Whenever I do something utterly stupid, my standby retort used to be: “I’m not your average dumb blonde, I’m above average.”

Blonde jokes have been as much a part of my upbringing as bad (read: fabulous) 80’s music, sunblock and weight issues.

A blonde and a redhead went to the bar after work for a drink, and sat on stools watching the 6 o’clock news. A man was shown threatening to jump from the Brooklyn Bridge, and the blonde bet the redhead $50 that he wouldn’t jump. Sure enough, he jumped, so the blonde gave the redhead $50. However, as friends, the two went back and forth about it; the redhead just couldn’t take the blonde’s money. Finally, the redhead confessed: “Listen, I have to tell you that I saw this on the 5 o’clock news, so I can’t take your money.”

The blonde replied: “Well, so did I, but I didn’t think he would jump again!”

But, for whatever reason, when I tell people I’m flaky, or dumb, I usually get brushed off with a “Pshaw!” “Pbbbbt!” or “Getouttahere!” even though I know, deep in my heart, the truth to be otherwise.

And so, to present my case to you naysayers: I offer Exhibit 9,272 of my extreme Bimbosity:

How I Totally Fucked Up TNBingo.

*     *     *

More than $90 million dollars are spent annually on Bingo; a favorite in church basements, Native American reservations, VFW meeting halls and elementary school classrooms.

The game’s history can be traced back to 1530, to an Italian lottery called “Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia,” which is still played every Saturday in Italy. From Italy, the game was introduced to France in the late 1770s, where it was called “Le Lotto“, a game played among wealthy Frenchmen. The Germans also played a version of the game in the 1800s, but they used it as a child’s game to help students learn math, spelling and history, no doubt in Kindergarten.

When the game reached North America in 1929, it became known as “Beano”. It was first played at a carnival near Atlanta, Georgia. New York toy salesman Edwin S. Lowe renamed it “Bingo” after he overheard someone accidentally yell “Bingo” instead of “Beano”. He then hired Carl Leffler, a Columbia University math professor, to help him increase the number of combinations in bingo cards. By 1930, Leffler had invented 6,000 different bingo cards.

It is said that Leffler then went insane.

Purported insanity aside, it’s a simple game, consisting of little more than one player completing a “Bingo” pattern: a single line with five items interconnected in a vertical, horizontal or diagonal row on a card, consisting of a 5 x 5 grid. First person to complete the line yells out “Bingo!” and then they win.

Pretty easy right?

Nothing too taxing like Risk, or Chess. I played Palin Bingo during the Great Vice-Presidential Debate of ’08, so I should have had some vague idea of how it was played.

I had seen the 5 o’clock news. The man jumped from the bridge.

And yet.

Filled with hubris (and a shot of whiskey) I explained our version to the audience-so eager to play my little game. I had spent all day designing these cards; carefully planning the location of each and every word the TNB authors had sent me, so that no one would win until the last reader had read.

There were four different card designs, and assuming that there would be multiple “Bingos!”, I created an Author Face-off to determine the one, true winner.

The Author Face-off (which was a huge success, btw) was series of author photos, pulled from the TNB Photo of the Day (truly, “Off the Blog!”). Anyone who could recognize an author by their headshot, other than Stephen King, J.K. Rowling or Neil Gaiman, had to be a true Lit-nerd and therefore was worthy of the awesome prize we awarded: The Summer of Naked Swim Parties, a TNB Poster by David Lineberger, copies of Why We Wax and Ménage à trois, a copy of Alimentum that included a short story by Autumn Kindlespire, and a CD of 250 Times Sweeter Than Sugar, by Mimi Ferocious.

A pretty rockin’ gift bag, if I do say so myself.

Which is what I told the audience.

I had mentioned that there were two ways to win: they could listen, or, if they wanted to be polite and watch the readers, I would repeat the words to ensure people could both enjoy the show and have a chance to win the prize. They were provided slide whistles, with which to signal that they had won. They were not allowed to blow the whistles during the reading, but the moment the readers were done: Game On. Blow it like you mean it.

I believe, in fact, I said: “You have to blow them hard, because they’re cheap.”

Imagine my surprise when, after the second reading, TWO people blew their whistles.

Winners! So early?!But wait… There could be more!

So after each reading, more and more whistles blew. I was right. Those cheap slide whistles were annoying enough to cause a nervous breakdown! There were far more winners than I could have imagined. Clearly, I was a poor game designer.

Greg Olear mentioned that I had threatened him with kazoos if he went over time (which he did, by a scant 20 seconds), but each of those “early winners” with their unnerving slide whistles, were my referees, sending me further and further into my own penalty box of gamers’ shame.

Or so you’d think.

But I was so clueless, I was totally baffled by how many people were winning!!! So many people were going to be able to play the Author Face-off!!!

Imagine my surprise when we got to the end.

Seriously.  Imagine it.

You’d have to.

To the normal human with three synapses that fire with any regularity knows, if you play long enough, all 75 balls are pulled from the Bingo basket and everybody’s a winner.  When I went to tape for the instant replay, I had even said something to the effect of, “if you got them all, that would be pretty cool, which I guess you would… eventually…”

And yet.

“I didn’t think he would jump again!”

After it was over, and the Author Face-off had been played, and won, a couple of friends and I gathered and howled with laughter over the expression on my face when it hit me that everybody had won.

Suggestions for next time were immediately offered:

  • “Use dummy words.”
  • “Don’t repeat the list after the readings.”

And then my good friend offered this nugget; straight-faced, but with a mocking glint in his eye:

  • “Or you could just stop playing when somebody wins.”

Like I said:

Above average.

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KIMBERLY M. WETHERELL Kimberly's many and varied lives have included actor, stage manager, opera and film director, producer, writer, and restaurateur. She only has three lives left and she's not going to waste a single one of them. The first Arts & Culture Editor for TNB and creator of the TNB Literary Experience, Kimberly has been published by Rizzoli in the book Brooklyn Bar Bites, CRAFT Magazine, The Mighty, and SMITH Magazine, among others. She co-founded the food and drink reading and storytelling series DISH at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in New York City and she's working on multiple projects including her debut novel, several screenplays, and a documentary about female film editors. She thanks you for stopping by and sitting a spell.

4 responses to “B-I-M-B-O”

  1. […] the first TNBLE-NYC, we tried TNBingo! and played “Name That Author/Face-off” as a[n unnecessary] […]

  2. […] Not, emphatically, a Twit…although her genius does not extend to games played in church auditoriums. […]

  3. I always figured the dumb blonde thing was explained through simple chemistry–the hair bleach seeps into the brain.

  4. […] In the interest of full disclosure, I should add that this game is a variation on one designed by the great Kimberly M. “Don’t Call Me Kim” Wetherell at the inaugural TNB-LE.  K-Dub is a veritable fountainhead of good ideas, although, as we also discovered at that very same event, she can’t run a game of Bingo to save her life. […]

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