Chuck Knipp (born 1961) is an American and Canadian (dual citizenship) drag queen and comedian best known for his alter egos, the characters 'Shirley Q. Liquor' and 'Betty Butterfield.' A number of videos of Knipp's Butterfield were featured on several different Youtube accounts until 2007 when most disappeared. In mid-2009 a number of videos were reuploaded to the site, many of them new. Many of them feature Butterfield relating her struggle to find a religion and/or church where she feels at home.
Knipp is a citizen of both the United States and Canada, active in the ACLU and Libertarian Party and was nominated as their candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000. (Texas, District 2).
Entertainer RuPaul has long been a fan and supporter of Knipp. "Critics who think that Shirley Q. Liquor is offensive are idiots. Listen, I've been discriminated against by everybody in the world: gay people, black people, whatever. I know discrimination, I know racism, I know it very intimately. She's not racist, and if she were, she wouldn't be on my new CD." In her blog, RuPaul adds: "I am very sensitive to issues of racism, sexism and discrimination. I am a gay black man, who started my career as a professional transvestite in Georgia, twenty years ago."
Boston Phoenix journalist Dan Kennedy awarded Boston government official Jerome Smith the dubious Muzzle Award for his part in leading to the cancellation of Knipp's scheduled 2004 Boston performance.
Writer David Holthouse, anti-racist investigator for the "Intelligence Report" from the Southern Poverty Law Center, stated "Knipp is not a white supremacist" and that Knipp "invites the audience to sympathize with a single Black mother." An in-depth article was printed in the June, 2007 edition of Rolling Stone Magazine.
The New York Blade criticized GLAAD for condemning Knipp, stating, "We commend GLAAD for condemning racism, but we question whether the organization’s goal is best attained by joining this particular fight."
John Strausbaugh, author of Blackface, Whiteface, Insult & Imitation in American Popular Culture, explores Liquor's act in his book.
Knipp concedes that his performances as Shirley can make people uncomfortable. Knipp has said his show is about "lancing the boil of institutionized racism" and that "treating African Americans as if they have a disease is the real racism" because black people are "more than intelligent enough to discern the nuance" of his performances. He's also said that "many people thought that Harriet Beecher-Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin was and still is perceived as racist, despite being the probable artistic genesis of emotional support against slavery in the 19th century."
To Knipp's declaration that Liquor "was created in celebration of, not to downgrade, black women," Cannick countered in her blog: "...it is not possible for Charles Knipp, a white man, to help heal years of mistreatment and racism at the hands of his people by putting on a wig, speaking Ebonics, and in blackface...There is nothing remotely uplifting about Knipp’s act and I wish people would stop defending his character with the tired argument that he’s trying to heal the nation. The only thing Knipp is trying to heal is the hole in his pocket by filling it with all of the money he makes off of degrading Black people."
BET.com writer Jennifer Daniels wrote: "I have [no] intention of slinking off into some corner while some pseudo-bigot paints his face black and gets rich off spewing hurtful and embarrassing stereotypes about Black women...Knipp is free to celebrate Black women his way. That is certainly his right. But I have a right to publicly critique said celebration and encourage others not to participate." Daniels offered Knipp an interview with BET to set the record straight about his Shirley Q. Liquor character, but Knipp declined to participate, preferring an in-depth article by Rolling Stone Magazine.
Former follower Kevin Hundley spoke of an event in Knoxville, TN on May 15, 2010. "Shirley Q. showed up at the venue, dressed up in costume and then told her fellow drag queens that she couldn't handle the crowd. She then packed up her belongings and left. The venue was sold out for this night so the owners had to refund almost every patron. Shirley Q had gotten paid before the event so the owners of Velvet Showbar were left to foot the bill. I can't believe she would do this to people who were her fans! Now the city of Knoxville is calling for Shirley Q's head. She didn't offer any explanation to the crowd. She just left. That's very unprofessional, but that's what Shirley Q is.
Knipp is a 1979 graduate of West Orange-Stark High School in Orange, Texas, where he served as drum major of the high school band.