It’s been little more than three decades since Holly Woodlawn put her gender bending face on the pop culture map, achieving cinematic notoriety and garnering superstar cult status with her performances in the subversive Andy Warhol/Paul Morrisey films of the early 1970's. Holly Woodlawn lived at the epicenter of New York's hedonistic underground culture as part of Andy Warhol's inner circle until his death in 1987. In the process, she created a lifestyle that would prove to be the road map for many a future drag divette.
She was forever immortalised in the lyrics of Lou Reed's classic song “Take A Walk On The Wild Side”:
Holly came from Miami F.L.A,
hitch-hiked her way across the USA,
plucked her eyebrows on the way,
shaved her legs and then he was a she,
she said, hey babe take a walk on the wild side
The years have been kind to her. Unlike so many of her generation she has somehow managed to survive the parties, drugs, alcohol and sex with her spirit and her wit intact. In Amsterdam to promote her present, past and future film projects at the Dutch Transgender Film Festival, Ms. Woodlawn took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with Gay News.
Joining her was the one and only Lady Bunny, in town to celebrate the Dutch premiere of the Barry Shils documentary “Wigstock”. Ms. Bunny was for seventeen years the brains and bouffant behind the legendary Wigstock happenings in New York City. As tall as a basketball player, sporting a blond mountain of hair to rival Dolly Parton and eyelashes that would make Liza Minelli green with envy, Ms. Bunny is hardly one to go unnoticed. Together the two Golden Girls of the American drag scene form a delightfully raunchy, eye popping pair.
What a thrill to be here with one of the reigning drag queens of New York City and a re-emerging drag legend.
Holly: re-emerging? Aaaah..
Well Holly, how would you classify yourself?
Holly: well what would you call those dinasours that...you know... there is a word for it?
(Lady Bunny hoots with laughter )
Holly: NO! Wrong word. (points to Lady Bunny) She's my daughter, she's a cowgirl.
Lady Bunny: GRAND-daughter.
Holly: okay that's right, I'm pushing fifty. She's pushing...period!
And you are both here promoting your films?
Lady Bunny: Honey it was a free ticket and a free hotel trip.
Holly: I knew she was gonna say that. You know what's so wonderful about this trip is that Bunny and I have known each other for years but we've never actually been like stuck in a plane for 13 hours together.
Lady Bunny: And I gave her a fucking sleeping pill to shut her up.
Holly: Not only that, I talked in my sleep.
Lady Bunny: She did, she was talking in fluent dutch!
Holly how does it feel to suddenly be back in the spotlight?
Holly: Well I've never really been out of the spotlight It’s just that the spotlight was in the opposite direction! It’s nice to be working. When I became Holly Woodlawn I signed a contract for life so this is part of it. It’s fun, It’s nice when people appreciate you and adore you and I love being worshipped. In the immortal words of Miss Bunny here, It’s a free ticket and you get your pussy out in public.
Lady Bunny, what does Wigstock mean to you?
Lady Bunny: A paycheck (she howls with laughter)! Honey I'm here for the Dutch boys. They're perfect and big...and they're tall too! (Snorts like a pig) I love it here, I'd take any excuse to come here. I mean Wigstock opened like what...10 years ago so I'm not exactly actively promoting it. But I am glad to come here to Amsterdam and I think it is very important for Americans to get out of the country, especially at this point, to show that we are, you know, not all as retarded as George Bush. Some of us are MORE retarded! (shrieks with laughter)
Holly: And what am I pushing? My pussy! Well basically we are both here for Barry Shils who is being recognised for his body of work. Wigstock, um Motorola...no Motorsomething, oh yeah here Motorama. And so he invited both of us over here.
Lady Bunny: Barry's a slave driver.
Holly: Oh yeah, he's a pig and he's right there! No he is very nice. I wrote a book about my life, “A Low Life In High Heels” which we are doing a movie about. So we are here with my producer Adriano Serafini and Barry who is gonna be directing the movie to raise some bucks and get the fucking thing done.
So, Barry are you the common denominator here?
Barry: Yes, I did the film Wigstock, with Lady Bunny and when Adriano Serafini talked to Holly about turning her book into a movie he approached me about directing. Holly had already co-written a screenplay so I worked with her and the other writers on another draft and a 3rd draft. Anyway, I started making the documentary because I was with her all the time and it was always so dramatic just being around her. Dramatic or comedic.
So the documentary is a byproduct of your work to get the feature made?
Barry: exactly, which is now going to be called “A Walk On The Wild Side”.
Barry, where does your fascination with the transgender world stem from?
Barry: I am kind of a film-maker/cultural anthropologist. I am fascinated by the ambiguity of gender and that a person, whether they are an artist like a lot of drag queens or simply someone who cross-dresses or is transsexual, can really live on that borderline or go back and forth even. It’s like having two lives. It’s very tricky and It’s full of drama, usually full with humour too.
When I did the film Wigstock I really got to know the drag scene quite well and anybody that knows the drag scene in New York looks to the Warhol superstars of the 70's as kind of the ones that set the standard. Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling and Jackie Curtis. Candy died years ago from cancer, we think It’s probably because she took a lot of hormones. She was exquisite, beautiful drag queen. Jackie died of a heroin overdose and Holly is truly the survivor. It’s a story about clean living. Wine doesn't kill you like heroin I guess!
What are you screening tonight?
Holly: We are gonna be seeing Wigstock and Trash, a movie I did 30 years ago with Andy Warhol (of course when I was just out of grade school!) Actually I didn't work with Andy, I worked more with Paul Morissey. He's the one that directed it, and with Joe Dallesandro, Joe is fabulous. You know, some people think I must be a millionaire but let me set the record straight. I made exactly $125 for Trash. $25 per scene and I had 5 scenes. Who knew it would make $3 million dollars in one week?!?
Do you still see any of them now?
Holly: Yes we went to Cannes Film festival last year, Paul, Joe and I. We're the only ones left, you know It’s just the three of us.
Do you miss your life from 30 years ago making films with Paul Morrisey and running with Andy Warhol?
Holly: No, the only thing I miss are my friends that have gone, thats the only thing. I am very happy being who I am and where I am. I consider myself a New Yorker but New York has changed so much that i don't even miss New York, i miss my friends. New York City has turned into the suburbs.
I mean 42nd Street at 3 o' clock in the morning, I used to LOVE walking 42nd Street cause you had to like look over your shoulder, am I gonna be raped, pillaged, plundered, shot, whatever. So you LIVED the moment...in terror. Now you go to the same place at 3 o'clock in the morning and there are these young couples walking their children and their dog on 42nd Street and 8th Avenue. Where are the porno houses, where are the hookers, where are the junkies? I miss that.
Lady Bunny: They are all in Amsterdam!
Holly: Oh they are all here? FABULOUS! I knew there was a reason I came here. To get laid! And not a Hawaiian lei mind you. (laughs broadly) You know, there are two cities that I love in the world. First of all Rio De Janeiro because everybody is naked and they all come in colours and they will, you know, have sex with anything. And I love Amsterdam. I was here once before and boy did I have a good time. So when I was asked to come again I said of course, I would LOVE to cum again...and again, and again if you catch my drift!
Lady Bunny: In case you are not catching on, she is a slut!
Holly: Of course, but when I am back home in Los Angeles you know I have to go back to my nunnery. I have a little credo, fuck me and let me get on with my career. I'd rather have my little dog and watch cable television. I identify with The Golden Girls, especially as I am turning into one of them. I am over fifty (bursts into fake sobs)
Holly Woodlawn, Golden Girl of Drag?
Holly: Yes! I like getting older, I just wish I looked younger.
(Then Mayday joins us)
Mayday, as one of the current divas of the Amsterdam drag scene what do Lady Bunny and Holly Woodlawn mean to you?
Mayday: Of course they are Grandmother Divas, without them there would not be drag like this today.
Lady Bunny: Grandmother Divas?!?!? (shocked to the bones)
Mayday: I know you're young guys! Without them drag wouldn't be as popular as it is today. Now people can dress up easily and go out and they started it, so without them it wouldn't be the same.
Lady Bunny: (clasps her hands) Yes and after that we invented the wheel!
So is there anything you wanna say to your fans and admirers in Amsterdam?
Lady Bunny: Sure, fuck us!
Holly: And PAY US!
Lady Bunny: Invite us back soon. We love it here.