Cha-ching for charity: Chicago diva hosts HamBINGO, drag-queen style

By Miyah Keller
Medill Reports

With shiny heels clicking, the long-legged drag queen struts fashion poses and a dramatic hairdo for Drag Queen Bingo at Hamburger Mary’s Brew & Grille, 5400 N. Clark St. It’s all for a noble cause.

“Nothing is too crazy. If you have an idea talk it out with people who back you because it would make a world of difference,” Bingo-Diva Granny Mattress Budde said.

HamBINGO is held every Sunday and Thursday to benefit a variety of charities in the Chicago area. Hosted by Budde, the events typically raise about $1,000.

At the traditional game of bingo, you visualize folks waving their hands in the air and yelling, “BINGO!” This is not your church basement bingo, though. The show can get a little edgy with the glamorous Granny ripping the runway of the grille in high heels. It’s about having a ton of fun at Granny’s performance plus the bingo games — all the while supporting nearby Chicago charities.

From bartending on Monday nights to painting on a face every night, Bingo is hosted by Matthew Schmidt, better known as Granny Budde, a name inspired by his loving grandmother. In his life as Granny, a lot of older women have been astounding role models, he said. Granny is a character not based on one person but on the love from multiple women who have contributed to the diva’s success.

“I never imagine when I started drag, I’ll be doing a ‘granny drag,’ but a lot of people think this is a great character,” Schmidt said. S”o if you have any idea go for it, try it. The worst is you have a terrible [performance] number.”

Bingo games last for about an hour and a half. Visitors make a $15 gift to play throughout the evening (10 games and three opportunities to dominate each match). As the game continues to draw the attention of the crowd, you have the chance to win extra cards to play. The cash gathered from the Bingo games goes straight to that night’s charity.

One of the charities benefited by the event is the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Mary Frances Charlton, a youth health attorney with the coalition, represents young people who are experiencing homelessness and need public health care through Medicaid. Charlton runs a few legal clinics at various youth drop-in centers going  once a week to the Broadway Youth Center on Irving park and Broadway, which provides legal services to individuals.

“We make a big impact across the streets of Illinois,” Charlton said. “A lot of that is because we value grassroots leadership, community-driven advocacy, and that’s special at CCH.”

Charlton came to the Bingo game on the night the coalition was honored as the charity beneficiary for the second time. Extra funds  make a difference in the community for individuals’ personal needs, she said.

“It’s a fun event to do in the neighborhood and it’s cool restaurant to support” for a good cause, Charlton said.

Hamburger Mary’s supports a variety of charities and missions for charitable work. Different Chicago area foundations and groups are welcomed, ranging from HIV/AIDS organizations to dog shelters.

So as the entertaining divas say at Hamburger Mary’s, “Eat, drink and be… Mary!”

Photo at top: Sunday and Thursday are always great days for bingo with your phenomenal host Granny Mattress Budde at Hamburger Mary’s. (Miyah Keller/MEDILL)