Key West is full of characters, but few are more colorful — literally, metaphorically, however you slice it — than Q-Mitch Jones. The bearded big man is often seen strutting his stuff in a ball gown and brightly-colored wig while tirelessly raising money for charity. Bingo may be his game, but kind-hearted compassion is his sport. He embodies why Key West is such a special place, and he can be seen in numerous nationwide advertisements for the Southernmost City.
Born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Q-Mitch arrived in Key West in 2006. When asked, “Why Key West?” he said that Key West matched how he feels inside. In 2010, he took over the weekly Drag Queen Bingo at 801 Bourbon Bar, giving him a platform to raise money for charities of all kinds while entertaining crowds with his signature bawdy comedic banter. He is quick to remind everyone to attend a Sunday night game of Drag Queen Bingo, not only for the fun, or the good feeling of helping to raise money for charity, but as he puts it dryly, “I don’t know how much longer I’ll be doing it.”
The seemingly benign game of bingo becomes transformed into a raucous adventure week after week with Q-Mitch at the helm. Often berating the audience into giving more and more to that week’s charity, he holds his willing audience hostage by continually eating mayonnaise straight from the jar until he feels that they have given enough cold hard cash. Onlookers beg with dollar bills just to make it stop. After the fact, he lets on that the “mayo” is really vanilla pudding, but the torture-for-a-good-cause has achieved the desired effect.
Q-Mitch ran for Fantasy Fest King in 2007, 2008 and 2013, and swears that between his three runs for king and nearly a decade of weekly bingo games, he has raised over a million dollars in the name of charity. I’m inclined to believe him, as I was taught never to question a man with a beard wearing a dress. Equal parts drag queen, club kid, southern gentleman and philanthropist, one thing is for sure: He puts the FUN in fundraiser.
I sat down recently with this truly unique Key West character and had the opportunity to learn what was behind those designer sunglasses making the man tick.
Full name and nickname? Oh my God … Reverend Mitchell Wade Jones. Aliases: Mitch, Wade, Q-Mitch, Quanzac, Q.
If they call you for dinner, what do they call you? Mitchell.
What is your astrological sign? And do you fit the description? I do, very much. I’m a Scorpio, and it’s a multiple personality sign. The names alone (laughs to himself)! Scorpios are very multileveled and sexual too. I’ve figured out why, it’s because they all come from February conceptions. I’m exactly 9 months from February 14th on Valentine’s day to November 14. That’s why Scorpios are such lovers.
Do you have a life creed or motto? “No” would be my life motto. Do you want to do something? No. Do you want to go? No. No. I don’t need one.
Who are you performance inspirations? I love Bob Newhart. I grew up watching “The Bob Newhart Show” and “The Newhart Show.” He went from being a psychiatrist in Chicago to an inn keeper in New England, and he was absolutely hilarious. Don Rickles is the other one too. Phyllis Diller, any of those “Laugh Ins,” “Hee-Haw” variety comedy shows. I think that’s why I always do a different costume, because every week, you’d tune in and they always had something different. Carol Burnett never wore the same thing. Bob Mackie was always an inspiration too. On Saturday nights, there was always a lineup of Lawrence Welk, Hee Haw, Carol Burnett … it just worked.
What’s on your bucket list? I don’t have a bucket list. I’m not going to die.
Are you a vampire? (Laughs) It’s a pet peeve, the bucket list. Do you plan on dying? I’m not planning on dying. I’m going to plan that bucket list a day or two before I do die, but I’m not going to plan ahead.
What’s your idea of perfect happiness? Not having to be perfect. That would be the first thing. Just being able to be happy with enough. Be self-confident that what you have is enough.
What is it that you most dislike? When people don’t try new things. When people instantly go, “Well, I can’t do that.” Ignorance, I can’t stand stupid people. And if you’re reading this and you know you’re stupid, do something about it. If I could cure one thing it would be ignorance, and ignorance ain’t just being stupid from a books standpoint. Stupid is not having good social skills, and just being not-nice to people.
Which TV, movie, or superhero would be your alter ego? I’d be Carol Burnett with a little bit of Don Rickles mixed in, and Cher — did I say Cher already? How hot is Cher in her seventies? I just saw her for the first time in concert. I couldn’t believe it took this long. Now I just have to go see Dolly (Parton). Back to that bucket list thing, Seeing Dolly would be a bucket list thing. She’s got her own amusement park like Mickey Mouse.
What would your last meal be and who would you want to cook it? It would probably be fried shrimp, and it would probably be from this North Carolina seafood restaurant in Raleigh. I love fried shrimp. No offense to the Key West Pinks, but North Carolina fried shrimp are awesome.
Name three things you could not live without. Sweet tea, my momma, money. You have to have it; it’s a necessary evil.
Did I offend you by drinking non-sweet tea? Nooooo, it’s your life.
If you had the power of invisibility, what would you do with it? I’d be thin, that would be the first thing.
What difference would that make? No one would see you. Can I have the superpower of flying instead? I would love to do that. I guess if I was invisible, I would sneak on planes.
On what occasion do you lie? I don’t lie about my age. I don’t lie about my weight. I lie at bingo when I wear false boobs. That’s an occasion I lie. That’s it.
Who is your dream audience? Everybody who thought I couldn’t do it, or wasn’t able to do it, or belittled me or put me down for any reason in my past. Thank you, because what you did to me back then surely made me stronger.
What is your greatest extravagance? Sunglasses. I got them on right now: my Chanels. And Travel. I travel way too much, or I have traveled way too much. I don’t have too much money for future travels, other than the Minnesota State Fair.
What would you like to be reincarnated as? I used to say I always wanted to be reincarnated as one of the cats at the Island House, but they don’t have cats there any more. I don’t know, I’m done, I’m not coming back. I think I’ve lived all nine of my lives.
If you could have lunch with one famous person, who would it be and where would you go? It truly would be Dolly.
Do you think she would eat? Yeeees. She would be the only person that I think would accept the invitation. She couldn’t say no. I don’t think she would say no to me. She would have her research people research my portfolio, go back and look and see what I’ve done, and they would say, “Dolly, I think he’s a good person.”
I think Dolly would like you. Have you ever tried to reach out to Dolly? No. Other than at Dollywood, I would knock on all the random doors and say, “Dolly? Dolly?”
Finish these sentences …
My most marked characteristic is … creativity.
My autobiography title would be … “Bingo … The Untold Story.”
I can never refuse … a sweet tea.
When I go, I will go … peacefully. Wait, I ain’t dying, and I don’t need a bucket list. With all due respect to David Sloan, I don’t need a bucket list yet.