Entertainment & Arts

Holly Woodlawn, Lou Reed's Wild Side inspiration, dies at 69

Holly Woodlawn in 2011 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Holly Woodlawn left her Puerto Rico home aged 15 for New York, where she met Andy Warhol

Holly Woodlawn, the transgender actress who inspired Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side and appeared in Andy Warhol's 70s films Trash and Women in Revolt, has died of cancer aged 69.

Reed's opening lyrics read: "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" in his hit.

She died on Sunday in Los Angeles her friend Mariela Huerta said.

A memorial service is expected.

'It was fabulous'

Puerto-Rico born Woodlawn, born Haroldo Santiago Franceschi Rodriguez Danhakl, took on her new name after leaving home aged 15 and hitchhiking to New York City.

She told the Guardian in 2007 of her brief fame after appearing in Warhol's films: "I was very happy when I gradually became a Warhol superstar. I felt like Elizabeth Taylor!

"Little did I realise that not only would there be no money, but that your star would flicker for two seconds and that was it. But it was worth it, the drugs, the parties, it was fabulous."

She also explained that she did not get to know Reed properly until after the song's 1972 release.

The paper said she decided against gender reassignment surgery in the late 60s, with her response being: "Honey, once they cut it off, it's OFF!"

Despite receiving critical acclaim for her film work, she did not find mainstream success.

However she did appear in 90s independent films Twin Falls Idaho and Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss, as well as the Golden Globe-winning US TV series Transparent, about the father of an LA family who comes out as transgender.

The show, which won best TV series (musical or comedy) at January's awards, also saw its star Jeffrey Tambor win best TV series actor.

Image caption Woodlawn, pictured in 1993, did not make it into mainstream films

Joe Dallesandro, who starred in Trash, tweeted on 6 December: "Holly Woodlawn was in Room 306 when I arrived to see her today. At 3:06pm LA time, she passed away."

He also said on Facebook that he had visited in her in a hospice, adding: "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."

They played a couple in the film, produced by Warhol and directed by Paul Morrissey, living in the fringes of New York's East Village, scrounging for food and drugs.

Singer Marc Almond tweeted his respects, saying: "Sad news about Warhol Superstar Holly Woodlawn. 'Holly came from Miami FLA, hitch hiked her way across the USA'."

US rock band The Dandy Warhols added: "If you are of a certain age, Holly Woodlawn was the first trans woman you may have been aware of thanks to this song."

Huerta said Woodlawn, who had been battling brain and liver cancer, had no surviving relatives.

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