In the late 90s, Cherie & Yolanda LIVE! was a staple of Vermont cable access—a literal variety show, featuring guest interviews, musical performances, live telephone calls from viewers, poetry readings, and performance art, all filtered through the bawdy and burlesque charisma of hostesses Cherie Tartt (Steven West) and Reverend Yolanda (Yolanda Roger Anthony Mapes).
The guest list was a who’s who of Burlington’s music and theater scenes, and the show celebrated and supported the social justice work of the city’s queer-positive individuals and organizations. The show aired from 1998 to 2001, including the hostile years of the Vermont civil unions debate.
The impact they had on their viewers was palpable—queer youth connected with them, adults found levity and power from their very public presence as two drag queens on local TV, and all viewers experienced a peek into the work and play of the Vermont queer community.
Fifteen years after the final episode, Cherie and Yolanda reunited live on-air as part of the 20th anniversary of the Winter Is a Drag Ball.
As the memories flowed, Cherie mentioned that a whole trove of old VHS tapes existed of the Cherie & Yolanda LIVE! show from back in the day. While newer VCAM content is archived and available online, precious little from the time of Cherie & Yolanda was saved—until now. VCAM applied for and was awarded a $2,500 grant from the Vermont Community Foundation's Samara Fund to cover some of the basic costs of digitizing the tapes and now we are pleased to announce that the work is complete: we can share more than 70 original episodes of Cherie & Yolanda LIVE!
The Samara Fund "fosters and sustains Vermont's gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities by providing support for projects and scholarships and establishing a permanent resource for the future." Making Cherie & Yolanda LIVE! digitally available provides a preserved piece of the LGBTQ community's history—and a preserved piece of public access history, of Vermont TV history.
Most of all, the goal of this project has been to cement the impact intended by Cherie Tartt and Yolanda: to spread joy and love where too often there has been darkness and despair.