Stop me if you’ve heard this: A valedictorian, a vegetarian and Cheetah Club Boyfriend walk into Drag Queen Bingo…
By Hannah Wallace
Here in the editorial office it’s been a mad dash to be the first to publish something about Canvas Café’s Drag Queen Bingo.
I mean, yeah, the monthly festival of divas and daubers (the implement you mark your bingo card with) is certainly something worth reporting (journalists love a sexy title that says it all), but I think that’s overlooking the greater purpose: Bingo! And drag queens! Together at last! It’s what I’d now like to dub the UnGala Principle: Writing about it is secondary; I wanted to go ‘cause it sounded like a damn good time to me.
So, last Tuesday night, copy editor Megan (the vegetarian), our editorial intern (the valedictorian), CCB and I dragged (hah!) ourselves to Canvas Café in Towles Court. We all shelled out $10 apiece for sheets of four bingo cards; proceeds go directly to Community AIDS Network (yet another great reason to go).
We arrived an hour early, and the patio was already teeming with bingo players intermingling with drag queens—which must’ve been either entertaining, annoying or frightening to couples enjoying romantic dinners inside. (In September, bingo moves to third Mondays, when the restaurant is closed.)
As we got our drinks and tested our daubers on scrap paper (and each other), Queen Star, though obviously suffering from the heat, still managed to maintain a catty give-and-take with the customers, pausing occasionally in front of the circulating fan by our table. “That,” said CCB, “is a large, sweaty man in a dress.”
Eventually Miss Shu-shu Fontana commandeered the bullhorn and began calling out numbers, which were being drawn from the hopper and read in the dim light with comic difficulty by svelte, thong-baring Felicity.
We were only a few daubs into the evening when rain threatened our good time. But then the most amazing thing happened: No one bitched or moaned. After a brief moment of hysterical confusion on the part of our drag hosts, bingo players were escorted to either one of two covered porches, where we shared tables with new friends like it was Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone smiled and laughed. The game continued.
Mad props to the Canvas waitstaff, by the way. Our waitress was on the ball before the downpour, and kept track of us (and our bill) even after the Café Customer Scramble.
Did I just say “mad props”? Really?
Anyway, the real point of the story is that I was the first of the night to shout “Bingo!” My prize—other than the attention of the three queens, that is—was a bottle of wine and a plastic medal labeling me “winner” (or, as they told it, “wiener”).
Star pranced up to me with the top of the wine bottle peeking out above her strapless dress, insisting I remove the bottle, Excalibur-like, from her bosom. I’m no sommelier, but as I understand it, red wine is supposed to be enjoyed at drag-queen temperature.
BINGO! My rain-soaked winning card and my drag-queen-gotten prize. You can't fake that kind of excitement, folks.
But the evening would’ve been worth it even if my dots never lined up. The whole gender-bending thing inspires wonderfully blue humor. The blue bingo balls, in fact, get plenty of play. (Now there’s an interesting sentence.) And the environment is as friendly and welcoming as I’ve ever experienced in Sarasota.
Drag Queen Bingo: bringing people together.