Harmonica Sunbeam is both a longtime Jersey City resident and one of its luminaries. From local readings of “Drag Queen Story Hour” to notable screen credits, Sunbeam has entertained, enlightened, and done character work that resonates beyond any single dimension.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sunbeam has been hosting Friday nights “Virtual Drag Bingo” for Art House Productions – which continues tomorrow, May 22, at 8 p.m. through Zoom.
“What has delighted me about hosting virtual drag bingo is that I get to see families enjoying themselves and getting into the spirit of friendly competition,” Harmonica said in an interview by email earlier this week. “My in-person bingo events are all adults. We have theme nights at least twice a month to entice folks into dressing up, whether it’s just a boa or a full-on look. We’re all home in our pajamas 23 hours of the day – just kidding – so it’s nice to pull out a frock or two on a Friday night.”
Sunbeam grew up in Newark but moved to Jersey City in the early ‘80s when she began working at Radio City Music Hall.
“I needed to be close to NYC and at that time Jersey City was an easy commute and much more affordable,” Sunbeam said. “Although I probably couldn’t afford any of my old apartments Downtown, I am quite happy and comfortable in the Journal Square area with a short six minute walk to the train.”
One bonus of her live-stream bingo and Drag Queen Story Hour events is that the commute is effortless, Sunbeam said.
“Both of (these live-stream events) provide a sense of normalcy during this lifetime because I enjoy entertaining and getting dressed up,” she said.
Sunbeam herself has been a great ambassador for drag, but the widespread popularity of Ru Paul’s Drag Race (RPDR) is something that’s been beneficial to her own endeavors.
“I can say with RPDR being so mainstream now it has helped to get the word out that drag is fun, profitable and a good way to add some excitement to your life,” Sunbeam said. “Before ‘Drag Race’ I couldn’t walk into a restaurant or bar and sell them the idea of drag bingo or drag brunch, unless it was a venue that catered to the LGBTQIA community. Now everyone wants a piece of the pie.”
With the pandemic both narrowing and broadening (if more rarely) people’s lives, Sunbeam has contemplated its lessons herself.
“I think we now know that we shouldn’t take simple things for granted because even those privileges and opportunities can vanish right before our eyes,” she said. “A lot of people in this area more than likely live a fast-paced life of work, family, friends, travel and gatherings. Now we know how it feels when life slows down a bit and we can embrace it to its fullest.”
Virtual drag bingo with Harmonica Sunbeam features four rounds of bingo. Registration is $12 a board, and closes when all board are sold out.
According to Art House Productions: “As in regular bingo, you can use the same board for all (four) games or buy more to increase your odds! Each round winner gets a prize, with a cash prize for the final round! Boards will be emailed after registration.”
Register at https://www.arthouseproductions.org/collections/art-house-online/products/virtualdragbingo10 , or find the link at www.arthouseproductions.org. Find Harmonica Sunbeam on https://www.facebook.com/harmonicasunbeam.