She was a transgender actor, pioneer and Warhol superstar. Holly was one of the inspirations behind Lou Reed’s famed 1972 classic Walk on the Wild Side.
As it states so eloquently in the song, Holly left home at the age of 16 and hitchhiked her way to New York. She battled homelessness and turned tricks to get by. Though pop culture shows famed artist Andy Warhol as the person who launched her career she was actually discovered by Director Paul Morrissey who put her in his film with Warhol called Trash. She then went on to star in another Warhol/Morrissey film called Women in Revolt.
She was one of Andy Warhol “Superstars” and lived a life of parties and drugs in the 1970’s while engrossed in the New York underground scene. She was an eccentric cabaret performer and a beacon for the transgender community in her time. In a way she paved the way for for the transgender actors and performers we embrace today. It was not as easy in her time.
Holly Woodlawn was part of the New York’s Limelight and Palladium scene in the 1980’s and she took on some small film roles in the 1990’s. She continued to perform in sold out cabaret shows in New York and Los Angeles throughout the 2000’s. Woodlawn recently appeared in two episodes of the hit series Transparent.
So today we salute Holly. We will leave you with a quote from in Guy Trebay’s New York Times piece along with the opening lyrics and video from Walk on the Wild Side below.
“‘WALK ON THE WILD SIDE’ MADE ME IMMORTAL, HONEY,” SHE SAID, “FOR WHAT THAT’S WORTH.”
Holly came from Miami, F-L-A
Hitchhiked her way across the USA
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.”