Private Project

The Big Johnson

Dean Johnson was a famous New York drag queen, rock star, sex party promoter and late in life escort. In 2007 Dean went on a job and never came back. Was it just an accidental OD, Dean had a history of drug use or was it something more sinister? Another escort died in the same apartment four days earlier. The mystery of his death is only part of Dean Johnson's wild life. Dean was the first in many things, the first bald drag queen, the first to throw sex parties in the 80s during the AIDS crisis, the first openly gay singer on Island records (which cost him his record deal). The first and only person to throw a LGBTQ party at the iconic rock club CBGBs. Through Deans ups and downs, heroin, sobriety, love, sex, music, community, HIV, poverty, Dean survived them all. Until he didn't. This film brings you into the burned out, fabulous world of the 80s East Village where the looming AIDS crisis made you want to live every day like it was your last. Dean Johnson personified this time in New York and in gay history. Dean Johnson was the man, the myth, the Big Johnson.

  • Lola Rocknrolla
    Director
    Nefertitty, Brunch, Dragzilla, Night of the Living Gay, Biz Kids (PBS)
  • Lola Rocknrolla
    Writer
    Nefertitty TV, Nefertitty in Space, Nefertitty, Night of the Living Gay,Brunch, Dragzilla,
  • Lola Rocknrolla
    Producer
    Dragzilla, Night of the Living Gay, Nefertitty
  • Beth Johnson
    Producer
  • Patty Lovemore
    Producer
  • Taylor Mac
    Key Cast
  • Lady Bunny
    Key Cast
  • Jackie Beat
    Key Cast
  • Penny Arcade
    Key Cast
  • Mario Diaz
    Key Cast
  • Sherry Vine
    Key Cast
  • Hugh Mackey
    CREW
  • Samantha Schutz
    CREW
    Eden Eats, Martha Stewart, Biz Kid$
  • Lance Tooks
    Animation
    MTV etc
  • Rob Yulfo
    Animation
    Late Night with Colbert
  • Ray Hubley
    editors
    Scarface, Dressed to Kill, Dead man Walking
  • Leon Chase
    editors
  • Sam Schutz
    editors
    Food Network, Cooking Channel, Martha Stewart
  • Genres:
    LGBTQ
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 35 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    October 30, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    300,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    RED, 4K,
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
Director Biography - Lola Rocknrolla

Lola Rocknrolla got her moniker by playing sax and screaming into a microphone for various rock bands across the U.S. She started directing videos for her broke ass bands and made her first short "Dragzilla" in 2002. Since then she has directed over 10 short films, an off broadway rock musical, tons of rock videos and even a kids show for PBS. Lola was good friends with Dean and played saxophone as a flying nun in his second band "The Velvet Mafia". This is her first feature.

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Director Statement

Dean Johnson was the super gay big brother I had always wanted. He was kind, compassionate, hilarious and a hero for every LGBTQI and club kid in New York City and beyond. I was lucky enough to call Dean a friend. I saw him a week before his death in 2007. Since then I have spent years raising money and making this film to show the world his wild life and strange death. I have spent five years interviewing anyone I could find that knew him or could bring about some answers to why this beautiful human, that was famous and loved, ended up as a John Doe in Washington D.C. for over a week. We still don't know if he O.D.ed or was murdered. We may never know. My heartbreak and love for this man led to this film. I hope you see the value in his life and what he has meant to an entire community of people that not only lost their hero but their neighborhood and the queer liberation and inclusion Dean ushered in.