Calling out letters and numbers for Boybutante AIDS Foundation, Inc.’s bi-annual bingo event is one way Mike Musgrove, also known as drag queen Sophia LoRent, honors the friends he’s lost — especially Dwayne Garrett. Garrett was Musgrove's first boyfriend in Athens, and he passed away in 1991.
Musgrove got involved with the organization when was founded in 1989 at the height of the American AIDS crisis, and is now an advisory board member.
When he started at Boybutante, Musgrove was determined he wasn’t going to do drag. However, in 1998 he changed his tune and created his drag persona: Sophia LoRent.
“[She’s] kind of at the juncture of drag and dad jokes,” Musgrove said. “Sort of like the wasabi pea of drag.”
When Boybutante was still in its infancy, it only hosted the annual Boybutante Ball. Now, they host a slew of events including Fall Drag Bingo which started in 2000. The event is comprised of five rounds with 20-30 winners each round. Three different drag queens emcee and call out the numbers, Musgrove said.
Musgrove said drag is a good way to help raise money, and it also provides a distraction to a very serious issue in the gay community. Musgrove feels drag queens are the “rodeo clowns of AIDS” because the Boybutante queens are there to “entertain and distract.”
This especially rang true when the organization started at the tail end of the ’80s. Back then, if someone tested HIV-positive they only had a few years left and the community lost a lot of people. Even though medicine has made advances and HIV can be treated, people who test positive still face a lot of challenges, so Boybutante’s job is not done, Musgrove said.
The main focus of the organization is fundraising. Most of the money raised from all of their events go directly to Live Forward - previously AIDS Athens. This way Live Forward can focus its energy on serving the population and doesn’t have to worry about funding.
Other than the annual ball, drag bingo raises the most money out of their events. It’s always packed, especially in the spring, Alicin Hendricks, a Boybutante board member, said. She attributes the success of the event to the generosity of the community, the hilarity the queens provide and the prizes.
“[We have] everything from massages and haircuts and jewelry to toys from Sexy Suz,” Hendricks said. “That’s always a big hit among winners.”
All of the prizes are provided by sponsors. One reason drag bingo only occurs twice a year is that the organization doesn’t want to have fewer prizes for people to win or to ask more of their sponsors.
“If you eat chocolate cake every day, you’re not going to enjoy it anymore,” Musgrove said. “We gotta spread that shit out.”
Boybutante’s decision to only host the event bi-annually seems to be working because both of the bingo events are either sold out or close to sold out every year. Sometimes they have to turn people away because they didn’t show up early enough, according to Musgrove.
Even if it’s just showing up to bingo, Boybutante hopes to see more UGA students because young people are “a great way to boost up the energy level and ensure the future of the organization,” Hendricks said.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated Mike Musgrove's last name was Landers. The Red & Black regrets these error, and it has since been changed.