Bingo certainly isn’t your average night out, that’s for sure. A game famously loved by mothers and grannies everywhere, it never quite managed to catch on with today’s youth.
For the self-titled ‘Bingo Babes’, however, this stereotype is nothing more than a fad to play off of. Drag queen bingo is certainly not a new thing, by any measure. First appearing over in America, before shimmying its way across the Atlantic, the queens have been strutting their stuff for years now, though for the ‘Babes’ it all started just a year ago.
Going into the Flying Duck bar in Glasgow, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Being rather unfamiliar with Glasgow’s drag scene I expected what anyone else surely would expect: big hair, big heels, and a huge amount of gyrating. Luckily though for me, I had a guide. Louise Riley is a Pharmacy Advisor for Boots UK, and has been attending every single Bingo Babes show religiously.
“I’ve loved drag since I was about 12, and I’ve been waiting for a good scene to appear in Glasgow,” explained Louise, “I enjoy the bingo because it’s something different to do. While I prefer just watching the queens perform, it’s certainly something unique to experience.”
And so it was. As RuJazzle, one of the drag queen’s in attendance, pointed out: “It’s amazing how many numbers rhyme with dick.” With raunchy call, after raunchy call, there didn’t appear to be a dull face in the room. While it’s certainly not the experience your granny would be used to, it was definitely one worth enjoying first-hand.
Riley said: “It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. It’s a wild night out with any of the Glasgow queens, whether the bingo is there or not, and you never know what they’re going to do next. That’s what I love about it. Glasgow’s scene is definitely unique as it has so many events and no one really competes anymore. There’s room for everyone!”
Despite all the fun and games that comes with a typical drag performance, cartwheels and all, at the end of the day there is still a game to play. A game, to my surprise, that I also ended up winning a line on, which got me a free drink of my choosing at the bar.
“The most I’ve won at bingo was probably the night I went to their show at the Dirty Duchess,” Riley noted, “my friend and I won a bottle of champagne, fifty pounds and a round of shots. All because the queens had got us up to play dirty charades.”
The prizes were not so glamourous at our show, unfortunately, with the star offering being a free dinner for two at the Flying Duck. Louise assured me that the shows could get a whole lot crazier: “The craziest thing I’ve seen at bingo is one of the queens cartwheeling off of the highest table in the room right into a death drop. I thought they were dead! Though I’ve also watched them pour a bottle of Jägermeister into a customer’s mouth as a prize before, so nothing should surprise me.”
To my surprise, after the cards had been collected, and the game had wrapped up, the Flying Duck was not our last stop of the night. Other Bingo Babes shows would have involved a lot more of a performance, where they have a lot more space to perform the splits at irregular intervals, and with much more impressive prizes. Though what the other shows gained in entertainment value, they lost to their far-flung location, as from the Flying Duck we were just a short walk away from Delmonica’s, Glasgow’s most well-known gay bar.
It was there that I got to experience ‘Suck!’, a resident drag performance that features there every Wednesday, coinciding perfectly with the end of our bingo session. This more than made up for the lack of performances earlier in the evening, where members of the audience were selected at random to join in for a lip sync competition – this week in particular featuring the infamous Toxic by Britney Spears. Though if you’re apprehensive to joining in with the fun, there is no need to worry, as Louise explained.
She said: “I’ve only felt love from the Glasgow drag scene. There’s never any bitchiness, or queens forcing you to get on stage and do things you don’t want to do, which is what everyone immediately expects. Going to these nights one or two times a week gives you a sense of community, an extended family.
“I encourage everyone to go to drag bingo, or even a drag night of sort. To anyone new, I would say: expect the unexpected, but in the best way. Push yourself out of the ‘norm’. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself.”
If you want to find out when the next Bingo Babes event is, you can stay up to date with their latest shows on their Instagram.
By Daniel McMillan.