Holly Woodlawn, inspiration behind Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side, dies at 69

Transgender actor and Warhol superstar who rose to fame in the early 1970s has died after battle with brain and liver cancer

Holly Woodlawn – Warhol superstar, transgender role model and inspiration behind Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side – died on 6 December after battling brain and liver cancer. She was 69.

At 16, Woodlawn, then known as Haroldo Santiago Franceschi Rodriguez Danhakl, left home and hitchhiked to New York, a moment captured in Reed’s 1972 track:

Holly came from Miami FLA/ Hitchhiked her way across the USA/ Plucked her eyebrows on the way/ Shaved her legs and then he was a she …

Holly Woodlawn photographed in her Greenwich Village apartment in 1970.
Holly Woodlawn photographed in her Greenwich Village apartment in 1970. Photograph: Jack Mitchell/Getty Images

Following this, the actor rose to fame in the early 1970s and became one of Andy Warhol’s “superstars”. Known for her role opposite Joe Dallesandro in the 1970 film Trash, her acting credits also included 1972’s Women in Revolt, 1998’s Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss , as well as various roles in cabaret and theatre.

“I was very happy when I gradually became a Warhol superstar. I felt like Elizabeth Taylor!” Woodlawn 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. 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!”

Dallesandro posted the news of Woodlawn’s death in a note on Facebook:

I arrived to the hospice and went to Holly’s room, #403. 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.

I am sorry to say at 3:06pm Los Angeles time, Holly Woodlawn passed away.

• What happened to the other stars of Walk on the Wild Side?


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