News » Local

Dallas Gaybingo: It’s Not Just a Game

by Renee Baker
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Jul 17, 2008

My 21-year-old son once asked me, "Do we really need a gay bingo?" He wondered why we needed a "Separate but Equal" bingo, and why can't we all just get along? My answer was "Yes," of course we "need" a gay bingo. As best I could, I explained that it not only financially supports community services, but it also is a bridge between our different communities...and now he gets it.

Let's get this straight: Gaybingo is not just bingo. Gaybingo is an extravaganza, with bingo thrown in for good measure. Each third Saturday of the month, 15 entertainers and 30 to 40 volunteers build a fabulous show around a different outrageous theme and set. To boot, 100% of the proceeds benefit the Resource Center of Dallas, whose mission is to provide programs and services to the LGBT community as well as to those affected by HIV/AIDS.

Gaybingo turns seven years old this month, two months before the Center itself turns 25. In celebration, this month's theme was chosen to be something big and something gay - musicals. Live! at Gaybingo will feature Broadway showstoppers and numbers from shows like Chicago and Cats, complete with music and dancing. And how could they pull that and 15 rounds of bingo off without a few drag queens?

The show this Saturday is hosted by drag veterans Patti Le Plae Safe and Jenna Skyy, and features the crowd-pleasing BVDs (Bingo Verifying Dudes and Divas). The entertainment is by "Something Fabulous!!!", a Dallas-based performance/activist group that recently appeared in the auditions for the NBC national television show, America's Got Talent.

Each month there's also a surprise local celebrity, and this time we're letting the cat out of the bag: this month's guest is red-headed radio diva Kellie Rasberry, best known for her work at KISS-FM on the nationally-syndicated Kidd Kraddick In The Morning Show.

A sold-out crowd of 400 is not uncommon at Gaybingo, and its best advertising is word of mouth. Kari Logan, a vice-president at CitiBank and also the AIDS Arms LifeWalk volunteer of the year, attends every month and brings an entourage with her from Lewisville. "I love Gaybingo!" she says, "But can we chat later? I'm in the middle of game six." Logan, in good spirits, sat in the front row and didn't mind getting drawn into a friendly dauber fight with her buddies.

Each Gaybingo is produced by Henry Ramirez, who is the Center Programs Manager for the RCD. It's an understatement to say he's Mr. Gaybingo. Ramirez started volunteering at RCD back in 1994, and joined full time a few years ago.

If you call out "BINGO!" make sure you really have it! Bad bingo callers are locked in bingo jail on the stage.

To get a team of 50 people together each month is no easy task. I suspect his secret to garnering such a supportive collaboration is his charm and his sincerity. He believes in what he does for the Center and that sense of meaning emanates from him. You can't help but become a believer too.

Gaybingo started out small in the Center caf? seven years ago. It quickly grew and the production was moved to the Lakewood Theatre off Gaston Avenue, for a period of about six years. This past January, Gaybingo was moved to The Rose Room at Station 4, owned by Caven Enterprises, in Oak Lawn.

"Caven is awesome," Ramirez says. "We're like family with them. They have been a very big supporter of us for years, and they really stepped up to the plate." Caven not only offered Gaybingo a free space to hold the monthly fundraiser, but also made adjustments to their stage lighting to accommodate the needs of the show. Holding Gaybingo at Station 4 also benefits the local Oak Lawn economy. Ramirez says having several hundred people come on a Saturday night certainly increases revenue at restaurants, bars and stores in the area.

Gaybingo also encourages a broader sense of community. Rosemarie Odom, a board member of the Resource Center, says Gaybingo gives the straight community a chance to meet members of the gay community in a safe and fun environment. "Gaybingo is a place where gay people can take their families and friends," she says, and overcome some of the anxiety related to having a gay family member.
Another benefit of the gathering, she adds, is that it gives both the straight community, as well as the gay community, a chance to meet transgender individuals on common ground. Ramirez includes many transgender individuals as volunteers and performers as he considers them a "big part" of his family.

Ramirez was honored in March of this year by the Center's Gender, Education, Advocacy and Resource (GEAR) program. He has been such a supporter of the transgender community, that GEAR has named its ally award after him: the Henry Ramirez Ally Award.

Ramirez is grateful to all supporting sponsors. Gaybingo welcomes donations of all kinds from gift certificates and concert tickets to annual cash donations.

You will have a chance to meet Ramirez this coming Saturday at The Rose Room at Station 4 in Oak Lawn, at 3911 Cedar Springs, Dallas. Feel free to live it up and wear a costume. Doors open at 5:00 p.m. and the show starts at 6:00 p.m. Guests must be at least 21 years of age to attend. The cost is $25 for 15 games of bingo. Visit www.rcdallas.org for more information.

Dr. Renee Baker is a massage therapist, transgender consultant and board member of Youth First Texas. She may be reached on her website at www.renee-baker.com


Comments

  • , 2008-07-18 10:38:40

    Yes,interesting article. However, isn’t Mr. Ramirez one of the founders of Dallas Gear and that he would also host social gatherings for GEAR at his home ??? And also isn’t it true that the only transgender people who managed to get ahead in the community were the ones who were in Henry’s clique of roommates, or social clique of friends ??? All others were shunned and especially those who were employed by corporations which developed "sponsorship" relationships with Henry and the Resource Center....... So I ask you then Ms. Baker, is this article about something positive for the community or yet again another example of you praising your corporate celebrity cronies at the Resource Center, which if I am not mistaken is a place where you tend to volunteer often........How about building bridges in your own community first by stopping the discrimination and corporate showboating at GEAR and write about how people were excluded and shunned there.


  • , 2008-07-18 17:14:55

    There are so few LGBT organizations here in North Texas, why must you constantly harp on what EDGE covers? You sound like a someone who was teased for wearing glasses as a child and you just can’t get over it. I’ve never even met the author of this story, but what is so wrong of her for writing about an organization that tries to benefit our community? You call it a "corporate celebrity crony", yet you do nothing but criticize people trying to promote positivity. You’re the negative one, whoever you may be. Get over yourself, and get a real life.


  • , 2008-07-19 19:09:54

    To clarify your issues.... I feel that the EDGE is a wonderful resource for news in our community and I support it fully. I just take issue with an author who does not tell the ENTIRE story openly and truthfully, which in the literary world is considered as journalistic bias. This author speaks often about raising awareness, yet seems to shy away from awareness being raised which happens to address questionable issues involving her and her cronies. Certainly you are not very aware as to the history of the GEAR organization or of its leaders, which involves a great deal of negativity and corruption as well as the fame and glamor, things that this author and her fellow "leaders" will never expose in public because it would incriminate them horribly. Yes, Gay Bingo does benefit our community greatly, however the GEAR organization clearly does not, but rather only benefits those cronies who were original founders of the group along with this author. Additionally, you mention few community organizations here in north Texas. The reason why we have so few here is that people are becoming increasingly fed up with all of the ego laden leaders constantly showboating in the public spotlight while they step on others in our community to achieve their fame and success. Lastly, you mention promoting "positivity" yet it is quite ironic that you have chosen to personally attack someone here just because their opinion is different than yours. That’s real positivity in action..........


  • Chris Sandlin, 2008-07-20 12:22:10

    Hello "Anonymous" #1, this is Chris Sandlin, the Dallas Editor with EDGE. I certainly don’t want to publicize just one side of a story if there’s another side to tell. If you feel any of our articles on EDGEdallas.com are biased or untruthful, please e-mail me at csandlin@edgepublications.com rather than ranting on here. I want to know all sides of our stories, and I’ll listen to any reasonable, respectable concern.


  • , 2008-07-21 20:08:35

    Chris...... Yes there is indeed another side to this story , however, I thought that the purpose of an open forum of comments is so that people are free to express different sides of a story without the fear of censure or of being quickly labeled as "ranting" or of being "negative". In answer to your statement, YES I do feel that many of the articles written by this author have been written with bias due to excessive cronyism. Please review my comments again as well as the comments expressed in a few other articles that this author has published in the EDGE. I am sure that the details exposed, (which are based on fact ) will help you connect the dots as to the other side of this story. The only details which haven’t yet been revealed are a certain corporation with representatives in our community, in conjunction with both a certain transgender author in Arizona and select leaders from our Dallas transgender community, all of who are suspected of slandering a person and ruining her in the community for exposing the other side of the story (you know, whistle-blowing). I would certainly be receptive to sharing this other side of the story with you in private, however I’m sure you can appreciate the legal issues of confidentiality and privacy and not to mention retaliation issues involved with such a disclosure. Lastly, I have written to two editors in the past, one from the Star Telegram who reports exclusively on the corporation mentioned above and the other from the Dallas Voice, who covered the story about the same transgender author above and her involvement in the ENDA debacle. Neither editor bothered to hear my story or write me back........ Sorry, nothing personal Chris, but I don’t have too much faith in editors these days for doing the right thing and reporting a story truthfully and without bias, especially if they are being influenced by powerful political people or corporations........ Do some research into these stories, get ALL of the facts and observe ALL of the relationships, and then we’ll talk. Thanks for your understanding in this matter.


  • , 2008-07-22 14:23:47

    Wow. I have always thought GayBingo was really fun and it is for a good cause. Some coverage is a good thing, right? What do corporations and whistle-blowing have to do with bingo playing drag queens? Why is this narrative posted after an entertainment article?


Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook