There are legends all around us.
Do we slow down enough to recognize them?
You might not recognize Troy Walker as a legend, but you'd be mistaken. The 81-year-old Walker spends most of his time these days inside his home at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center, a 500-bed hospital complex not including a nursing home and domiciliary that Walker now calls home.
Fortunately, indie filmmaker Christina Linhardt slowed down long enough to recognize a story that needed to be told and the end result is TROY! The Original Lady Boy, a delightfully life-affirming, spirit-filled short doc having its world premiere here in Indy as part of the Indy Shorts International Film Festival's first ever Pride Stride event.
When Linhardt and producer John Di Bona first decided to make a short doc after having met the incredibly infectious and loving Troy, there was no real plan in place to do anything in particular with the film. It was a passion project, if you will, a desire to ensure the documented legacy of a man with more musical talent in his flamboyantly gesturing finger than most of us have in our entire bodies.
In essence, TROY! The Original Lady Boy started off as not much more than a gift, an incredibly loving and generous gift telling a story that's so fantastic and fabulous that it's hard to believe yet a story that, like all too often happens to many of society's legends, gets lost behind aging, health concerns, systems, and institutions.
Too often, we start to see the diagnoses instead of the wondrous human beings with wondrous lives and stories deserving to be told again and again and again.
But, something happened on the way to this little cinematic gift documenting Troy's larger than life history.
I think that something is called love.
It's the love with which Troy performed for so many years. It's the love from friends and fans fondly sharing their memories of this man and his seemingly immeasurable talent. It's the love poured into this effort by Linhardt and Di Bona, two up-and-comers in the film industry whose love and talent have made cinematic magic happen here.
It's love. I'm telling you. It's love.
TROY! The Original Lady Boy takes us inside the gritty and glitzy life of Troy Walker, the one-and-only honky-tonk queen whose musical run at North Hollywood's World Famous Palomino Club is the stuff of legends. Often considered to be the first "lady boy," Walker took the stage of the notoriously conservative honky-tonk and won them over with a vivaciousness and stunning talent that wowed them so completely that by the time they realized he was a "lady boy" they were already as deeply in love with him as he was with them.
There you go again. It's the love.
This is not to say, of course, that TROY! The Original Lady Boy is nothing but an all out love fest. Linhardt doesn't shy away from the fact that all of this was happening alongside a hippie culture that could be all about the free love as long as it was heterosexual. Homophobia was still rampant and Troy experienced more than his share of it along the way.
Yet, there was always the music and Troy became a magnificent draw bringing in celebrities far and wide and performing alongside a myriad of musical household names such as Jerry Lee Lewis and others. An improvisational spirit whose always moving hands were often the only indicators of his many abrupt changes from song-to-song, Troy possessed, and still possesses, a magnetism that is infectious, abundant, and charismatic plus.
TROY! The Original Lady Boy beautifully weaves together past and present via archival footage, including club footage found on a VHS, along with present day interviews with friends, peers, and those who simply remember and love, love, love everything about Troy Walker. There's a sweetness to everything that unfolds in TROY! The Original Lady Boy and that core sweetness gives this wonderful short doc an emotional resonance and honesty that makes you fall in love with Troy over and over again. It's the weaving together of the film's music and that emotional honesty that will unquestionably resonate with indie fest audiences and there's simply no denying that this is the kind of film that could easily have an extended life on the fest circuit should Linhardt and Di Bona choose to go that route. Ideally suited for the LGBTQ circuit, TROY! The Original Lady Boy tells a story that is universal in its humanity.
The film also includes a wealth of enjoyable interviews from the likes of musician/club owner and longtime collaborator Cody Bryant, veteran music journalist and award-winning author Jonny Whiteside, singer/songwriter/producer/director Jane Cantillon, musician/TV producer Richard Ross and a host of others. While live interviewing doesn't always work in short docs, in Linhardt's case here it adds to the film's immensely personal and honest feeling.
Di Bona's lensing for the film is strong throughout the film's 32-minute running time, while you will definitely find yourself humming along with its unforgettable musical selections.
You might want to watch just where you hum "some" of these tunes. I'm just sayin'.
Sometimes, the best films come not out of the Hollywood machinery or that all too familiar profit motive but out of a simple desire to make a difference in the world or, I guess you could say, even just to make a difference in the life of one person.
In this case, that one person is Troy Walker and your life will be a whole lot better once you know his story and see this film.
TROY! The Original Lady Boy is following up its appearance at Indy Shorts with a screening at the Burbank AMC on July 30th. For more information on the film, be sure to visit its official Facebook page linked to in the credits.
There are legends around us. As it turns out, the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center is home to a legend whose immense talent deserves to be remembered.
Thanks to Christina Linhardt and John Di Bona, now it will be.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic