Oct 9, 2014

Walk on the Wild Side

The gay world is always hidden, flickering on the edge of our vision, invisible to the average person.  Merely a shadow to us.  But then one day something happens.  By accident or design, we go down the rabbit hole, or through the wardrobe, or to Platform 9 3/4, and we can see the gay world, bright and colorful.

With a bit of a mind flip, you're into the time slip, and nothing can ever be the same.

"Walk on the Wild Side," by Lou Reed (1972), is about several people making that slip from dull Mundania to the gay world, where all gender and sexual norms vanish and you can find yourself -- or lose yourself -- in the savage possibilities.

Holly shaved her legs and then he was a she.

Candy was everyone's darling in the back rooms.

Little Joe never gave it away, everybody had to pay.

Sugar Plum Fairy visited the Apollo, where the "colored girls" sang.

Jackie thought she was James Dean and crashed.

Transvestism, back-room sex, male prostitution, interracial sex, drugs -- heavy stuff for 1972.

When I first heard the song, in high school, I didn't understand most of the sexual references.  I didn't know that the people mentioned were all members of Andy Warhol's Factory: Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, Joe Dallesandro, Joe Campbell, and Jackie Curtis.

But I knew that there was a world out there, "beyond the fields we know," the Wild Side, frightening, dangerous, disturbing -- and free.

See also: Searching for a Gay Comic; Andy Warhol; Joe Dallesandro