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Give Mom the gift of the original kitschy adventure: Drag Queen Bingo

Sabin, the brainchild behind Drag Queen Bingo at Five15 in Royal Oak, makes for a commanding presence while reigning on his rotation and reins in the audience expertly.
Wendy Clem

Looking for an unforgettable gift for Mom, or Grandma, for Mother’s Day? Consider treating them to the kitschiest ride of their lives — Draq Queen Bingo!

Centered at the Five15 gift store and coffee shop in Royal Oak, Drag Queen Bingo grew out of a commercial enterprise established in 2007 and billed as “Media, Mojo and More.” The store’s Five15 moniker reflects its address on Washington Avenue, where it’s home to revolutionary local uniqueness and windows look out on the street.

“We originally marketed this for the gay community, but soon the Red Hat Ladies started showing up,” said owner Gary Baglio. “Then bachelorette parties arrived, followed by middle-aged housewives. Now, the housewives return and bring their husbands along! We have 90-year-old grandmas, 60-year anniversary celebrations, private parties — it’s all happening here.”

Baglio is proud to have created a rollicking show so much in demand.

That draw is provided by four of the best rotating drag queens around. In addition to Sabin, who is from Ferndale, Baglio monthly flies in Trixie Deluxxe from Orlando, Fla. Each receives a week, in addition to Petoskey’s September Murphy, and the adult-rated Lauren Jacobs. Individual queens of the week hold court for a rotation, overseeing guests from milestone-occasion partiers to some celebrities.

“I was looking to create an above-average GLBT store that was still approachable for all members of the area by offering retro, kitschy, eclectic merchandise,” said the 53-year-old retired General Motors graphic designer. “The bingo grew out of that challenge and added to the realm of fun. It’s the brainchild of Sabin, and has become so wildly popular, we’ve had to add extra bingo days. The Drag Queen Bingo is also now being copied by others.”

Acknowledging that imitation is the highest form of flattery, Baglio says being original is just more fun, and provides plenty of room for growth. DQB helps charities through fundraisers, and spreads comedy overall with Sunday’s bingo and in-demand Trailer Trash Brunch Buffet. Food, which is also catered by Five15’s next-door club, Fifth Avenue, includes pancake rolls on a stick and a wicked deviation of sausages, among other offerings.

“People love our brunches, and we play it up just right; after all, we are always about the comedy,” he said, laughing. Evening bingos also offer the club’s pizza, drinks and other finger foods for snacking guests.

If you do take Mom or Grandma to DQB, know that reservations are required — and Five15 is booked until June! The addition of more bingo times is proof this really is the only game in town. The original Saturday bingo times at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. were expanded to include Fridays and a 7 p.m. bingo on Thursdays, as well as Sunday brunch.

Bingo players come from throughout lower Michigan and across the U.S. and Canada — and frequently accompany local friends and relatives when visiting the metro-Detroit area. Winners each receive a humorous t-shirt and coffee mug as well as a brief onslaught of humorous insult from the reigning drag queen. Questions posed include asking players their occupations or other personal details. A recent strange audience occupation was that of an Amish marketing expert, garnering a riff extraordinaire by Sabin. But, each gathering provides gems for jokes.

Baglio was appointed to a seat on Royal Oak’s Downtown Development Authority board and is happy that “the city loves us.” But, he adds it hasn’t always been a love affair between the city and gay community.

“It has been a gradual acceptance for us, and there have been many stages of that development over the years,” he said. “But, today, we offer a premiere destination for partying and unique fun, private parties, and we have even been responsible for love connections when people meet as bingo attendees.”

Baglio’s happiest moments are when he receives validation of having bridged that gap with laughter between the gay and straight communities.

“What makes me proudest is when I hear a Five15 shopper from across the room, or a bingo player, burst into laughter,” he said. “We have all learned through humor, and our audiences give us a lot back, too.”

Some of the Drag Queen Bingo’s more well-known guests have been actor Barry Bostwick, WDIV’s Carmen Harlan and Guy Gordon, and the family of Weight Watchers’ Florine Mark, who was celebrating a milestone birthday of her sister. DQB has also been the subject of press coverage in local print and broadcast, as well as received some national attention, such as that from “60 Minutes,” says Baglio.

In addition to an impressive collection of wine carriers and other giftables, Five15 offers same-sex greeting cards — a hard-to-find item, per Baglio — and a current craze, high-heeled Elvis purses. Merchandise is changed often, and always unusual.

Store hours are Monday—Wednesday: 10-8: Thursday: 10-10; Friday and Saturday: 10-12; and Sunday: 11-6. Bingo costs are $20 for each show; the brunch is $30. Email or call (248) 515-2551 for more info, or check out the website: Check out video at:

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