Actress and transgender icon Holly Woodlawn died on Sunday, Dec. 6, after a battle with brain and liver cancer. She was 69.
Woodlawn, who was one of Andy Warhol‘s “superstars” in the early ’70s, was the “Holly” that Lou Reed sang about in 1972’s “Walk on the Wild Side”: “Holly came from Miami, F-L-A / Hitchhiked her way across the U.S.A / Plucked her eyebrows on the way / Shaved her legs, and then he was a she.”
Inspired by Holly Golightly, Audrey Hepburn’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s character, she decided on Holly as a first name. Her last name came years later, according to The Hollywood Reporter. ”We were watching this episode of I Love Lucy,” Woodlawn said in 2000. “And behind her was this sign on the No. 4 train, ‘Woodlawn,’ and we said: ‘That’s it. Holly…Wood. Holly Woodlawn.’ ”
She was known for her role opposite Joe Dallesandro in the 1970 film Trash. Her acting credits also included 1972’s Women in Revolt, 1998’s Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss and more, as well as various theater parts.
Dallesandro posted the news of Woodlawn’s death in a note on Facebook.
“I arrived to the hospice and went to Holly’s room, #403. I was next to her talking and telling her all the love that was being sent her way from everyone. It was like she knew I was there. I am sorry to say at 3:06pm Los Angeles time, Holly Woodlawn passed away,” he wrote.
This past summer, Caitlyn Jenner talked about Woodlawn in an I Am Cait episode, saying that she was in need of thoughts and prayers as her health declined.
Upon hearing about her illness on the episode, which aired in August, acclaimed songwriter and producer Desmond Child shared a lighthearted, funny memory about his friend Woodlawn and Lou Reed in an update on his Facebook page.
He wrote about how in 1975, he “made friends with Holly Woodlawn who taught me how Lou Reed and she had stolen a Xmas tree from a street stand. First while the stand is still open you go and eye the one you want then come back a couple hours later when the coast is clear after the vendor ties up all trees and heads home and the coast is clear. Then you grab it from the base at the bottom and pull it out from under the ropes, hoist it up on one of your shoulders then you run like crazy.”
“Holly has had an amazingly notorious and yet difficult life…. she certainly made her ’15 minutes’ last a very long time,” he said.