QVC proves that “Wit is sharp… but stilettos are sharper”

If you’ve ever been to a performance of the Queer Variety Cavalcade (QVC), you know that it’s something truly special.

It’s certainly unique to DC, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anything quite like it anywhere else. Part ‘70s-style TV variety show (think Sonny and Cher or The Captain and Tennille), part interview, and part improv, QVC showcases various performance disciplines in a joyful celebration of Queer voices, talent, and comedy.

The co-creators, producers, and hosts of this sexy, sassy, big-hearted, and uproariously fun production are Kevin Eggleston (aka Birdie DuBidet) and Bill Nelson (aka Butchie McBride). We asked them to talk about what makes their upcoming show THIS FRIDAY (June 28 at 9:30 PM) especially important and timely.


WIT: June 28 is a particularly auspicious date in the LGBTQ+ community’s calendar. Can you explain why?

Kevin Eggleston: Now, Pride month wouldn’t be quite the “same” if Judy Garland hadn’t come and gone so quickly—with her birthday and her funeral in the same month, just 47 years apart—would it?

But the real reason we celebrate Pride in June is that in the dark, early hours of June 28, 1969, the New York Police Department raided a rundown Gay bar called the Stonewall Inn, and that time, for a multitude of reasons, when the police began to beat up some of the Queens, and told the rest to go home, they didn’t. Something snapped. They fought back.

Transforming shame into pride takes time. On the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, June 28, 1970, the first Pride march took place on Christopher Street, where the Stonewall is located. That’s when LGBTQ people stood in the daylight to be seen, and to see each other. That’s why June 28 is the cornerstone date of Pride month.

WIT: In what ways does the Stonewall Uprising still resonate today?

Bill Nelson: Even now, in this day and age—in 2024—we STILL need touchstones we can tap to refill our tanks with Queer Riot Energy. Energy we need in order to push back against an ever rolling wave of garbage.

The Stonewall Uprising of 1969 and its older sibling, the Compton Cafeteria Riot of 1966, are such touchstones. They represent moments of power for Queer people. Time and again, we have had to go back to those sources for renewed strength. Until our Trans siblings are free to live the lives they want to lead, completely and without obstruction, we will need to reach back through time and touch those “resonate moments.” Touch those famous bricks. And maybe pick up a few bricks of our own.

WIT: Across the country, the hard-won rights of the LGBTQ+ community are under serious threat. What are the biggest concerns keeping you up at night?

K.E.: Well, first, Birdie [Kevin’s QVC persona] isn’t going to let Ted Cruz steal her beauty sleep! And I do think some of it might seem a little silly—you’re banning Queer library books when the internet exists?? But dangerous times often begin symbolically. There are areas in this country where it’s still hell to be Queer. Trans people are being targeted and demonized by Republicans and “She Who Must Not Be Named.” States keep trying to ban Birdie’s right to perform, and, as we know, it’s very easy for a bigot to buy a gun in America.

I know the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, (the plan if Roy Cohn’s apprentice takes the presidency again), seeks to eliminate LGBTQ rights by empowering the executive branch in unprecedented ways, backed by an enabling Supreme Court. So, to use the British understatement, “That is a bit concerning.” And, you know, if that happens, they’ll start at the front lines of Stonewall—BIPOC Queers, Trans people, and Drag performers—the most vulnerable in the public eye. So, the solidarity we build now is key because if the worst happens, you must stick together. No matter what.

WIT: Bill, what about you? What keeps you up at night?

B.N.: It’s less about what keeps me up at night and more about what gets me up in the morning. There was an anonymously written essay distributed at the New York Pride march in 1990. The author(s) declared, “Being Queer is not about a right to privacy; it is about the freedom to be public, to just be who we are.” With all the threats that keep coming our way, I know my first response is to be public, open, out, proud, and exactly who I am. Not just for me, but for everyone who isn’t able, or ready, to be those things… yet.

WIT: QVC showcases a variety of performance disciplines, from dance and burlesque, to song and storytelling. What role do the performing arts play in safeguarding LGBTQ+ artistic expression? What about the role of humor?

K.E. I’ll put it this way: to be a [Queer] performer anywhere isn’t safe. To be a comedic LGBTQ+ performer is riskier yet. There’s no such thing as a totally “safe space” when you’re putting your whole Gay self up on that stage—in heels. But there is such a thing as a cast and an audience that have your back if you fall.

The Queer Variety Cavalcade isn’t aimed at straight people—they’re more than welcome, we love them anyway. We don’t care that they’re straight if they tip our performers well, laugh with us, and pay full price for their ticket. But Queer people have compromised more than enough to tell “LGBTQ-lite,” accessible, and heart-changing stories for “general audiences.” It’s important that we do. But QVC is performed by Queer people for Queer people. We’re making each other laugh about the absurd and naked truths of our lives, and in the process, befriending each other. A lot of creative people are introverts and a lot of us are in silos, so it’s important to knit together a performance community.

That’s how we safeguard our creative expression—by sticking together and knowing each other and the heights we can reach as one. So, if a censor ever dared to pound on the doors of OUR house, there’s no question we’d pound back, twice as hard.

WIT: Can you give us a preview of what we can look forward to seeing at Friday’s show?

B.N.: At its heart, the Queer Variety Cavalcade is about creating a space for Queer artists who tend to be underserved in traditional performance venues. We are at our best when we get to meet talents that are new to us and the WIT stage. This Friday’s “Beach Burlesque Bash” is no exception… nearly 75% of the cast are new to our show. And we couldn’t be more thrilled! The QVC Players, Karla’s Queen, Olive Ghardon, and Alluorra Rosé, a pioneering “Black Deaf Trans Femme Burlesque Legend,” will all perform. In addition to burlesque, we’ll have drag, improv, and music.

We will also have a special guest interview with Eddie Love from The Ocean Foundation and a video presentation, featuring Stonewall veteran Martin Boyce. (Hear him speak about the experience at The Moth.) All of this will be wrapped in the antics of Birdie and Butchie, two self-styled national treasures, who “always host, always make you breakfast after, and only sometimes misplace the handcuff keys.”

WIT: As annual Pride month draws to a close, what gives each of you reason to hope?

B.N.: When I need hope, I always look to Butchie [Bill’s QVC persona]. He is filled to the rim with wonder. Butchie is wanton and free, unrestrained even when restrained. He is the kind of guy who knows all things are possible at least once, twice if it feels really good.

K.E.: When Larry King asked Liza Minnelli “why the Gays loved her so much,” she said it was simple: “They have good taste.” Judy’s long dead, but [her daughter] Liza Minnelli lives. In fact, there’s a semi-famous X account, LizaMinnelliOutlives, which is where Birdie gets all of her news these days thanks to Butchie, who reads “tweets” to her to pass the time. If, heaven forfend, Birdie hears, “Liza Outlives Obergefell,” or wakes up in some nasty sequel to January 6th, and hears Butchie read out-loud, “Liza Outlives Democracy,” I’m gonna say what Birdie always says about the news: “Now, that’s just awful, Butchie. But Liza Minnelli survives.”

Seriously, though. It’s an attitude. Birdie is hope… her hair is full of feathers! And that’ll be true even when Liza returns to [her] Mother. You see, Liza wanted, but couldn’t have, biological children. So, every Queer person who braves the stage to share the joy of their being is her offspring and our hope. And thanks to Stonewall and a million unheralded acts of defiance, we don’t just have taste—we have Pride. I’d pity the fascists if they tried that shit on 14th Street. Can you imagine? Wit can be sharp. Stilettos are even sharper.

The Queer Variety Cavalcade and WIT’s other artistic and educational programming for the LGBTQ+ community are made possible thanks to generous support from the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

Get (BOGO) tickets to see QVC on June 28 at 9:30 PM (at Studio Theatre on 14th St. NW.) The performance will be ASL accessible. QVC is suitable for people 18+.  

June 27, 2024