Gay bingo fund-raiser will rock the Crystal Tea Room

"Bingo Verifying Divas" (from 2013) are in charge of running the show and do it a little bit differently each year, according to Robb Reichard, executive director of the Philadelphia AIDS Fund. JEFF HOLDER
"Bingo Verifying Divas" (from 2013) are in charge of running the show and do it a little bit differently each year, according to Robb Reichard, executive director of the Philadelphia AIDS Fund. JEFF HOLDER
Posted: April 06, 2014

PHILADELPHIA Bring out the drag.

Saturday night, the Crystal Tea Room will come alive with song and dance and wild wigs for the 15th annual Black-Tie GayBINGO, a fund-raiser for HIV/AIDS awareness and education.

Makeovers will be auctioned, awards will be given, and the "Bingo Verifying Divas" will keep the audience on its toes through midnight.

And there will be drag. Lots of it.

"It's not going to be your grandmother's bingo night," said Robb Reichard, executive director of the Philadelphia AIDS Fund.

The event, expected to draw more than 300 to the old Wanamakers in Center City, will raise about $50,000 for the AIDS Fund, Reichard said.

The night will begin at 6:30 with a cocktail hour and awards ceremony, during which Ronda Goldfein, who leads the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, will follow in the footsteps of former Gov. Ed Rendell and former Mayor John F. Street when she is named "Favorite Straight Person of the Year."

The award, given to allies of the LGBT community, recognizes Goldfein's more than 20 years of advocacy for equal treatment of Pennsylvanians living with HIV/AIDS.

Goldfein landed in advocacy work somewhat by accident. In 1992, two weeks after she quit her job at a law firm, two people she knew tested positive for HIV. Soon after, she saw a notice in a local newspaper for a volunteer position with the AIDS Law Project.

She hasn't looked back.

In 2012, Goldfein and the AIDS Law Project negotiated a $700,000 federal AIDS discrimination settlement after the Milton Hershey School refused to admit a 14-year-old boy because he was HIV positive.

"We feel like we're doing so much better, but AIDS discrimination is still alive," she said in an interview. "It happens routinely, and it happens at places where people should know better."

AIDS, said Reichard, remains a reality for many in the city. The AIDS Fund estimates there are 30,000 people with HIV in the region. The city's rate of new infections is five times higher than the national average.

After the cocktail hour and awards, the bingo will begin. The drag queens run the game, and every year, they do things a bit differently.

"You never know what they're going to come up with," Reichard said.

But there are some traditions. When the letter-number combination "O-69" is called, for example, players have to jump up, throw their hands up, do a little shimmy, and yell: "O-69!"

"We're there for a very serious issue, but we can still have a good time," Reichard said.


szweifler@philly.com

215-854-2619 @szweifler


 

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