Photograph by MIchael Shapiro
B-I-N-G-O: The Sisters' irreverent monthly bingo game has raised thousands for charity. But be warned: This ain't your grandma's game.
It's Bingo Night, Bitch!
Russian River Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence profane charity—honorably
By Michael Shapiro
"Free shit, free shit, free shit!" chants the crowd of 170 bingo players as they bang their fists and dauber pens on the tables at Guerneville's Odd Fellows Hall. At the front of the hall, eight members of the Russian River order of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, all made up and dressed to the nines, hurl donated goodies (a Little Princess Barbie doll, a book about bad cats, a talking Mr. T placard) to raffle winners in the audience. "If it offends you," says Bingo "co-chairnun" Sister Nova Nilla, "tough shit."
Sister Saviour Applause and Sister Coppah Feel are "pulling balls" from a bingo hopper. Sister Nova Nilla warns, "If you call 'bingo' and don't have it, we'll bring you up to the front, we'll make you take off your clothes and beat you with this paddle. So don't call bingo, bitch."
Moments later a woman calls "Bingo!" Two nuns rush to check—false alarm. Out comes the paddle. A pair of "nuns" take their turns spanking the woman.Sister Dawna Matrix explains that to win the next game, a square of numbers around the free space, you need to call "I have a little mouth" instead of the traditional "bingo." After a few numbers are called, a woman jumps up and shouts, "I have a big mouth!" "What, bitch?"
Quickly realizing her error, the winner exclaims, "I have a little mouth . . . and big tits!" As the crowd roars, the approving nuns nod, put away their spanking paddle, totter over on their high heels and platform shoes, and confirm the $200 win.
This monthly evening of raucous and flamboyant fun raises thousands of dollars for such entities as the Food for Thought food bank, the Russian River Firefighters Association, El Molino High School's music program and Pets Are Loving Support, an agency that helps people with AIDS care for their pets.
The game got started almost eight years ago as Sister Nova's novice project, a service endeavor that's part of being accepted into the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.Around 4:30pm every second Saturday of the month, old friends and newcomers line up at the Odd Fellows (of course) Hall in downtown Guerneville. People queue early because the bingo nights almost always sell out, and some people have as much fun in line as they do during the bingo game itself.
Just before 7pm, the sisters, dressed in their habits, feather boas and fishnet stockings, run into the hall to the hoots, thunderous applause and stamping feet of the crowd, with bass-y music thumping on the sound system.
The theme this night is "Dungeons and Drag-nuns" and Sister Nova warns, "Don't mess with us or we'll throw you in the dungeon!"
Not threatened, a man taunts Sister Nova, so Nova calls him out and asks the audience to take a vote: "How many people think we should beat the crap outta him and how many think we should make him a dauber boy?"Dauber boy wins; the man is summoned to the front of the hall and ordered to strip to his boxers. Beaming, Nova crows, "I have the power to make straight men take off their pants."
The man is then paraded, stripperlike, through the crowd, many of whom put money in a jar and use their bingo pens to dot and draw on his exposed skin.
Sister Coppah Feel pushes a button on a laptop and Homer Simpson's voice booms through the sound system: "I like my beer cold, my TV loud and my homosexuals flaming!"A Halloween costume contest comes down to a man dressed as a Mexican cowboy and a little dog. "How about we give the dog second place, because she's a bitch," howls Sister Frances A. Sissy.
"Even if you don't win this," says Sister Dawna to the hunky cowboy, "you and I are going home together." Linda Schram-Williams, food bank manager for Food for Thought, says the bingo funds help FFT buy turkeys and chickens for their 610 clients. "The sisters are saints for doing this work for the community."
By the end of the night, crumpled bingo cards cover the floor. Volunteers hand out garbage bags, everyone helps clean up and before the hall is empty, the work is done.
Sister Nova thanks all for coming and says, "Remember: We love you, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it."
The Russian River Sisters' bingo night is held the second Saturday of each month, starting at 7pm. Arrive an hour or two early to ensure a place at a table. A single card costs $15; two cards, $20. Each player gets five raffle tickets for a chance to win 'free shit.' Food is sold. You must be 18 or older to enter the Odd Fellows Hall, 16219 First St., Guerneville. www.rrsisters.org.
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