Somewhere between sex and beauty lies the absurdity that is life itself.

“I spent last night on the computer shuffling between Internet porn and poetry,” Tony drips from the passenger seat.

Exactly. So it only makes sense that on this particular Wednesday evening Tony and I are slouching toward ridiculousness by way of bingo and the Parliament House. Bingo is totally like poetry with added numbers, and if you haven’t had sex at the Parliament House then you’re neither drunk nor gay. We’re both.

Sure, it’s old hat – Michael Wanzie and Sammy Singhaus have been hating God while plucking balls for years now – but tonight welcomes a whole new era in the prune-juiced, too-rainy-for-shuffleboard chance: a fully automated bingo system! Beach Blanket Bingo has gone thoroughly modern with what appears to be modems with cameras or something, and Wanzie wants the world to know it. Invites were electronically transmitted to the city’s glitterati last week for an official ribbon cutting (nee, “The Dedication and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of the All New Fully Automated Electronic Bingo System at Beach Blanket Bingo”), suspense was fictitiously marketed and I’m here all a-glitter. Bingo.

“Mr. Manes, so glad you could make it!” comes the Wanzie. “Would you please go over to the chair marked with your name and retrieve your ribbon?”

So I do, only to find that in addition to a pair of plastic scissors suitable for trimming plastic dreams, I am now also in possession of the sort of flimsy ribbon typically reserved for the lower half of a short-bus spelling bee roster. “Super Star!” mine reads. Indeed.

But I’m not the only super star in glorious attendance. There’s a veritable who’s who of Orlando’s gay and easily available here to usher in the future of drunken letter and number combinations. Don and Susan (not gay, but Canadian) who own and operate this esteemed establishment are of, course, front-and-center, but nearby are the acting talents of one Becky Fisher (and her daughter who, at 17, will later declare that this whole dreamed-up affair is “a good reason to be in a gay bar on a school night”), a gay Boy Scout, and the ever-controversial Patty Sheehan. We’re all fidgeting at what seems to be a bout with technical difficulties that might or might not have been wrought by disgruntled ghosts of fairies eager to make certain that no “B” ever meets its “11.”

“I love your watch,” Sheehan mouths her way through the big gay din. “It’s little, yellow and different!”

“Omigod!” I screech back, not at all mayorally. “So … am … I!”

With operations still not properly operating, Wanzie and Sammy finally launch the proceedings with all the flair a new computer program that doesn’t work never really deserves. There’s an invocation offered by my friend Drew who’s apparently had a bathroom run-in with the entire traveling cast of The Lion King. The love of Jesus is effectively interrupted by a scripted Muslim terrorist-with-dynamite scenario and things are going swimmingly.

Some mention is made by Wanzie about an “adult entertainment pole hole” in the stage after some kind of production mishap that saw one of the stage platforms being removed and replaced for another performance in another room tonight. Me, I’m lost at “adult entertainment pole hole,” and shifting in my seat. I could use a little “bing” in my “o.”

Sammy kicks in with a rendition of “Luck be a Bingo Tonight,” and by now I’ve officially lost my mind.

Wanzie introduces Sheehan (which is weird if you know either of them) explaining that she is now uncontested in the commissioner’s race as Sam Odom’s campaign has gone six more feet under, and it is on.

“Commissioner Lynum couldn’t be here because she hijacked a Heineken truck on the way here,” Sheehan roasts. “And those of you who know her … .”


Following the obligatory gay Boy Scout (!), I’m beckoned to the stage as a spokesperson for Costa Rica and/or the Orlando Weekly. To be clear, Wanzie requested that I prepare an actual speech because he doesn’t really trust my abilities without sobriety, so I did consider some kind of poem about numbers and letters fluttering down like misty raindrops around the human condition and how chance is sex or sex is chance and life is a balls game, or something. It didn’t pan out.

“Hooooooooola!” I Peggy Hill a page from a water-damaged Spanish book. “Cowmo eysta!”

A mild giggle is not an enviable result, mind, so I take to my drunken plan B.

“There was a farmer, had a dog,” I work up a vodka tear. “And Bingo was his name-o. B (sniffle) I (slurp) NG (gurgle) O,” enough already.

The crowd responds with a chanting of “Billy, Billy, Billy!” exactly like they might had I not won the spelling bee, but also had no legs. Victory, then.

By the time the whole ceremony has met its ridiculous demise, the system still isn’t working. So it’s kind of like going to a ribbon cutting for a children’s hospital that isn’t really there. Meaning it’s awesome. (I’m told that later the program did work, replete with the sound of actual balls rumbling, which is about what it sound like in my head anyway.)

“Omigod, how awful was I?” I quiz Tony on my event-face dismount. “I’m a fucking idiot!”

“You were fantastic!” he lies back as we head in to see the brilliant VarieTEASE Blue Hotel show in the Footlight Theater. There, sex and beauty find new challenges. And I pass out. Bingo.

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