Haroldo Santiago Franceschi Rodriguez Danhakl was born in Puerto Rico in 1946. He grew up in New York and Miami Beach. At a very early age he recognized his attraction to men. Not fitting in and getting beaten up at school made Haroldo decide at age 15 to run away. Hitchhiking up the coast toward New York, Haroldo made a stop in Georgia where his friend Georgette plucked his eyebrows, applied mascara, and helped transform Haroldo into Holly.
In the Big Apple, Holly met Andy Warhol and the people who hung out at Warhol’s Factory, such as Candy Darling, Joe Dallesandro and Jackie Curtis.
The story of Holly and the other Warhol superstars is recounted in Lou Reed’s sole Hot 100 single, “Walk on the Wild Side.” The man born Louis Firbank was part of that scene in the Sixties, as his band, The Velvet Underground, was managed by Warhol. He felt an affinity with the people he sang about – as a teenager Reed’s parents sent him to a mental hospital where he would receive electroshock therapy to help cure him of his homosexual tendencies.
Though not gay himself, though perhaps bisexual, Reed wrote “Walk on the Wild Side” to be, in his words “an outright gay song,” saying it’s “from me to them, but they’re carefully worded so the straights can miss out on the implications and enjoy them without being offended.”
Produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson, “Walk on the Wild Side” reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1973.
Tunes du Jour remembers the late Great Lou Reed today on what would have been his 73rd birthday. Here are twenty of his finest.
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