According to Reann Ballslee and Natasha Carrington, the first rule of hosting drag bingo is having large hands that are good at playing with balls. Like most solid friendships, their's blossomed at Panera Bread.
It was 2010 when drag bingo originators Candy Pantz and Esta Bunny gifted Natasha hosting duties of the game at Babes of Carytown. In search of a cohost, Natasha called on her drag mom Tiffany Devereaux for recommendations and out popped her drag sister Reann.
When Ru Paul's Drag Race was taking off, Natasha joined the cast of Richmond's local competition hosted by Esta Bunny at the now defunct nightclub Nations. "Reann came to Nations one night while I was performing Scissor Sisters and I threw my trenchcoat at her," Natasha said. "After the show, I asked her if she wanted to be part of bingo and the rest was history."
The pair gathered at Panera over soup (and perhaps a bagel) to map out a gameplan during what Reann calls "Natasha's knitting phase." At Drag Diva Bingo, you could spin a wheel for prizes or request a performance.
"The wheel was foamboard covered in cheap pink chiffon that had a manual pottery wheel on top that had been spray painted gold," Natasha said. "D-I-V-A was just spinning!"
There was also a bedpan of advice and secrets which also served as the ball caddy. "We really need to find another bedpan," Reann says.
Now that you have the history of drag bingo, know that this campy game is returning to the newly-opened Flora next week as Holy Guacamole Drag Bingo. Expect drink specials like a bourbon-based "Carrington" and appropriately vodka-based "Ballslee." And also guacamole.
"Bingo is a chance for people to escape the idea that drag is feathers, and grandeur and Ru Paul so you can really get to know the performer and not just a fictional character,” Natasha says.
As for the change of venue, Flora is a new restaurant from Jason Alley and Michele Jones of Pasture and Jay Bayer of Saison. Reann says the team has been big champions for both Richmond and the LGBT community.
"We have been talking for over a year about doing something in drag at one of their restaurants. In the back of Flora, we really have the space to share what we do," Reann says. "I’m excited about this being a venue that isn’t a gay bar. I think it will change the energy and help open up the possibilities of a new audience for the event.”
Expect at least one game of bingo - or - maybe six according to Natasha. "Someone can expect to win guacamole."
They are bringing back winner’s choice and this time, the duo will be playing what's on your phone. They'll never know what the lip sync performance will be. Make sure your phone is loaded with plenty of drag-ready numbers.
"I think drag bingo was the thing that made Reann and Natasha besties," Reann says. "We have so many great memories and friends because of it so we're hopeful more of those will be created."
Holy Guacamole Bingo debuts at Flora on Wednesday, May 3 at 9 p.m. Flora is located at 203 N. Lombardy St. For a full schedule of events including future bingo nights, visit Facebook.