestites in Warhol's Factory.
Candy's birth name was James ('Jimmy') Lawrence Slattery. The year of her birth is not certain as various sources place it between 1944 and 1949. The only source with an exact date lists it as November 24, 1944. Jimmy grew up in a small bungalow in Massapequa Park, Long Island, New York where he and his mother had moved after she divorced her husband.
As a teen Jimmy loved old movies and impersonating his favorite actresses such as Joan Bennet, Kim Novak, Yvonne DeCarlo and Lana Turner. Around the age of 17 Jimmy adopted a female alter ego named Hope Slattery. A fixture at the gay bars around New York -- she became a full-time transvestite and changed her first name to Candy for her love of sweets. The last name of Darling came about later because a friend could always be heard saying, "Come on. Let's go, Candy darling."
In 1967, Andy Warhol invited Candy into his family at The Factory. In 1968 she appeared in the Warhol film Flesh (starring Joe Dallesandro. Her biggest role was in 1972's Women in Revolt with Jackie Curtis and Holly Woodlawn. Political incorrectness gets its start with this outrageous film spoofing feminists who form a committee called Politically Involved Girls (PIGS). A cameo in her friend Jane Fonda's film Klute was one her career's highlights. Candy appeared in a lot of plays (including one by Tennessee Williams) and took on many minor roles in other avant-garde films and even had her own cabaret act. Much of her time though was just spent hanging around and "holding court" with the other Warhol "superstars" at trendy nightclubs like Max's Kansas City.
Lou Reed immortalized Candy in two songs. Besides Walk on the Wild Side quoted above the Velvet Underground did an earlier song called Candy Says in 1969. The Rolling Stones also mention Candy in their 1967 song Citadel.
Candy says I've come to hate my body
and all that it requires in this world
Candy says I'd like to know completely
what others so discreetly talk about
Velvet Underground - "Candy Says" - (1972)
In 1973 Candy became sick and was hospitalized where they discovered she had leukemia - a result of years of taking blackmarket foreign hormone pills. On March 21, 1974, Candy Darling died of leukemia. Before dying, she left the following note to her friends:
To whom it may concern
By the time you read this I will be gone. Unfortunately before my death I had no desire left for life. Even with all my friends and my career on the upswing I felt too empty to go on in this unreal existence. I am just so bored by everything. you might say bored to death. it may sound ridiculous but is true. I have arranged my own funeral arrangements with a guest list and it is paid for. I would like to say goodbye to Jackie Curtis, I think you're fabulous. Holly, Sam Green a true friend and noble person, Ron Link I'll never forget you, Andy Warhol what can I say, Paul Morrissey, Lennie you know I loved you, Andy you too, Jeremiah don't take it too badly just remember what a bitch I was, Geraldine i guess you saw it coming. Richard Turley & Richard Golub I know I could've been a star but I decided I didn't want it. Manuel, I'm better off now. Terry I love you. Susan I am sorry, did you know I couldn't last I always knew it. I wish I could meet you all again.
Goodbye for Now
Tinkerbell HI! (Tinkerbell wrote for Interview magazine)
At Candy's funeral it was noticed that not once was her given name spoken. Warhol did not attend , but it is at least possible this was because he couldn't bear to go to it. When she was still on her deathbed Bob Colacello told Warhol about Candy's conditon and he was surprised at Warhol's reaction: "For the first and only time in the seventeen years I knew him, I saw him cry."
Since her death Candy has remained a gay icon especially among the trangendered. The Smiths put her photo (taken from Women in Revolt) on the cover of their 7" record -- Sheila Take a Bow. There has even been a few musical groups named after her. The 1996 film I Shot Andy Warhol renewed some interest in her as well. The film was about a friend of Candy's that went crazy and attempted to kill Warhol. In June 2002, Lorna Luft (daughter of another gay icon Judy Garland) announced she was planning on developing a movie based on her recently purchased rights to Candy's posthumously published diary.
A few notable Candy quotes:
- "There is one thing I must tell you because I just found it to be a truth . . . You must always be yourself no matter what the price. It is the highest form of morality."
- "I have always believed that socially unacceptable men make much better lovers because they are more sensitive."
- "I don't think the sunrise is as good as the moonlight."
- "I've had small parts in big movies
and big parts in small movies"