• Jen

HAY BAE #10 - Beautiful Darling


Hay Bae, you good?

I watched a documentary today about Candy Darling (Beautiful Darling, 2009 - Dir. James Rasin) who was a "muse" for Andy Warhol in the Factory days. Candy was a trans woman & absolute fierce bitch who dazzled the scene so much Lou Reed wrote a couple of songs about her (heard of "Walk On The Wild Side"?) I mean, I can relate - Lou Reed wrote some tracks about me as well, it's just a shame they were on "LuLu" and no one heard them.

The doc is really good. It gives a lot of contradictory angles on Candy from the different people who knew her at the time. Some kind, and some not so much. I think a good documentary should have that though, right? Because that's what people are, they're contradictions. Some points of view are a joy to hear, like John Waters gushing over how Candy was more than a Warhol freakshow, and instead was a great actress in her own right. Other points of view aren't so sympathetic, like the bitter biological essentialism that comes from the writer Fran Lebowitz. I've read some of Lebowitz's work before (Metropolitan Life) and I really liked it at the time, but I guess even those who were immersed in the rule breaking, transgressive environment of Warhol's Factory can still end up with a fairly base outlook on life. Maybe she's been spending too much time hanging out with her pal Bill Maher? It just seems like a weird choice to spend your time as a talking head in a documentary about a young trans woman, who died of a cancerous tumour at 29, insisting that the audience understand that Candy wasn't a "real woman". To give Lebowitz a bit of credit though, she does at the very least refer to Candy as "She" throughout the entire documentary.

I sort of idolise Candy. I have for a while. I'm not much like her - for one thing I'm nowhere near as beautiful and elegant as she was. I could never be a muse, I don't think. Maybe I should put out an ad in the newspaper- "Looking for a transsexual Muse to place into cheap art house films for a period of time, before completely dropping and moving on to 'chicks without dicks'? - well, I'M YOUR GAL" But I indentify with a lot of her internal struggles. There's a short portion of the film, which deals with Candy's personal confusions. It takes extracts from her diary, and you can really hear the existential exhaustion that comes along as standard with the "trans experience". You're constantly pushing the boulder of Sisyphus up the hill - sometimes making what feels like progress, when ultimately you know that the true end goal is impossible. She comes across as a person who exudes confidence on the surface, starring in films & modelling. She's a social butterfly, with a self aware & dark sense of humour. But at the same time, her diaries come across as deeply sad & lonely. She refers to her situation as a "veritable prison" and laments that she can't do normal things like go swimming, or find a husband. I feel this exact same way sometimes. I can perform comedy on a stage to hundreds of people, but I can't wash my hands in a female public toilet without feeling fear or discomfort.

"I am not a genuine woman, but I am not interested in genuineness. I am interested in the product of being a woman, and how qualified i am to do it" - Candy Darling.

There is mention of an off-broadway show that Candy starred in. She was the centre of the entire production, and during its run audiences would come just to see her. And still, she was relegated to her own private dressing room so as not to disrupt the harmony of the other male & female dressing rooms. There's something ironically tragic about that, I think. Although, I dunno - I'd probably prefer my own dressing room too. When I was at Uni and I started transitioning, I was told I could use the disabled toilets.

It was also interesting to hear about the complaints against Candy's role in the film "Women In Revolt" from a division of feminists that sounds strangely reminiscent of the "gender critical" movement we have today. It just goes to show how deeply ingrained these things are.

Candy was a trailblazer, and like John Waters said - she was more than just a freakshow. She was smart, talented, funny, ironic, knowing, satirical, contradictory, beautiful, strong, soft, sad, joyous... I think "Beautiful Darling" is a great documentary to watch, because it shows a trans woman as a more rounded person. She was a self-realised Goddess, and she left a big impression in those short 29 years. She made herself known at a time when it was literally illegal to go out in a dress if you were a "man" (as Fran Lebowitz would like to remind you Candy actually was). She was rejected by her mother, forgotten by Warhol & had to go through a lot of shit. And on top of all that, she was 100% herself.

"You must always be yourself, no matter what the price. It is the highest form of morality." - Candy Darling

The entire documentary is available on Youtube for free.


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