OUTrageous Bingo Coronavirus

One of my absolute favorite parts of the regional LGBTQ community is OUTrageous Bingo – a monthly gathering of about 500 people, queer and allies, in a synagogue social hall. I first went to bingo in the late 1990s when it was in the Strip District, crammed into a warehouse. Even growing up next to a Catholic Church with a bingo-addict mother, I was awestruck by this manifestation. There was a little refreshment stand and during the break, you could run up to Klavon’s Ice Cream while Ray was still there to get a treat. Afterwards, cars streamed to their next stop at a bar – we usually went to Eat ‘n Park.

OUTrageous Bingo is a rite of passage. I try very hard to bring as many new-to-bingo (also described as virgins by the other attendees) people, especially those who are newly out or not quite out. It is just the place to get an eyeful of the diversity within the community, mingle if you choose, or sit back and watch. Personally, I like to get there early, to soak up the ambiance and just enjoy the recharge feeling of being with my community. I opt not to play the special games in between the regular games that come with your ticket – I need an occasional break from that very unique bingo tension. And I walk around the room to see friends and acquaintances.

As a fundraiser, this event is unparalleled in support both the Shepherd Wellness Community and the Pittsburgh Equality Center. It has withstood the test of time, entering its 25th year serving and supporting all of us. It has spawned lots of smaller bingo events throughout the region that infiltrate communities that might not otherwise spend an evening with LGBTQ folx. It has been missed.

But now its back.

Of course that means a Q&A and this time we heard from Richard Krug the new(ish) Executive Director of Shepherd Wellness Community.

Name: Richard Krug

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Connection to Outrageous Bingo:  Executive Director of Shepherd Wellness Community

How do you describe your identity. I am a gay, white, cisgender male with short hair and beard. I grew up in NYC and now love calling Pittsburgh home.

2019 Bingo

What exactly is Outrageous Bingo?  OUTrageous Bingo is the fabulous fundraiser for the PGH Equality Center and Shepherd Wellness Community.  We’ve been having fun bringing together the LGBTQ+ and Allies community for safe, family-friendly Bingo games for 25 years.  Our drag Queen and King entertainment is part of the OUTrageously good time! AND two Pittsburgh organizations doing life-changing work in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond get the support they need. 

Bingo is back. Tell us why you are restarting now.  We always want to keep our patrons safe.  COVID-19 levels are finally at a low and safe enough level for us to again have Bingo. Speaking of safety, we also have Rodef Shalom’s security officers AND our own police officer on duty for protection.  We’re excited to welcome former and new attendees back to Bingo!

Enjoying bingo

Any plans for summer bingos?  This year, after so many bingo events were cancelled, we decided to hold bingos through the summer months so our patrons can get back in the game, invite their friends, and have an OUTrageously great time in air conditioned comfort!  We’ve posted our Bingo dates through August.  Watch for the announcement of September-December dates in the coming months.

What can we expect to be different from previous bingos? We’re always working to make OUTrageous Bingo better and better.   We recently began offering our Specials games in a discounted pack, and people have really liked the convenience of that.  We still sell Specials on the floor for those who want more.

Everyone must be fully vaccinated and show proof? Will that change in the near future?  For the safety of our patrons, we decided to continue to require full COVID vaccination for now, based on CDC guidelines.  Masks are highly encouraged but optional.  We will continue to monitor COVID rates to determine when it would be safe to drop the vaccination requirement.

Photo courtesy of OUTrageous Bingo

December 2022 is the 25th anniversary of bingo. How did Bingo get started in Pittsburgh? OUTrageous Bingo was first started by PATF (Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force – now Allies for Health + Wellbeing) and Shepherd Wellness Community.  When PATF decided to step out of bingo, SWC invited the GLCC (Gay and Lesbian Community Center – now PGH Equality Center) to join them. Rick Allison and Scott Peterman spearheaded making OUTrageous Bingo what it is today.

Bingo has been at Soldiers and Sailors, a warehouse in the Strip District, the old Goodwill Building on the Southside, a Shadyside garage, the Zoo and now you are at Rodef Shalom. How did a gay bingo end up at a synagogue?  When the building we were holding bingo in was no longer available, and we had been turned down by a number of potential places because we were an LGBTQ+ event, Rodef Shalom reached out to us and offered their hall for us to use.  It has been a great partnership and they have been incredibly supportive of our work and efforts. Rodef is an amazing, progressive and welcoming synagogue.

Is it fair to say that OUTrageous Bingo is a rite of passage for LGBTQ folx?  Thousands of the LGBTQ+ community over the years have found a safe place to be themselves and have fun when they have come to OUTrageous Bingo.  You can be out and proud here. And many bring their straight family and friends to introduce them to Bingo and the LGBTQ+ community. We love bringing all kinds of diverse people together in safe, respectful and affirming community. 

What impact has this event’s cancellation had on Shepherd Wellness Community and the Pittsburgh Equality Center?  The PGH Equality Center and Shepherd Wellness Community have sharply felt the loss of not holding OUTrageous Bingo – both in terms of missing the people and community, and the financial support Bingo provides to our organizations.  The pandemic has been a challenge in so many ways.  But we are resilient and determined to keep serving and coming back better than ever.

How have your volunteers, stalwart players, supporters weathered the pandemic? We have an incredible team of volunteers and supporters and are so grateful that they are as excited as we are to get back to having bingo again!  Our volunteers make bingo happen – we couldn’t do it without them.

You are 100% volunteer run. Tell us about your folx and how people can sign up to participate in the future.  On our OUTrageous Bingo website (outrageousbingopgh.org) we have a link that takes people to our volunteer page to sign up.  Volunteers need to be 18 or older. We have two time frames for volunteering at a bingo, and we assign and train people for tasks when they arrive.   We also have periodic bingo volunteer events to help with preparing for upcoming bingos.  When you sign up to volunteer, you will then receive emails about future volunteer opportunities. 

Yinz do some whacky stuff – giving away “As Seen on TV” items, guest callers, birthday songs, costumes, and lots of family friendly bawdy fun. Where do you get these ideas? Rick Allison has been our main bingo caller from the beginning and he is full of it – uh – full of great ideas, that is.  Rick is OUTrageous! He’s joined by guest callers at different times. Then there are the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence who grace us with their presence and help, along with the Three Rivers Leather Club and other groups. People come to bingo in all kinds of costumes and add to the bawdy fun.  The OUTrageous ideas and people just keep coming.

KDKA’s David HIghfield as a guest caller

Please list your social media links.

http://outrageousbingopgh.org

https://www.facebook.com/OutrageousBingo

https://twitter.com/outrageousbingo

Anything else you’d like to end?  Tickets are selling fast.  Prior to the pandemic, for years OUTrageous Bingo has been a quick sellout, with 500 tickets each event.  Go to our website (outrageousbingopgh.org) and get ‘em now before we sell out!  And tickets for the following bingo go on sale the morning after the previous bingo. 

We’re ready and excited to welcome yinz back to OUTrageous Bingo on April 23!

Thank you, Richard.

Hope to see you on April 23!