MOVIE OF THE WEEK May 24, 2024: QUEEN OF THE DEUCE

If Chelly Wilson were a fictional character, odds are she’d be deemed “hard to believe” or “too over the top.” But the business-savvy, chain-smoking mom and grandma who came to the United States from Greece in 1939 and operated a string of adult movie theaters in some of the seediest parts of New York City in the 1960s and ’70s is 100 percent real. And, as chronicled in Valerie Kontakos’ documentary Queen of the Deuce, her story is fascinating.

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QUEEN OF THE DEUCE – Review by Loren King

The colorful and unconventional Chelly Wilson’s life story might seem incredible if Queen of the Deuce were not a documentary. The Jewish Wilson fled the Nazis and World War II but the Holocaust claimed nearly her entire family in Greece. She settled in New York City where she sold hot dogs from a truck before buying her first theater, the Cameo, and screening Greek films for the immigrant community. By the 1970s, Wilson owned six X-rated theaters around Times Square and 42nd Street aka “The Deuce.” Author and activist Jeffrey Escoffier credits her as “one of the first, if not the first, to show gay porn in New York City.”

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QUEEN OF THE DEUCE – Review by Leslie Combemale

There’s nothing like discovering that a place I deemed a dangerous dumpster fire of humanity at one time, actually represented resistance, resilience, and survival. The first time I walked down 42nd street was in the 80s, when it had become, as someone put it, “more dangerous than being a soldier in Vietnam”. I should have known there was a whole lot more to the history of The Deuce, as 42nd street is called, than the drug addicts, sex workers, peep shows, and violence in the streets that plagued it by that time. In the documentary Queen of the Deuce, director/writer/producer Valerie Kontakos reveals the importance of one trailblazing woman, Greek immigrant and badass Chelly Wilson, to its development as a porn mecca. She also puts into perspective how Wilson’s success represented so much more than just making heaps of money in a business seen as immoral or unsavory by the average American.

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