Queen of the Deuce

From the ’60s to the ’80s, Greek-born Chelly Wilson built a porn cinema empire and a reputation as a savvy operator in the Times Square vicinity known as the Deuce.
Queen of the Deuce

From the late ’60s to the mid-’80s, in the notorious Times Square vicinity known as the Deuce, Greek-born Chelly Wilson built a porn cinema empire and a reputation as one of the savviest, seminal, and enigmatic figures on the scene.

With a cigarette in hand and bags of money tucked in the corner, Chelly regularly held court in her bunkerlike apartment above the legendary 8th Avenue all-male theatre Adonis, summoning a lively cabal of “strangers,” entertainers, and fellow poker players – with her confidantes always hovering and grandchildren often underfoot.

Yet few in her tight circle were aware of the risks she took to get there, and where her story truly began.

Weaving together film and audio archive – featuring Chelly’s raucous, raspy voice – home videos, animation, and no-holds-barred interviews with her children, grandchildren and associates, Queen of the Deuce reveals the origins of Chelly the entrepreneur and taboo-breaker, traces the fraught events leading up to her departure from Europe on the eve of war, and explores the highly unconventional trajectories of her American business ventures and personal life.

Bucking her conservative Jewish upbringing in Thessaloniki, Chelly divorced her husband and then abandoned her children – leaving them with trusted guardians in Greece – before sailing to New York at the outbreak of WWII. In time, she gained a financial foothold, married a movie projectionist and had two more children…who didn’t know they had half-siblings until Chelly travelled back to fetch them.

If the loss of her entire Jewish community in Greece during the Holocaust is the heartbreak of her story, then putting her own family back together is its heart.

With the rise of feminism, the sexual revolution, and gay pride in frame, Queen of the Deuce is an alternate take on recent cultural history as seen through Chelly Wilson’s deal-making story of survival.