by Kirby Lindsay
For its 17th season, Gay Bingo will be played at the Fremont Studios (155 N 35th.) Held once a month, January through June, each Gay Bingo game has a theme. For Saturday, February 20, it will be “Racy & Lacy Gay Bingo: Discover Gay Bingo’s Secret…” As players converge on Fremont, for only the second time ever, Fremonsters may glimpse scantily clad, outrageously outfitted folk – pretty much another night in our ‘hood.
For The Fun
The big difference will be the huge numbers (750+ people) and the lively mood of attendees. These folk come ready to have a good time to help a great cause as Gay Bingo raises funds for Lifelong AIDS Alliance.
For the last eight seasons Gay Bingo took place on South Lake Union at the Naval Reserve Building (the ‘Armory’.) Trevor DeWitt, of Community Relations for Lifelong, described it as the equivalent of “a big gymnasium” where a few staffers and an army of volunteers hauled everything in – lights, a stage, chairs, tables, etc. – then stayed late to pack up and mop.
“We are so excited to be a part of the new neighborhood,” DeWitt admitted. The elegant Studios’ space comes equipped with tables and chairs plus professional lighting and sound. Yet, Gay Bingo “still needs all the hands we can get,” DeWitt allowed. Each evening takes 40 – 50 people (and only three of those being paid staff) to run it.
“We always want the experience to be positive,” DeWitt stated, and to be positive a seat will be available (in January they had to turn a few drop-ins away) make a reservation on-line. Individual tickets cost $25 (which includes the $5 Washington State gambling fee). DeWitt recommends “one of our special perks,” a Queens-For-A-Day table – guaranteed seating for a group of eight, together, with free daubers, a complimentary drink, and snacks delivered to the table - for $280.
“It’s a really eclectic mix of people,” DeWitt described the attendees, “some there to party; some seriously into winning.” Photos and anecdotes portray Gay Bingo as a wild party, but it also involves straight bingo – with $100 cash prizes as well as gift/prize packages valued at $1000. “It’s people who know about Lifelong,” who attend, he explained, “and want to support the cause.”
For The Cause
Lifelong came from a merger, in 2001, of the Northwest AIDS Foundation and Chicken Soup Brigade. Gay Bingo helps fund the long list of its programs (“I could go on all day,” DeWitt admitted.) They take a holistic approach, with each clients being assigned a caseworker who will help connect them to housing, insurance advocacy, counseling, a medical adherence program, and/or other support systems. Lifelong also has a full-time advocacy team, as well as education and information programs.
The spread of AIDS has slowed, DeWitt acknowledged, but the economic downturn put severe pressure on the financial resources of those who can live with the disease thanks to expensive medications. For instance, Chicken Soup Brigade, which provides food services to over 1,000 people a week, last year, for the first time in 26 years, had to create a wait list.
“People are able to get the disease under control,” DeWitt explained, “but they are living with the disease and need more services.” Recent increases in diagnosis have been seen among populations of gay men under 25 years old, foreign born women and African-American women, he reported, but Washington State has done a lot in prevention and education, and the spread of AIDS, and AIDS-related diseases, have leveled off.
To keep this good work going, and have fun doing it, make a point to dress up (or down) in your sexiest something and on February 20, come play Gay Bingo in Fremont!
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.