In Pharmakeia, Candy Darling is the no-nonsense Geordie transsexual who mans the sex shop in the basement, below Soho Books. Of course, I named her in homage to the American transgender actress better known as ‘Warhol Superstar’, who starred in some of Warhol’s films such as ‘Flesh’, and ‘Women in Revolt.’
It would seem, from the feedback I have had so far on ‘Pharmakeia’, that Candy Darling is one of the most loved characters in the book. I think this is for several reason. She, notably along with Gran, provides much needed comedic relief in the novel. In one particular scene, set in the book/sex shop in Soho, she turns to Mahvand and says:
‘I would have you myself, if I hadn’t gone ahead with the Vaginoplasty..’
She has a chequered past (knows crims at Pentonville prison and was heavily into speed in her younger days) and is also not afraid to stand up for herself, often with a mean right hook. She punches Jean-Baptiste when he tells her that she, more than anyone, should know what it is like to endure a hybrid identity.
‘Candy put the receiver down, marched over in her killer six-inch heels, and swung her arm back into position. Jean-Baptiste lifted his hands to shield his face. But not quite in time. Candy’s fist, still bruised from her latest escapade in Soho, smashed into Jean-Baptiste’s perfectly proportioned Roman nose.’ (Chapter ‘Belial’)
Suffice it to say, that this Candy Darling has a feisty side to her nature. I wouldn’t mess with Candy! But she also has a heart of gold. She plays the protective, substitute mother to Mahvand, whose own mother was murdered in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution.
‘You’re the son Ah always dreamed of having. Me ann flesh and blood, queer through an’ through. I’d fight tooth and nail fre yee te become the artist yee watnt to be.’
It is Candy who goes with Mahvand to visit Gran at Sunny Pastures, the old people’s home. And it is Candy who puts up Mahvand in her digs in Wood Green, North London, when he is made homeless. In some ways, she is Mahvand’s FGM (Fairy God Mother).
Candy is also pretty sorted. She has redefined what it means to be successful for herself. And in her own terms she is highly successful. ‘Cabaret artist, sex shop impresario, entertainer extraordinaire..’
However Candy’s love life is perhaps not as successful as her professional life. She gets hit on my dodgy tranny chasers from the suburbs and was dumped by a married Ghanaian postman on New Year’s Eve. In her own words, Candy recognises that need to search out what Quentin Crisp refers to as ‘The Great Dark Man.’
This quest for ‘The Great Dark Man’, of course, is mirrored in Mahvand’s relationship with the mysterious Jean-Baptiste.
If you enjoyed the character of Candy Darling, please leave a comment saying what your favourite moments were… x