Last night Gowanus welcomed London promoter James Flames and his entry into the neo-Bingo stakes, the Underground Rebel Bingo Club. Billing itself as “the most dangerous, most hardcore society in the known world” the URBC is conceived as part Fight Club, part Bingo club night, part ritual humiliation.
The first rule of the the URBC is that no one talks about the URBC. Attendees that have ostensibly bought tickets to a Young Persons’ Antique Fair are “advised to carry an antique at all times in case you are further interrogated.” To this end the streets outside Littlefield are a mixture of returned club members, curious onlookers and fake antique enthusiasts.
What happens next defies easy explanation. Yes there are antiques and there is Bingo but there are also Jerry Springer audience theatrics, crowd-surfing inflatable pools and full-body Panda suits. Audience members that enter with Antiques leave covered head-to-toe in improvised face-paint gleaned from Bingo markers, many no doubt awaking to the much ballyhooed ‘Bingover’.
Festivities begin tonight with the stirring theme of Antiques Roadshow. Host James Flames appraises a painting of a mustachioed Queen of England, introduced as his Granny, before inviting audience members to come forward with their own antiques. The formalities dispensed with in 5 minutes, Bingo begins.
Many arrive unsure what to expect from the URBC. Will it be a traditional seated roll call of ‘two fat ladies,’ ‘legs eleven,’ will there be an opportunity to win a meat platter for the little ones?
Within moments James advises us that the URBC is not merely a club night, not merely Bingo, tonight is “an opportunity to quell your loneliness and existential despair.” He invites us to be “loved by a room full of strangers”, and for some the offer is too great to resist. We are a only a handful of NSFW calls in (“rub your salty dishwater on my tits, 66” “I lost my virginity to a boy named Kevin, number 7”) before the first premature stage-invader introduces us to the consequences.
He is the first of many to rush the stage prematurely to claim prizes including an electric guitar, swimming pool, or a Vuvuzela, by embracing host James, a requirement, and presenting a winning ticket. Those found to be stage-invading prematurely face very public ridicule. Crowd chants of “move bitch get out the way,” a flashing “loser” projection and accompanying music are reason enough to mark your Bingo pad with caution.
Of course there are winners as well. At first the humor provides the entertainment but shortly every audience member is studiously marking their pads. Alex is the first winner, and she leaves sporting a new electric guitar. The inflatable pools’ fate remains undetermined, last seen atop the dance floor after the winner cast it to the crowd. The full-body Panda suit was animated by a revolving door of party goers, never settling with any one participant for longer than 20 minutes.
Once almost solely the domain of the elderly, Bingos’ revival in recent years has come from a younger, more urban audience. Bogan Bingo, Will Clark’s Porno Bingo, and Le Bingo all presenting themselves as more theatrical, youth-focused games nights.
So now that you know what the Underground Rebel Bingo Club is really all about, please, don’t tell anyone.