Friday, July 6, 2018

Candy Barr: Drug War Victim

The erotic dancer known as Candy Barr was born on this date in 1935 as Juanita Dale Slusher in Edna, Texas. After her mother died when she was nine, she was ignored by a new stepmother and sexually abused by a neighbor and a babysitter. She ran away and took various jobs, eventually developing her striptease act and trademark costume—10-gallon hat, pasties, "scanty panties," a pair of six-shooters and cowboy boots.

Barr tried stage acting, but her legitimate career was derailed in 1957, when she was arrested for having a little less than four-fifths of an ounce of marijuana concealed in her bra. She maintained that she was framed by police and was only holding the pot for a friend, possibly an informant.

"We think we can convince a jury that a woman with her reputation, a woman who has done the things she has done, should go to prison," Assistant Dallas County District Attorney Bill Alexander told the Dallas Morning News after Barr's arrest. "She may be cute," Alexander told the jury in his closing argument, "but under the evidence, she's soiled and dirty."

Barr was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison. "I always wanted a brick house of my own, and it looks like I am going to have one," she told an assembled crowd and news media when she walked into Goree Farm for Women in Huntsville, Texas, in December 1959.

Joan Collins Learns from Barr
Before her incarceration Barr appeared as a dancer in the movie The Gene Krupa Story, and trained actress Joan Collins for her role as an exotic dancer in the 1960 movie Seven Thieves, earning her a credit as technical adviser. "She taught me more about sensuality than I had learned in all my years under contract," Collins wrote in her autobiography, Past Imperfect.

Watch Candy in motion.

Then-Texas Gov. John B. Connally paroled Barr in 1963 and pardoned her four years later. During her imprisonment, she took high school courses, worked as a seamstress, sang in the prison choir and played in its band. Barr was arrested a second time for possession of marijuana in a 1969 raid on her home, but charges were dropped for lack of evidence.

In 1984, Texas Monthly listed Barr among such luminaries as Lady Bird Johnson as one of history's "perfect Texans," and the magazine profiled her in 2001 while she lived in poverty and self-imposed oblivion. A Candy Barr biopic was contemplated in 1980 starring fellow Texan Farrah Fawcett, but the project was scrapped.

Barr died on December 30, 2005 at the age of 70. Her lip prints are on display at the Exotic World Burlesque Museum in Las Vegas.

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