Skip to navigationSkip to content

Holly Woodlawn, the pioneering transgender actress who inspired Lou Reed, has died

Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP
“Holly came from Miami, F-L-A…”
Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Holly Woodlawn, the Puerto Rican transgender actress who came to fame after starring in 1970s films by Andy Warhol and Paul Morrisey, died yesterday (Dec. 6) at the age of 69. The Associated Press reported that the actress died of cancer.

Born Haroldo Santiago Franceshi Rodriguez Danhakl in Puerto Rico, Woodlawn grew up in Miami Beach in Florida. In a move that would later inspire the first verse of Lou Reed’s famous song, “Walk on the Wild Side,” Woodlawn moved to New York as a teenager. She explained in a 2007 interview with the Guardian:

I was 15 years old and failing at high school in Miami Beach because I was too busy partying. I was supposed to go to summer school to catch up and really didn’t want to, so I joined some of these Cuban queens to go to New York. I hocked some jewellery and we made it all the way to Georgia, where the money ran out and we had to hitchhike the rest of the way.

Woodlawn told the Guardian that she didn’t know Reed until after “A Walk on the Wide Side” came out, but had seen him perform as part of the Velvet Underground.

Woodlawn’s rise to stardom started after she met Andy Warhol at the Factory in 1968, and then starred in the 1970 movie directed by Paul Morrisey, Trash. Woodlawn also starred in Warhol’s 1972 satirical film about the women’s liberation movement, Women in Revolt.

Woodlawn never achieved mainstream success. In 1979, she moved back to Miami and bussed tables at Benihana. In the 1990s, she moved to West Hollywood and had cameo roles in a few films—most recently, she appeared in two episodes of the Amazon TV series, Transparent.

“I felt like Elizabeth Taylor,” she told the Guardian in 2007. “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.”

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.