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Q & A with Julie Wheeler

Being sung to sleep is one thing, but being sung into fits of laughter is entirely another. Musical comedian Julie Wheeler, a well-known fixture in the 1990s performance scene here in Provincetown, returned to the Cape tip several years ago to present her unique comedy stylings once again, and you can catch her new show this Women’s Week at the Crown and Anchor. She took some time to chat with Provincetown Magazine about getting her start in a high school talent show, her very first visit to Provincetown and why she loves it so, and why comedy is so powerful, especially in times of trouble.

Provincetown Magazine: Your career started after winning your high school talent show? What did you do to win the contest?

Julie Wheeler: I played guitar and sang “I Can See Clearly Now.” I wasn’t one of those students always performing in school plays, etc. So, I think I surprised everyone, including myself, when I won the contest. I remember I said something and got a laugh before I started the song, and the feeling that came over me at that moment and the feeling I get when I sing, guided me to the path I’ve been on ever since. So, by winning, I took it as encouragement, and by the next year, I was playing weekly at the local lesbian bar with my best friend.

PM: Tell us about those early days opening for Lucy Bleu Tremblay in your hometown of Memphis. That must have been quite a scene.


Photo: Bobby Miller

JW: So, like I said, my best friend Martha and I played weekly at the local lesbian bar in Memphis, and we were the only “out” performers in town. We played at the women’s bookstore, at the university, and at the bars around town. So when national LGBT acts came through, naturally, we were the ones called to open for them. I wish I could say Lucie Bleu Tremblay hand picked me to open for her, but it was all about being an out lesbian performer in the 80s. The LGBT scene in Memphis was large, but very closeted; they didn’t have a gay pride until 2003 (I left in 1990).  So, when I discovered women’s festivals and more progressive communities while I was in college, I immediately knew that Memphis, although a great hometown, it was not the place for me. A month after I graduated from the University of Memphis, I made my pilgrimage to Northampton, Mass.—a veritable lesbian mecca!

PM: How and when did you end up in Provincetown? What were your first impressions upon your arrival? How has the town changed since? Why did you decide to move back?

JW: I first came to Provincetown in the summer of 1991 for a visit and by 1992 I was performing at the Post Office Cafe as a Lesbian Lounge Lizard. I immediately fell in love with Ptown. I loved how it was as if a quaint, old, New England fishing village and a gay cabaret/dance club had a baby and out it popped. Every summer, young LGBT kids would come and work in all the shops and restaurants. And no matter how terribly they had been treated where they came from, no matter how far they had been in the closet, when they got to Ptown they were free to be whoever they wanted to be. And they were not only allowed to be who they truly were, they were celebrated for it! It was like a queer finishing school. It was great!! It was this type of atmosphere that helped us as a community, to battle the AIDS epidemic with dignity and strength, when it hit us hard. It was a terribly dark time here, but we all banded together, and took care of our friends like family. That was the Ptown way. And not a lot has changed in that respect, from then to now. But a lot of things are very different, too. The lack of affordable housing is slowly putting a stranglehold on our ability to thrive as a diverse tourist community. Prices have gone through the roof for everything from burgers to hotel rooms, making it hard for the 99% to continue to work here, much less, vacation here. But with that being said, Ptown is my Brokeback Mountain – (southern accent) I can’t quit yooou! I came back because life is short and Ptown feels like home. I decided being a radio DJ wasn’t making me happy (I was a DJ in San Diego at KYXY 96.5) so, I decided to come back to sing, tell jokes, and live in my favorite place. And it doesn’t hurt, that with all this crazy Trump stuff going on, being here will make it easy to get up a gay militia if I need to.

PM: Many people still remember the days of the Lesbian Lounge Lizards here in Provincetown and elsewhere. What can people expect from your show now?

JW: I am SO excited about my shows this year for Women’s Week! I’ll have Monica Falcone on guitar and Sylvie Richard on percussion, joining me, and if our rehearsals are any indication, the show’s gonna be amazing! The show is really all about living your best life, even in the face of such political turmoil, almost in spite of it! This theme intertwines with my own story of coming back to Ptown through song, song parodies, and stand-up comedy. So for my long-time fans, they’ll get some of what they remember from the old days, but they will also see how I’ve changed over time and I hope they love it as much as I’m gonna love doing it!

PM: We are living in very troubling times, which makes comedy so important both to interpret our culture and politics, but also to give us a chance to heal through laughter. What mood have your audiences been in and how do you maneuver it?

JW: I’ve found that the audiences this season have all had a weary kind of anger about them, almost as if all of the hate, misogyny, and racism of the Trump era has physically weighed them down. But at the same time, I saw a powerful resilience in their faces. And as I vocalized that anger on stage, using my humor and music to diffuse it, I actually saw them become lighter. And not just lighter, but inspired to action. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, especially the LGBT community, it’s that activism works. So, that’s always been my goal as a performer, to entertain first, but also to send them away after the show, inspired and feeling better than when they came. And these days, that’s needed more than ever!

PM: Of all the gigs you’ve had, which one stands out in your mind as the most memorable?

JW: I’ve had a lot of memorable gigs. Once, as a Lesbian Lounge Lizard, we were dared to take our shirts off on stage and we did, almost getting arrested in the process. When I played Elvis in Viva Las Vegas: The Musical in New York City we had a lot of notables come, from Kevin Spacey, Kathy Najimy, to Rosie O’Donnell, so that was memorable. But the one that really sticks out to me was when I performed at Yale in the 90s, and after the show, a young woman came up and said, “thank you, you made me feel better about being gay.” Which at the time, was revolutionary and exactly what I was trying to achieve. So, if I can make one person feel better, about whatever is bothering them, and entertain them in the process—then I’ve done my job. And doing that really helps me live my best life. Which, for me, is what it’s ALL about.

Julie Wheeler performs with special guest Monica Falcone at the Crown and Anchor, 247 Commercial St., Provincetown, Thursday, October 11 through Saturday, October 13 at 4 p.m. Tickets ($20) are available at the box office and online at For more information call 508.487.1430.

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Graphic Artist

Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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