Scarbie (a.k.a. David Mitchell)
For more than a decade, the sight of Scarbie riding up and down Commercial Street on her pink Schwinn, miraculously doing a costume change for each direction, has been a joyful part of summer in Provincetown. David Mitchell created the character Scarbie for his show Lip-Schtick back in 2006 at the Crown and Anchor, and by 2009 she was doing 50 or more shows per summer at the Unitarian Universalist Meetinghouse. By 2015 and continuing through 2019, the show was regularly sold out. But then COVID hit and Mitchell wasn’t able to perform. We took some time to catch up with him and found he had a special announcement to make.
Provincetown Magazine: What’s happening to you and your show this summer?
Scarbie: I want to thank Provincetown Magazine for this opportunity to let everyone know that SCARBIE HAS RETIRED from the rigors of weekly performance. In 2019 I had the most incredible season ever, and I had pretty much decided that 2020, my 15th season, would be my last. Enter Covid. We all know how that turned our worlds upside down, and the UU also decided in 2021 that the building would remain closed. So, after two seasons away, some life milestones that coincided, and other considerations it just felt like the right time to step out of the spotlight. Truthfully, I just didn’t wanna get back on the bike again and potentially start from scratch. As they say; been there, done that. Not to diminish the experience, believe me. I used to NOT understand why Bea Arthur left The Golden Girls at the height of its popularity, but now I get it. Go out on top, baby! No regrets.
PM: We will really miss seeing you zipping up and down Commercial Street on your bike in your various hats and outfits. What will you be doing this summer instead?
S: Cruising up and down Commercial Street was a wonderful part of the work day. That pink Schwinn served me well. All afternoon I heard people comment “She’s riding a bike in heels!” Funny, because you actually just use the ball of your foot to pedal, so actually riding in heels is not so challenging. But what about the multiple outfit changes each day?? Well, in the beginning I would ride in an outfit and after two passes by the same people they would no longer be interested in me and my persistent barking for tickets. So much to see on Commercial Street! One hot day I stopped back at the UU and passed by six people standing nearby. I went in, cooled down a bit and changed outifts to freshen up. As I hit the street the same six were there and all exclaimed “Oh, look, she changed!” And bought tickets! Light bulb, or Ah Ha moment. From that day on I would change six, seven times. I think my record was 12 times, but that was during Portuguese Festival when the streets are lined with parade goers from New Bedford and who loved seeing Scarbie ride by exclaiming “Gimme A Woo!.” And they would roar a woo like a football stadium. I would change about every 15 minutes and give everyone a pre-parade thrill. I loved that day each year. Exhausting, but so fun and self-indulgent.
This season, like last, I will work along with my husband of 25 years, Richard, at Twisted Pizza and Ice Cream for our friend Devon. After 11 years managing, Devon bought the business just pre-pandemic, so it was a real crunch time for him and other businesses. As Ptowners know, staffing is difficult out in the real world, but in Provincetown its damn near impossible. So, we will work the store and pitch in to keep our tourists eating great pizza and treats. As they say “You’re an actor…which restaurant?” Bitches.
PM: What’s your favorite (or a favorite) memory of performing in Provincetown over the years?
S: When I decided to take this journey, I knew what I wanted to do; I wanted to bring an entertaining show to Provincetown that ANYONE could attend; all ages, and still have a great show, feel comfortable, included, laugh, think, wonder, maybe cry a bit, and leave feeling like that was best $20 they spent in Ptown. And…I did. My most proud accomplishment was never raising my ticket price over twenty dollars, but rather establishing a Pocket Change Jar at the door. At the end of each show I reminded people that mine was the best ticket price in town and if they felt they got more than they paid for, please consider leaving your pocket change on the way out. That money went directly to Rev. Kate’s discretionary fund to help Ptowners in need. I figured it might generate a few hundred bucks or so, but over the last three seasons it generated thousands of dollars! Each day I found fives, tens, twenties, sometimes even $100 bills in the jar. It was an embarrassment of riches, but so lovingly donated and so well spent on our locals who needed assistance.
I have received many, many rewards from my audiences as I greeted them out of the show at the gate on Commercial Street each night. Big hugs, kind praise, sincere appreciation, and even a teen boy coming out to his mother after feeling empowered by my show and its message of self and family. His mother came out of the show with tears of joy as she shared this revelation with me. I received a letter from a trans person who said that seeing my show gave them the strength to reveal their true self to the world. These things are the measure of my success. However, having a healthy retirement account really makes me happy too!