When the caller announces O-75, the highest number on the board, the players shout “Big Momma!” or “Big Daddy!” Such spirit is typical among the attendees of Gay Bingo, held on Wednesday nights at The Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center. Two early bird games begin at 6:30 p.m. and 10 regular games begin at 7 p.m. “To participate in bingo here, you should be 18 years or older, and you don’t need to be part of the LGBT community,” says Denise Salisbury, board member at the center. “The goal is to support and fundraise for our organization.”
Accepting cash only, the organizers charge $15 for the buy-in and an additional $5 for each extra game sheet. When a certain attendance is met, a regular game prize is $50. The fifth and tenth game’s prizes are $150 and $200, respectively. Door prizes, such as candy, are also offered.
Richard Paschburg and Tito Echevarria, a married couple living in Santa Clara, have been playing bingo at the center for years.
“I win a lot,” Echevarria says. “They tell me I have the luckiest seat in the house. I bring my [figurines of] turtles for good luck.”
“We meet new friends here,” Paschburg says.
Paschburg isn’t the only one who goes for the welcoming and safe environment.
“[Being here is] exciting, and I like the social aspect of hanging out with friends,” says Samuel Coher, a Santa Clara resident.
“Be open-minded and expect a relaxing evening,” says Brian Chambers, Coher’s partner, when asked to offer tips for first-timers.
Francesca Ross, a resident of San Jose, attends Gay Bingo with her spouse, Bridget Rodriguez.
“It’s a fun social thing to do outside a bar, and for someone my age, it’s hard to find an adult activity that’s not based on alcohol,” Ross says.
“We’ve been doing the bingo games here for 19 years,” says Fred Carter, board member and treasurer at the center. “Here, there is socialization and the anticipation of winning.”
Visit http://www.defrankcenter.org/ for more information.