Candy Darling: Dreamer, Icon, Superstar (Hardcover)

Candy Darling: Dreamer, Icon, Superstar By Cynthia Carr Cover Image
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A Must-Read: The New York Times Book Review, Nylon, Star Tribune, Ms., Kirkus Reviews, The Bay Area Reporter, Town & Country, InsideHook

“[A] monumental biography.” —Hilton Als, The New Yorker

“A rich portrait of a glittering, communal, and bygone NYC . . . [and] of the glamorous queer icon.” —Arimeta Diop, Vanity Fair


From the acclaimed biographer Cynthia Carr, the first full portrait of the queer icon and Warhol superstar Candy Darling.

You must always be yourself no matter what the price . . . Don’t dare destroy your passion for the sake of others.

The Warhol superstar and transgender icon Candy Darling was glamour personified, but she was without a real place in the world.

Growing up on Long Island, lonely and quiet and queer, she was enchanted by Hollywood starlets like Kim Novak. She found her turn in New York’s early Off-Off-Broadway theater scene, in Warhol’s films Flesh and Women in Revolt, and at the famed nightclub Max’s Kansas City. She inspired songs by Lou Reed and the Rolling Stones. She became friends with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, borrowed a dress from Lauren Hutton, posed for Richard Avedon, and performed alongside Tennessee Williams in his own play.

Yet Candy lived on the edge, relying on the kindness of strangers, friends, and her quietly devoted mother, sleeping on couches and in cheap hotel rooms, keeping a part of herself hidden. She wanted to be a star, but mostly she wanted to be loved. Her last diary entry was: “I shall try to be grateful for life . . . Cannot imagine who would want me.” Candy died at twenty-nine in 1974, just as conversations about gender and identity were beginning to enter the broader culture. She never knew it, but she changed the world.

Brimming with all the fizz and wildness of New York in the 1960s and ’70s, this is the first biography of this extraordinary figure—an unintentional pioneer who became an icon. Cynthia Carr’s Candy Darling is packed with tales of luminaries, gossip, and meticulous research, laced with Candy’s words and her friends’ recollections, and signals Candy’s long-overdue return to the spotlight.

Includes 16 pages of color photographs

About the Author


Cynthia Carr is the author of Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz, winner of a Lambda Literary Award and a finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize. Her previous books are Our Town: A Heartland Lynching, a Haunted Town, and the Hidden History of White America and On Edge: Performance at the End of the Twentieth Century.

Praise For…


“Monumental. . . Candy Darling is the first full-length biography of the trans star, and I can’t imagine a better or more honest writer for the task.”
—Hilton Als, The New Yorker

“Compassionate and meticulous, reconstructing its brittle, gleaming subject as one might a broken Meissen figurine . . . Heroic.”
—Alexandra Jacobs, The New York Times

“Thrilling.”
—Jessica Ferri, Los Angeles Times

“The most compelling and complete portrait of the late Warhol Superstar and LGBTQ+ pioneer to date.”
—Jordan Runtagh, People

“[A] prismatic new biography.”
—Mayukh Sen, The Atlantic

“The definitive record of [Candy Darling’s] life, shading in the vulnerable, gritty, and deeply soulful individual behind the fabulous façade . . . An essential read for anyone interested in queer culture and New York history . . . Such a gift.”
—Mel Ottenberg, Interview magazine

“Enveloping . . . [A] touching, picaresque story told by Carr . . . not with a whip but with a delicate eyeliner.”
—James Wolcott, Air Mail

“Compassionate and richly detailed . . . Deftly, without a trace of sanctimony, Carr . . . recounts Candy’s life in a way that most honors and respects who she was.”
—Melissa Anderson, Bookforum

“Candy Darling cannot raise the dead, at least not literally. But [Carr] restores humanity and nuance to a woman who we know as only an image.”
―Annie Hamilton, The Baffler

“Finally, trans icon and Warhol muse Candy Darling gets the full treatment she deserves in this well-researched and richly told biography . . . [Carr] illuminates Darling’s life in all its kaleidoscopic complexity.”
—Karla J. Strand, Ms.

“[A] dynamic biography . . . [Candy Darling’s] inspirational life and work resonate throughout this fascinating and bittersweet tribute.”
—Jim Piechota, The Bay Area Reporter

“[An] incandescent portrait . . . Carr resurrects a trans icon whose life, artistry, and struggle speak directly to our moment.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“For a long time, Candy Darling has been a fascinating footnote to other people’s stories . . . Now, thanks to this biography from the remarkable Cynthia Carr . . . Darling gets her turn.”
Town & Country

“An unparalleled close-up of a pop culture icon.”
Publishers Weekly

“Sensitive and complex . . . A fascinating portrait of a trendsetter.”
—June Sawyers, Booklist

“A richly detailed and thoughtful portrait of Candy Darling, an innovator during an era that, although on the cusp of change, had not yet evolved far enough beyond the limited boundaries of conformity.”
—Carol J. Binkowski, Library Journal

“Carr recounts a glittery life cut short and creates a fascinating portrait of an era.”
—Robert DiGiacomo, Next Avenue

“A thoroughly immersive read.”
—Tobias Carroll, InsideHook

“What an inspiring book! The web of detail assembled by culture sleuth Cynthia Carr is quickened by the fact of Candy’s tireless beauty, charm, and charisma—and oh so much pain. Complexly wrenching, startling, entirely fresh and alive, Candy Darling delivers an altogether frank and shimmering portrait of a self-made American female deity, more than a bit of a prophet, constructed from her own and everyone else’s desiring dream. Omigod, what a trip!”
—Eileen Myles, author of a “Working Life”

“I first heard her name in a Lou Reed song; I first saw her face in a Peter Hujar photograph, looking glamorous, dying; I first heard her voice in an Andy Warhol film. And now, how wonderful to be taken, with care and delight and plenty of spectacle, behind the myth for a peek at the beating heart of Candy Darling. Cynthia Carr has written an absorbing account of an unforgettable woman in a fascinating time, a lonely icon who tried to find a place for herself in a world that couldn’t hold her.”
—Justin Torres, author of Blackouts

“Candy Darling willed herself to be beautiful, and she succeeded: she was uniquely, spectrally beautiful. But the world made her pay for it. Cynthia Carr’s minute reconstruction of her life is brilliant and profoundly sad. As if Candy’s ghost were dictating the terms, it keeps her an enigma, a consummate life actress who never dressed down.”
—Lucy Sante, author of I Heard Her Call My Name

“Full of fresh facts and interviews as well as glittering gossip, Cynthia Carr’s Candy Darling allows us to see—truly, for the first time—this celluloid wisp of a Warhol superstar in all her humanity. Carr is a trustworthy, sensitive guide to the nuances of Candy’s experience as she emerges as a historical trans pioneer.”
—Brad Gooch, author of Radiant: The Life and Line of Keith Haring

“I love, love, love this deliciously rich telling of Candy’s life, and of downtown New York in the ’60s and ’70s—all the haunts, the denizens, the stars. It’s clear Cynthia Carr fell in love with Candy Darling. Now, at long last, so shall we all.”
—Kate Bornstein, author of Gender Outlaw

Product Details
ISBN: 9781250066350
ISBN-10: 1250066352
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: March 19th, 2024
Pages: 432
Language: English