A Warhol Superstar, but Never a Star

CANDY DARLING: Dreamer, Icon, Superstar, by Cynthia Carr

Never mind soup-can paintings and portraits of the famous — what Andy Warhol keeps on giving is books. He’s like Mother Ginger in “The Nutcracker”: Smaller people keep running out from under his capacious skirts to bow or curtsy.

The latest is Candy Darling, the transgender actress who succumbed to cancer at 29 in 1974, after being immortalized in a famous photograph by Peter Hujar and in the Lou Reed song “Walk on the Wild Side.” She had lived fast — indeed frequently on speed — died young, and left a mutable corpse, with considerable dissent among family and friends about whether she should be buried and eulogized as a man or a woman.

The first full-length biography of her, by Cynthia Carr, a longtime staff writer for The Village Voice — quite the Mother Ginger itself, of late — is compassionate and meticulous, reconstructing its brittle, gleaming subject as one might a broken Meissen figurine.

Born the day after Thanksgiving in 1944, Candy Darling was christened James Lawrence Slattery in Queens, soon moving to the ticky-tacky conformist hamlets of North Merrick and then Massapequa Park, Long Island, which she’d later euphemize as her “country home” but which was then an apparent cesspool of toxic masculinity.

Her father, John, was a cashier for the New York Racing Association who gambled, drank and was violent: the ultimate Daddy Dearest for a child with effeminate tendencies. Her mother, Terry, a receptionist and bank teller, was more supportive and loving — but still, hamstrung by shame. Candy’shalf brother, Warren, babysat for her as a child but did not accept her as a woman.

As a child, “Jimmy,” as Candy was known then, was shunned socially and bullied terribly, once ushered onto a box and into a noose by two teenagers in a neighbor’s backyard. Understandably, she avoided regular school as much as possible; her education was in magazines, cosmetology and, of course, movies — she was a Kim Novak superfan, later emulating her.

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