Jeff, be nice. It's for charity,” my bartender, Corey, tells me as I look around a half-empty JR's (808 Pacific St., 713-521-2519). I'm here for Drag Queen Bingo.
Drag Queen Bingo is just like regular bingo, except all money raised goes to charity, and instead of having some old man read out the numbers, drag queens do, calling out insults and one-liners between numbers. Here you win gift certificates for porn instead of money, and when the drag queen calls out O-69, everyone has to yell “OOOOOHHHHH-SSIIIXXXTTTTYY-NNNIIINNNNEEE,” and some fruity shot is just a dollar for the next five minutes.
See? Just like regular bingo.
Because I've heard that it was so much fun, I've decided to bring along two straight coworkers from my day job, Heather and Paul. Neither is a stranger to the land of the gay, as Coworker Heather has a gay roommate, and Coworker Paul just moved here from California, where it is illegal not to be at least a metrosexual.
We roll in while a couple of workers are setting up the table on the stage at the side bar. They bring out the cordless microphones, the bingo ball machine and scores of T-shirts, gift certificates and other prizes. The drag queen's helper hands out free cards for the first round of bingo. Like every Tuesday night at 9 p.m., it's time to play.
On comes the drag queen, in bad jeans and a cinched shirt, looking decidedly unfemale. “I'm Jessica Van Shelton, though you can call me Cher. And up there at the table is Craven Moorehead. Now here is the most important rule: Pay attention to your drag queens. [If] you don't pay attention to the balls getting called out and you yell a premature bingo, well, you become my slave for three minutes.”
Coworkers Paul and Heather exchange glances at each other. Then Jessica tells everyone to “make some noise.” Coworkers Paul and Heather obediently make some noise. Whoop! Whoop! Holla!
Craven Moorehead calls out the numbers as we diligently follow along: “B-6.” (“Whoo!”) “N-34.” (“Yeah!”) “O-69!!!” (‘OOOOOO-SIIIIXXXTTTYYY-NINE!') “Dollar shots!”
Now it's time for the second round, and it's $3 per card (all the proceeds this month are going to PWA Holiday Charities). The crowdÉstarts to lose interest. There's some shifting of the feet, and some looking around the room. Folks are starting to drift away. Jessica and Craven lip-synch, plead for money and give away prizes to the winners. “Now a gift certificate to Executive Adult DVD Superstore!” Some folks clap, but the whoops are definitely a bit less excitedÉ
As Jessica and Craven bring up three people with birthdays, I start to look around the room to see who all comes to drag queen bingo. A goateed man wearing a cowboy hat and baggy shorts turns around; his shorts are low enough in the back to reveal a black thong. A few forty-something men with shaved heads lean up against a post; they are drinking Shiner. A couple of straight girls are here with their gay-guy friends, and a few lesbians are at the bar downing $2 wells. I wander into the crowd to see what draws so many people to drag queen bingo. Of course, since $2 wells are involved, all the answers don't make much sense.
Natalie: “Lesbians are prejudiced against by bingo. We never win.”
Casey: “I've never smoked so many cigarettes, that is how bored I am. But it's for a good cause!”
Jeff G.: “Hey, you know that guy? Is he taken?” (Jeff G. looks really sad when I tell him Coworker Paul is straight.)
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Coworker Heather (as she smooths down her just-cut bangs): “I feel like I just stepped in a big pile of sass!”
When Craven wanders up to the bar, I talk to her. She's feeling a bit sick tonight and isn't her normal self, she tells me. “I only do drag for charity. All the heels, the makeup, the wigs, all paid out of pocket. We just do this to raise money. I'm the current reigning Miss Merry Christmas!”
Pretty soon the final game is done (a blackout, where all of your numbers have to be called). I'm not playing the blackout game, so I keep wandering through the crowd. Whoop! The final bingo is called and someone buys everyone a round of free shots.
Jessica comes back over the mike: “There's cake at the end of the bar. Who here likes fudge?”