“We take over downtown Sarasota every Friday night,” says the now-renowned hostess Ms. Beneva Fruitville. Buxom, usually blonde, with long eyelashes and girdled-tight rear, she’s the alter-ego of actor and singer Berry Ayers. Slim but curvy brunette co-star Ms. Lindsay Carlton, self-styled First Lady of Sarasota, would be the first to agree. S/he and Bingo-caller Beneva, named after a city street that crosses guess-what-other street, perked up the Golden Apple from a moribund late summer season when huge construction projects surrounded and obscured the theatre’s existence and cut off usual parking spaces. At about the same time, a café that had hosted DQB sessions closed and Ayers became production coordinator at the Golden Apple. As Sarasota granted free valet parking in public lots to Apple owner Robert Ennis Turoff, head of its producing organization, he approved Ayers’s venture. “Drag Queen Bingo” is, after all, theatre more truly than a game. The result: full houses for “Drag Queen Bingo” on Fridays and increased audiences for Golden Apple’s main bill other days.
Although changes, notably in improvised dialogue, are made for special dates (Halloween with everyone in costume was especially memorable and Christmas Eve featured an appearance by a Fruitville Mary and appropriate Baby doll with manger lined in tinsel), “Drag Queen Bingo” follows a basic script. After intro of the principals, caller Ms. Beneva cites rules of the game. These include the sexiest parts of the evening: when an O number is called, audience is to raise arms to simulate an O for “vagina in the sky” and each player is to give a certain shout when needing only one more number to win. The degree of humor resulting depends on the novelty of each audience participation.
There are four regular Bingo games per evening, each preceded by patter, song, or skit and followed by the drag queens, in turn, singing and working the audience for tips. They generously indicate their pleasure with the queens’ performance. Ms. Lindsay Carlton’s voice wasn’t as noticeable as her sequined figure when I attended, a good thing since s/he hasn’t much dialogue and s/he doesn’t strain the laps she sits on. Mostly, s/he lip syncs. Ms. Beneva, though, is the star of onstage theatrics. Ms. Beneva also drops her (Bingo) balls when O-69 is called and must get some courageous male up on stage to help her recoup in a possibly daring way. Despite Ms.Beneva Fruitville’s generous size, s/he executes a smooth end-of-song split. I liked her activity better than her potty mouth.
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