Drag Queen bingo every Monday night helps Boost Weekday Sales
Melanie’s voice boomed through the restaurant’s speakers as she called out bingo numbers. Melanie, who just turned 58 on the 4th of July is Hamburger Mary’s resident drag queen bingo caller. Towering at about 6-feet in height, with a fire-engine red wig, Minyon admits that her exact height depends entirely on which stilettos she wears.
With each quip for every bingo number called out, the crowd roars with laughter as Melanie entertains her guests. Many of these customers are straight, but have never experienced being in close proximity to a drag queen. By day, she is known as Melanie Todd, the manager of Centro Ybor restaurant and every Monday night, she becomes the bingo caller extraordinaire known as Melanie Minyon at this highly-entertaining bingo room/restaurant!
Bingo night at Hamburger Mary’s
According to Kurt King, owner of Ybor’s Hamburger Mary’s, Drag Queen Bingo is provided in all of its franchises. For his site, a bingo gaming beneficiary is reserved 2 x per week, and red daubers and 10 game cards can be purchased by players at just $10 per bundle.
The beneficiary gets to keep all the proceeds, whereas Hamburger Mary’s receives a boost in weekday dinner sales, popularity and so forth. In over 2 years, the restaurant has donated in excess of $1, 900,000. King stated this number also included tips for waiters and charitable donations that they received from banquet events.
Minyon and King’s acquaintanceship spans more than 20 years. Minyon was the first ever transsexual that King befriended and he met her while she was still a rookie in the business, playing at the ‘Sugar Plum Fairies’, a yearly Christmas-style event. King is the proud owner of several gay bars – or has been - and Minyon has featured in most all of these establishments.
How it All Began Back in the Day
Minyon’s witty comebacks resonate in the establishment, but there was once a time when her voice wasn’t as strong. She was a victim of constant bullying and harassment while growing up in the rural areas of the South. Melanie began identifying herself as a woman after high school graduation and says that it wasn’t an overnight decision. She had always liked dressing in drag; recollecting a time when she used to try on her cousins’ clothing in the middle of the night when they visited.
When she was just 4, her parents divorced, which also marked the last time she saw her father. Minyon says that when she changed her name, her mother had a hard time accepting it and instead kept calling her by her birth name, which infuriated her. Things got even more heated up when Minyon started hormone therapy and cosmetic surgery, with breast implants being one of them. That’s when things got a little tough for this bingo fanatic to be!
Minyon says that her relationship with her mother was estranged until the latter remarried a bloke with a homosexual son. Her stepbrother was responsible in getting both mother and daughter back into talking terms, which was a stressful and tense period for both women. Minyon & mom are now the best of friends, with both of them going all out to make things right!
The Bingo Drag Queen Extraordinaire
Minyon recalled being fascinated by the drag show performances when saw her first show at a bar in Jackson during her high school senior year with her friends. From the 80s to the 90s, Minyon worked the Texas and Florida circuit as a female impersonator at places such as the Yum Yum Tree in Pensacola and Hollywood Hots in Atlanta where male leads were abundant and costumes were dramatic.
When at the Tampa Bay area, the El Goya nightclub was only a standing room which later became known as Tracks, before it was closed in 1996. A love-struck Mark Bell, Hamburger Mary’s busboy praises Minyon as being lovable and hilarious and that she would outshine Jimmy Kimmel if she had her own stand-up comedy show.
Instead of becoming a comedian, Minyon calls bingo in Ybor and at the Blur nightclub near her Dunedin condo, she lip syncs to the hottest rock and roll and country music hits. Minyon says that flamboyant drag shows are less of a novelty nowadays. She claims that being gay nowadays is more mainstream and that drag is now no more as dramatic or exciting as it once was.