Beautiful Darling

Last week my friend, Andrew, told me about a documentary called Beautiful Darling, which is about the life of a transgender woman named Candy Darling. It is currently playing at The Tower (a wonderful, local independent theatre).

I’d learned my lesson about dismissing Andrew’s pop culture entertainment suggestions earlier on when he lent me Barbarella starring Jane Fonda. I let that 1968 gem sit there on my shelf for months gathering dust bunnies until, finally, 90% motivated to put a stop to his relentless, “Have you watched it yet???” harassment, I crumbled and put it in to my DVD player.

After watching Jane Fonda run around scantily clad hunting Doctor Durand Durand I was hooked - especially after the scene where she explained to that hairy Catchman that Earth peoples no longer have old-fashioned penetrative intercourse, but instead swallow Exaultation Transference Pills and press palms together when their “psychocardiograms are in perfect harmony”. Bang! Top 10!

So when Andrew suggested this documentary, I paid attention. I went to see it that night. And speaking of Barbarella, apparently Candy Darling and Jane Fonda co-starred in a film called Klute!

Beautiful Darling is a scrapbook of the short and lonely life of Candy. Her story is told through a mix of current and past interviews, excerpts from diaries and letters. She is best known for her time as a “superstar” with Andy Warhol, who she naïvely regarded as a genuine friend and protector and starred in his films Flesh (1968) and Women in Revolt (1971). She was bitterly disappointed when he lost interest in “chicks with dicks”. She died of lymphoma on March 21, 1974 when she was my age - 29 years old.

Jeremiah Newton, who produced the documentary and narrates it, was her closest friend. After her death, he visited her mother and grabbed as much of her stuff as he could - but once he arrived home, learned that her mother had burned everything he’d left behind fearing that her current husband might find out that she had a transsexual daughter.

I felt really bad for Candy. After being a social pariah throughout her upbringing and being rejected by her transphobic father - even at the peak of her “fame,” she lived hand to mouth eating stale bread and couch surfing. I teared up over her diary entry where she wrote, "I feel like I’m living in a prison.” in reference to her body. She then named things she couldn’t do - like swimming, visiting relatives, getting a job or having an intimate relationship. But, despite the obstacles, she had the courage to be true to herself. She illustrated this beautifully in the following late diary entry:
“I will not cease to be myself for foolish people. For foolish people make harsh judgements on me. You must always be yourself, no matter what the price. It is the highest form of morality.”
(Candy Darling on Her Deathbed, 1974)


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