Nothing elicits more of a rise than “O 69.” Not even an enthusiastic “BINGO” call at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs, Ca. gets the crowd going in the same fashion. This is not your grandmother’s bingo, though it is conducted by a woman who likely is someone’s grandmother.
Eighty-nine-year-old Shirley Claire is a local institution and the star attraction at the kooky, quirky event, which packs in an all-age crowd of locals and visitors alike weekly in the restaurant of the Ace.
And with every O-69, the saucy former showgirl hoists a placard and struts through the restaurant to cheers and that universally recognized striptease song (fun fact: it’s actually called “The Stripper,” by David Rose) where participants are dining and drinking as they mark cards.
It’s not Shirley’s only romp, as her bingo fest at times spins off into songs, jokes, and perhaps a cheerleading version of happy birthday when warranted.
Part way through she is joined in the festivities by another community icon, transvestite Bella Le Ball, whose high-rise green hair and “the best legs in town” makes for a perfect pairing with diminutive Claire as the odd duo camp their way through photo ops with patrons, sometimes even draping them in bows and feathers.
Claire has been at it (the bingo) for seven years, taking over for another MC who passed away. It’s only fitting that the venue is a former Denny’s restaurant in a former Howard Johnson’s.
As for the bingo, there is no cost to play and game winners score free dinners or maybe a bottle of wine. And a guaranteed good time.
“This is bizarro,” marvelled Canadian attendee Hans Tammemagi as he poured a requisite shot of Kahlua into his coffee. “Have you ever seen anything like it?”
“Fabulous Bingo” takes place every Monday night from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club, 701 E Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs. Stay for trivia at nine, drinks in the adjacent Amigo Room, and stargazing on the roof. (acehotel.com)
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Credit: Michael Baginski
Shirley Claire (r), with a little help from Bella Le Ball (c), makes Fabulous Bingo a highlight of any visit to Palm Springs.