The Joint: Just John 4112 Manchester Avenue; 314-371-1333
The Hours: Drag Queen Bingo Monday from 9:30 p.m. till midnight -- or whenever the bingo-ing's done. (Regular happy hour is 3-8:30 p.m. daily; the bar is open 365 days a year.)
The Deal: $2 domestic beers, shots and well drinks. (Regular happy hour deals vary day to day.)
The Scene: Drag Queen Bingo night at Just John nightclub, a gay bar in the Grove neighborhood, is more wholesome than any church-basement bingo night: No one fritters away his pension at Just John. No one lines up a shrine of bingo good-luck talismans, wears sparkly "I Heart Bingo" pins or carries an assortment of personal ink daubers.
To be sure, free bingo cards and drink specials take the edge off the intensity of any bingo game. Even the start time on Monday night seems relaxed. Sometimes things get rolling as early as 9:30, other weeks not until after 10 p.m. Flat-screen monitors in all of the rooms display the ongoing round, so players gather around cocktail tables instead of in rows facing the bingo caller, Dieta Pepsi.
Wholesome, Dieta Pepsi is not; glamorous, she is, always -- even if she has been known to pair tennis shoes with her evening gown. She greets repeat customers with bawdy welcomes and tries to suss out the eligibility status of newcomers, particularly men taller than her 6'2". When the catcalls start, she gives as good as she gets. The whole bar cheerfully chimes in with her whenever "B-8" or "O-69" appears on the screen.
Even the prizes are (relatively) wholesome. Over the holidays, winners got Christmas decorations or candy-filled mugs. Other weeks the prizes are movies. Yeah, there might be some porn, but winners could also pick Speed Racer or Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Some weeks the prizes come from Hustler Hollywood, but they tend more toward sunglasses than anything too, y'know. One week, when the prizes were dollar-store stuffed animals (each toy in a Crown Royal bag), a fireman and his partner at the end of the bar collected the toys to donate at Christmas.
Why You'll Go Back: Because you had a good time. During colder months Just John organizes canned-food drives for veterans and collects knitted hats and scarves for the homeless. Last summer the bar passed the hat for the marriage bus that drives couples to Iowa for same-sex hitchings. The small kitchen offers pizzas for sale and customers can help themselves to free popcorn. Now and then a tray of homemade cookies gets passed around.
The Verdict: Don't get us wrong. Just John isn't exactly family friendly. But it's a bar -- and a sweet one at that. Yes, the strolling Santa at Christmastime may sport hot pants and a shaved chest, but wholesome and boring are two entirely different things.
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