A variation on the theme, the dancer (stripper) with a heart of gold, is a tamer version of the character. A stripper is a sex worker but not a prostitute. Historically, social positions of dancers and actresses were low and their moral characters were often considered suspect.
In opera and musical theatre, a hooker with a heart of gold is most often portrayed by a mezzo-soprano. The hooker with a heart of gold is portrayed in a tragic light and often dies a tragic death.
In television history, the "tart with a heart" has become an important archetype in serial drama and soap opera, especially in Britain. During the 1960s, the character of Elsie Tanner in British series Coronation Street set the mold for future characters such as Bet Lynch (also Coronation Street) and Kat Slater (EastEnders). Characters of this nature are often depicted as having tragic lives, but put on a front when in public to create the illusion of happiness. More often than not, these female characters are vital to their respective shows, and inevitably become some of the biggest stars in British Television.
Let me tell you something. I know Dean Keaton. I've been investigating him for three years. The guy I know is a cold-blooded bastard. L.A.P.D. indicted him on three counts of murder before he was kicked off the force, so don't sell me the hooker with the heart of gold.