Holly Woodlawn – trans pioneer and actress who became known through her work with Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey – died on Sunday in Los Angeles after a long battle with cancer. She was 69.
Born in Puerto Rico in 1946 as Haraldo Santiago Franceschi Rodriguez Danhakl, Woodlawn flew the nest at 15 and hitchhiked from Miami Beach to New York. This was the impetus for Lou Reed’s 1972 hit, “Walk on the Wild Side”. Woodlawn inspired the opening lyrics “Holly came from Miami, F.L.A./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.’”
After a run in with Warhol in 1970, she became one of his Superstars, starring in films like Trash and Women in Revolt. Her Trash costar, Joe Dallesandro, posted the news of her death on Twitter:
She turned her talents into a successful career as an actress, later starring in Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss (1998) and Twin Falls Idaho (1999). Woodlawn was also hired by producers of Tootsie (1982) to coach Dustin Hoffman in the lead as Dorothy Michaels, for which he won an Oscar for Best Actor in 1983. Most recently, she appeared in season one of Transparent as Vivian.
Her complications with cancer prompted good friend Penny Arcade to start a crowdfunding campaign earlier this year to help cover medical costs. Her battle may have come to an end, but Woodlawn paved the way for the trans community.
“Holly gave visibility long before it was comfortable to do so,” said Arcade. “And also gave thousands of people both hope and pleasure.”