“Everything you said about her just sounded like it was made up,” we’re told in a new trailer for Valerie Kontakos’s “Queen of the Deuce.” One of our most anticipated titles screening at DOC NYC, ” the doc recounts the life and exploits of Greek-born business magnate Chelly Wilson.
“Queen of the Deuce” examines the legacy of Wilson’s gay porn cinema empire and her social, entrepreneurial dominion over “The Deuce,” New York’s infamous 42nd Street. Described in the synopsis as “a Christmas-celebrating Jewish grandma, a lesbian who married men, and a proud owner of porn theaters in 1970s NYC,” Wilson was a walking paradox whose self contradictions propelled her rise as a business tycoon, matriarch, and socialite in ‘70s New York. With audio recordings of Wilson and interviews with family members, the doc “reveals [Wilson] origins as a taboo-breaking entrepreneur and traces the fraught events that lead to her departure from Europe on the eve of war, and the unconventional trajectories of her American business ventures and personal life.”
Set against the backdrop of social movements including feminism, gay pride, and the sexual revolution, Wilson’s story offers an alternative to what immigrant success can look like in America. As the “Queen of the Deuce,” she wrote her own rules. “My mother would never apologize for who she was – ever,” Wilson’s child emphasizes in the trailer.
Wilson died in 1994.
Kontakos most recently helmed “Mana,” a 2015 doc about six friends who made headlines in Greece when they ran away from home and joined a convent. The young women started a shelter for abandoned and abused children.
“Queen of the Deuce” is now screening at DOC NYC.