Candy Darling

by Candy Darling

This is a highly significant little book. It hovers at a rather particular cultural fulcrum in the mid-’60s like a luminescent and highly exotic see-creature; inhabiting a thickly interwoven, deceptive, viscous, brutal, unrelentingly nihilistic, post-social-modernist, cultural coral reef. It is the posthumous autobiographical testament of Candy Darling in Manhattan, New York, USA. Significant in so many ways that belie its 143 petite pages. The lipstick-and-gold cover bears a melancholy photo of Candy’s face. Printed in the Hanuman style of slightly off-registered color, it both echoes the Warhol celebrity prints and proposes the equally off-register self-perception of Candy herself.

As a good friend of mine, Gladys, put it after reading this book and Nightmare of Ecstasy: “Ed Wood was a man wearing a woman’s sweater, Candy Darling was a woman wearing a woman’s sweater.” One would never really call Ed Wood “she.” One is compelled to refer to Candy as “she,” as a matter of respect, well-deserved honor and veracity. There is an incandescent otherness to this frail, self-descriptive text that really does demand numinous recognition and empathy and far more than a moment’s sentimental contemplation. I found myself thinking of words like sacred, catechism, rosary, litany, Hail Mary (though the obvious contemporary drag slang might subvert the sincerity of expression with that one!). We have become comfortable with the image of biological males living as, breathing as, and trying their courageous darnedest to think as women. Given the increased tolerance and awareness of transexuality and ambiguous gender today, it would be easy to forget the perilous consequences that faced a certain James Lawrence Slattery when he left Massapequa Park, Cape Cod, Long Island, armed with memorized Hollywood movies and glamorous actresses’ mannerisms and makeup styles to reinvent and become her self, Candy Darling, in Manhattan. A statement in itself so modern and audacious in its courage in that era and context that, as we probably all know, it was immortalized by Lou Reed more than once in song.

Perhaps most remarkable of all, though, and absolutely central to the message of this book, is that the burden of evidence quite clearly reveals to us that Candy was not a drag queen. She was, in fact, a woman. A woman sadly suffused with a romantic fervor of such an infinite and visionary grandeur that it could never be fulfilled. A composite woman distilled and compressed from so many cascading daydreams, and such trust in her belief that the overriding meaning of all life is being truly and totally in love with an idealized and faithful man, that she was, inevitably, a doomed woman. She dreamed of settling down in the suburbs with this abstraction of a man. Yet, tellingly, she does not once describe the physical or aesthetic aspects he would embody. They are of no concern; the only quality that mattered was that he would truly love Candy, and for that and that alone, all glamor, ambition, celebrity, immortality and, yes, even makeup, would be forgone without the tiniest bit of regret. These conspicuous qualities generated through irreducible suffering over years would be gladly sacrificed, one feels, almost executed, blissfully leaving a housewife Candy in her run-of-the-mill middle class house satiated with the ultimate chivalrous love at last. “Christ at the kitchen sink” as Gladys eulogized it.

A superficial reading could leave the uninitiated reader with an equally superficial comprehension of the story unfolding within these sanctified pages. Names and phone numbers; dates of electrolysis; taxi rides to clubs; details of appearances in the very fashion magazines and movie magazines that had once focused and fueled Jimmy’s transubstantiation; desperate thoughts about the ideal man; discouragement; vacuous friends; fair-weather luminaries; inevitable mentions of “Andy”; devotional lists of her current choice of cosmetics; rather silly bits of hokum philosophy probably culled from recently read articles; and clusters of “fresh and witty” dialogue noted down for potential future incorporation into plays or movies. In many ways, ordinary stuff.

What is extraordinary here is the luxuriant sense of a religious quest for love and an ideal relationship that reaches such a level of transfigured ecstasy. I can’t help but feel that Candy is quite literally alive in this book. That she demands at last to be accorded all appropriate respect and spiritual ritual. Which is why words like devotional, litany, and the image of a confessional, of churches, services and shadowy movements of candle flames still linger.

We do, of course, witness a deep melancholy here too. This modern, beautiful, vivacious, witty, romantic and tragic woman, Candy Darling, was, and even more so today, is, inspirational. I was compelled to go to my makeup box and assemble my own intimate litany of androgyny from my penetrated self to hers in collision.# And now let us all bow our heads in prayer . . .

Revlon Age Defying Makeup-Cool Beige Foundation Cream

Lanza Re-Balance Shine Silicon Gel for hair

Dark Skin Cover-Up stick

Revlon Love Pat-Cream Beige Face Powder

Chanel Aqua Crayon-Chocolate Lip Outline Color Stick

Revlon Fabuliner-Black Brown Liquid Eye Liner

Revlon Overtime Shadow-Vineyards Shimmer Eye Shadows# Chanel Quadra Eye Shadow-Earth/Gold/Steel/Pink/Copper

Revlon-Flesh Lipstick (original ‘60s in paisley tube)

Princess Marcella Borghese-Nuovo Rosa Lumina Lipstick

Salvador Dali-Parfum and Parfum de Toilette Spray

— Genesis P-Orridge


Art and Illusion: A Guide to Crossdressing

JoAnn Roberts

“Information is power and when you have the information you need, you have the power to make informed choices.” What is this? Is it the latest William Burroughs manifesto? Is it a political tract of some sort? Actually it is a quote from the author of a very pragmatic guide to crossdressing. JoAnn Roberts has been lecturing on the college circuit and writing books on the psychology of crossdressing since 1983. What we have at hand is a very well-conceived and utterly complete guide for anybody of the male gender who wishes to have a go at dressing up in female attire, including numerous tips for “passing” as the real thing. Although this volume is deceptively slim, it seems to cover just about every physical aspect of such a transformation. (According to a list of other Roberts-penned books that are available, mannerisms, speech, etc. are covered elsewhere.) Not only does this handy little guide cover the obvious things such as body hair removal, hiding the family jewels, cleavage illusions, makeup tips and size translation, but it also goes the extra mile with loads of little tips about what dress best suits one’s body shape, fabric weights and how they hang and what kind of glasses look best. It even includes a chart for sizing rings. The most amazing thing that this book conveys is a matter-of-factness about the whole subject of men wearing female attire. It has a sort of loopy charm that makes it easy to imagine the local PTA at an upscale elementary school handing this one out to the dads of the stickball team for their spring talent show. SA

Publisher: Creative Design
Pamphlet: 40 pages

The Cross and The Crossdresser

Vanessa S.

Coming out to the Lord. “We who crossdress have been given a marvelous gift by our Creator: the gift of full personality expression through the medium of crossdressing. This book discusses that gift, and invites us to accept it, gracefully and humbly. We crossdressers are, despite our culture’s institutionalized oppression toward us, truly blessed [with] a unique perspective that most people will never attempt to gain or even comprehend.” Amen. GR

Publisher: Creative Design
Pamphlet: 48 pages

Drag Diaries

Catherine Chermayeff, Jonathan David and Nan Richardson

Roll over, J. Edgar Hoover! “Introduction to drag, drag history, drag culture, drag interviews, drag personalities, drag reading list, drag filmography, drag annual calendar, drag shopping guide.” The glamorous, trashy truth about gender bending, from the she-males who do it best: RuPaul, Holly Woodlawn, Lypsinka, Lady Bunny, etc. “You’re born naked and everything you put on after that is drag.” Sure, they look like dames, but watch out—inside they feel like Sherman tanks! GR

Publisher: Chronicle
Paperback: 128 pages

Drag Gags

Ralph Judd

Ralph Judd loves to laugh. It says so right there on the book jacket, next to his slightly greasy and cabaret-ravaged face. And he loves to make other people laugh. So he decided to take vintage movie stills which feature men in dresses (the tremendous number of them is surprising) and slap goofy, soggy-breaded one liners on them. Cary Grant! Charlie Chaplin! Jackie Coogan! The two volumes of Drag Gags are intended for anyone who enjoys tabloid-style humor, although they will find most favor with homosexual men of the aged, theater-going variety. SK

Publisher: Judd
Paperback: 60 pages

Drag Gags Return

Ralph Judd

Like the first volume, this features 60 vintage movie stills of male actors in “humorous” feminine drag, gussied up with an amusing pun of Judd’s invention. Milton Berle, Jimmy Durante, Eddie Cantor, Sid Caesar! The practicing transvestite might be offended by this nonsense and complain that homosexuality is yet again being subverted into something erroneously comic. But how can you hate Judd, a fairy if ever there was one? SK

Publisher: Judd
Paperback: 60 pages

I Am My Own Woman: The Outlaw Life of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, Berlin’s Most Distinguished Transvestite

Charlotte von Mahlsdorf

“The exquisitely written autobiography of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, whose lifelong pursuits of sexual liberty and antique furniture offer a unique perspective on European history. During World War II, von Mahlsdorf murdered his father, dubbed himself Charlotte (after his cross-dressing lesbian aunt’s lover) and has lived openly as a transvestite since. Dressed in high-heeled sandals and a good suit, Charlotte has collected furnishings from the Gründerzeit for half a century: in the Third Reich, she ‘rescued’ pieces from Jewish deportees; in the German Democratic Republic, she protected ‘bourgeois cultural assets’ from the Stasi. Now well past 60, a quietly passionate, steadfast and serene figure, Charlotte shuns makeup, wearing the simplest of frocks. The Gründerzeit Museum-which Charlotte and her friends have defended against assault from skinheads—has become a symbol for the German lesbian and gay community.”

Publisher: Cleis
Paperback: 183 pages

I Was a White Slave in Harlem

Margo Howard-Howard with Abbe Michaels

The premier drag queen of Manhattan from the ‘40s until the ‘80s bares all, from Superfly pimp-lovers who were secretly into “rough trade,” to the inside line on the Ecclesiastical hierarchy… “Most of the archbishops of New York—the last four, who were cardinals—now we don’t talk about the dead, but Cardinal Spellman was an old closet queen. Personally, I never saw him sucking a cock or whatever he was given to doing. But I heard rumors in the homophile world that he was called ‘Fanny’ Spellman. That he liked ‘seafood.’ Sailors. For soldiers, one would say ‘K-rations.’ Well, old Fanny, prince of the church, was gossiped about all over town.” SS

Publisher: Four Walls Eight Windows
Paperback: 179 pages

Lettin' It All Hang Out: RuPaul — An Autobiography


Part autobiography, part self-help book, part how-to manual for aspiring drag queens, Lettin' It All Hang Out is a heartfelt, sassy and intelligent self-portrait of someone who dared to be different and never looked back—from his loving but difficult childhood, to his initial awareness of “being different,” to his various early drag personae, to his present status as “Queen Of All Media.” For all of its saturation in “queenspeak” irony the book, to its great credit, is utterly void of catty mean-spiritedness. Not just for those interested in crashing through the gender barrier, Lettin' It All Hang Out is an inspiring tale of perseverance and success in the face of considerable adversity. It's also a lot of fun. Replete with photos (the Diva in company with fellow luminaries Elton John, Nirvana, Elizabeth Taylor), a breathtaking array of lists (RuPaul's Favorite Books, Photo Shoot Tips, Drag Names: Mix & Match ), a U.S. discography and filmography. MDG

Publisher: Hyperion
Paperback: 227 pages

Man Enough To Be a Woman

Jayne County

Witness here the life of Jayne (formerly Wayne) County in all its messy glory, from picking up queen fuckers by the road side to breaking heads on the stage at CBGB’s. She did it first, if not best, and her antics put rock’s other drag hags way in the shade. MG

Publisher: Serpent's Tail
Paperback: 184 pages

Monsieur d’Eon Is a Woman: A Tale of Political Intrigue and Sexual Masquerade

Gary Kates

And not just any woman: French diplomat Monsieur d’Eon was an 18th-century, gender-blending, male Mata Hari living in the center of international intrigue. He continued his career as a super spy after declaring himself a genetic female at the age of 49 and kept them all guessing until after his death. He/she was also an acolyte of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. MG

Publisher: HarperCollins
Paperback: 400 pages