Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Candy Barr: America's First Porn Princess

Her Legacy

The World Burlesque Museum
The World Burlesque Museum

Candy Barr, 70, died of pneumonia on Dec. 30, 2005, at a hospital in Victoria, Texas, not far from her hometown.

She had moved back to Edna in 1992. She lived quietly in a modest house. Neighbors said she kept to herself and went out only when she had to — for groceries and whatnot.

No one who crossed her path would have guessed that she was a sex icon and an inductee of the World Burlesque Museum.

Yet, the demure retiree had legions of admirers among sex workers. They have created a tribute page to her on, and copies of her book of poetry sell for as much as $3,000.

Many view her as an archetypal brassy, sassy and self-assured woman who used her sexuality on her own terms, in an era when females were expected to be sexually subservient.

Annie Sprinkle
Annie Sprinkle

That makes her a seminal figure in "the history of sex work," said Annie Sprinkle, the former stripper and porn star.

"It's important to remember and honor our predecessors, to know our erotic heritage," Sprinkle told the Crime Library. "Candy was certainly an influence on what would become the 'sex positive' feminist movement, and strippers today emulate her."

It's not clear that Candy accepted the sex goddess mantle without some regret.

She was proud of her career as an exotic dancer. But as she aged, she often lamented her one appearance in a stag film.

During various interviews, she claimed that she was either drugged or forced at gunpoint to do the sex scenes for Smart Alec. Skeptics note that she appeared lucid and engaged in the film.

In any case, her age at the time of filming makes her a victim.

Book Cover: A History of X: 100 Years of Sex in Film
Book Cover: A History of X:
100 Years of Sex in Film

One stag film expert told the Crime Library that her 20 minutes as a porn star became a lifelong burden for her.

"It ruined her life," said Luke Ford, author of A History of X: 100 Years of Sex in Film. "She regretted it all her days."

Some exotic dancers revel in the power they feel onstage — their control over the men in the audience, and over their libidos.

But in one of her last interviews, Candy Barr said she was never particularly interested in that dynamic of exotic entertainment.

She wasn't trying to turn men on, she said. She simply wanted to dance.