Pop life

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He stunk up a room but lit up a stage. Jackie Curtis was a drifting tramp, a dirty, drugged-out drag queen who straddled men, women and worlds, doubling as a high-maintenance performer, poet and playwright. Well-known as one of Andy Warhol’s most loyal cross-dressing babies at the Factory, Curtis had a private life bigger than the big screen. Even in a housedress, he said, he felt like a superstar.

Late in 1972, as a freshman at New York University’s film school, Craig Highberger met Jackie Curtis and the two of them hit it off. For the next dozen years, Highberger documented Curtis on videotape and film. In 1985, at the ripe old age of 38, Curtis died from an overdose. With Superstar in a Housedress, Highberger has created a tender biography in the form of a book and film, featuring behind-the-scenes and on-stage antics. Narrated by Lily Tomlin, Superstar is a fascinating portrayal of the drag queen, featuring interviews with the cult of eclectic counterculturals who were there: Holly Woodlawn, Joe Dallesandro, Michael Musto and Paul Morrissey.

Rebecca Mazzei is Metro Times arts editor. Send comments to rmazzei@metrotimes.com.

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