Monday, October 07, 2019

Superstar in a Housedress: The Life and Legend of Jackie Curtis by Craig Highberger

Jackie Curtis was, of course, one of Andy Warhol's Superstars (starring in Flesh and Women in Revolt), but also an actor, singer, playwright, author, poet and much more in his own right. While known for his outrageous drag persona - more flamboyant and over-the-top than especially feminine - Jackie also wrote and directed (and starred in) numerous plays and did acting work as a male - he truly wanted to be accepted as a "real" actor.

Born in New York City, Jackie leaned towards the wild side early on and became one of the legends of the city - he is a star of Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" along with his drag queen cohorts Holly Woodlawn and Candy Darling, among others. The late 60's and 70's were made for these larger-than-life creations and Curtis was able to survive (to some extent) simply by being a "star".

Jackie sounds like he was lovable but painfully difficult, as many of the NYC stars were at the time - charismatic but leeching as well as self-destructive and somewhat insensitive. But, he worked hard at his craft and even moved to Hollywood at one point with the hopes of breaking into films with his boyish James Dean-ian looks. He could never quite grasp the golden ring though and, back in New York, his drug use became abuse and escalated into heroin, which became the cause of his death.

As with many from this time, his story is fun'n'fabulous and at the same time sad and his death is a cruel, all-too-early waste of his life. Highberger met Jackie in the early 70's and videotaped him throughout his life and his documentary on Jackie is included as a bonus with this book. The book itself is drawn from many interviews and reminiscences from Jackie's friends and family, and is basically a transcript of the documentary. This is a well-done story of an iconic life.