By: Amy Haben
Candy Darling a.k.a James Lawrence Slattery was born a woman, as far as I’m concerned. The childhood photographs reveal a gentle, feminine face that looks more like a girl with a short haircut than a boy.
I’m too young to have known Candy, but watching the documentary ‘Beautiful Darling’, I feel like I identify with some of her personal feelings of alienation and loneliness. She desperately yearned to have been born female. Romantic relationships were hard for her as many men she met thought she was female and left when they found out the truth. There were many gay men that worshipped her though, but i have a feeling she always wanted what she couldn’t grasp. She was never accepted into major motion pictures because she was pigeon holed as “the tranny.”
With her beautiful ashy blonde hair, svelte frame, long eyelashes, pale skin and red lips, she swooned men and women, straight or gay. Candy’s voice was soft, airy, and delicate. It had a Marilyn Monroe quality to it, which some people would describe as “the movie star voice.”
As one of the more talented actors of Warhol’s superstars, it’s not surprising that Candy was involved in theatre as a child. She wrote to her favorite movie stars growing up and cherished the few letters that came back. She ate, slept, and breathed the dramatic arts. Candy was such a natural character, that Andy Warhol shot her as herself in ‘Flesh’ and ‘Women In Revolt.’
Truman Capote and Andy Warhol spoke about how there were prettier girls than Candy out there but that nobody could match her presence. Andy suggested that someone write her a part so that she could spread her wings a bit. Capote suggested Tennessee Williams put her in one of his plays and their conversation came to fruition. Candy beamed when she received the news that she had the part. As soon as the shows were over though, Candy felt dark and depressed.
Loneliness crippled her at times. Although, she did have an harem of young boys who would run errands for her just for being allowed in her atmosphere. One of those boys was twenty-two year old Jeremiah, who is now the owner of her estate and co-produced this documentary.
Tons of old footage includes off- off broadway rehearsals in a small East Village apartment. Another scene shows Candy sweetly reading the fan mail of a love struck California man in The Factory as she asks the camera person, “Do you like the color of my hair?” Her hair had been dyed from blonde to red.
Sadly, Candy’s parents disowned her when they first saw her movies. The gay lifestyle was just not accepted then. Men caught in drag were actually locked up by the cops in NYC.
So Warhol and the rest of the creative misfits who frequented The Factory were her adopted family. That is until Warhol decided to start using real women, instead of Holly Woodlawn, Jackie Curtis, and Candy Darling. She felt abandoned again. Warhol was notorious for “throwing people away”, he didn’t let his emotions get in the way of his artistic vision.
At thirty years of age, Candy noticed a large bulge in her stomach. She joked to Jeremiah that God had blessed her with a baby. After getting checked out, she learned it was a tumor. Some friends believed that Candy liked being sick– that it was just another role to play. She had cancer, Lymphoma to be exact. She made a friend take a beautifully posed picture of her on her death bed in the hospital. She died shortly after. This picture lives on as an Antony and the Johnson’s album cover.