Candy Darling (November 24, 1944 – March 21, 1974) was an American actress, best known as a Warhol Superstar. A male-to-female transsexual, she starred in Andy Warhol’s films Flesh (1968) and Women in Revolt (1971), and was a muse of the protopunk band The Velvet Underground.
Candy Darling was born James Lawrence Slattery in Forest Hills, Queens, son of Theresa Phelan, a bookkeeper at Manhattan’s Jockey Club, and James (Jim) Slattery, who was described as a violent alcoholic. There is some conjecture around her year of birth. According to former Warhol associate, Bob Colacello, Candy was born in 1946, while IMDb has listed her year of birth as 1948. Her friend, roommate, and posthumous editor, Jeremiah Newton, states that she was born on November 24, 1944.
Her first assumed name was Hope Slattery. According to Bob Colacello, Darling adopted this name sometime in 1963/1964 after she started going to gay bars in Manhattan and making visits to a doctor on Fifth Avenue for hormone injections. Jackie Curtis stated that Candy adopted the name from a well-known Off-Off Broadway actress named Hope Stansbury, with whom she lived for a few months in an apartment behind the Caffe Cino so that she could study her. Holly Woodlawn remembers that Darling’s name evolved from Hope Dahl to Candy Dahl and then to Candy Cane. Jeremiah Newton believed she adopted her forename out of a love for sweets. In her autobiography, Woodlawn recalled that Darling had adopted the name because a friend of hers affectionately called her “darling” so often that it finally stuck.
Before they met, in 1967, Darling saw Andy Warhol at the after-hours club called The Tenth of Always. Candy was with Jackie Curtis, who invited Warhol to a play that she had written and directed, called Glamour, Glory and Gold, starring Darling, as “Nona Noonan”, and a young Robert De Niro, who played six parts in the play. It was performed at Bastiano’s Cellar Studio on Waverly Place. Taylor Mead brought Warhol to see it and afterwards went to the club Salvation in Sheridan Square, where he was joined by Candy and Curtis at his table.
Warhol cast Darling in a short comedic scene in Flesh (1968) with Jackie Curtis and Joe Dallesandro. After Flesh, Candy was cast in a central role in Women In Revolt (1971). She played a Long Island socialite, drawn into a woman’s liberation group called PIGS (Politically Involved Girls), by a character played by Curtis. Interrupted by cast disputes encouraged by Warhol, Women in Revolt took longer to film than its predecessor and went through several title changes before it was released. Darling wanted it called Blonde on a Bum Trip since she was the blonde, while Curtis and Woodlawn told her it was more like “Bum on a Blonde Trip”, titles which were both used in the film during Candy’s interview scene.
Women in Revolt was first shown at the first Los Angeles Filmex as Sex. Later it was shown as Andy Warhol’s Women, an homage to George Cukor. Unable to get a distributor for the film, Warhol rented out the Cine Malibu on East 59th Street and launched the film with a celebrity preview on February 16, 1972. After the screening there was a dinner in Candy’s honor at Le Parc Périgord restaurant, on Park Avenue, followed by a party at Francesco Scavullo’s townhouse, where they watched TV reviews of the movie, some of which called it “a rip-off”, and that it “looked as if it were filmed underwater,” and “proves once again that Andy Warhol has no talent. But we knew that since the Campbell’s Soup cans.”
Among the guests at Darling’s party were D.D. Ryan, Sylvia Miles, George Plimpton, Halston, Giorgio di Sant ‘Angelo and Egon and Diane von Furstenberg. Jackie Curtis stood out in the cold, along with other gate crashers. When a security guard asked, “My God, what are they giving away in there?” one of the guests responded, “Would you believe, a transvestite?”
The day after the celebrity preview. a group of women wearing army jackets, pea coats, jeans and boots and carrying protest signs demonstrated outside the cinema against the film, which they thought was anti-women’s liberation. When Darling heard about this, she said, “Who do these dykes think they are anyway?… Well, I just hope they all read Vincent Canby’s review in today’s Times. He said I look like a cross between Kim Novak and Pat Nixon. It’s true – I do have Pat Nixon’s nose.”
Darling died of lymphoma on March 21, 1974, aged 29, at the Columbus Hospital division of the Cabrini Health Center. In a letter written on her deathbed and intended for Andy Warhol and his followers, Darling said, “Unfortunately before my death I had no desire left for life . . . I am just so bored by everything. You might say bored to death. (D)id you know I couldn’t last. I always knew it. I wish I could meet you all again.”
Her funeral was attended by huge crowds, including friends Pat Ast and Julie Newmar; a piano piece was played by Faith Dane; Gloria Swanson was remembered for saluting Darling’s coffin.
Darling is the subject of The Velvet Underground’s song “Candy Says” and was one of several Warhol associates mentioned in Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”.
The Kinks’ song “Lola” was supposedly inspired by Candy Darling.
An image of her, taken from Women in Revolt, was also featured on the front cover of the 1987 single “Sheila Take a Bow” by the English group The Smiths. The last song on lead singer Morrissey’s solo album You Are the Quarry is called “You Know I Couldn’t Last,” a clear reference to her famous deathbed quote.