“Bingo! I have bingo!” I yelled. I couldn’t believe it. But yes, every number on my card was covered. Emcee Shirley Claire strolled over -- placed one of her long legs on my table, waved a feather boa in the air, and sang, “Congratu-laaaaations!”
If it’s Monday night in Palm Springs – the Ace Hotel & Swim Club (www.acehotel.com/palmsprings) is the place to be. First for “Fabulous Bingo” in the King’s Highway diner -- a mix of singing, dancing, showbiz razzle dazzle and number-calling hosted by lifelong entertainer, former Fabulous Palm Springs Follies showgirl and recent star of America’s Got Talent Shirley Claire. Then for Ace Trivia, hosted by Palm Springs award-winning drag personality Bella da Ball, in the Amigo Room lounge.
Best of all, it’s bingo and trivia Palm Springs-style. “I’m never sure what I’m going to do until I’m there. But I know it will be entertaining,” Shirley admits. And so it is. On my winning Monday, she danced and sang through the restaurant dispensing beads to anyone who was celebrating anything. “We celebrate everything – weddings, births, anniversaries, bankruptcies,” she announces. I was surprised at how quickly people jumped out of their chairs and began dancing as she belted out “Come Rain or Come Shine” in honor of an anniversary couple.
And oh yes, there’s the bingo. It’s free. Shirley hands a card to everyone. You simply enjoy drinks and dinner. It’s gotten so popular, there are now two seatings. One at 6 p.m. and one at 8 p.m. Reservations are recommended.
What do you win? Since I won the big finale cover-all (every number on the card has to be covered) game, I received a $50 gift card for the King’s Highway Restaurant and Amigo Room. “Way cool.” Other prizes for shorter bingo games include a bottle of wine – lately it’s been Santa Barbara County’s Funk Zone label – and the restaurant’s handmade-from-scratch backed goods. One meal at the Kings Highway and you know these baked good are deliciously unique.
As if Shirley isn’t enough fun. Mid-way through her 8 p.m. bingo show, Bella da Ball arrives – in full regalia -- and together they do a grand processional to one of Shirley’s songs; posing, partying, sitting on people’s laps.
At 9 p.m. Bella holds court in the Amigo Room hosting Ace Trivia. It’s free, too. And oh so popular. Bella has a loyal following of trivia enthusiasts, so get there early. Seating is first come, first serve. Since it’s in the bar, trivia is 21 and older.
Bella’s banter and story-telling is hilarious – especially with some of the wonderfully wrong answers. “Oh, oh – I know this,” I say, and hear others say, as we laugh and sip cocktails. But the contest is straight-laced about testing our trivia knowledge from entertainment and politics to history and geography. “Some of the questions are easy, some are fun, some are stupid and some are hard,” Bella says in her opening remarks. She sources the questions through years of research, a trivia service and various trivia games.
Players form teams. But no worries. “One person can be a team,” says Bella. She gives each team a whiteboard, pen and eraser. “Elect a secretary to record your answers,” she instructs.
Bella asks the questions, like – “what was Lucy Ricardo’s imaginary maiden name on the I Love Lucy show?” Bella also asks the players – perhaps someone celebrating a birthday or an out-of-towner – to pick one of four trivia boxes: “general trivia,” “genius trivia,” “’90s trivia” and “gay trivia,” in a pink box, of course. Then she chooses a different player to pick a question from that box. Bella often themes her trivia nights. With July 4th coming up she may choose a patriotic theme.
Team members confab, write their answer on the board, flip it over and cap their pen. When time’s up, everyone holds up their boards and Bella makes the rounds with saucy comments about each answer.
What do Ace Trivia players win? Points are awarded for right answers – and sometimes “almost-right” answers. Lucy’s I Love Lucy maiden name was “McGillicuddy.” So Bella gave extra points to the team that spelled it right, some points to the teams that spelled it nearly right, and a couple of points to the team that spelled it “Miller,” for “trying/good intentions and a few correct letters.” Prizes go to the top three winning teams. Usually it’s a $50 gift card to the Kings Highway and the Amigo Room, or sometimes it’s theater tickets to local productions or Ace Hotel souvenirs.
The real prize, however – is the thrill of enjoying a fun-filled evening of comradery and entertainment that you’ll find only in Palm Springs.