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OUTrageous Bingo is Raucous Fun for Everyone

The monthly OUTrageous Bingo night at Rodef Shalom Congregation always draws a vibrant crowd (regardless of the weather).

Photo via Flickr


My good friend Robyn and I have, for years, talked a big game about going to play bingo. She has fond memories of playing with her grandma, and — while I haven't played since elementary school — I have a thing for trying to pass as a precocious member of the geriatric community.

Spoiler: OUTrageous Bingo does not take place in the geriatric community.

Sponsored by Shepherd Wellness Community — with proceeds going to both Shepherd and the Gay & Lesbian Community Center — OUTrageous Bingo is held monthly, January through May, at Rodef Shalom Congregation in Oakland.

And it is positively hoppin’. Remember that Saturday in January when it snowed so hard you couldn't see . . . and the roads were terrible . . . and it just kept snowing . . . and everything was miserable? Yeah, OUTrageous Bingo was packed. No-parking, crowded-table packed. Gay, straight, young, old, couples, groups, drag queens, bingo sharks — everyone was there.

Here’s how it works: Pay $16 in advance or $18 at the door and receive 12 sheets of six faces each for the series of regular games. Another two bucks will get you a bingo dauber, which is as much fun as it should be. If you have a group, you can reserve a table ahead of time; otherwise, you’ll seat yourself at will. The hall is big — and you have an hour between doors opening and games starting. (In other words, this is your chance to load up on refreshments; bingo, like bowling, seems to require liquid orange cheese.)

The 12 regular games are interspersed with special games (an additional $2-5, depending on the game) as well as door prizes (cash or a wacky object from As Seen on TV), a 50-50 raffle and halftime performances by two drag queens. The takeaway: Bring a fat stack of ones so you can get food, pay for specials or the raffle and tip the performers. The upside is that the winners of regular games (if there’s only one) get $50, and the 50-50 raffle was in the neighborhood of $1,200 at the January event.

There is no one more excited than the winner of the 50-50. It is worth the price of admission to see the unleashed exuberance as a person realizes he or she has the winning number. Seriously.

Lest this all sound too intense for someone who also hasn’t played bingo since elementary school, let me assure you that it’s all in good fun. In fact, before the games begin, everyone in the hall is invited to stand, hold their daubers in the air and take a lengthy pledge — the most important part of which is: “I promise to remember that this is just a stupid game.” Also, take note: There is no alcohol. Period. It’s OUTrageous — but not that outrageous.

Choose your seat wisely: That’ll determine how your night goes. Robyn and I sat with three long-timers, two of whom were really into the game and encouraged us to play harder — I was content filling an entire sheet with yellow splotches because it’s remarkably comforting — and play more. (They talked us into playing the last special game of the night, a cover-all that cost us five bucks for three sheets.)

The next event is on Saturday. Bring a friend, some ones and your best feather boa. You'll love every second of it.

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