It was a little over two years ago when I first heard about this underground group trying to play bingo out in Brooklyn. I wanted to check it out but found out it got shut down by the police because the venue didn’t have a liquor license and some other BS reason like not enough restrooms for the capacity. Seemed like a legit enough reason to shut it down; I wasn’t trying to get into the habit of going to parties that get busted but it’s always a sign of a fun time. After reassuring that they weren’t going anywhere, sure enough, there was another Rebel Bingo set up but this time it was in Manhattan. The location was kept secret so the authorities wouldn’t know and a cover story was given that it was just a health and safety meeting about travel to Las Vegas. Even better, tickets were cheap. This first Rebel Bingo I went to was at Good Units, a club layers below the Hudson Hotel. Descending the stairs past ominous red service lights, as we entered the club we could hear the music blasting popular dance tunes getting the crowd warmed up. A huge clock was on stage and counting down to the seeming apocalypse. By the time the host, a timid British guy, stepped up on stage the crowd was pumped for the unimaginable. The first time was the best time, but like a drug you’ve become all too familiar with, you eventually start to wonder why you keep doing it.
The people putting these together know what they are doing. Right when Rebel Bingo was reaching its peak in New York they decided it was time to move it to a different city. It was a long summer without a party that had become a staple in my monthly gregariousness. Once it returned in the winter, the parties seemed even better, even if it was getting predictable that they’d play Rage Against the Machine in the final minutes of the countdown, even though the first prize was the same Ipod dock to help you get friends. It wasn’t about the music or the prizes; rebel bingo was fun, cool, with a great crowd filled with hot people and never a bro-fest. Soon enough, the invite to buy tickets came and I passed it by, because I felt it was time to move on to the next big thing. However, suddenly, without even realizing, there weren’t any more invites. I would see Rebel Bingo going on but it had become franchised around the world. Las Vegas, Madrid, Sao Paolo, London, any country where they know what bingo is there were events going on and they still are.
A New York bingo was announced at the beginning of the year and I bought a ticket shortly after they went on sale. They sold quick – $5 tickets were gone in 30 minutes and I purchased 2 for just under $30 after convenience charges. Also I noted that it was at the Grammercy Theater, my least favorite venue of past; an $11 beer is just fleecing a captive audience and I tend to avoid that part of town because it feels full of people who wandered too far from Midtown or people in suits returning back to their apartments after long hours in FiDi. The email that came the day of the event was very specific: show up at 9:30pm and the show will start at 10:00pm. I don’t understand why each time they feel they need to get people there on time, maybe they want to make sure no one misses out on a game or maybe they only have the venue for three hours and don’t want to get charged for people hanging around after the show. It just doesn’t work, several hundred people stepped on line in no time and they all needed to be patted down by two or three bouncers in the course of half an hour. It didn’t happen. I saw a line winding around the block and jumped into the deli across the street to get a cup of coffee. It was after 10pm by the time I joined the line and I was still around the corner. At the same time though, I can’t complain about a line, it’s a good sign that you are doing something that is worthwhile- why else would so many other people want to do it too? If you want to have fun you are going to have to wait for it, that’s definitely one thing I have learned since coming to New York.
Upon getting in I was faced with another line to get a drink. I refused to wait and tried to depend on a nasal inhaler to improve my sullen mood from standing in the cold for 20 minutes. My friend had not shown up so I was going to have to make the best of being solo. Everyone is handed a couple of bingo cards and washable markers and are encouraged to drawn on each other. I found a spot in the crowd, waiting for a good time to draw something. First thing that always comes to mind is to draw a dick. Everyone seemingly assumes that if a random person draws on you it’s going to be a dick. I have washed mostly dicks from my face and arms after getting home. After my second bingo I figured out how to draw a cat head instead of numerous throbbing members. I manage two cat heads before the party starts. The music is the same as it has always been. It’s almost as the Bingo gods said that you must play Rage and Rusko or the game cannot go on. The numbers tick down and then around 2 minutes the numbers reset to the actual countdown. It hits zero and the crowd is riled up. A timid Brit walks out on stage and clears his throat a few times, same as it’s always been. He explains the rules; Stab off a row of numbers, run on stage give him a hug and they are looking for two winners. Holding my cards I always feel like I have the golden ticket. I never won any of the prizes before, however, I did take home a girl who won a prize, but she didn’t then forget it at my place as hoped. The bingo callers yell out numbers following dirty rhymes. And before you know it in a room of several hundred there is a winner on stage and then a second. They battle it out popping a balloon at the right time to win the prize of a stuffed panda. One girl breaks the balloon too soon and is DNF. The second game starts right
off, same board looking for someone with two rows, the prize this time an animal suit akin to a Pokémon or dinosaur. We made videos now accompany the host when he describes why you need to win the animal suit. Everyone wants that animal suit. The game goes a little longer this time but while I was just getting a fourth box checked, two more winners rushed to the stage. This time they need to put on the suits and first person to button it all the way up wins. One girl takes the lead right away while the other is still putting on makeup and gives up after not being able to figure out the feet of the suit. Then it was time to dance; the unknown DJ spinning top pop dance music was tolerable but would definitely have been better if I were drunker.
I came back to see that there was still a huge following for Rebel Bingo and it’s mostly the same as it ever was. I should have come with a group just as I should have waited for an $11 beer. It was a good crowd but it was not mad enough to make a sober/solo guy feel the vibes, not my night. I wonder if I’ll be at Rebel Bingo again, I would definitely come back if I bring friends that have never experienced it before, especially if they hold it in Brooklyn once again.