For three years, the third Friday of each month has been marked with wigs, polyester and absurd amounts of clownish makeup at the First Baptist Church in Salt Lake City. Ruby Ridge and the Matrons of Mayhem bring bingo balls, party fouls and fabulous prizes to the church to raise money for a different charity each month. Like the costumes of the fabulous ladies, the charity changes month to month, but the insanity and hilarity that ensues never does.
Third Friday Bingo attracts hundreds of participants and serves as a bridge between the gay and straight communities, said Don Steward, the man behind the makeup of Ruby Ridge. The amount of attendees and the ratio of gay to straight vary each week, but it is usually about 65 percent gay and 35 percent straight, he said. And the number of straight attendees has been growing, especially since the LDS Church voiced its support for anti-discrimination laws in Salt Lake City.
“We didn’t specifically target a straight audience. But our venue dictated we be a little more family friendly, which started to attract the straight audience and I think word of mouth made us a little more popular,” Steward said. “We are that place where you can bring your co-worker or LDS family member and they can still feel comfortable.”
The Matrons are spreading their camp-drag glory out far and wide and will be launching a new program on the second and fourth Sundays of the month at the West Valley City Fraternal Order of Eagles, where they expect to attract a straight, blue-collar audience.
“The straight guys get us. They buy into our persona and they understand the joke. When they get a party foul, they work that wig and really get into it,” Steward said.
The Matrons are also expanding their programming to include a ‘Thigh-High Sci-Fi’ series at Club Try-Angles where they’ll be screening campy sci-fi movies, such as Young Frankenstein and Flash Gordon. The event will be held Wednesday nights through the end of February, from 7-9 p.m.
The drag troupe has aided dozens of charities and raise around $1,500 a month.
“We adopted our name almost as an accident. It was a throw out name we came up with at the last minute. But I think it’s very appropriate,” Steward said. “We’re not trying to be anything but big hairy guys in a dress, but we are very matronly. We’re never mean-spirited and we try to bring support and love to the community.”
It was that support and love, both for the gay and straight communities that earned Ruby Ridge and the Matrons of Mayhem an honorable mention for the people of the year. Building bridges, one polyester event at a time, the Matrons embody the spirit of unity that our world so desperately needs.