Superstar In A Housedress

Narrated by Lily Tomlin and featuring a bevy of in-the-know interviews, this exceptionally entertaining documentary from filmmaker Craig Highberger shines the footlights on Jackie Curtis, an Andy Warhol superstar who transcended the Factory scene and proved to be rather exceptional himself. As Village Voice columnist Michael Musto explains in this affectionate...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Narrated by Lily Tomlin and featuring a bevy of in-the-know interviews, this exceptionally entertaining documentary from filmmaker Craig Highberger shines the footlights on Jackie Curtis, an Andy Warhol superstar who transcended the Factory scene and proved to be rather exceptional himself. As Village Voice columnist Michael Musto explains in this affectionate tribute to the way-off Broadway playwright, poet and performer, Jackie Curtis was Jackie Curtis before he ever met Warhol. Unlike so many other moths who fluttered around the pop artist's cold flame — stars like Holly Woodlawn and Candy Darling, who, along with Curtis formed Andy's transvestite triumvirate — Curtis's underground stardom did not depend on Andy's silver glow; by the time Curtis began charging multi-course meals to Andy's account at Max's Kansas City, Curtis had already caused a sensation with his written work and, just as importantly, his appearance. So rather than dwell on the Factory years, Highberger makes a strong case for Curtis's importance as an innovative performance artist who questioned the rules of gender long before cultural theorists got around to it. Curtis had no desire to pass for female: There was no hiding his linebacker frame, he never pretended to have breasts, and his notions of feminine fashion had little to do with anything a real woman would be ever caught dead wearing. When he wasn't wearing couture gowns borrowed from moneyed friends, then shredded for added effect, Curtis could be seen in the black dresses he nicked from the apartment of a recently deceased Italian woman. For Curtis, who often dressed as a man, drag was a way of examining how and why we construct gender the way we do, and with a family tree that reads like a pulp melodrama full of masculine/feminine types, it's hardly any wonder where his interests lay: Grandma was a New York City speakeasy hostess named Slugger Anne; mom was a taxi dancer; dad was a marine. More celebration than biography, the film is unabashedly adoring; even the curmudgeonly Paul Morrissey finds a few nice things to say about Curtis when he's not busy bashing Warhol. There is also a treasure trove of film clips of such legendary Curtis productions as Glamour, Glory and Gold and his sell-out run of Vain Victory: The Vicissitudes of the Damned. Required viewing for all Warholia aficionados and any one with even a passing interest in the counter-culture of a New York City that exists only as a dimming memory in the minds of those lucky enough to have lived there.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Narrated by Lily Tomlin and featuring a bevy of in-the-know interviews, this exceptionally entertaining documentary from filmmaker Craig Highberger shines the footlights on Jackie Curtis, an Andy Warhol superstar who transcended the Factory scene and prove… (more)

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