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Review

'Darling' Documentary Shows Transgender's Triumphs Despite Social Shunning

During the six-day CineVegas Film Festival, over 70 films were shown at the Brenden Theatre inside Las Vegas' luxurious Palms Resort for the public and media. CineVegas celebrated its 11th annual event and tradition of bringing out new, interesting films in different genres.

One of the most memorable documentaries I viewed was "Beautiful Darling," featuring the late actor Candy Darling, a young man who lived out his dreams to be a star, but he did it as a woman.

The actor, born James Lawrence Flattery in Long Island, N.Y., who died at 29 of a stomach tumor caused by hormone-altering pills he was taking to appear more feminine, ironically had no plans to change his physical body surgically, fearing that it would change him too much at too great a risk.

The documentary unveils the pain and social challenges experienced by members of the transgender community around New York in the 60s and 70s. In Darling's short life, he was regarded as a transgender pioneer of that sexual groundbreaking era.

Darling achieved fame, in great part, due to the association with celebrities Andy Warhol, pop artist and short film producer, and famed playwright Tennessee Williams, who introduced Darling in a starring role in "Small Craft Warning." Delighted with the performance, Williams grew to befriend the captivating blonde-haired actor. And the avante garde Darling became the feminine star who lived out her dreams through appearing in films with Warhol.

Darling never chose to portray himself as a male in his life or on camera. "Beautiful Darling" is an excellent film showing in depth the complications of being a transgender in a predominantly straight society. Its subject was a man who felt he was a woman trapped inside a male body. The film's writer and director, James Rasin, said he would like to make this into a theatrical release, and he has started to search for the actor who would play the lead role.

The detailed documentary was insightful, compelling and moving. I was engrossed by the depictions of what many men and women went through, especially the actual footage of arrests made simply because of their transgender lifestyle and the way they dressed. Darling was survived by a longtime friend, Jeremiah Newton, who narrated portions of the documentary, taking viewers on a journey through sites and memories of Darling's life, including a heartrending visit to the gravesite.

What was hurtful and sad, according to Darling's friend, is that Darling's mother never accepted the transgender lifestyle, nor did she want her husband to know.

The archived footage of Darling's interviews and other news events are from the Warhol Museum. Much of the footage was very grainy but still had excellent content for the topic at hand.

The subject of Candy Darling's all too-short life is worthy of a feature movie.  And "Beautiful Darling" is worth a slight search to see, as well as the vintage films she starred in - "Flesh" (1968) and "Women in Revolt" (1971) - for which she received her highest acclaim; both films were directed by Paul Morrissey and produced by Andy Warhol.

Julie Newmar appears in the NR biopic.

B.B. King's Blues Club Blasts Off!

On Saturday winter nights the air is cool outside, but upon entering B.B. King’s Blues Club and hearing the immortal blues played live one can immediately feel the warmth emanating from the newest spot for music enthusiasts located inside the Mirage Hotel and Casino. B.B. King, the undisputed master of the blues, has brought the pulse of the blues to the soul and now brings delicious sensations to the palette. Real comfort food from the South, music wafting through the air; a laidback, just enjoy yourself atmosphere permeates the establishment. We were afforded an exclusive, invite-only look into B.B. King’s Blues Club for the pre-opening party. The night we spent there was an experience second to none.

Chris Cain, a fantastic blues musician who for many years has played at numerous blues festivals around the world, was performing as the opening act and his bluesy tunes were sensational. He opened with I Feel So Good and carried the musical sentiments onto everyone in the house. The mellow sounds of the guitar and the scent of real southern food merged together perfectly to form an unbelievably satisfying auditory and gustatory combination that is unmatched by any other musical venue in Las Vegas.

Later that evening B.B. King’s All-Star House Band came on stage and rocked the house. On the dance floor were two gentlemen from the audience who spontaneously got up and began rolling with the sounds, each outdoing the other with their fancy footwork and taking turns in an almost competitive impromptu performance that was a true sight to behold in this town of ultra lounges and plastic environments.

The food is perhaps the best Creole cuisine this side of the Louisiana border. Chef Oscar Pena has created many delightful Southern dishes - try the fried green tomatoes or the deep-fried dill pickle chips with horseradish sauce. The gumbo ya ya is so delectable it seems to have been freshly made in the Bayou. The Southern fried catfish is mouth-watering and is accompanied by a Cajun staple: onion hush puppies. The number one item on the menu is the succulent BBQ ribs. Bet you can’t eat just one rack! If you want a great dessert just ask for the banana bread pudding, baked to order and dripping with a creamy caramel sauce. When trying to choose a beverage, order the Boll Weevil, a signature cocktail made from Grey Goose vodka (Lucille’s favorite; not Mr. King’s guitar, but the female half of our Valley News Team), Patrn Reposado, Patrn Citronge, Tanqueray gin, and Don Q rum with a squirt of Sprite, a splash of grenadine and bit of pineapple juice. One or two of these should be more than enough to keep the blues at bay. There’s also the Rock Me Baby and the Hoochie Coochie cocktail to tantalize your tongue and lift your spirits.

The number one thing that B.B. King accomplished when he created his restaurant in Las Vegas was the development of a high-quality menu with surprisingly affordable prices. You do not have to be a high roller with deep pockets to roll and rock at B.B. King’s. There are fine fare options, of course, but spending hundreds of dollars is not necessary to fully enjoy your dining and musical experience. After you eat, get yourself on that dance floor and let the music take control as you shake and shimmy to the beat.

Arguably the most impressive aspect of B.B. King’s bluesy Mecca is the blues master’s desire to keep his club from becoming a hotspot frequented solely by the evening crowd. To ensure this, he keeps the place open seven days a week from 6:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., Monday through Thursday, and from 6:30 a.m. to 4:00 a.m., Friday through Sunday. The friendly staff at B.B. King’s Blues Club will serve you for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even a late night snack.

The man behind the infamous Lucille is always reinventing himself, starting as the original Beale Street Blues Boy, transitioning into his days as Blues Boy King and finally to the inimitable B.B. King. Still wailing out the somber notes for which he is heralded, he now has expanded his ventures into a great, solid restaurant. He opened his original club on Beale Street in Tennessee, the home of the blues, in 1991 and later expanded to Nashville, New York, Orlando and West Palm Beach. The Las Vegas Strip is the site of his newest venue and one can easily predict a long and storied Las Vegas history for Mr. King’s jazzy junction.