Hamburger Mary’s is a restaurant and bar in West Hollywood, that will change the way you think about bingo!
When I set out to play a round of bingo last week, I never imagined watching a grown man get spanked by a drag queen for falsely claiming he had won would be part of the night. But this last Wednesday at Hamburger Mary’s, I’m pleased to say that it most certainly was.
Hamburger Mary’s sits on a busy corner of Santa Monica Boulevard in the heart of West Hollywood. It has good food, better drinks, and almost nightly attractions. But what distinguishes a night here from a night out at almost any other eatery on this side of the city? I’m so glad you asked. Hamburger Mary’s has the majority of their events hosted by some of the most iconic and beautiful drag queens in L.A., thereby making it a fun, unique experience that epitomizes the joie de vivre of Los Angeles nightlife.
Hamburger Mary’s hosts a collection of events ranging from musical revues to drag shows, and my new personal favorite: bingo.
The game of bingo, formerly reserved for nursing home recreational halls, has since been transformed by Hamburger Mary’s into a fun, witty, and altogether wildly entertaining affair. I discovered this for myself this past Wednesday when I took a great friend and fellow staff writer here at FEM magazine, Rebecka Serpa, to the 9 o’clock game with me.
Although the game didn’t start until 9, Rebecka and I left at 8:20. I’ve traditionally held such a bad relationship with punctuality that it’s entirely possible I’d be late to the second coming. As a result, I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to deal with traffic, skirt any potential parking problems, and arrive early enough to secure a spot in line. We arrived with ten minutes to spare, which on this particular night was more than enough time to ensure that the two of us would get a table inside.
Once we were at the door, there was a $20 cover charge which supplied us with our bingo cards and stampers for the night. And while it did up the price of the evening, my malnourished wallet was consoled by the fact that 75% of all the proceeds were being donated to charity, something Hamburger Mary’s regularly does on bingo nights. This last night, the charity being donated to was AIDS/LifeCycle.
Once we were inside and at a table, Rebecka and I poured over the menu, which featured a smorgasbord of appetizers, entrees, and desserts, but most impressively, cocktails. But the real fun began as soon as the bingo did.
I think I’ve already made it clear that bingo at Hamburger Mary’s is different. And while the basic rules of the game have essentially remained the same, the gimmick at Hamburger Mary’s is the amount of audience participation not only allowed, but rallied by the host.
This past Wednesday, Rebecka and I were pleased to discover the host was none other than the beautiful drag queen, Roxy Wood. Armed with quips, snappy callbacks, and a paddle for spanking anyone who wrongly called out false bingo, Roxy was the master of revels, responsible for firing up the crowd all while wearing four inch heels.
One of the best parts of the evening was when she encouraged the audience to indulge the restaurant’s practice of shamelessly pelting the bingo winners with their balled up losing bingo cards as they ran through the restaurant to claim their prize. “Pelt him! Hit that man! He stole your prize!” she yelled at the audience as one of the winners ran a lap through the restaurant. Some other poor soul returning to his seat from the bar was suddenly mistaken as the winner and wrongly intercepted some of the fire. It was like a scene out of Band of Brothers. “No, not him.” she clarified. “I swear you people don’t pay attention. It’s like you guys think you’re playing bingo at the airport in here. Get it together.”
Rebecka and I had a great time, and at the end of the night were actually able to sit down with Roxy and talk to her a bit, not only about her work at Hamburger Mary’s, but also her status as an iconic drag queen.
We moved to the outside set of tables and sat down.
I started out by asking her how she began working at Hamburger Mary’s.
“Well, I auditioned for…the drag shows that we do here.” Her finger traced an invisible outline of the sign outside. “I got in, and then eventually started doing bingo.”
“Which do you like better?” I prompted. “The shows or bingo?”
“Bingo.” She laughed. “I get to sit up on the stage…”
“You get to spank people with paddles.” I offered.
“Exactly.” She smiled.
“Good perks.” I summarized. The night had left me curious about Roxy, and her status as an iconic drag queen. I looked for a smooth transition to ask her about it, but couldn’t necessarily find one. “If you don’t mind me asking, did you always know that a transgender life is one that you wanted for yourself? When did you start noticing?”
“I was always very feminine.” She paused. “I began performing, and it moved on from there.”
“Do you feel like there are enough resources out there for people considering this life for themselves?”
“I do and I don’t.” she said. “It depends on, you know, if you really put forth an effort.” She also suggested that geographical location could be a problem. “Small towns?” She shook her head.
“But here in L.A.?” I offered.
“Yeah, it’s definitely better here, in larger cities.” I had to admit, I hadn’t necessarily thought of that. It made me wonder about some of the other problems that trans people must deal with on a day to day basis.
“And what do you think are some of the biggest problems facing trans people today?” I asked. She considered for a moment.
“Just, equal rights.” she said. She elaborated, stating more specific problems like employment and housing, briefly describing how difficult it can be just to get a job or an apartment as a transgender individual.
“And do you think there’s anything the general public can do on a day to day basis to help some of these problems?”
“I think just being aware. And treating us just like anyone else, you know?”
I nodded and smiled.
Rebecka and I had a great time at Hamburger Mary’s. It’s a good restaurant, with a great bar, and the best bingo in town. I’m certain I’ll be back again soon.