A Few Facts (and an Opinion or Two) About "Transgender Icon" Holly Woodlawn - and How to Help Her

  1. 69 years ago, Holly Woodlawn was born in Puerto Rico, under the name Haroldo Danhakl.
    In a 2007 Guardian interview, Holly says, "I don't even know who he was."
  2. She grew up in Miami Beach, where she "came out" at an early age.
    Holly: "You could expect to be tarred and feathered and murdered in those days!"
  3. Holly fled to New York City. Her "escape" is memorialized as the opening lines of the old Lou Reed song, "Walk On the Wild Side."
    "Holly came from Miami, F-L-A/ Hitchhiked 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"
  4. In the late 1960s, Holly met Andy Warhol at his legendary Factory. Soon she was starring in the movies he produced, directed by the brilliant and underrated Paul Morrissey. These films included Trash (1970) and Women In Revolt (1972).
    It is difficult to overstate how magnetic and flat-out funny Holly is onscreen, particularly in Trash. Famously, George Cukor - the legendary director of My Fair Lady, A Star Is Born and The Philadelphia Story - petitioned the Academy to nominate Holly for a Best Actress Oscar in 1970. She's fantastic.
  5. A few weeks ago, I was reading a book about "narcissist culture" - how people are celebrated today for celebrating themselves, rather than for being of service to others. It made me think of Holly.
    She was "transgender" at a time when that label didn't exist. She didn't win awards for it. In fact, every time she left the house, she could've been subjected to violence. She didn't declare herself a martyr or hero; on the contrary, she displayed a self-deprecating sense of humor about the whole thing. That is a level of strength that I find difficult to comprehend today.
  6. I Googled Holly out of the blue, and found a page on Go Fund Me that was set up by a friend of hers named Penny Arcade.
  7. Turns out Holly is in the hospital. They discovered lesions on her brains and lungs. She probably doesn't have long to live. Penny created the Go Fund Me account to raise enough money to pay for nursing care, so Holly can die at home with dignity.
  8. Within two days, the account raised $25,000. Now it's been over two weeks; the total is up to $59,000.
    Penny posted a very moving update about Holly waking up in the hospital and being informed of all these donations coming in. Her first reaction was, "How can I ever repay them?"
  9. If you want to give some money - or just read the amazing testimonials from people who have been inspired by Holly's work - here's the link: http://bit.ly/1g0DaoB
  10. Holly's life reminds me to look for the heroes who don't announce themselves as heroes.
    And here's a link to a great, sad, funny clip, that essentially ends with Holly giving her own eulogy - first and foremost, a comedian: http://bit.ly/1JdNSTS