THE BINGE & YARN
Bing & Yarn 2009
The Binge & Yarn Storytelling night was a short-lived blip of a Folly. Beth Boccassini, the Manager of Bob & Barbara’s Lounge, approached me through a mutual friend to help develop and host some sort of storytelling event.
There was nothing new about storytelling forums. This American Life had been on the air for years and Philly already had a couple solemn endeavors that were aping tedious big-ticket NYC events.
Bob & Barbara’s is a Philadelphia institution, home of the city’s first drag show and countless other themed event nights. It’s also considered one of the most down and dirty dive bars in the city.
Considering the location, we wanted to create an open mic experience that is erased away the self-absorption and self-importance that inevitably makes most poetry and acoustic events insufferable. We wanted something that was far more true to Philly, to create a venue that felt like an old back room gritty tavern where the boys (and girls) could drink whiskey and share war stories.
This would be a spot where there is no fear that a story, or delivery wasn’t good enough. While the audience would be discouraged from heckling per say, they would be encouraged to engage and egg on the speaker.
But this was another a R.E. Brown Folly. Bob & Barbara’s was the originator of the Philadelphia City Wide Special- A shot of Jim Beam and a PBR. It’s pretty much the only thing people order there. The binge in the Binge & Yarn is fucking apropos in a famous hotbed of whiskey-fueled patron tomfoolery.
The nights all started out as we planned, with a half dozen, hi-larious, off color and inappropriate stories. But the concept of handing inebriated patrons a microphone, inevitably went where we should have known it would go. By the end of each event, The Binge and Yarn was more like a karaoke night without the music, or for that matter, the singing. By the end of some nights, I literally chased drunks around the room like they were three year olds screaming “la la la la la” into the mic.
Don’t get me wrong, there were some legitimately good stories told. My personal favorite was an anecdote by an ex-Marshals employee from deep South Philly, who was forever traumatized by the regular “Code Brown” calls over the intercom. Code Brown is the code for when a customer takes a shit in the isle. Who knew that was a thing? I sure didn’t.
After four months I was over it. I handed the gig over to Needles Jones, one of my FOS go-to lounge acts. Needles is an elderly, disheveled and intentionally grotesque drag queen who was pretty much shunned by the drag community. He had been part of the NYC punk scene in the 70’s & 80’s and impressed the hell out of me at one of the Binge & Yarns with stories about butt fucking Joey Ramone, and spitefully peeing on a young Belinda Carlisle when she was passed out in a heroin nod. I thought he would make a great replacement.
Sadly, they removed the mic from Needles the first night he took over. Literally. He showed up addled on pain pills and proceeded to ramble and rant at the audience for 90 minutes, refusing to let anyone else get on stage. Eventually the bartender couldn’t take it anymore and they pulled the plug on him, and the Binge & Yarn.