Drag Queen Bingo
The Love Affair Between the LGBT+ Community and a Modern-Day Game of House
Bingo has been around for a long, long time. We’re all familiar with the game popularised by our grandmas, and most of us have even given it a go ourselves at some point. But have you ever tried your hand at drag queen bingo? Adding a modern twist to an old-fashioned game of house, it’s fun, it’s fabulous, and it’s helping to attract a whole new audience to our favourite pastime.
But let’s begin with the obvious: how did this unlikely marriage of opposites come about? We all know the stereotypes attached to bingo, and whether they ring true or not in the real world, it does make you wonder why such big personalities would be drawn to a game most commonly associated with quiet and retiring OAPs.
What is drag queen bingo?
Drag queen bingo actually finds its roots in Seattle in the 1990s. Dreamed up by Judy Werle, then director of development for the Chicken Soup Brigade (a support organisation for people with AIDS), it was envisaged as a way to raise capital for their charitable aims.
As Judy explained in a 2007 interview for Time, “I checked out places where people gathered and spent money, because I figured if you had that, you could redirect the money to a good cause.”
It was this logic that led the fundraising mastermind to bingo halls: “They were totally full of obsessed people, but it was also extremely boring, so we decided to liven it up in the way that only gay men can.”
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of drag queens dressed as nuns, was formed with this in mind. On their very first night of performing, the line of attendees would stretch around the block, prompting the charity to almost immediately schedule more.
It wasn’t just the LGBT+ community in attendance either. Although they did make up a large part of drag queen bingo’s original audience, they were joined by many others – exceptionally good news for the Brigade, whose mission to expand their donor base was suddenly made an awful lot easier.
Soon, the game was bringing together individuals from all walks of life. Its popularity spread further and further afield, until people were playing in Boston, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco and, finally, all around the world. By the noughties, it had even merited a mention on Sex and the City!
Today, its appeal continues abated not just on the US and UK bingo scenes but all across the globe. Still used not just as a tool for enjoyment, but also as a force for good in the charity world, drag queen bingo has made sure that an old-fashioned game is accessible to everyone, no matter their age, race, gender, or any of the other small differences so often used to define and divide us.
Larger than life: LGBT bingo events
Drag queen bingo has been an unequivocal success in helping to popularise both of its facets: bingo and drag queen entertainment. Bringing them to new audiences and opening up their appeal to those who have never previously explored either, it has done wonderful things for the world.
Luckily for those who want a chance to experience it for themselves, it continues to do so, with numerous exciting events all over the world. If you’re looking for a place to play, these include:
Cosmic Drag Queen Bingo
Begun in 2012, Cosmic Inc. Production’s drag queen bingo has raised over $64,000 for local charities to date. Held twice a year, once during the early spring and then again during Halifax Pride Week, it features drag legends including stars of the brilliant RuPaul’s Drag Race. Described as a "feather and sequin-filled rollercoaster ride", it offers attendees fun, frivolity and the chance to donate to some really fantastic causes.
Drag Queen Bingo at the Queen’s Head in Amsterdam
When we said that drag queen bingo has gone global, we absolutely meant it, as evidenced by The Queen’s Head in Holland. One of the oldest gay bars in the city, this hidden gem plays host to some huge characters and a roaring good time all in the name of the game. With cards costing just five euros, it’s no surprise that it’s the place to be on a Tuesday night in Amsterdam.
Drag Queen Bingo for the Autism Society
The roots of drag queen bingo lie in its brilliance as a fundraising tool, and charities from all around the globe continue to use it for this purpose. One of them is the Autism Society, who host an annual event in Royal Oak. Renowned for its comedic brilliance, big prizes and even bigger personalities, the event has sold out for nine consecutive years – a sterling testament to just how good it really is.
Drag Queen Bingo at Tonkotsu Ramen London
Famed for fabulous noodles, Tonkotsu Ramen in London has also decided to join the fun, with its first ever drag queen bingo taking place in early 2018. Hosted by the brilliant Cara Melle and Tayce, it combines the best of queer humour, bingo and beer to create an amazingly entertaining evening.
Drag Queen Bingo at Shambala Festival
Shambala 2018 has chosen to get in on the act too, but it’s not just the callers who are expected to rock up in their finest and most feminine outfits: Patrons are expected to take part as well. Envisaged as a true LGBTQ extravaganza, the event promises flamboyance, fast-paced games and "plenty of fruity fun" (we’re wondering what that means too!). Whatever it has in store, however, we know that it promises to be good.
Green Queen Bingo for the Guildford Green Foundation
Last but most certainly not least on our list of events is the gorgeously garish Green Queen Bingo hosted by the Guildford Green Foundation. With Big Shirli Stevenz and her girls taking to the stage, attendees are assured a night of bingo, drag and hilarity all rolled into one. If the entertainment alone isn’t enough to entice you, there are plenty of great prizes on offer too.
With events hosted all across the globe, simply type "drag queen bingo" and your location into Google to see what’s happening around you. Alternatively, take a peek at what some of the online bingo sites have to offer. With an increasing number now hosting live events that everyone can enjoy, you might find you can sample the delights of these special nights from the comfort of your own home! Isn’t that an exciting thought?
The biggest drag queen bingo personalities of all time
No article on the exciting world of drag queen bingo would be complete without a rundown of those who make it so special: the drag queens themselves. The true stars of their respective shows, here are just a few of the big personalities who have graced our bingo games with their presence and calls...
Star of Cosmic Drag Queen Bingo and drag legend in her own right, Lady Bunny is a nightclub DJ, promoter and founder of Wigstock. Beginning her career as a fixture on the Atlanta gay scene, her inimitable personality, unique bingo lingo and scathing wit make her the ultimate caller.
Winner of the original season of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars, Chad Michaels is co-host of Cosmic Drag Queen Bingo alongside Lady Bunny - and also a professional Cher impersonator. Drag performer extraordinaire, her throaty voice and clever humour make him an unparalleled entertainer.
Glamourpuss-in-chief at the Queen’s Head in central Amsterdam, Miss Tabitha is famed for her Dame Edna wigs, sequinned dresses and look-at-me personality. Making her calls in both Dutch and English, she has attitude with a capital A and a sense of humour to match. Her talk is filthy and her games are guaranteed to get dirty.
Cara Melle and Tayce
Two of the newest names on the drag queen bingo scene, this dazzling duo are nonetheless fabulous at what they do. Gorgeous and glamorous, they’re guaranteed to turn an old-fashioned game of house into one of the most exciting nights of your life. You’ll find them in London.
Isn't it time you experienced bingo in a very, very different way to what grandma used to play? If you just can't wait for a drag queen bingo event to take place near you, head to our brilliant bingo rooms today!