The performers’ jewelry is big, their hair is bigger, their evening gowns are over-the-top, their nails are long and their heels are high on the Millennium Stage at the Cavern Club on a Saturday night. An elderly couple from Florida seated at a table guffaw along with their daughter and son-in-law when the glittering Catia Lee Love observes, “You have hurricanes in Florida; we have other things that blow through town.” A group of sisters and brothers howl as she coaxes a young man to take off his shirt (“for bingo verification purposes”) and then playfully acknowledges his chiseled physique. Hostess Dazzle Dior, resplendent in a black corseted gown and glittering red lipstick gracefully totters through the room as the crowd greets Love’s calls for “B-8” and “O-69” with especially raucous cheers. The sparkle, risque one-liners, powerful performances, and laughter don’t stop. Naughty, bawdy, beautiful drag queen bingo has arrived in Ann Arbor.
Club owner Nick Easton says his decision to launch “The Big Hair, Big Mouth, Big Fat Fun Show” (a continuation of the club’s spring drag show series) on Fridays, followed on Saturdays by “Bombshell Bingo Blast,” was inspired by the burgeoning popularity of female impersonators. He cites the recent inception of a monthly drag show at Woodruff’s in Ypsilanti and how customers must make reservations weeks in advance in order to attend Drag Queen Bingo at the 515 Club in Royal Oak.
Love is among the national headliners Easton has booked for five-week engagements over the coming year. She (drag protocol demands that those in their feminine regalia are addressed as “she”) and future headliners receive assistance from a house cast of other queens.
The rounds of bingo and bouts of comedy are complemented by fabulous pantomimed performances by Dior and Lee. Lee’s includes a Dancing with the Stars-worthy flamenco-stepped half strip tease. She also works for the company that designs and produces the show’s costumes, and uses her talents to make her own. Easton says some of the performer’s wigs cost up to one thousand dollars. (Dolly Parton’s bon mot, “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap” comes to mind.)
Speaking of cheap, Easton encourages the frugal to get a great bang for their five bucks before he raises Bombshell Bingo Blast’s price to $15 in September. See the Cavern Club listing in Nightspots, p. 46, for August information.
He says he is gearing marketing efforts to women, dropping postcards and fliers at beauty shops and bridal salons. “Women looking for a safe, pretty wholesome atmosphere where they can be a little naughty will appreciate it,” he says. If the enthusiasm of a mildly inebriated bachelorette party and that of mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and the occasional man are indicators, Easton is hitting his mark.