Trashing ‘Trash’ with Holly Woodlawn


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December 10, 1970, Vol. XV, No. 50

Trashing ‘Trash’ with Holly Woodlawn
By Arthur Bell

The superstars surround David Susskind on the carpeted platform of the tv studio. The “Trash” contingent is there, all but Holly Woodlawn. Three minutes to tape time she enters, wearing a modified nun’s habit, courtesy of Mother Superior Clothing. Just right. The face peeks out of a hood. The audience applauds. And it’s show time.

Susskind takes a beating from his liberated superstars. His 1945 Hollywood questions rebound plunk in his face. “What is the value of degeneracy?” he asks, and Ondine answers, “That it exists.” “Don’t you feel self-conscious of the language you use in your films?” he asks, and Tally Brown answers, “I never feel self-conscious of the language. Only today, when I’ve been asked to cool it by you.”

The game of destroy and enlighten is played by all but one. Holly Woodlawn says little. For most of the show, she quietly sits with her face and hands and arms talking in place of her mouth. She is frightened, she is fascinating to watch, and she is fabulous.

Two days before the Susskind taping, I spent 14 hours with Holly Woodlawn. She appeared at my apartment about noon, tall, thin, and jittery. The hair was tight on top and fluffy on the sides and she was wearing salt and pepper trousers and a scarlet version of the silver Joan Crawford shoes she refused to part with in “Trash.”

I fixed her a martini and suggested we do a “day in the life of” routine. Fine, she said. Time is free. Fabulous.

Out comes the cheese and Ritz as we nosh and drink and smoke, Holly expounds on some of the stuff the papers picked up a couple of weeks ago. The jail thing. The fact that she was behind bars 30 days without a visitor before Larry Rivers got wind of it and bailed her out. The fact that she went from the Women’s House of D to the Tombs in one day and languished there during the September riots. The fact that her first indication of the pow of “Trash” came from a prison guard the day she was leaving. The fact that Lily Law still has her on a forgery charge, possession of false identification, and impersonating the French Ambassador’s wife (“I don’t know what the hell she looks like”).

We gab about lib, love, men and Andy Warhol. “‘Trash’ was a fluke,” says Holly. “Andy was pushing Joe Dallesandro and Jane Forth and the fluke was me. They wanted me for one or two scenes at first. Paul Morrissey said ‘do that, do that, fabulous’ and so they kept adding to my part. I worked six days at $25 a day. Except for the last scene, everything was done in one take. The clothes, the dialogue, like everything was mine because the character I play is me. I’ve been in those situations.”

How many times has Holly seen “Trash”? Twenty, 30, she doesn’t know. The ushers at Cinema II all know her: she brings friends. I opted we crash “Trash” again. Sure, said Holly, we’ll take some wine, we’ll sit in the back row. It’s a ritual. So we leave the apartment. En route a dozen strangers stop dead in their tracks. Holly, Holly Woodlawn. You’re marvelous. You’re really cool. Thank you. Thank you. Fabulous. Come to my party tonight, says a sweet East Side chic. You’ll really make the party for me. Holly says she will, she will. Fabulous.

Near the theatre the adulation accumulates. Holly is slightly bombed. “I don’t want them not to like me,” she says. “I feel frightened, and mmmmm, I love them.”

She points to the southwest corner of Bloomingdale’s where she usually stands to watch the crowds form in front of her film. Once inside the theatre, she slumps down in her back row seat, takes a swigger of Eleven Cellars Burgundy, and falls asleep.

I stare and stare at her face. Those lids are outlined with sparkle and vaseline, but not as heavily as the Holly who is up there on the screen yelling “be careful” to someone moving a sink, “people got to pee in it.” Some of the twinkle dust has fallen on Holly’s cheeks and it glitters in the dark. Holly’s upper lip pouts. Her face is part angel, part Zasu Pitts.

She wakes up when the intermission lights go on and we leave the theatre for chicken and mashed potatoes and Black Russians, and good talk about the divine stars — Monica Vitti, Sophia, Hedy, Lana in “The Prodigal,” Joan Crawford (“to me, that’s the queen”), Tyrone Power. “I’m not like them,” she says. “I still have no money. I live in the same apartment. The only thing that’s different now is that things are expected of me that I don’t think I can give.”

She has an unreleased flick, “Women in Revolt.” Holly plays a high-fashion model, a lessy, who has an affair with Jackie Curtis — a Betty Friedan-styled liberationist. “Revolting Women is what it should be called. I didn’t know what the movement was when I made it. They told me you play a leader in women’s lib and in my first scene I said okay girls, let’s get out and vote.”

We head toward the Village. We decide to crash a birthday party for Arnie Kantrowitz, a movement friend. As we get close to the scene Holly shakes. “I’ve got to get bombed, real quick.” We stop for a drink. She’s better. We make it to Arnie’s. The bit again. Holly, Holly. Holly, you’re cool. Thank you. Thank you. Fabulous. Holly smokes. She unwinds. The star thing dissolves, she gets people vibes. She’s Holly, me, the glow lights up the superfine. She dances, body stiff, legs and arms elastic. We’re there four hours. Old times.

Suddenly, real suddenly, Holly remembers the blonde chic’s party, the one uptown. “We’re late,” she says. “We’ve got to go. I told her we would.” She invites seven new sinner friends to come along. Should we split to two cabs? No. No. “I’ll get us a lift. It’s nice. Don’t’ worry about it.” She stops a car near St. Mark’s Place. We pile in. The driver tells us he’s just a kid from Ohio and knows from nothing. he dumps us at 79th and Second. The bedraggled crew enter plush city uptown. We’re a sight the doorman can’t comprehend. He comes up with a rule: no guests allowed to enter after 1 a.m. Holly’s hazel eyes turn terror green. “Tell her it’s me,” she shouts, “me, Holly Woodlawn.” “I don’t care who you are, mister,” says the doorman. “Don’t call me mister, you fuckin beast,” says Holly. “Don’t use language like that on me,” says the doorman. Holly’s friends are hollering and pleading, using language like that. Holly, panic-stricken, runs to the traffic on First Avenue. She bangs on car windows. She is crying. Let me in. Let me in. Please let me in. It’s me, Holly Woodlawn. Holly.

But no one stops for the fabulous star of “Trash.”

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