At 15, Haroldo Santiago Franceschi Rodriguez Damhakl hitchhiked to New York City and became Holly Woodlawn, a transgender actress and Warhol muse so legendary she inspired the opening lyrics of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”: “Holly came from Miami, Florida / 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.’”
And before she died on Sunday after a long battle with cancer, Woodlawn did just that. In 1968, she became one of Warhol’s stars, earning attention and praise for her performance in the film Trash alongside Joe Dallesandro. (Director George Cukor started an Oscar campaign on her behalf after that film.) In 1971, she appeared in Warhol’s canonical Women in Revolt, along with fellow trans icons Candy Darling and Jackie Curtis.
After spending the following decades basking in the glow of cult status (if not quite finding mainstream success), she wrote A Low Life in High Heels, a memoir chronicling her life as a Warhol muse. In 2007 she told The Guardian about her Factory days, saying,
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. You live in a hovel, walk up five flights, scraping the rent. And then at night you go to Max’s Kansas City where Mick Jagger and Fellini and everyone’s there in the back room. And when you walked in that room, you were a STAR!
Click through for photos of her fabulous, starry, glamorously broke time as a Warhol superstar.