835: "anyone can be beautiful:

835: "anyone can be beautiful:

835: "anyone can be beautiful:


I’m Jason Schneiderman, and this is The Slowdown.

Am I famous? I don’t think so. I’ve published some books, but when I walk down the street, no one ever says, Oh my god, that’s Jason Schneiderman! I don’t think I’d really like to be famous. I like attention, sure, who doesn’t, but I fear scrutiny. I don’t want people going through my garbage or sneaking pictures of me in airports.

Once, I was recognized in a coffee shop in Brooklyn, and someone asked me for my autograph, and I thought, oh, maybe I’m famous. But I’m not. It just happened that one time. And when I’ve met famous people—I once gave Al Pacino directions to a bathroom—I don’t like that, either. I don’t want someone famous to be... life sized.

There have been few people who understood fame better than Andy Warhol. Fame is a particular kind of attention, and Warhol was a kind of genius at attracting it, surrounding himself with beautiful and talented people, producing artworks that are impossible to look away from, and delivering pronouncements that were glib, clever, and as puzzling as a zen koan. What did he mean exactly, when he said that in the future we will all be famous for fifteen minutes? Was he predicting social media? One of the complicated parts of Warhol’s legacy is that while he directed a lot of attention to his so-called superstars, he kept most of the resources for himself.

Candy Darling was one of those superstars. The Velvet Underground song “Candy Says” is about her. She starred in Factory cult classics like Women in Revolt, and she had landed roles in mainstream films like Klute, before cancer cut her career short and tragically ended her life. Like Warhol, Darling had a strongly camp sensibility. In a photograph by Peter Hujar, she’s stunningly beautiful, all dolled up in her hospital bed, refusing to surrender her glamor just because she’s dying. In a letter to Warhol from the cancer unit, she wrote, “I am just so bored by everything…You might say bored to death.” At just 29 years old, she died of lymphoma.

People often talk about fame as a kind of drug, but for Darling, I think it was a kind of knowledge and even a kind of play. Today’s poem by Kay Gabriel is from a sequence of sonnets celebrating Candy Darling. Gabriel starts her poems with a quote from Darling’s diaries, engaging her intellect, but never forgetting the beautiful surface she presented to the world.

“anyone can be beautiful:
by Kay Gabriel

at least anyone can have beautiful
hair” or actually I read that somewhere
in your public oversharing diary, the pink one
with the busted lock, anyways to arrive at deep ash
with pearl streaks like you 
suggested in a former letter, incarnation
The colour improved so now
we’ve stolen dyes by the armful,
borrowed tights or jumpsuits really
and posted untoward questions
about grief and breathy melodrama
The island we traverse shakes its own
bob in 3 oz peroxide batches
“lightning was near,” I read that also

“"anyone can be beautiful:” by Kay Gabriel from ELEGY DEPARTMENTS SPRING: CANDY SONNETS 1 © 2022 Kay Gabriel. Used by permission of the poet.