“SPIDER MITES OF JESUS, THE DIRTWOMAN DOCUMENTARY”— Donnie Corker, a Richmond, Virginia institution and Cult Figure in the LGBT Community


Donnie Corker, a Richmond, Virginia institution and Cult Figure in the LGBT Community

Amos Lassen

Jerry Williams’ documentary about Donnie Corker, “Spider Mites of Jesus, the Dirtwoman Documentary” is a look at a man who lived his life like as a cult figure right out of a John Waters movie. I had never heard of Corker before so I had no idea what to expect from this film. It took me quite a while to understand the title but it all made sense when I learned that Corker’s mother in trying to speak about his childhood illness found it difficult to say spinal meningitis. Regardless of the issue, Corker managed to live a life that insured that he would be remembered by his home town. He was a very big and very loud drag queen with few inhibitions. He was a well-known (and well-loved) fixture of the LGBT community in central Virginia.

Donnie seemed to have always been big—as an adult he weighted 300+ pounds and he seemed to have always had a big mouth and loved to wear women’s clothing. Naturally this caused him to face problems growing up and he was thought to be mentally disabled. Others picked on and tormented him for being gay and was raped by several men. Yet he showed his strength and his defiance was to proudly walk the streets looking for sex and he would protect his neighbors by being able to defusing criminal encounters. The cops even looked to him as a guy with street smarts who kept them informed of oncoming trouble.

This film shares all of this with us by using a combination of interviews and shots of Corker on the street living as he did. We see how he was named (you’ll have to see the film), his performances when he danced and some pretty horrible episodes of his life. He hungered for fame and found it in strange places (or it found him).  His last days were not happy and his death was unpleasant but we also feel the love the filmmaker has for him.

I can’t say that I loved this film but I found it both interesting and fascinating. I just wish that some of the stories we see and hear do not seem any point. There is also something said about respecting diversity and we realize that our world is made up of all kinds of different people and we can learn to accept them all. Donnie died in 2017 and he is missed by many. He was a local legend who will not be forgotten soon.

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