July 6, 1935|
Dallas, Texas, United States
December 30, 2005 (aged 70)|
Victoria, Texas, United States
|Other names||Candy Barr|
Candy Barr (July 6, 1935 - December 30, 2005) was an American poet who worked as a stripper, exotic dancer, porn actress, and model in men's magazines.
During the 1950s, she received nationwide attention for her stripping career in Dallas, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas; her troubles with the law; shooting her estranged 2nd husband; and being arrested and sentenced to a prison term for drug possession, as well as her relationships with Mickey Cohen and Jack Ruby.
After serving 3 years in prison, Barr began a new life in South Texas. She briefly returned to stripping in the late 1960s, posed for Oui magazine in the 1970s, and then retired.
She was born Juanita Dale Slusher in Edna, Texas, the youngest of 5 children of Elvin Forest "Doc" Slusher (August 19, 1909-May 2, 1969) and Sadie Mae Sumner (October 1, 1908-March 11, 1945). Her siblings were Leota (born 1927), Keleta Pauline "Kay" (born 1928), Gary (1931–72), and Forest Slusher (1933–2003).
After her mother's death by falling from a moving car on the highway in nearby Victoria County when Juanita was age 9, her father married Etta Agnes Holden (June 18, 1908-January 19, 1988). Etta was divorced from Guy Goggans (1905-1978) and had 4 children: Solon (born 1927), Nila Fae (1929–2003), Ruby Yvonne (1933-2005), and Charles Edward Goggans (1937-2003). Doc and Etta Slusher had 2 children together, Travis Leroy (born 1946) and Katherine Pauline "Kathy" Slusher (born 1948).
Juanita's early years were reportedly scarred by the trauma of sexual abuse from a neighbor and baby-sitter. At 13, she ran away from home and went to Dallas, where she landed in a den of prostitution and white slavery. At age 14, she reportedly married her 1st husband, Billy Joe Debbs (or Dabbs), an alleged safecracker, but the marriage lasted for only a brief time. She also worked as a cocktail waitress and cigarette girl.
Blue movie and stripping sexual careerEdit
At age 16, though she appeared much older, she appeared in a famous and widely circulated early underground pornographic movie, Smart Alec (1951). Because of the widespread "underground" distribution and popularity of this short hardcore 8mm movie, which is no more than 15 minutes long, she has been called "the first porn star."(Citation needed) She later insisted that she was drugged and coerced into appearing in the movie.
Shortly after the release of Smart Alec, and while still underage, she was hired as a stripper at the Theater Lounge in Dallas by Barney Weinstein for $85 a week. She acquired the stage name Candy Barr at this time — given her by Weinstein, reportedly because of her fondness for Snickers bars — bleached her hair platinum blonde, and quickly became a headliner. She also worked at Weinstein's Colony Club, with a large placard of her prominently displayed out front.
Barr established herself in burlesque and striptease with her trademark costume — cowboy hat, pasties, scant panties, a pair of pearl handled cap six-shooters in a holster strapped low on her hips, and cowboy boots.
When the Theater Lounge would close, she would often patronize the after-hours Vegas Club, where she became acquainted with the owner and operator, Jack Ruby, in about 1952. Their friendship was very casual, however, as she never worked for him and never associated with him outside the Vegas Club and the Silver Spur Inn, which he also operated.
She reportedly married her second husband, Troy B. Phillips, around 1953 and had a daughter in about 1954. In January 1956, Barr shot her estranged and violent husband when he kicked in the door of her apartment in Dallas. She was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, but the charges were later dropped. Phillips was not fatally wounded.
Barr performed for the only time on the legitimate stage in 1957, playing the role of Rita Marlowe in the Dallas Little Theater production of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? In late October of that year, in yet another notorious case, Dallas police raided her apartment and found 4/5 of an ounce of marijuana, which was said to be hidden in her bra. She was arrested for drug possession, subsequently convicted, and received a 15-year prison sentence, though, according to her, she was set up and was only holding the marijuana for a friend.
The big timeEdit
While the marijuana case devolved into a lengthy series of appeals, her fame spread nationwide and the curvaceous, green-eyed blonde became the toast of the strip club runways, reportedly earning $2000 a week in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, as well as at the Sho-Bar Club on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
While stripping at Chuck Landis' Largo Club on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, she met gangster Mickey Cohen and became his girl. According to Cohen, in his autobiography, In My Own Words, he helped her make bail after Gary Crosby told him, "One thing about that broad, she can make ya feel like a real man."
Barr accompanied Cohen to the Saints and Sinners testimonial for Milton Berle in April 1959. The mobster, who insisted he wanted to marry her, eventually sent her and her four-year-old daughter to Mexico so she could evade arrest. He arranged for her hair to be dyed by hairdresser to the stars Jack Sahakian, provided her with a fake birth certificate and social security card, and gave her $1,200 cash. He later sent her $500 after she was established in a Mexican hideaway. She became restless there, however, and returned to the U.S. During this time, her interest in Cohen floundered.
Also in 1959, she was hired by 20th Century Fox Studios as a choreographer for Seven Thieves (1960). She taught actress Joan Collins how to "dance" for her role as a stripper and was given a credit as technical advisor. Barr was quoted as saying, "Anytime Miss Collins wants to leave the movies, she has it made in burlesque." "She taught me more about sensuality than I had learned in all my years under contract," Collins wrote in her autobiography, Past Imperfect. Collins went on to describe Barr as "a down-to-earth girl with an incredibly gorgeous body and an angelic face."
Barr won another chance at reversing her 15-year sentence that October, when the district attorney in Dallas said the U.S. Supreme Court had informed his office that her lawyers would be given 20 days to file a motion for a rehearing.
She and hairdresser Jack Sahakian were married November 25, 1959, in Las Vegas, while she was headlining at El Rancho Vegas Hotel. Days later, despite rumors that her arrest had been a setup designed to punish the stripper for her wantonness in conservative Dallas, Barr was arrested by the FBI when her appeal on the marijuana conviction was rejected by the Supreme Court.
Prison term and releaseEdit
On December 4, Barr reportedly left her daughter with her 3rd husband, Sahakian, and entered the Goree State Farm for women near Huntsville, Texas. While serving her sentence, she was a witness in Los Angeles in mid-1961 in the tax evasion trial of her former boyfriend, Mickey Cohen. She testified that he paid $15,000 to her attorneys and lavished gifts on her during their brief engagement in 1959. She said that among the other gifts she received from him were jewelry, luggage, and a poodle. It was her understanding, she said, that Cohen was to settle a clothing bill of hers for $1,001.95.
After being incarcerated for over 3 years, Barr was paroled from Goree women's unit on April 1, 1963. She left the prison without any fanfare or publicity, having requested that no pictures be taken and no interviews arranged. Barr had intended to return to Dallas, but her parole stipulations were so strict that it was not permitted. Instead, she returned to her hometown of Edna, where her father and stepmother still lived.
At this time, she became closer to Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby in telephone conversations. As she was having health problems when she was released from prison, she decided the best way to earn a living was by raising animals for profit. Ruby went down to Edna and gave her a pair of dachshund breeding dogs from his prized litter to get her started.
12 hours after Lee Harvey Oswald was murdered by Ruby, the FBI arrived in Edna to interview Barr. She made a statement, as Juanita Dale Phillips, regarding her knowledge of Ruby prior to Oswald's assassination of President John F. Kennedy and Ruby's subsequent murder of Oswald. It was rumored that she knew more than she disclosed, but she later said, "They thought Ruby had told me names and places and people, which he didn't."
Texas Governor, John Connally, pardoned her for the marijuana conviction in late 1967. Barr said, "I really don't know why, unless he studied the case and knew it was an injustice whether I was a victim or not."
Barr returned to the stripping circuit in early 1968, including appearances at the Largo Club in Los Angeles and the Bonanza Hotel in Las Vegas. She also returned to the Colony Club in Dallas.
She then moved to Brownwood, Texas, as her father was ill in Kerrville. She was arrested and charged with marijuana possession again in 1969 in Brownwood. Barr later said, "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."
The district attorney in Brown County eventually dismissed the case against her for lack of evidence.
In 1970 she legally changed her name, and the names of her children, to Barr.
The 41-year-old grandmother was featured in a 1976 issue of Oui magazine. She also gave an interview in Playboy soon afterward.
The movie rights to Barr's early life story were purchased by producer Mardi Rustam in 1982. In March 1988, it was announced that Ryan O'Neal would direct Farrah Fawcett in a biopic about Barr based on a script by George Axelrod, who wrote the Broadway play Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, but the movie was never produced.
In 1992, Barr moved from Brownwood back to Edna. Living in quiet retirement, with her animals at her rural home, she was content not to exploit or relive her legendary past. She said she was never interested in arousing men, she just wanted to dance. As Garbo had, Barr said she just wanted to be left alone.
She died at age 70 from complications of pneumonia at a hospital in Victoria, Texas. Her Dallas Morning News obituary said no funeral was planned. Her Los Angeles Times obituary contained a reference to her 1972 book of poetry and the title poem, A Gentle Mind . . . Confused.
Her grandson, Ryan Barr, named his first daughter Candy Barr after her. He also has another daughter, Snickers.(Citation needed)
In 1972, 56 poems that she wrote while in prison were published with the title A Gentle Mind . . . Confused.
At the beginning of the book, she wrote:
"Loneliness is like an early frost. Let us be among the seedlings that survive . . ."
The title poem further set the tone:
- "Hate the world that strikes you down,
- A warped lesson quickly learned.
- Rebellion, a universal sound,
- Nobody cares, no one's concerned.
- Fatigued by unyielding strife,
- Self-pity consoles the abused,
- And the bludgeoning of daily life,
- Leaves a gentle mind . . . confused."
In the early 1980s, Barr was acknowledged in the magazine Texas Monthly as one of history's "perfect Texans," along with such luminaries as Lady Bird Johnson.
Candy Barr is among the inductees in the Hall of Fame of Exotic World Burlesque Museum, Helendale, California, halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Her lip prints are part of the museum's display.
- A Gentle Mind . . . Confused. Midland, TX: Dulce Press, 1972.
- Sexy. London: Pan, 1988.
- Cash. London: Pan, 1988.
- Hang-ups. London: Pan, 1988.
Audio / video Edit
- My Tale Is Hot (1964) includes a four-minute clip of an exotic dance routine by Candy Barr (ca. 1956).
- A History of the Blue Movie (1970) (clip segment from Smart Alec)
- Changes (1971) aka Sex U.S.A.
- Playboy: The Story of X (1998)
- The New Hip Bachelor, December 1973, pp. 4 – 8, Candy Barr Today
- Hollywood's Celebrity Gangster. The Incredible Life and Times of Mickey Cohen by Brad Lewis. (Enigma Books: New York, 2007. ISBN 978-1-929631-65-0)
- Murray, F. 1966. The Charmed Life of M. Cohen. Front Page Detective, 30(3):44-45, 63.
- JUANITA DALE SLUSHER alias CANDY BARR by George A. Day. (ERBE Publishing Company: Texas, 2008. ISBN 978-0-9818220-0-6) ERBE Publishing website
- "Candy Barr: The Small-Town Texas Runaway Who Became a Darling of the Mob and the Queen of Las Vegas Burlesque" by Ted Schwarz and Mardi Rustam (2008, Taylor Trade Publishing, Lanham, MD, ISBN 978-1-58979-341-5, HB, 301 pp, illus.)
- Candy Barr at Amazon.com
- L.A. Times obituary
- "Candy: Taking the wrapper off a Texas legend" at Texas Monthly
- Candy Barr Bio. and Photo Gallery
- Candy Barr Official website.
- Candy Barr at the Internet Movie Database
- Candy Barr: America's first porn princess at Crime Library
- AARC Public Digital Library - Warren Commission Hearings, Vol. XXII - FBI Interview of Candy Barr
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