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Susan Tyrrell: Actress who worked with John Waters and John Huston


Susan Tyrrell, who died in her sleep on 16 June at the age of 67, was an Oscar-nominated actress known for her roles in offbeat films, including John Waters' Cry-Baby. Tyrrell, who received her Oscar nomination for a best supporting actress following her role as the barfly Oma in John Huston's 1972 boxing movie Fat City, appeared in more than 75 films and television shows.

"She had a larger than life personality," said David Zellner, who directed Tyrrell in the film Kid-Thing, which is currently doing the rounds at film festivals. "She had more adventures and experiences in her life than most anyone I know."

Kid-Thing concerns a 10-year-old delinquent girl who lives in the Texas countryside and happens across a mysterious woman, played by Tyrrell, stuck down a well.

Tyrrell was born Susan Creamer on 18 March 1945, in San Francisco, though she eventually changed her last name to Tyrrell, her mother's maiden name. She grew up in Connecticut and then got her start in acting on the stages of New York before moving to Los Angeles. After her film début in Shoot Out (1971) and her performance as Oma in Fat City, she played Solly, a tough, foul-mouthed lesbian, in the 1980s cult films Angel and Avenging Angel. In the first film she sparred with her co-star Dick Shawn over a game of cribbage, while in the sequel Solly acted as den-mother to a group of transvestite prostitutes while raising an abandoned baby.

In 2000 Tyrrell's legs were amputated below the knee as a result of complications from a blood clotting disorder, but she carried on working, appearing as a fortune-teller in the 2003 film Masked and Anonymous. Her niece, Amy Sweet, said Tyrrell later moved to Austin, Texas, to live near her. Sweet recalled that her aunt's passions ranged from rap music to animals, and that she even had a bug collection.

"On the night she died she'd found a dragonfly she was excited about," Sweet said. "Everything was a huge deal." Sweet said she plans to celebrate her aunt's life with a showing of Fat City in Austin, followed by a gathering to recognise what she called her "unbridled irreverence and love for life. She loved to party." Sweet said her aunt wrote in a journal, and an entry from January featured the line: "I demand my death be joyful and I never return again."