Warholstars Condensed... sort of
Cinema exterior during the German release of Flesh
Although Flesh was released as Andy Warhol's Flesh, Warhol had little to do with the actual making of the film. Paul Morrissey directed it while Andy was recuperating from his gunshot wounds.
While Warhol was in the hospital, John Schlesinger used some of the Factory regulars for the party scene of Midnight Cowboy. Warhol was jealous that Hollywood was making a commercial film about a hustler when he had already made My Hustler in 1965, so he suggested to Paul Morrissey that he make another hustler film:
"While I was in the hospital, I had the same jealous feeling thinking about Midnight Cowboy that I had had when I saw Hair and realized that people with money were taking the subject matter of the underground, counterculture life and giving it a good, slick commercial treatment... 'Isn't it amazing?' Paul said on the phone one night while I was still in the hospital. 'Hollywood's just gotten around to doing a movie about a 42nd Street male hustler, and we did ours in '65...' 'Well, you know,' I said, 'maybe we did our film too early. Maybe now is the smart time to do a film about a male hustler. Why don't you do another one - this time it can be in colour.'" (POP280-81)
The result was Flesh. It featured the screen debut of Warhol's two newest superstars, both of whom performed in drag. They were:
JACKIE CURTIS (L) and CANDY DARLING
(Polaroids by Brigid Berlin)
Jackie Curtis was born John Curtis Holder on February 19, 1947 in New York to John B. Holder, a Veterans' Administration worker and Jean Uglialoro, a certified public accountant. Soon after Jackie's birth, the family moved to John's home in Tennessee, however Jean returned to New York with Jackie less than a year later as she couldn't bear being away from New York. Jackie spent much of his childhood growing up in the rooms behind his grandmother's bar on the lower east side of Manhattan - Slugger Ann's. (C)
Candy Darling was born James Slattery on November 24, 1944 in Brooklyn to Theresa Phelan, a bookkeeper at the Jockey Club, and Jim Slattery, a sometimes violent alcoholic gambler who spent much of his time at the racetrack. After Theresa and Jim divorced, the young James ("Jimmy") Slattery and his mother ended up living in a small bungalow Massapequa Park, Long Island, New York. Jimmy, like Jackie, was fascinated by the glamour of Hollywood movies and often imitated his favourite actresses. When a neighbour reported that Jimmy had been seen wearing women's clothes at a local gay club called The Hayloft, Jimmy's mother confronted him with the information. Jimmy told his mother to wait and left the room. When he reappeared he was in full drag. When his mother later told a friend about the incident, she said "I knew then... that I couldn't stop Jimmy. Candy was just too beautiful and talented." (CD12)
According to Warhol, he first met Candy and Jackie in 1967, when he and Fred Hughes were in Greenwich Village to pick up some trousers that Warhol was having made at the Leather Man:
"Walking just ahead of us was a boy about nineteen or twenty [Jackie] with wispy Beatle bangs, and next to him was a tall, sensational blonde drag queen [Candy] in very high heels and a sundress that she made sure had one strap falling onto her upper arm. The two of them were laughing, and as we turned onto Greenwich Avenue, where the hustlers leaned against the wall, we saw the blonde throw her head back and say loud, for all the cruising fags to hear, 'Oh, just look at all these Green Witches.' Then the boy happened to turn around. He recognized me and asked for my autograph on the paper bag he had from the English clothes boutique Countdown. I asked him what was in the bag.
'Satin shorts for the tap-dancing in my new play, Glamour Glory, and Gold. It opens in September; I'll send you an invitation. My names's Jackie Curtis.' (POP225)
According to Jackie in one interview, however, he first met Warhol earlier, in 1965. When Jackie was asked when he met Warhol during an interview in 1978, Jackie responded "1965. On 42nd Street and 2nd Avenue... I was staying at the YMCA, which was across from where the old Factory was." (PS273) However, there is no other reference to the alleged earlier meeting between the two and, like most of the Warhol stars, Jackie would often re-invent the truth during interviews in order to make a story more interesting.
Jackie Curtis wrote his play, Glamour, Glory and Gold, The Life and Legend of Nola Noonan, Goddess and Star during 1965/6, soon after graduating from high school. The September 1967 production of the play mentioned by Warhol was the first production and included Melba LaRose, Jr. as Nola Noonan, Jackie as Mickey and Candy as Gregg. The second production, which took place the following year, featured Robert De Niro in the cast, with Paula Shaw playing Nola Noonan.
Jackie was already friends with Candy Darling prior to meeting Warhol. In Popism, Warhol recounted how Jackie described meeting Candy for the first time:
Jackie Curtis to Andy Warhol:
"I met her [Candy] in practically the same spot that we met you [Andy] - right by Sutters’s ice cream parlor... Andy, she was a mess... Before she started taking care of herself a little, she looked like the maid in Dinner at Eight...
Anyway,we went into Sutter’s and bought a Napoleon. She bit into it and her one good tooth fell out.... We stood there staring at it in the palm of her hand, laughing hysterically and going, ‘Oh, my god, oh, my God...’ I walked her back to where she was staying - the Hotel Seventeen on 17th Street between Third Avenue and Stuyvesant Park... I was so naive, I didn’t recognize all the classic signs that she was dodging her bill there - even when I saw that they were holding her stuff down in the lobby. When she saw that, she turned right around on her high heels and ran across the street.
When I caught up with her, she was peering into some guy’s ground-floor windows. A dog came out to the bars and she was going, ‘Isn’t that dog pret-ty? Pret-ty dog, pret-ty dog...’ And I thought to myself, ‘She’s trying to convince that dog that she’s a real woman!" (POP227)
Although Candy lived as a woman, Jackie shifted between his male and female roles. Sometimes he was a she and sometimes he was a he.
“Jackie as a full-blown woman wasn’t that hard to take because he played it like a total comedy; it was his in-between stage that had been so creepy. He’d started taking female hormones sometime in ‘68 and by that summer, when Paul was filming him and Candy in Flesh, he was in that weird part man/part woman stage - but still a long, long way from both.” (POP293)
Jackie and Candy had minor roles in Flesh. During their short scene, they sit reading Hollywood magazine, commenting on the articles while Geri Miller performs oral sex on Joe Dallesandro.
After finishing with Joe, Geri launches into an extended monologue on how she is going to have breast implants and which doctors she has already contacted. When Candy says to her, "Why don't you develop your brain instead of your bust?" Geri replies: "My brain can't be developed any more than it is... If I learn too much I won't always be happy, cause the more you learn, I think, the more depressed you are."
Geri Miller was a stripper in real life who worked at Al Goldstein's M & M club and the Metropole. Although she would also appear in Morrissey's next film, Trash, she eventually lost touch with the Warhol crowd until the 80's when she attempted to re-establish contact with Andy:
Andy Warhol [November 30, 1985]:
"So I'm at the office and the phone rings and it's Geri Miller calling from the women's shelter and she goes back and forth from 'You scumbag!' to being sweet... And she's saying that Mario Cuomo is her father - the other day she called and said Muhammad Ali was... And I have a funny feeling she's a young senile person. After seeing these Donahue shows. Because she says they say it's schizophrenia, but I don't think so. A Jewish girl who came from New Jersey... she was our most sensible superstar - then in the seventies she suddenly got crazy. One day she was very down to earth, worrying about her topless dancing career, and the next week she showed up barefoot at 860, saying that the Mafia gave her LSD because she knew too much!" (AWD696)
Flesh opened at the New Andy Warhol Garrick Theatre in the last week of September 1968 and played there for seven months before moving to the 55th Street Playhouse in May, 1969. At the Garrick, its average gross was $2,000 per week, making $10,000-12,000 during the first six weeks. When it was released in Germany in 1970, it became one of the five highest grossing films that year. When it was released in England the same year, it was confiscated under the Obscene Publication Act and members of the audience were detained for questioning. (JOE79/83)
The critics gave it mixed reviews. Some critics who were previously fans of Warhol's films were disappointed by Flesh and some critics who had previously disdained Warhol's films liked it. Jonas Mekas thought it was "a good illustration of what Andy Warhol isn't about," (FPM38) and Madeleine Harnsworth wrote in the Sunday Mirror that Flesh was "a film unlike the others of Warhol's I have seen - of great humanity, even of innocence." (FPM2)
Paul Morrissey's next film for Warhol was also made with little intervention from Andy. It featured another transvestite who was a friend of Jackie and Candy but who would manage, miraculously, to survive them both. It was...
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