Elizabeth Eden

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Elizabeth Eden
Elizabeth Debbie Eden
Born(1946-08-19)August 19, 1946
DiedSeptember 29, 1987(1987-09-29) (aged 41)

Elizabeth Debbie Eden (August 19, 1946 – September 29, 1987) was an American trans woman whose boyfriend John Wojtowicz attempted a bank robbery to pay for her sex reassignment surgery. The incident was made into the crime drama film Dog Day Afternoon (1975), directed by Sidney Lumet.[1] The character Leon Shermer, played by Chris Sarandon, is loosely based on Eden.[2]

Early life[edit]

Eden was born Ernest Aron on August 19, 1946, in Ozone Park, Queens.[1]

Relationship with Wojtowicz[edit]

In 1971, she and Wojtowicz met at the Feast of Saint Anthony in New York City. The two, Elizabeth in a bridal gown and John in military attire, wed in a public ceremony that year.[3] Following a series of suicide attempts, which Wojtowicz attributed to Eden's despondency over her inability to afford a sex-change operation, Eden was admitted to a psychiatric institution.[3]

The following year, on August 22, 1972, Wojtowicz attempted to rob a Chase Manhattan bank branch in Gravesend, Brooklyn. Eden was not aware of the plans. Wojtowicz was sentenced to 20 years, but released in 1978. Wojtowicz did two more stretches in prison for parole violations in 1984 and 1986-87. He said he was released in April 1987, and Eden visited him in New York about once a month.[3]

The film Dog Day Afternoon shows Sonny (the Wojtowicz character) making out a will to give Leon (Eden's character) his life insurance so that even if he were killed, Eden could pay for the operation. The real-life Wojtowicz was paid $7500, plus 1% of the film's net profits, for the rights to his story, from which he gave Eden enough money to pay for her sex reassignment surgery.[1]

Later life[edit]

Following her sex reassignment surgery, Eden legally married someone else, then divorced.[3]


Eden died of AIDS-related pneumonia on September 29, 1987, aged 41, at Genesee Hospital in Rochester, New York.[3]


Her personal papers and photographs were donated posthumously to the National Archive of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender History at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (New York) on June 14, 1990.[4]


  1. ^ a b c "Elizabeth Eden, Transsexual Who Figured in Movie". The New York Times. October 1, 1987. Retrieved May 4, 2018.
  2. ^ Photos, L. (2003). "The Dog and the Last Real Man". Journal of Bisexuality. 3 (2): 43–68. doi:10.1300/J159v03n02_04.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Ernest Aron Became Elizabeth Eden: AIDS Kills Woman Behind 'Dog Day'". The Los Angeles Times. September 30, 1987. Retrieved December 21, 2013.
  4. ^ "Liz Eden Papers". Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Center. 1986. Archived from the original on December 17, 2003. Retrieved August 8, 2009.

External links[edit]