bingokaraoke99.jpg
By Katherine McKeon

Bingo Karaoke Night

Greenwood Senior Center

Friday, April 27

When I heard about Greenwood Senior Center's Bingo Karaoke,notions of cringe-worthy Thanksgivings and

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Bingo Karaoke: Irony Heaven at the Greenwood Senior Center

bingokaraoke99.jpg
By Katherine McKeon

Bingo Karaoke Night

Greenwood Senior Center

Friday, April 27

When I heard about Greenwood Senior Center's Bingo Karaoke,notions of cringe-worthy Thanksgivings and awkward family reunions ran wild in my mind. In fact, the event has become a magnet for what we'll call the hipster-bingo set, and become a multi-generational happening in which participants take a break from their number-stamping only to belt out sing-a-long classics. With glitter-happy costumes, Rat Pack loving attendees, beer from Hale's Ales, Polish dogs, and money (gambling for charity-- an irresistible form of altruism), the night proved my qualms completely wrong.

Upon arriving, a volunteer asked if I was "a bingo virgin." Yes, I was indeed a virgin, to Greenwood's Karaoke Bingo. She told me to get ready for bingo-on-steroids.

Inside a packed room evenly made up of grandparents, 50 somethings, and 20 somethings, people are sitting at tables with their drinks, catching up, getting ready for the hilarity of the night to begin. They tell me there's a break from the bingo about every twenty minutes, and people head on stage to pursue their karaoke-needs. I'm now a believer that bingo and karaoke were meant to be wedded--each protects the other from an overdose of embarrassment or boredom.

Attendees are usually die-hard bingo-karaoke fans, or lucky to be invited by the insiders, who plan far in advance to get seats. Tickets must be bought a month ahead of time, and usually sell out in less than a day. Located in the main event room of the Senior Center, the room is crowded with over 100 people, and the proceeds go to the center's various community programs.

I happened upon a fortuitous version of the monthly event: It was the caller's 65th birthday. Jeanne Barwick is not your average emcee. As the owner of Mae's Phinney Ridge Café, she's a neighborhood institution. She's also a spitfire, dropping profanity and picking on regular bingo-goers in the crowd to keep up the jesting atmosphere of the night.

Those who braved the stage varied between Rat Pack favorites ("Luck Be a Lady") soulful classics ("Chain of Fools"), as well as the predictable guilty-pleasures. Rounding out the night, "Total Eclipse of the Heart" turned into a large group anthem, with people living out their secret rock-star fantasies by wielding their bingo-stamps as microphones, slobbering over the stamps' cone-shaped glittered caps.

My friends and I sat at the unofficial Phinney neighborhood table, and we were right next to the on-stage shenanigans. But with the $3 wine and beer, there turned out to be plenty of high jinks in the packed crowd as well. Despite the decades-plus age differences, everyone at our table became fast friends.

The winners split their prizes with the Center. Understandably, the lucky ones become a target for good-humored ridicule throughout the room. Booing and whistling ensues, which prompts Barwick to yell for everyone in the crowd to crumple their losing and luck-lacking bingo charts, and throw them at the winner. "Everyone hates a winner!" she cheers.

Cecily Kaplan, the director of the Greenwood senior center, says her favorite part about Karaoke Bingo is the swarm of twenty-somethings who stand outside the center, giving their friends directions, trying to convince those lost that a good time really is to be had at such an unsuspecting venue.

"You see them talking on their cell-phones, saying over and over again, 'It's at the senior center.....yes I swear, the senior center."

The monthly tune-fest started a little over three years ago, with just a small karaoke machine, and a hope to rejuvenate the standard senior's bingo night. Next Month's May 25th event carries the theme of "Veinte-Cinco De Mayo", and tickets go on sale the April 30th from the Senior Center's website.

On our way out, my friend whispered to me: "I think swearing keeps you young." I couldn't agree more. And I've already got my tickets for next month.

 
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