May 12

Juanita Dale Slusher, aka CANDY BARR

This has been the most read story I have posted here. An average of three people read it every day, so here’s Candy Barr’s encore appearance! 

She was sentenced to 15 years in Texas for possession of four-fifths of an ounce of marijuana.  But, the severity of the punishment, even in Texas, is not what makes her an interesting subject for my blog stories. Consider these tidbits from her life.

Born in the small town of Edna, Texas and ran away from home at the age of either 13 or 14

Identified as the “first porn star” for her role in the 1951 underground pornographic movie “Smart Alec”
At the age of 14, married a “safe-cracker” in Dallas

Mobster Mickey Cohen’s girlfriend and mentioned in his autobiography

A friend of Jack Ruby, the man who murdered Lee Harvey Oswald

Charged with shooting her second husband four times; charges were dropped

In 1957 performed on the legitimate stage of the Dallas Little Theater

With Mickey Cohen, attended the Saints and Sinners testimonial for Milton Berle in 1959

Taught Joan Collins how to dance as a stripper for the movie Seven Thieves (1960)

Texas Monthlymagazine, in 1984, listed her as one of history’s “perfect Texans”, where she was among the good company of fellow Texan, Lady Bird Johnson

She wrote a book of poems while in prison

A book of her life is available on Amazon

This is a remarkable set of life experiences for a girl who could have ended up just another statistic, as many other 14 year old runaways have. Instead, she went on to make a name for herself as an exotic dancer, a movie consultant, a government witness against a mobster, and one of Texas’ “Perfect Texans”. She was known as “Candy Barr”, a stage name given her by Barney Weinstein, a Dallas strip club owner.  He tagged her with the stage name while she was working at his club, because of the still under-aged girl’s love of Snickers candy bars.  

In interviews after becoming (in)famous, she said that shortly after arriving in Dallas, she was drugged and forced to participate in the 1951 pornographic movie, Smart Alec; a claim that may be true.  In any event, it gave her notoriety when the 1976 book, Dirty Movies: An Illustrated History of the Stag Film, called the movie “the single most popular film of the genre”. Although never shown in theaters, the movie was a hit at the popular bachelor party and smoker circuit of the period. She stayed in Dallas, surviving as a stripper and prostitute.

Shortly after her only legitimate theater appearance (1957) in Dallas, playing the part of Rita Marlowe in Dallas Little Theater’s production of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter  she was arrested for possessing a small amount of marijuana.  It is speculated that the arrest and harsh sentence for the marijuana possession were the result of indignation by Dallas’ society wives after she received publicity when charges were dropped against her for shooting her then husband. The indignation probably also resulted when some learned of their husbands’ familiarity with her in a professional capacity, either as a stripper or a prostitute. In any event, the Dallas Vice Squad searched her apartment and found the marijuana. Some believed the warrant was blank and that the dope was a planted by a friend and police snitch shortly before the police arrived.
As the case wound its way through the appeal process, she may have benefited from the notoriety of Texas’ tough new drug laws.  She was soon performing as a stripper in Las Vegas for $2000 a week. That’s also about the time she began dating mobster Mickey Cohen. (She later testified for the government in Cohen’s tax evasion trial.)

Candy Barr was hired by 20thCentury Fox studios as a consultant on the movie, Seven Thieves, in which Joan Collins played a stripper.  She taught Collins how to perform for the role.  Collins said, She taught me more about sensuality than I had learned in all my years under contract,

In 1959, with all her appeals exhausted on the marijuana conviction, she reported to the Goree State Farm for Women in Huntsville, Texas to serve her prison sentence.  She was released after three years, during which time she wrote a book of poems titled A Gentle Mind…Confused, a copy of which was available at Amazon on the day of this writing for $637.50. Later pardoned by Texas Governor John Connally, she appeared to have no clue as to why he did so, when she was asked about the pardon.

When Lee Harvey Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby, the feds knocked on her door again.  She was a friend of Ruby’s whom she met while a stripper in Dallas.  She never worked for him at his clubs, but the two were friends for years.  When she moved back to Edna, Texas upon her release from prison, Ruby gave her two dachshund breeding dogs to help her in an attempt to make a living by becoming a dog breeder. Although rumored to know much more than she ever revealed about Oswald’s murder, she always denied it.

A life filled with many twists and turns, ups and downs, successes and failures. That was Juanita Slusher’s story.  One of the most interesting subjects I’ve researched for this blog. When interviewed by Texas Monthly at the age of 66, she responded to a question about the porno movie and life as a prostitute with,

“I was a poor girl with no education. I thought I could save my money to go to college someday, but sometimes things just don’t work out like you’d planned.”

She died at the age of 70 in Victoria, Texas from pneumonia.
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Posted May 12, 2014 by Larry Watts in category "Other