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Not your grandma’s bingo

Caramie Schnell
Dominique Taylor/The Vail TrailBingo winner Delia Cox from Vail celebrates as bingo maestro Kevin Sullivan confirms her win.
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The first thing to know about bingo is this: yell the b-word prematurely and you better be prepared for a little hazing from Kevin Sullivan, Red Lion’s lounge-jacket clad bingo maestro.

“No premature bingulations, folks,” Sullivan grins as he hovers over the mic. “Otherwise you’re responsible for buying everyone in your near vicinity, as well as your host, a drink.”

It’s 9:15 on a Wednesday night and Sullivan, two rounds into the evening, is in his element. His game-show-perfect voice throws out clever one-liners in between balls. “This is not,” he reminds the full bar, “your grandma’s bingo.”

And the next ball is proof.

“It’s everyone’s favorite bingo number O-69,” he booms. “Join me in a toast to everything that’s sexual and depraved.”

Everyone cheers loudly. Glasses clink as people toast.

Sully, as he’s referred to by his fans, says bingo is in his DNA.

“I was born calling bingo,” Sullivan says as he recounts a childhood spent in many bingo parlors with his grandmother, an avid bingo player herself. “She used to drag me to the bingo house as a kid. I probably have emphysema now because of it.”

Sullivan has been calling bingo at the Lion for five years now. He and “creative genius” Andy Stratton started the tradition to help get locals into the bar during the quiet off-season. It’s been successful, Sullivan says, gesturing to the filled bar stools and crowded tables. It’s not hard to guess why twentysomethings show up week after week. The bingo cards are free and there are cheap drink specials. There are five rounds and each bingo winner walks away with progressively more shwag – CDs, DVDs, beer and liquor T-shirts and gift certificates for local stores and restaurants.

Vail resident Delia Cox, 22, leaves the prize table with a satisfied smile on her face and a Doors CD, New Beligium Brewery T-shirt, and a Jagermeister shirt clutched in hand. It’s Cox’s first time winning bingo, though most Wednesday nights she shows up along with two tables worth of friends.

“I felt like I was going to win,” she says. “I kind of just knew.”

“And now for everyone’s favorite round,” Sully says as he cuts the break tunes. “The clothing optional round, also known as the ‘inner box’ round. That’s right – the goal is to get it in her box,” he announces.

Four rounds in and I’m full on “when-can-I-score-my-next-game” addicted. This is interesting, considering I never win anything and my chance of getting a bingo is even less than my chance of sticking to my one-drink-on-weeknights rule. Still, I mentally reserve my next four Wednesday nights for some quality time at the Red Lion. I also plot a trip to Wal-hell for bingo blotters, wondering just how weird it will look if I show up with my own “lucky” turquoise blue marker next week.

The next morning, after telling my best friend for the fifth time about my newfound love of bingo, she offers a warning.

“Careful,” she says. “Pretty soon you’re going to be rocking blue hair and some granny panties.”

E-mail Caramie Schnell at cschnell@vailtrail.com. She’s probably just daydreaming about bingo night anyway.


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