Jackie Curtis (February 19, 1947 – May 15, 1985) was a singer, writer, actor, and “Andy Warhol Superstar.” Jackie was born in New York. Throughout his career he performed both as a man and a woman. It has been believed that Jackie inspired the ‘glam rock’ look that was famous in the 1970s, as in the 1960s when performing in drag he would usually wear lipstick, glitter, bright red hair, and ripped and torn dresses and stockings; a mixture of trashy and glamorous.
Primarily a stage actor, Curtis debuted at the age of 17 in Tom Eyen’s play Miss Neferititi Regrets. Curtis began to write his own plays immediately after this experience, often featuring famous transsexuals, such as Candy Darling and, later, Holly Woodlawn, both of whom appeared in his productions, which enjoyed successful runs at La Mama and were well-reviewed. Curtis’ work was inspired, in part, by the Playhouse of the Ridiculous. As writer and lead actor his plays include Glamour, Glory and Gold, which also starred Candy Darling, Melba LaRose, Jr. and Robert De Niro in his first appearance on stage, playing several roles; Vain Victory, Amerika Cleopatra featuring Harvey Fierstein; Femme Fatale, with Patti Smith, Jayne County and Penny Arcade; and Heaven Grand In Amber Orbit with Holly Woodlawn.
Andy Warhol and his director Paul Morrissey cast Curtis and Candy 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 the critically acclaimed Cabaret in the Sky at the New York Cultural Center. A CD of songs by Paul Serrato from the Curtis musicals Lucky Wonderful and Vain Victory, including the love ballad “Who Are You”, which Curtis sang (as a man) to Candy Darling, was released in 2004. Curtis’ poem, B-Girls, much of which is based on his observations of people who visited his grandmother’s bar, Slugger Anns, led to Curtis’ inclusion in the 1979 book, The Poets’ Encyclopedia. It was the longest poem in the book, spanning a total of eight pages.
“Jackie Curtis is not a drag queen. Jackie is an artist. A pioneer without a frontier,” stated Andy Warhol about his protegé. Jackie is named in Lou Reed’s song “Walk on the Wild Side” which was about the ‘superstars’ Reed knew from Andy Warhol’s studio The Factory. The verse speaks of his 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”