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John Curtis Holder, Jr. (February 19, 1947 – May 15, 1985), better known as Jackie Curtis, was an American actor, writer, singer and Warhol Superstar.
Early life and career
Jackie Curtis was born in New York City to John Holder, Sr. and Jenevive Uglialoro. He performed as both a man and a woman throughout his career. While performing in drag, Curtis would typically wear lipstick, glitter, bright red hair, and ripped dresses and stockings. Curtis pioneered this style, a combination of trash and glamour which has prompted assertions that Curtis inspired the "glitter rock" or "glam rock" movement of the 1970s.
"Jackie Curtis is not a drag queen. Jackie is an artist. A pioneer without a frontier", Andy Warhol said of his associate. Primarily a stage actor, Curtis debuted at the age of 17 in Tom Eyen's play Miss Neferititi Regrets. Curtis began to write his own plays immediately after this experience, often featuring famous transsexuals, such as Candy Darling and, later, Holly Woodlawn, both of whom appeared in his productions, which enjoyed successful runs at La MaMa and were well-reviewed. Curtis' work was inspired, in part, by the Playhouse of the Ridiculous. As writer and lead actor his plays include Glamour, Glory and Gold, which also starred Candy Darling, Melba LaRose, Jr. and Robert De Niro in his first appearance on stage, playing several roles; Vain Victory, Amerika Cleopatra featuring Harvey Fierstein; Femme Fatale, with Patti Smith, Jayne County and Penny Arcade; and Heaven Grand in Amber Orbit with Holly Woodlawn.
Andy Warhol and his director Paul Morrissey cast Curtis and Candy Darling in Flesh (1968) and, with the addition of Holly Woodlawn, in Women in Revolt (1971), a comedic spoof of the women's liberation movement.
Curtis was also a singer and poet. In 1974 Curtis and Woodlawn appeared in the critically acclaimed Cabaret in the Sky at the New York Cultural Center. A CD of songs by Paul Serrato from the Curtis musicals Lucky Wonderful and Vain Victory, including the love ballad "Who Are You", which Curtis sang (as a man) to Candy Darling, was released in 2004. Curtis' poem "B-Girls", much of which is based on his observations of people who visited his grandmother's bar, "Slugger Anns", led to Curtis' inclusion in the 1979 book The Poets' Encyclopedia. It was the longest poem in the book, spanning a total of eight pages.
Jackie Curtis made two more movies during the 1980s. Drug addiction, however, had taken control of his life, eventually leading to his death by heroin overdose at the age of 38.
In popular culture
- Curtis is named in Lou Reed's song "Walk on the Wild Side" which was about the 'superstars' Reed knew from Andy Warhol's studio The Factory. The verse speaks of his drug addiction and fascination with James Dean: "...Jackie is just speeding away – Thought she was James Dean for a day... then I guess she had to crash, Valium would have helped that bash"
- In 2004, a film based on Curtis' life, Superstar in a Housedress, brought Jackie Curtis back to the limelight, exposing some little known facts about the performer to the public. Curtis' influence on a number of people, friends and associates such as Holly Woodlawn, Joe Dallesandro and Penny Arcade, and observers such as David Bowie, are noted in the film. Jayne County writes of Jackie as being "...the biggest influence on me at this time."
|1971||W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism||Himself|
|1971||Women in Revolt||Jackie|
|1971||An American Family||Himself||1 episode|
|1973||The Corner Bar||Himself||1 episode|
|1983||Burroughs: the Movie||Nurse|
|2002||The Cockettes||Himself||Archive footage|
|2004||Superstar in a Housedress||Himself||Archive footage|
|2010||Beautiful Darling||Himself||Archive footage|
- Glamour, Glory and Gold (1967)
- Lucky Wonderful
- Amerika Cleopatra (1968)
- Heaven Grand in Amber Orbit (1970)
- Femme Fatale
- Vain Victory: Vicissitudes of the Damned (1971)
- Tyrone X (1979)
- I Died Yesterday (1983)
- Champagne (1985)
- Holden, Stephen (May 5, 2004). "FILM REVIEW; Always the Lady, Even When He Needed a Shave". The New York Times. Retrieved October 25, 2009.
- County, Jayne (1995). Man Enough To Be A Woman. Serpent's Tail. p. 51. ISBN 1-85242-338-2.
- Jackie Curtis at the Internet Movie Database
- Site for the documentary film Jackie Curtis: Superstar In A Housedress
- Article about the Jackie Curtis documentary Superstar In A Housedress
- Jackie Curtis at the Warhol Superstars Website
- Melba LaRose, star of Glamour, Glory and Gold, talks about Jackie Curtis
- Jackie Curtis at Find a Grave
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