Born in 1944 to an alcoholic father and a bookkeeper mother in Queens, New York, James Lawrence Slattery was reborn in two decades later as the Warhol muse Candy Darling.
Growing up in Long Island, Candy developed a deep affection for classic Hollywood actresses like Kim Novak, Marilyn Monroe, Jean Harlow, and Joan Bennett. It was the influence of these women that contributed to the Candy Darling persona in years to come. She started dressing as a girl during her teenage years, ultimately revealing herself to her mother after rumors arose about her attendance at a local gay bar. Her mother would later say of the transformation, "I knew then ... that I couldn't stop Jimmy. Candy was too beautiful and talented."
With the blessing of her mother, Candy began frequenting the Greenwich Village set of hipsters and artists. In the process of forming her identity as a female, Candy went through a series of names, starting with Hope Slattery around 1964, before moving on to Hope Dahl, Candy Dahl, before settling on Candy Darling.
In 1967, she met Andy Warhol at an after-hours club in the city called The Tenth of Always. With her look that was a throwback to classic starlets of the silver screen, Andy knew that Candy represented the ultimate Hollywood fantasy. With her breathy voice reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe and her platinum locks, Candy was beautiful. Unlike her 'sisters' Jackie Curtis and Holly Woodlawn, Candy was never in "drag" - she always just was herself. And she was glamorous.
Candy was cast in Warhol's films "Flesh" and "Women in Revolt," along with good friends Holly Woodlawn and Jackie Curtis. She also was cast by friend Tennessee Williams in his premiere production of the play "Small Craft Warnings." She acted on the stage once again in the first of three Jackie Curtis plays she would be in called "Glamour, Glory and Gold" with Robert De Niro. The other two plays were "Heaven Grand in Amber Orbit," and "Vain Victory: The Vicissitudes of the Damned." She continued her acting career with parts in "Klute" with Jane Fonda, whom she befriended and frequented the Factory, and "Mortadella" with Sophia Loren. She was in the running for the main role as "Myra Breckenridge," which ultimately went to Raquel Welch, before traveling to Vienna in 1971 to act in two features for director Werner Schroeter.
In 1974, Candy died of leukemia, a result of hormone pills she took increase her female form. Her funeral was attended by huge crowds. Guests included Gloria Swanson, who was remembered for saluting Candy's coffin, and Julie Newmar, who wrote a touching eulogy to her late friend: "Candy was a genius ... Hers was an extraordinarily high achievement. Her skin was so flawless, her behavior not limpid but liquid, the movement of her hands exquisite." After her death, The New York Times dedicated the front page to her obituary and her memory.
In addition to the great friendships she had with many legendary artists and thinkers, Candy served as muse to the art world as well. She was immortalized in two songs written by Lou Reed - "Walk on the Wild Side" and "Candy Says." Two books composed of her writings were published posthumously in the 1990s.