Friday, April 3, 2015

Spotlight On The First Porn Star: Candy Barr



How's this for a flashback Friday? The very first porn star! Remember a few posts back when I talked about Smart Alec, the first stag film, well I figured why not talk about its star because she is a very interesting woman! Now since a lot of the work she did was when she was underage, this will probably be one of the only spotlights I do on a performer that doesn't have any nude pictures-I don't wanna be going away or having this blog shut down for child porn-but I did find some good clothed pictures of her. Yes before Traci Lords and Brent Corrigan rocked the industry with their scandals there was the original porno scandal queen: Candy Barr.
She was born Juanita Dale Slusher on July 6th 1935 in Edna Texas; the youngest of five children. When she was only 9 years old her mother died after falling from a moving car on the highway in Victoria County. There have been numerous reports that when she was younger she was sexually abused by both a neighbor and a babysitter and when she was 13 she ran away from home to Dallas where she began working in a motel and then as an underage prostitute.
When she was 14 she married Billy Joe Debbs, or Dabbs as some records have it spelled. He was an alleged safecracker and the marriage ended when Billy Joe was sent to prison. Candy then started working as a cocktail waitress and a cigarette girl before becoming an exotic dancer.
When she was 16 she appeared in Smart Alec-for more on that film see my earlier blog post about it-and it was after that release that she was hired as a stripper at the Theatre Lounge in Dallas where she made $85 a week. It was there that the owner, Barney Weinstein gave her the stage name Candy Barr because of her love of Snickers. It was also there that she bleached her hair platinum blonde and started wearing her trademark costume: cowboy hat, pasties, scant panties, cowboy boots and a pair of pearl handled cap six shooters in a holster strapped low on hips. Before long she was headlining and there was even a giant placard of her out front.

In 1952 she became acquainted with Jack Ruby, owner of the Vegas Club which was an afterhours club Barr patronized after getting off of work. It was a casual friendship with Ruby. She never worked for him and they never associated with each other outside of the Vegas Club or his other business The Silver Spur Inn.
In 1953 she married her second husband, Troy B. Phillips and in 1954 she gave birth to their daughter. By January 1956, they were estranged and Barr actually was charged with assault with a deadly weapon after shooting Phillips after he kicked in the door to her Dallas apartment; he was reportedly abusive and that's one of the reasons they were estranged. The charges were dropped however as Phillips was not fatally wounded.
In 1957 she made an appearance in the mainstream stage role of Rita Marlowe in the Dallas Little Theatre's production of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
In October of 1957 the police raided Barr's apartment and found four fifths of an ounce of marijuana that was hidden in her bra. She was arrested for drug possession, convicted and received a 15 year sentence. Barr maintained that she had been set up and was merely holding the drugs for a friend and the case some devolved into a lengthy series of appeals that helped Barr's fame spread nationwide and soon she became the toast of the strip club runways earning $2000 a week in Vegas, LA and at the Sho-Bar Club on Bourbon Street.
While stripping at The Largo Club on The Sunset Strip in Hollywood Barr met Mickey Cohen and soon became his girl. Cohen wrote in his autobiography that he helped Barr make bail after Gary Crosby told him that "that broad can make you feel like a real man."
In April of 1959 she accompanied Cohen to the Saints And Sinners Trial for Milton Berle.
Cohen actually sent Barr and her daughter to Mexico to evade arrest. In addition to that he also arranged for celebrity hairdresser Jack Sahaikian to dye her hair. Cohen also gave Barr a fake social security card and birth certificate as well as $1200 cash. After she was established in the Mexican hideaway Cohen sent her an additional $500. Barr however soon became restless and returned to the U.S. She also started to lose interest in Cohen.

In 1959 she was hired by 20th Century Fox as the choreographer for Seven Thieves. She was given a technical advisor credit for teaching Joan Collins how to dance for her role as a stripper. In her autobiography Collins had this to say about Barr: "She taught me more about sensuality than I had learned in all my years under contract." Collins also described Barr as: "a down-to-earth girl with an incredibly gorgeous body and an angelic face.”
On November 25th 1959 she married Jack Sahakian in Vegas while she was headlining at the El rancho Vegas Hotel and days later was arrested by the FBI after the supreme court rejected her appeal on the marijuana appeal. On December 4th Barr entered the Goree State Farm For Women near Huntsville. While she was serving her sentence she was actually called as a witness in LA for the tax evasion trail of Mickey Cohen in mid 1961.
On April 1 1963 Candy Barr was paroled after serving three years. Because she had requested no pictures or interviews she left the prison with no fanfare or publicity. She had intended to return to Dallas but the parole stipulations were so strict she wasn't allowed to so instead she returned to her hometown of Edna.
After her release she became closer with Jack Ruby. Since she had been having health problems she decided to earn a living by raising and selling animals. Ruby gave her a pair of dachshunds from his prized litter to help her business get started. She would later be interviewed by the FBI twelve hours after Ruby murdered Lee Harvey Oswald. Making her statement as Juanita Dale Phillips she was interviewed on her knowledge of Ruby and it was rumored that she knew more than she disclosed. Barr later said this about the experience: "They thought Ruby had told me names and places and people, which he didn’t.”
In 1968 governor John Connally pardoned her for the marijuana conviction and in early 1968 she returned to stripping working at such places as The Largo Club in LA, The Bonanza Hotel in Vegas and The Colony Club in Dallas.
After her father became ill while living in Kerrville she moved to Brownwood to be closer to him. In 1969 she was arrested once again for marijuana possession however the D.A. dismissed the case for lack of evidence. Barr was quoted as saying this on the matter: "“While my father was in the process of dying, they decided to take advantage of my situation there and busted me. I knew the marijuana wasn’t there, I hadn’t had any around me for three years.”

In 1972 56 poems that she had written while in prison where published under the title A Gentle Mind...Confused.
She was featured in Oui Magazine and gave an interview in Playboy Magazine in 1976.
In 1982 producer Mardi Rustam purchased the film rights to her early life story. It was reported in March of 1988 that Ryan O'Neil was going to direct a biopic about Barr written by George Axelrod, who was the righter of the play Barr had appeared in all those years ago, with Farrah Fawcett as Barr but the movie was never produced.
In 1984 she was featured in Texas Monthly that listed her as one of history's perfect Texans along with LadyBird Johnson.
In 1992 Barr moved back to her hometown of Edna where she lived a quiet retirement and on December 30th 2005 this extraordinary woman who lived one hell of a life died at the age of 70 due to complications from pneumonia.
Barr is an inductee in The Hall Of Fame Of Exotic World Burlesque Museum in Helendale California which is located halfway between Vegas and LA. Her lip prints are part of the museum's display.
I must say this woman lived quite a life and I can only imagine the stories she had to tell!
Candy Barr rest in peace. You will never be forgotten.

XOXO
-JOE-






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