Jackie Curtis

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Jackie Curtis
Jackie Curtis Backstage by Gary LeGault.jpg
Curtis Backstage at SNAFU in 1980 by Gary LeGault
John Curtis Holder Jr.

(1947-02-19)February 19, 1947
New York City, US
DiedMay 15, 1985(1985-05-15) (aged 38)
New York City, US
Resting placeRose Hills Memorial Park, Putnam Valley, New York
OccupationActor, writer, singer, Warhol Superstar

Jackie Curtis (February 19, 1947 – May 15, 1985) was an American actress, writer, singer, and Warhol superstar.

Early life and career[edit]

Jackie Curtis was born in New York City to John Holder and Jenevive Uglialoro. She had one sibling, half-brother Timothy Holder, who is an openly gay Episcopal priest.[1][2] Her parents divorced and she was mostly raised by her maternal grandmother. Her maternal grandmother was Ann Uglialoro, a well-known East Village bar owner known as Slugger Ann. Jackie performed as both a man and a woman throughout her career. While performing in drag, Curtis would typically wear lipstick, glitter, bright red hair, ripped dresses, and stockings. Curtis pioneered this combination of trashy and glamour, a style that has prompted assertions that Curtis inspired the glitter rock or glam rock movement of the 1970s.

Andy Warhol said of Curtis, "Jackie Curtis is not a drag queen. Jackie is an artist. A pioneer without a frontier." Primarily a stage actress, Curtis debuted at the age of 17 in Tom Eyen's play Miss Nefertiti Regrets produced in 1965 at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club along with fellow newcomer Bette Midler.[3] Curtis began writing her own plays immediately after this production. Her productions often featured well-known transgender people, such as Candy Darling and Holly Woodlawn. Curtis' work was influenced by the Playhouse of the Ridiculous, a resident company at La MaMa. As writer and lead actress, her plays included Glamour, Glory and Gold, which also starred Darling, Melba LaRose, Jr., and Robert De Niro in his first appearance on stage, playing several roles; Vain Victory, with Darling and Mario Montez; Amerika Cleopatra featuring Harvey Fierstein; Femme Fatale, with Patti Smith, Jayne County and Penny Arcade; and Heaven Grand in Amber Orbit with Ruby Lynn Reyner and Holly Woodlawn. Her final play "Champagne" ran at La Mama Experimental Theatre Club January 3–27, 1985 and featured George Abagnalo as the male lead.[4]

While writing plays, Curtis continued to act. She reprised her role as Ptolemy II in a 1966 production of Miss Nefertiti Regrets at La MaMa.[5] In 1969, she performed with the Playhouse of the Ridiculous in Tom Murrin's Cock-Strong alongside Penny Arcade, Anthony Ingrassia, and others. Music for the production was written by Ralph Czitrom and performed by the Silver Apples.[6] She co-directed a production of her own play, Vain Victory, at La MaMa in 1971,[7] and directed and performed in Nick Markovich's I Died Yesterday at La MaMa in 1983.[8]

Andy Warhol and director Paul Morrissey cast Curtis and 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 Cabaret in the Sky at the New York Cultural Center. An album by Paul Serrato collecting songs from the Curtis works Lucky Wonderful and Vain Victory, including the love ballad "Who Are You", which Curtis sang to Darling, was released in 2004. Curtis' poem "B-Girls", much of which is based on her observations of people who visited her grandmother's bar, Slugger Ann's, was included in the 1979 book The Poets' Encyclopedia. At eight pages long, it was the longest poem in the book.


Jackie Curtis made two more movies during the 1980s. Drug addiction, however, took its toll on her,[9][10] and she died from a heroin overdose in 1985.[11]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Curtis is named in Lou Reed's 1972 song "Walk on the Wild Side" which was about the 'superstars' Reed knew from Warhol's Factory. The verse speaks of her 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".[12]
  • In 2004, a documentary Superstar in a Housedress exposed some little-known facts about Curtis to a wider public. Curtis's influence on a number of people, including 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 Curtis as being "...the biggest influence on me at this time."[13]


Year Title Role Notes
1968 Flesh Jackie
1971 W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism Herself
1971 Women in Revolt Jackie
1971 An American Family Herself 1 episode
1973 The Corner Bar Herself 1 episode
1980 Underground U.S.A. Roommate
1983 Burroughs: the Movie Nurse
2002 The Cockettes Herself archival footage
2004 Superstar in a Housedress Herself archival footage
2010 Beautiful Darling Herself archival footage

Plays (as playwright)[edit]

  • 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)
  • The Trojan Women (1972)
  • Tyrone X (1979)
  • I Died Yesterday (1983) (play written by Nick Markovich with additional dialogue by Curtis)
  • Champagne (1985)


  1. ^ Interviews in Superstar in a Housedress Accessed 4/4/2015.
  2. ^ About Timothy Holder Accessed 4/4/2015.
  3. ^ La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: Miss Nefertiti Regrets (1965)". Accessed April 9, 2018.
  4. ^ "Curtis Serves "Champagne"". Back Stage. 25 (53): 35. December 28, 1984. ProQuest 1438563882.
  5. ^ La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: Miss Nefertiti Regrets (1966a)". Accessed April 9, 2018.
  6. ^ La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: Cock-Strong (1969)". Accessed April 9, 2018.
  7. ^ La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: Vain Victory, The Vicissitudes of the Damned (1971)". Accessed April 9, 2018.
  8. ^ La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: I Died Yesterday (1983)". Accessed April 9, 2018.
  9. ^ Holden, Stephen (May 5, 2004). "FILM REVIEW; Always the Lady, Even When He Needed a Shave". The New York Times. Retrieved October 25, 2009.
  10. ^ ABBOTT, ALYSIA (August 1, 2017). "Living with Cookie". The Recollectors. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  11. ^ "Jackie Curtis, 38, Performer And Writer for Warhol Films". The New York Times. May 17, 1985.
  12. ^ Hann, Michael. "Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side: what became of Candy, Little Joe and co?". The Guardian. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  13. ^ County, Jayne (1995). Man Enough To Be A Woman. Serpent's Tail. pp. 51. ISBN 1-85242-338-2.

External links[edit]