The Reel Review

B-

In the 1970s, Chelly Wilson, an unpretentious Jewish grandma who fled Greece and the Holocaust just prior to WWII, created one of New York City’s largest gay porn theater empires on infamous 42nd Street, also known then as “The Deuce.” This documentary explores Wilson’s incredibly fascinating, unique life that she lived on her own terms.

Chelly Wilson in Queen of the Deuce

Incorporating fascinating actual footage from New York City’s sex district from the 1970s, home movies of Chelly herself, and some cute animation, co-writer/director Valerie Kontakos playfully lets family, friends, and even Chelly herself tell the story about this openly gay, charismatic woman, who married and had children – and live-in girlfriends – all while creating her gay porn empire in a way less-sanitized New York City than the one that exists today.

Chelly Wilson and her family in Queen of the Deuce

The film does a nice job of charting the evolution and demise of gay porn theaters as well as Wilson’s unlikely entrepreneurial path, which included producing and distributing porn movies. Some of the anecdotes from her descendants are truly charming. While the film lags in its midsection with too much focus on other family members, Wilson’s own larger than life personality makes this a fascinating time capsule of a long-gone era and a portrait of a shrewd businesswoman who lived life unapologetically.

REEL FACTS

• Chelly Wilson was born on Christmas Day 1908 and died on Thanksgiving Day 1994.

The Playpen adult sex shop and movie theater in New York City

• While New York City’s 42nd Street became known as The Deuce in the 1970s, 8th Avenue was called the Minnesota Strip due to the high volume of prostitutes who walked the street. The Playpen, located on 8th Avenue between 43rd and 44th streets, is one of less than ten sex shops in New York City. The site where it previously stood is now a Shake Shack.

• Chelly Wilson produced films such as 1974’s Okay, Pal, 1967’s Scarf of Mist Thing of Satin and Come Ride the Wild Pink Horse.

Video & Photo

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2 Comments

  1. Melinda May 27, 2024

    You KNOW I loved it 💋💋💋

    1. Abb Jones May 29, 2024

      Oh YESSSSSS! :)