There’s a party at the Amigo. It isn’t the kind of party you do expect to take place in the bar of an ultra-hip hotel in southern California. It isn’t the kind of party you would look for in any hip surrounding. But still, there’s a party going on. A party of which you never thought could be cool indeed.
The bar of the ACE hotel in Palm Springs is packed. Outside, in the descending desert sun bathing the hotel entrance in rays of warm sunlight, the place is deserted. It will take another hour or two until people come out to the streets again, fill the neighboring King’s Highway restaurant, and enjoy their lives like they usually do out here. Inside, despite what seems like a crowd of about 50 people, a deep, sudden silence falls. Outside, temperatures slowly drop, while inside, blood pressures and temperatures are perceivably rising: For seconds at a time, people hold their breaths, and the rumbling of plastic balls in a small, transparent bowl becomes the only noise that is audible.
Then, Linda Gerard, the woman working the bowl’s crank handle, stops in her movement, waits for a short moment, and grabs the balls rolling from the machine. In her loud, clear voice, she calls out a letter and a number: O 45. The noise filling the room changes to a fussy rustle of paper and the sound of stamps working. In a corner of the dark and cool room, smelling slightly of beer and liquor, the excited call of a woman breaks the silence: Bingo! She gets up to get her prize at the bar: A free drink of her own choice. While Linda Gerard puts the plastic balls back into the bowl, a new game is about to start.
Linda Gerard is 74, she has celebrated her birthday on Christmas Eve. Every Monday, the Lady with a weakness for super huge sunnies comes to the ACE hotel to entertain the crowd at Bingo Night. Hotel Guests, tourists and residents all come alike, the crowd is made up by different kinds of people of all ages. Bingo with Linda is the new trend, and the cool kids all come to play.
Linda herself is a legend already: She has been on TV, on Broadway, in Hollywood productions. Once she made all models of the TV show “Deal or no Deal” wear sunglasses just as big as her own. Her wordplay reaches from hilarious to insane and she can even make an old lady blush like a little girl. It is no coincidence that the Amigo is packed when Linda invites to Bingo night. She knows how to entertain a room full of people: She sings, she dances, she tells diverting stories of her life. Apart from the newest gossip, former Broadway singer Linda Gerard, who played Barbra Streisand’s understudy in the musical “Funny Girl”, also spreads a whiff of glamor.
Palm Springs, the sunny desert Oasis, in which people prefer the coolness of indoors, and in which playing Bingo is part of the overall party of life, is a city that likes to celebrate itself. It lives on its dazzling characters, and even more, it lives on the stories they tell. The glorious days of the past, when movie stars like Elvis and Frank Sinatra threw pool parties every afternoon at four o’clock, are long gone, of course. Those who stayed or moved in, desperately try to hold up the spirit.
Nostalgia hovers above Palm Springs as does the glimmering heat of the desert sun. And people do not want that to change, they fight age in a quite lovely manner. Linda Gerard, with her 74 years, still very agile and looking much younger than her actual age, stays young at heart, but also uses tricks to fight the signs of the time: “Of course I do plastic surgery,” she exclaims when asked about it, “I think everybody should do it.” Getting old is their worst fear, here in Palm Springs. Yet, they take it easy. And they like to make fun of themselves. Like Riff Markowitz, Moderator of the Plaza Theater Show “The Follies”, who calls his audience a “lifted pack”. And like Linda Gerard, who turns an old folks game like Bingo into a hip, cosmopolitan affair.
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