Candy Darling Bends Gender and Warps Reality

Candy Darling Bends Gender and Warps Reality

 Glamour, Glory, and Gold served as the stage debut of both Candy Darling and a young actor named Robert De Niro, who played all the male roles in the show. Even before Darling transformed herself from a brunette into a peroxide blonde goddess with blue eye shadow, false eyelashes, and an icy wit, she could play a convincing woman. New York Times theater critic Dan Sullivan commented without irony in a review: “A skinny actress billed as Candy Darling also made an impression; hers was the first female impersonation of a female impersonator that I have ever seen.” Candy loved that review, which mistakenly warped Darling’s gender like a Möbius strip. The wider public didn’t know the truth until Ron Link did a big reveal when he directed Darling in Give My Regards to Off-Off Broadway. Reflecting on Darling’s sexuality, Tony Zanetta recalled, “Maybe Candy actually was transgender, but in the beginning we didn’t think of Candy as a woman, or someone who was trying to be a woman. Candy was a boy who was being a star. He recreated himself in the guise of Lana Turner or Kim Novak. Candy’s life was performance art about stardom, more than anything. We were attracted to the movies, but we were especially attracted to the stars.” Darling even convinced aging film director Busby Berkeley that she was a woman during an open audition for a Broadway show he was involved in. Darling wore a black 1930s dress with leaping gazelles, while Curtis looked decidedly less femme in a ratty raincoat, torn stockings, and glitter-damaged face. Darling and Curtis were cooing and talking to the director, who took one look and said to Darling, “If it’s based on looks alone, you’ll get it.” He had no idea Darling was in drag.

From Chapter 17 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


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