I’m not Paul Revere and I’m not going to tell you that the British are coming, because they were already here. In fact, they’ve been here for years. James “Flames” Gordon and Freddie “Fortune” Sorenson have been invading America’s biggest cities and other major metropolises abroad—including London, Madrid and Toronto—with a diabolical game of bingo that can only be achieved with the seductive charm of a Brit and a few hundred people in a drunken stupor.
It’s been nearly three years since I’ve played a game at the Underground Rebel Bingo Club. A lot can change within that time period; a lot has. One noticeable modification has been the departure of the words underground and club from the event’s official title. Today, it’s simply known as Rebel Bingo. That’s not all. As it turns out, with its rising popularity, Rebel Bingo is no longer played at a venue on the outskirts of Brooklyn. Instead, the New York shows are now hosted in Manhattan. If that’s not evidence that Fortune and Flames are making moves, I don’t know what is.
As a resident of Uptown Manhattan, traveling suddenly became convenient for me; however, the inhabitants of Union Square came out in droves, which made me a bit uneasy. I studied the immediate vicinity around Irving Plaza, the venue which played host for the night, searching for an inconspicuous place to keep a lookout for police while I took a smoke break.
I essentially found myself surrounded by the millennial yuppie, the insecure prude, the obnoxious frat guy and the pompous NYU student. You know the type of people I’m talking about; the waspy know-it-all prick who has the gall to tell an artist what real art is because they study it.
Once inside, light bulbs hid behind a crystal chandelier that hung like an icy fortress. It remained idly suspended, practically disciplined with the stillness of a frozen memory, lending its coldness to a revolving disco ball and saturating the floor, if only slightly, with a soothing purple glow challenging the dominant presence of the venue’s red lights. It was the calm before the night’s storm.
This particular storm was full of dress shirts from the office, clinging from the assorted shapes of the alcohol-induced men in attendance who danced awkwardly and without rhythm. Every now and then, I stopped to watch for a cheap laugh or just to admire their maladroit freedom, perhaps only because I’ve often felt that these men exist inside a consciousness, foreign to any drunken night I’ve experienced. I will forever stand in awe of anyone who has seemingly mastered the art of having no sense of control of their own body.
Kanye’s voice surged from the speakers, predicting everyone’s first thought for the next morning: “Last night was mad real.” The projector on stage was counting down from 10 minutes. Within 10 minutes Fortune would appear, consuming the energy from the roaring crowd before his greetings were acknowledged with more yelling, nonsensical screaming, aggressive fist-pumping and off-balanced cups floating above our heads, raining alcohol like the clouds inside of Rust Cohle’s dreams.
Rebel Bingo, like Fight Club, has very few rules. The numbers are quickly announced by two potty-mouthed assistants who spew a variety of sexual innuendo and peculiar anecdotes. To be honest, it wasn’t the first time I’ve heard a woman ask me to fuck her sideways and shit in her shoe, but then again, not many guys choose to flirt with the homeless women in the city.
Once you’ve hit bingo on the card—which is provided before the show with a marker—you need to make your way up to the stage to hug Fortune in order to obtain your prize. Suddenly, it becomes a mad dash to the stage. However, this doesn’t mean you’ve won, because the first two people who hit bingo and make it on stage are then pit against one another in a whacky challenge. This could involve bobbing for bingo balls floating above an anti-gravity machine or an irreverent game of the Price is Right. In the end, you can go home with an umbrella with lights or a ridiculously large, and might I add, pointless mobile stereo system.
Although it might feel good and make for a great story to tell, Rebel Bingo isn’t about winning a game of bingo or going home with a silly prize; it’s about doing what we already do but on a grand scale: Getting drunk and playing board games.
Yeah, the crowd has changed (or grown up and conformed), but it was still exciting. I could just imagine what weirdoes will pop up when Rebel Bingo returns to New York in October. Would it be possible that New York celebrates Halloween and Rebel Bingo on the same night this year? It’s possible.
Featured image courtesy of New York Natives; Photographer: Enrique Grijalva