March 24, 2010 by markstani
I wrote a story about a fictional character called Kandy Barr here. I’ve just discovered there was a real-life Candy Barr. Here’s her 2006 obituary from the New York Times:
Obituary: Candy Barr, exotic dancer and friend of Jack Ruby
Candy Barr, an exotic dancer whose hardscrabble life became Texas legend as she befriended Jack Ruby (who killed President John F. Kennedy’s assassin), dated a mobster, shot her husband went to prison for drug possession, and starred – unwillingly, she insisted – in a famous stag film, died on Friday in Victoria, Tex. She was 70.
The Slavik Funeral Home in Edna, Tex., confirmed the death, but provided no details. The Associated Press said she died of pneumonia.
Miss Barr said she was forced in 1951 at 16 to play the lead in a grainy black-and-white erotic movie titled “Smart Aleck.” The plot, such as it is, begins with a traveling salesman luring the teenager from the swimming pool into his motel room.
Al Di Lauro and Gerald Rabkin, in their 1976 book, “Dirty Movies: An Illustrated History of the Stag Film,” called it “the single most popular film of the genre.” They refer to Miss Barr as “the first pornographic star” and liken her to Lenny Bruce as a subverter of official morality. The film was not shown in theaters, but was a hit on the bachelor party and smoker circuit.
Many decades after the film and her subsequent fame as a striptease artist, Miss Barr was listed by Playboy magazine in 1999 as one of the 20th century’s most desirable women.
For students of the Kennedy assassination, it is her friendship with Mr. Ruby, a nightclub owner, that is most provocative. They were friends over the years, and seven months before the assassination, he visited Miss Barr after her release from prison and gave her two dachshund puppies. He thought she should breed them.
Miss Barr coached Joan Collins on how to portray an exotic dancer in the 1960 film “Seven Thieves,” getting credit as technical adviser. Farrah Fawcett conferred with Miss Barr about playing her in a biographical film but never did.
She was born Juanita Dale Slusher on July 6, 1935, in Edna, Tex. Though she told Inside Detective magazine in 1959 that she was fed up with notoriety and hated being called Candy Barr, she went back and forth and never really relinquished the name. At her last public appearance in 1998, to open the Ruby Room at a Dallas club, she was Candy.
As a young child, she said in an interview with Oui magazine in 1976, she was molested by a male babysitter. When she was 9, her mother died. Her father remarried, and she said the harsh discipline of her stepmother impelled her to run away when she was in the ninth grade. A marriage at 14 to a safecracker ended in divorce.
She said a man she met at a club forced her to do the blue movie, sometimes saying he drugged her.
“I was taken, done and that was it,” she told Oui.
She dyed her hair blond and progressed from cigarette girl to an exotic dancer well known enough to require a flashy name. She loved chocolate, hence Candy Barr.
She shot her second of four husbands in the stomach in January 1956 after he came home drunk and threatened her. He said that he deserved it, and a grand jury dismissed charges. She soon got a booking to strip in Las Vegas, and, in 1957, played a comedy role in a legitimate theater in Dallas.
Later that year she was arrested for possession of marijuana in a case that drew wide attention because of Texas’s tough new drug laws and questions about the legality of wiretapping by the Dallas police. During her appeal, she made $2,000 a week stripping in Las Vegas and Los Angeles to music specially composed for her. Around this time, she dated Mickey Cohen, an infamous mobster in the West.
After the Texas Supreme Court upheld her conviction, she served three years of a 15-year sentence. She wrote a poetry book in prison and emerged in a somber black outfit, quoting Bible verses. Around 1970, she largely disappeared from public view, with the notable exception of a nude pictorial feature in Oui, done when she was 41.
“Let the world find someone else to talk about,” she said in an interview with Texas Monthly in 2001. “I like being left alone.”
Ms. Barr is survived by a daughter and a sister.