Holly Woodlawn, trans actress who inspired Lou Reed’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side’, dies aged 69

Woodlawn also appeared in several Andy Warhol films and Madonna's 'Deeper And Deeper' video

Holly Woodlawn, the transgender actress who helped to inspire Lou Reed’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side’, has died at the age of 69.

Woodlawn was born Haroldo Santiago Franceschi Rodriguez Danhakl in Puerto Rico and adopted her new name after hitchhiking to New York City at the age of 15. As Holly Woodlawn, she appeared in Andy Warhol’s experimental early ’70s films Trash and Women In Revolt, becoming one of his so-called “Warhol Superstars”.

She is immortalised in the lyrics of Lou Reed’s classic track from his David Bowie-produced 1972 album ‘Transformer’. The song begins: “Holly came from Miami, F-L-A / Hitchhiked her way across the USA / Plucked her eyebrows on the way / Shaved her legs, and then he was a she.”

Though the early ’70s would prove to be her heyday, Woodlawn took on a number of small roles in independent films in the ’90s and ’00s, and put on cabaret shows in New York and Los Angeles as recently as 2013.

Her autobiography ‘A Low Life In High Heels’ was published in 1991 and two years later she appeared in Madonna’s ‘Deeper And Deeper’ video. Last year, she guest starred in two episodes of Transparent, Amazon’s acclaimed drama series about a woman coming out as transgender in late middle age.

She died in Los Angeles yesterday after a battle with liver and brain cancer, her friend and former caretaker Mariela Huerta confirmed to the press. The Dandy Warhols paid tribute to the late actress on Twitter earlier today, writing: “If you are of a certain age, Holly Woodlawn was the first trans woman you may have been aware of thanks to [Lou Reed’s] song.”