I was three syllables away from victory. G-50 was all I needed.
My knees bounced up and down, my ankles wound around the rungs of my stool. I was in the zone. Singularly focused. OK, fixated. I was a yellow lab, and G-50 was the tennis ball in my master’s upraised hand.
It was drag queen bingo this past Sunday at Marylin’s Restaurant & Pub, 320 Grinnell St. (Yes, fine, it’s the old Finnegan’s Wake, but come on, it’s been a half-dozen other things since then. Let’s start calling it Marylin’s.)
Their drag queen bingo on Sundays is one of my new favorite Key West pastimes. And for the next five weeks or so, it benefits our furry friends at the Florida Keys SPCA. What better way to justify day-drinking on a Sunday?
I joined my colleagues Irene de Bruijn, Stephanie Mitchell and her 11-year-old son, Jack, at a high-top table at noon on Sunday. We ordered bottomless mimosas for $20, at least three mango martinis (I stopped counting), mojo pork spring rolls, creamy conch chowder, a burger and conch fritters.
Then came Epiphany, brassy, sassy and gorgeous, with cool shoes and the quick-witted, smart mouth one expects from a drag queen who’s calling bingo for a bunch of well-lubricated reprobates who skipped church.
Bring a thick skin, but don’t be scared. Everyone knows how to play bingo. And if you miss a number, never fear, Epiphany will repeat it (after a mild scolding). But give a drag queen a mic and no one is safe from the fierce banter, innuendo and some harmless, humorous jabs at the crowd.
Though a longtime Sunday staple at the 801 Bar in Key West, the Marylin’s event is actually pretty family-friendly, aside from some adult language ( nothing worse than what your kids have heard from you while trying to park downtown).
Drag queen bingo, or gay bingo, started in the early ’90s in Seattle, where Judy Werle was dreaming up inventive new fundraisers for the Chicken Soup Brigade, which helped people with AIDS.
“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,” says Werle. That logic led her to bingo halls. “They were totally full of obsessed people,” she told Time magazine in 2007. “But it was also extremely boring. So we decided to liven it up in the way only gay men can.”
Add in some drag queens, and you’ve turned the blue-haired bastion that once filled church basements into a charitable phenomenon — with cocktails and quick comebacks.
Alas, I didn’t get my G-50 before someone else bellowed “BINGO” on Sunday. I, of course, hated that person, but just for one shameful instant.
Another game started, my drink was refilled, Epiphany skewered someone for a premature exclamation, the SPCA got some cash and life moved on happily that Sunday. Bingo!
(Bingo starts at noon every Sunday at Marylin’s. It’s free to play, with donations encouraged and raffle prizes available.)