How Drag Queens Took Over Bingo – By Barbara Kiviat

One of the first things you learn at drag queen bingo is that if you can’t take being picked on, you keep your mouth shut. Yes, this is bingo, the game of blue-haired grandmas and church-basement fundraisers, but a drag queen is a drag queen, and if in between N-36 and I-18 your table is being rowdy, she’ll be rowdy right back. “Straight guys, calm down, this isn’t Bennigan’s,” sassed Ginger, a short blonde in a black dress slit up to the waist, on a recent Wednesday night. My friends and I were at Lips, a Manhattan restaurant that turns into a bingo parlor midweek with drag queens ? those over-the-top, tell-it-like-it-is men dressed as women ? plucking balls from the bingo cage.

Ginger took turns calling numbers with Yvonne, the establishment’s owner, who in a short straight wig and long velvet jacket, had a Louise Brooks vibe ? a sharp contrast to the beehive hairdos and animal-print outfits of Lips’ other waitresses, who looked to have come straight from the set of a John Waters movie. Ginger and Yvonne’s cutting back-and-forth of mostly unprintable comments about Clay Aiken, Michael Jackson, and Weight Watchers spared neither each other nor the bingo players. When the first winner went to the front of the room to get her card verified and forgot to bring her card, Ginger shot out: “Good thing she’s cute. She’s not that smart.”