My grandmother was a quiet, unpretentious kind of woman who rarely complained and seemed satisfied keeping her opinions to herself. So when I asked Grandma one day why she didn't play bingo every Friday night with her lady friends, she startled me. "That's for the old ladies," she said with a sneer that I hadn't known she was capable of. "For the old ladies." It was if I had been confusing her with somebody else, some elderly person. Now I understand what she meant: Yes, she'd collect her Social Security checks and live in a seniors-only apartment complex. And, yes, she'd stand in line to collect that brick of Reagan-era cheese that she'd rather use as a doorstop than eat. Hell, she'd even let her hair go gray. But she'd be damned if she'd do the old-biddy routine of church-basement bingo.
But she might like Drag Queen Bingo at Bent. Of course, Grandma wasn't much for gay bars, or drag queens for that matter (and even with her cataracts, she'd be able to spot these ball-twirling trannies at a hundred paces). But at least the bingo they play here wouldn't have made her feel like she was just killing time before the Grim Reaper called her number.
Instead, on Monday nights at Bent, players are treated to a rather boisterous evening of number-calling by a gruesome twosome of Denver's most cosmetically-enhanced vulgarians. Sure, the hostesses always speak in an all-too-familiar diva dialect -- falling somewhere between a junior-high locker room and the red-carpet banter between Joan and Melissa Rivers. Consider this faux-bitchy exchange:
"I can be butch when I have to. I change my own oil."
"Yeah, your own K-Y oil." Burrr-ump-ump.
Your hostesses, however, cannot utter even one of the seven dirty words and must rely on a rough set of these double entendres. But the same rule doesn't apply to the players, mostly gay men with a smattering of straight women and, when I attended, a few loud lesbos in the back. There's something very satisfying about yelling "Fuck your bingo!" in unison when someone finally wins a hard-fought battle. The ritual of shouting, "It's not a tumor!" when B-9 is pulled from the hopper, however, is a bit more puzzling. After all, isn't that line from the Schwarzenegger masterpiece Kindergarten Cop?
The derided winners take home prizes that range from the crappy (promotional hats and T-shirts from liquor companies) to the pretty nice (theater tickets). But only a few people seem dead-set on bringing home the booty, as watching the floorshow get progressively more piss-faced is reward enough. On the night we went, the evening's number-hollerers -- Chamblee Tucker, who resembles a gaudy Easter egg, and Danielle Roberts, a Barbra Streisand impersonator who was filling in for the Bette Midler impersonator who's usually there -- belted back more shots than Charlie Sheen at a bachelor party. We lost count after the duo's sixth. And while their gradual slide may be entertaining, it isn't always pretty, since they sit perched at a table above the crowd. I'm no Miss Manners, but if you're going to dress like a lady, learn to sit like one -- we could see all of your business under that table, Miss Chamblee.
On second thought, maybe it's a good thing grandma didn't play bingo here. It would have turned her gray hair white.
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