The work of "TVJerry" Williams, the trailer gives an irresistible taste of the forthcoming feature-length film
Marilyn Drew Necci | August 24, 2017
Jerry Williams, the local filmmaker and writer who reviewed movies for GayRVA under the name TVJerry from 2011 til 2014, released a six-minute trailer Tuesday for a forthcoming documentary about the life and times of Donnie “Dirtwoman” Corker. A long-running Richmond legend, local media personality Harry Kollatz Jr. refers to Dirtwoman in the trailer as “represent[ing] the peculiar aspects of Richmond that we all hope exist here.”
Corker, now 65 years old, has been a longtime fixture on the Richmond cultural scene. In a modern era that sees a freshly-scrubbed, VCU-dominated vision of the lower fan, it might be surprising to some of our younger readers to know of Grace Street’s sordid past, the porn theaters and dive bars that dotted the strip in the 90s and before. Corker was easy to spot around the Grace Street area in those days. He often operated a flower stand at the corner of Grace and Harrison streets (a spot now occupied by a VCU dorm), calling out to the boys walking by who drew his attention.
This is when I first encountered Corker, but his history in Richmond dates back long before this time. Beth Marschak’s book Lesbian And Gay Richmond elaborates on his origin story. “Corker worked as a performer, dancer, and prostitute,” Marschak writes. “Corker earned his nickname in 1976 following an encounter with the police vice squad. After police threw him in the back seat of their cruiser, Corker accidentally made a mess. The cops called him a ‘dirty woman,’ and the name stuck.”
Since those days, Corker’s various colorful escapades, from wrestling in jello at gay clubs to getting kicked out of Doug Wilder’s 1990 inauguration as Governor of Virginia, have generated plentiful material for local raconteurs (much of which is referenced in the trailer). This eventually gave rise to a Dirtwoman calendar (which Corker would gladly sell you along with some flowers during his later years on Grace Street) and even a campaign for mayor of Richmond, managed for a time by RVA Magazine co-founder Parker Galore. It wasn’t all goofy hijinks, though–Corker’s long-running Christmas event Hamaganza has raised a great deal of funds for the Central Virginia Food Bank. In the documentary, Richmond Magazine contributor Chris Dovi puts the amount raised cumulatively at over $25,000.
There’s so much more to learn about Dirtwoman’s colorful history, one that Jerry Williams intends to document in detail with his film. Having originally begun filming back in 1999, the footage included in the trailer spans multiple eras and features interviews with dozens of local personalities. Williams is currently seeking more input from those willing to provide interviews or archival material; he invites anyone with stories to share to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s the trailer–get stoked: