Docs That Rock: Queen Of The Deuce

Queen Of The Deuce was a runaway success when it premiered at the New York Documentary Film Festival last winter and this past Friday, May 24th, it became available on Amazon, Apple TV, Hulu and other online film outlets. I say to rent Queen Of The Deuce ASAP as this is the best $4.99 that you will spend all summer, at least when it comes to entertainment!

I love docs on quirky characters, especially ones that have almost unbelievable rags to riches stories. Queen Of The Deuce was directed by Valerie Kontakos, a former porn theater cashier and someone who was a family friend of our the movie’s heroine Chelly Wilson. This chain smoking grandmother was a natural born entrepreneur with impeccable timing.

In a nutshell, Wilson was a Greek Jew forced into an arranged marriage who had the foresight to get out of dodge immediately before WW 2 started–and yes, she very sadly lost family members in the holocaust and knocked herself out trying to find out exactly what happened to them. The bespectacled Wilson got on a ship bound to NYC to make her fortune and find a life with more freedom, even though she had to leave two children behind. (She had to jump through lots of red tape to eventually get her kids over to the States.)

Wilson quickly found herself making friends with Greek-American business people and ended up working in the distribution of Greek films in the US. This gave her enough money to buy a Times Square movie house that eventually led to her buying five more! Wilson made her home on the right side of the Adonis Theater–which was originally known as the Tivoli–and is now the Playwright Celtic bar. (Her grandson who is in the film confirmed with me that her huge apartment got absorbed into the floor plan of the Playwright after her passing.)

Wilson started off showing family friendly Greek films in her theater but eventually some of her colleagues suggested that she could make some money in soft core porn starting in the mid 60s. Wilson jumped on board this new trend and her fortunes grew. She even produced some of the these low budget cheesecake films. Once hardcore porn came around in the early 70s, she made the leap and again financed some major and minor film hits. Truth be told, Wilson was really interested in the money rather than creative involvement in these projects but do not let this make you think that she was selfish or greedy. She randomly gave out large amounts of money to family members, friends and neighbors just for being in her life and serving as a support network.

Wilson’s family, including affable daughter Bondi Walters and her son-in-law Don Walters, tell anecdotes about this outspoken lady throughout the film. I particularly enjoyed the all the glamorous stories about the parties at Mykonos, Wilson’s successful foray into the restaurant business at 349 West 46th Street on NYC’s famous Restaurant Row. Everyone from Shirley MacLaine to Omar Sharif turned up at Mykonos and it comes as no surprise that Bondi and Don were married there. You can see the start of a star studded Mykonos evening above.

Wilson died at age 82 from a combination of five or six diseases that included diabetes and she is still greatly missed by her family and friends. Food was one of the centerpieces of her life and before she died, she dictated a list of dishes that she wanted served after her funeral. Indeed it was a list of Greek classics and a couple obscure dishes she used to eat as a child and teen in her native Solonika. Thankfully, there are tape recordings of Wilson telling her life story to family members, some of which was used in Queen Of The Deuce.

An undercurrent of the film is the fact that Wilson considered herself gay despite two marriages and several children. In Queen Of The Deuce, family members said that they were not really shocked to learn this about their grandmother and that she really did not discuss her same sex relationships with them. They did know that their grandmother had romantic ties to one of the female singers at Mykonos, though.

You can’t help but fall in love with Chelly Wilson because she spoke the truth no matter what the situation. She also seemed fearless and well-liked by anyone she encountered in her business or personal life. She had a unique fashion style that included round black plastic glasses and flowing mumus that would put Endora of Bewitched to shame.

Something extra special about Queen Of The Deuce is the phenomenal WW 2 and historical footage of her hometown of Salonika that must have been very hard for the filmmakers to get a hold of. Oops, I almost forgot to add that the filmmakers also had to get a hold of all but forgotten footage of porn films that Wilson both financed and showed at her theaters. (The most successful of her theaters was The Adonis which showed all male films and there was even a big hit that she financed called A Night At The Adonis.)

For more information on this fascinating doc from Greenwich Entertainment, go to If you want to see it on a big screen in NYC, check out the film schedule at the IFC Center in the West Village that hosted screenings with cast Q&As afterwards just this past weekend ( You can see my photo of May 25th’s Q&A with director Valerie Kontakos, Bondi Walters and Don Walters at the IFC above. Queen Of The Deuce is a must-see if you love stories on hardcore New Yorkers who made their mark in a big way and took no sh*t from anyone! Rating: A.

Article by anne241

Hardcore NYer who loves to enjoy the good life here in the Big Apple and beyond!