Hustlers, Pimps, and Johns….and the fabulous Paige Turner

First of all, let me make it clear that Paige Turner is NOT a hustler, a pimp, or a john. Paige is a very funny and talented female impersonator whose day job (as a boy) is animal caregiver at the Nashville Humane Association. Paige has a small role in the movie Boulevard (Robin Williams’ last film) which was shot in Nashville. Even though Paige is on the screen briefly, she works her part for all it’s worth. Every toss of the head, every physical gesture, every pose—she makes her big personality felt. You can catch Paige every Tuesday night at Mad Donna’s in East Nashville, where she hosts Drag Bingo. She also writes a monthly column about drag for the Nashville LGBT magazine, Out and About.

I visited with Paige at MadDonna’s on Tuesday night to photograph her and talk to her about her movie experience. She was selected for this part out of many who showed up for auditions—the director loved her look. See her in the movie and you’ll understand why. She is working the street wearing very short cut-off jeans and thigh-high silver boots. Paige has fantastic legs–you can’t miss her. She says that she did have several opportunities to interact with Robin Williams and that he was lovely to everyone.

This film by Dito Monteil is one of the most beautiful character studies I have ever seen. It is about a man who has always been lost and troubled, and then has a relationship with a young male street hustler which has such a profound effect on him that he comes to grips with his true self, comes out of the closet, and finally goes to New York to invent a new life. The development of the hustle is as interesting to me as the development of the main character. The young man, Leo, is willing to sell sex, but not willing or able to give anything of himself. He is as conflicted and troubled as the older man, who is so hungry to share his heart. While the love that he is looking for could not happen with Leo, he realizes that he is still searching. At age 60, his character says to us that it is never too late. In freeing himself, he also frees his wife (ironically named Joy) to find herself as well. It is an amazing movie. An interesting side note is that it was shot in my own neighborhood, in a house right down the block.

I saw this movie (twice) at Nashville’s treasure of an art house cinema, The Belcourt. By coincidence, another movie that is playing there at the same time is Tangerine. This is another film about hustlers, pimps, and johns. This time the hustlers are trans sex workers and the two main characters are played by two Los Angeles trans women, Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor. This movie delves into a subculture that is disturbing but very real. Nothing is held back. In this film we also see some very interesting character development unfold. It seems that the subject of transgender is showing up a lot lately in the media. While LaVerne Cox, Carmen Carrera, and Caitlyn Jenner are privileged and glamorous, there are many more trans women who have a very hard life. As one of the characters says, “It’s all about the hustle.” For some, especially those who have little options to begin with, this seems the only option there is.

I highly recommend both of these movies. They are similar, but different. They look at a side of life that many people don’t ever see. And they both do it with love and caring.

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