Candy Darling was born James Lawrence Slattery in Forest Hills, Queens, the child of Theresa (née Phelan 1911–2014), a bookkeeper at Manhattan’s Jockey Club, and James “Jim” Slattery, who was described as a violent alcoholic. There is controversy surrounding the year of birth. According to former Warhol associate, Bob Colacello, Darling was born in 1946, while IMDb has listed her year of birth as 1948. Her friend, roommate, and posthumous editor, Jeremiah Newton, states that she was born on November 24, 1944. Darling’s early years were spent in Massapequa Park, Long Island, where she and her mother had moved after her parents divorced. Her half-brother Warren Law II, from his mother’s first marriage to Warren Law I, left home for the U.S. military, leaving Jimmy as the only child. Warren later denied his connection to her. She spent much of her childhood watching television and old Hollywood movies, from which she learned to impersonate her favorite actresses, such as Joan Bennett and Kim Novak. In 1961 she signed up for a course at the DeVern School of Cosmetology in Baldwin, on Long Island. She claimed to have “learned about the mysteries of sex from a salesman in a local children’s shoe store” and finally revealed an inclination towards crossdressing when her mother confronted her about local rumors, which described her as dressing as a girl and frequenting a local gay bar called The Hayloft. In response, Jimmy left the room and reappeared in full feminine attire. Her mother later said that, “I knew then… that I couldn’t stop Jimmy. Candy was just too beautiful and talented.”
Late at night, Darling would often take a short taxi ride to the LIRR train station, avoiding the attention of neighbors she would receive if she walked. There she would take the train to Manhattan, frequently sitting across from Long Island starlet Joey Heatherton. Once there, she referred to her Cape Cod-style home, at 79 First Avenue in Massapequa Park, as her “country house” and hung out in Greenwich Village, meeting people through the circle of Seymour Levy, on Bleecker Street. Darling met Jeremiah Newton in the summer of 1966. Newton was on his first trip to the Village from his home in Flushing, Queens. The two would become friends and roommates, living together in Manhattan and Brooklyn until the time of Darling’s death in 1974. Her first assumed name was Hope Slattery. According to Bob Colacello, Darling adopted this name sometime in 1963/1964 after she started going to gay bars in Manhattan and making visits to a doctor on Fifth Avenue for hormone injections. Jackie Curtis stated that Darling adopted the name from a well-known Off-Off Broadway actress named Hope Stansbury, with whom she lived for a few months in an apartment behind the Caffe Cino so that she could study her. Holly Woodlawn remembers that Darling’s name evolved from Hope Dahl to Candy Dahl and then to Candy Cane. Jeremiah Newton believed she adopted her forename out of a love for sweets. In her autobiography, Woodlawn recalled that Darling had adopted the name because a friend of hers affectionately called her “darling” so often that it finally stuck.
Before they met, in 1967, Darling saw Andy Warhol at the after-hours club called The Tenth of Always. Darling was with Jackie Curtis, who invited Warhol to a play that she had written and directed, called Glamour, Glory and Gold, starring Darling, as “Nona Noonan”, and a young Robert De Niro, who played six parts in the play. It was performed at Bastiano’s Cellar Studio on Waverly Place. Taylor Mead brought Warhol to see it and afterwards went to the club Salvation in Sheridan Square, where he was joined by Darling and Curtis at his table. Warhol cast Darling in a short comedic scene in Flesh (1968) with Jackie Curtis and Joe Dallesandro. After Flesh, Darling was cast in a central role in Women In Revolt (1971). She played a Long Island socialite, drawn into a woman’s liberation group called PIGS (Politically Involved Girls), by a character played by Curtis. Interrupted by cast disputes encouraged by Warhol, Women in Revolt took longer to film than its predecessor and went through several title changes before it was released. Darling wanted it called Blonde on a Bum Trip since she was the blonde, while Curtis and Woodlawn told her it was more like “Bum on a Blonde Trip”, titles which were both used in the film during Darling’s interview scene. For a short time, Darling worked as a barmaid at Slugger Ann’s, the bar owned by Jackie Curtis’s grandmother.
Women in Revolt was first shown at the first Los Angeles Filmex as Sex. Later it was shown as Andy Warhol’s Women, an homage to George Cukor. Unable to get a distributor for the film, Warhol rented out the Cine Malibu on East 59th Street and launched the film with a celebrity preview on February 16, 1972. After the screening there was a dinner in Darling’s honor at Le Parc Périgord restaurant, on Park Avenue, followed by a party at Francesco Scavullo’s townhouse, where they watched TV reviews of the movie, some of which called it “a rip-off”, and that it “looked as if it were filmed underwater,” and “proves once again that Andy Warhol has no talent. But we knew that since the Campbell’s Soup cans.” Among the guests at Darling’s party were D.D. Ryan, Sylvia Miles, George Plimpton, Halston, Giorgio di Sant’ Angelo and Egon and Diane von Furstenberg. Jackie Curtis stood out in the cold, along with other gate crashers. The day after the celebrity preview a group of women wearing army jackets, pea coats, jeans and boots and carrying protest signs demonstrated outside the cinema against the film, which they thought was anti-women’s liberation. When Darling heard about this, she said, “Who do these dykes think they are anyway?… Well, I just hope they all read Vincent Canby’s review in today’s Times. He said I look like a cross between Kim Novak and Pat Nixon. It’s true – I do have Pat Nixon’s nose.”
Candy Darling went on to appear in other independent films, including Brand X, by Wynn Chamberlain, Silent Night, Bloody Night, as well as a co-starring role as a victim of trans-bashing in Some of My Best Friends Are… She appeared in Klute with Jane Fonda and Lady Liberty with Sophia Loren. In 1971 she went to Vienna to make two films with director Werner Schroeter; The Death of Maria Malibran, and another one that was never released. Her attempt at breaking into the mainstream movie circuit, by campaigning for the leading role in Myra Breckinridge, (1970) led to rejection and bitterness. Her theatre credits include two Jackie Curtis plays, Glamour, Glory and Gold (1967) and Vain Victory: The Vicissitudes of the Damned (1971). She was also in Tennessee Williams’ play Small Craft Warnings, at the invitation of Williams himself. She starred in the 1973 Off-Broadway revival of The White Whore and the Bit Player, a 1964 play by Tom Eyen. Darling’s character, a Hollywood actress known only as “the Whore”, was based on Marilyn Monroe. As a review of the play stated, “With her teased platinum hair and practiced pouts, Miss Darling looks like her character and resolutely keeps her acting little-girl-lost. The role-playing aspect works to her advantage. She could, after all, be a male lunatic pretending to be the White Whore.”
Candy Darling died of lymphoma on March 21, 1974, aged 29, at the Columbia University Medical Center division of the Cabrini Health Center. In a letter written on her deathbed and intended for Andy Warhol and his followers, Darling said, “Unfortunately before my death I had no desire left for life… I am just so bored by everything. You might say bored to death. Did you know I couldn’t last. I always knew it. I wish I could meet you all again.” Her funeral, held at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel, was attended by huge crowds. Julie Newmar read the eulogy. Darling’s brother Warren, not having seen her in years and unaware that she had been living as a woman, was said to have been visibly shaken by her feminine appearance. Darling’s birth name was never spoken by the minister or any of the eulogizers. A piano piece was played by Faith Dane. Gloria Swanson saluted Darling’s coffin. Candy Darling was cremated, her ashes interred by her friend Jeremiah Newton in the Cherry Valley Cemetery, located in Cherry Valley, New York, a tiny historical village located at the foot of the Catskill Mountains.
- November, 24, 1944
- Forest Hills, Queens, New York
- March, 21, 1974
- New York, New York
Cause of Death
- Cherry Valley Cemetery
- Cherry Valley, New York