It all started in a church hall. Drunk.
That’s the story that Rebel Bingo co-founder Freddie Fortune tells about the origins of his raucous game show party. Someone found a bingo kit in the London church basement where Fortune and some friends threw parties and “things got a bit out of control,” he says. “We accidentally invented our own mutant form of bingo.”
- Rebel Bingo
- May 8, 10 p.m.
- On sale April 18, $4+ early tickets, $30 at the door.
- Boulevard Pool at the Cosmopolitan.
Fortune and co-founder James Flames’ form of bingo isn’t the usual Vegas variety. There’s no fluorescent-lit parlor, no staid announcer calling out the numbers, no blue-haired grandmas toting their lucky daubers. Rebel Bingo is a different beast. And it’s coming to the Cosmopolitan.
“It’s like going to see a band. There are no seats. We have DJs building up the show. Then the performers come out.” Ladies dressed to thrill call the numbers in highly sexual rhyme while well-lubricated audience members mark bingo cards and each other with pens and markers. “We never encouraged that,” Fortune says, “but if you give a person alcohol and a pen, some of them just seem to want to draw on each other. A lot of people wake up the day after a night at Rebel Bingo, look in the mirror, and just think ‘What the f*ck happened last night?’”
What happened is usually hard to explain and infectiously fun—a mix of competitive game play and brash and bawdy humor with a hipster aesthetic and a house party vibe. When someone yells out the magic word they have to compete onstage for whatever wacky, ridiculous prize Freddie and co. have come up with for the evening’s activities. Claim to have a bingo incorrectly and you will be punished—much to the delight of your fellow rebels.
On May 8, the whole wild party will take over Cosmo’s Boulevard Pool with tickets starting at $4 on sale April 18. If things go well, Rebel Bingo could become a more regular part of the casino’s lineup.
Lisa Marchese, chief marketing officer at Cosmopolitan, sees a lot of the resort’s DNA in Rebel Bingo and its founder. “He’s clever; he’s dynamic; he’s not afraid to be wrong,” she says. “He’ll push the envelope.”
Fortune has pushed that envelope in Vegas once before during a short-lived Rebel Bingo run at the then-Hilton’s Shimmer Cabaret. It was a solidly local affair, the kind of party where you recognized half the crowd, even with penises drawn on their foreheads.
And what if the Strip crowd doesn’t understand the difference between Rebel Bingo and regular bingo? Marchese hopes the 10 p.m. start time will help ensure that the right audience finds its way in.
“We went to a bingo club once. It was very serious. They don't like noise. It's not our kind of thing,” says Fortune. “Some members of the old-school bingo community don't like what we do. They think we're ruining the good name of bingo. We're just trying to have fun. Haters gonna hate.”