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PALM LATITUDES

CLIQUES : Bingo Boomers

April 11, 1993|R. Daniel Foster

Brett Williford, an account executive for a medical lab, is hunched over his card at In & Out Bingo in Granada Hills. Beside him is a portable phone should the lab need him. Williford, 34, has been playing bingo twice a week since his early 20s.

Two tables over from Williford sits a group of seven young women who look prepped for a Vogue fashion shoot.

First bowling got yuppified. Then pool. Now it's bingo. About half the players at In & Out are under 40, drawn by the idea of an inexpensive evening of good, clean fun, with the chance of winning a jackpot.

At Hawaiian Gardens' Bingo Club, which attracts a younger crowd than most halls, numbers are called every four seconds--instead of the usual 15-second interval. "The younger players like the fast pace. Some of the older ones can't keep up," says club director Al Lazar.

The stylish young women at In & Out--dubbed the "Bingo Babes" by their husbands--began playing once a month last year after watching TV's "Roseanne" get hooked on the game. Most of them have won the $250 jackpot once or twice. Julie Hamilton, 33, has won five games with the help of her Magic Eight-Ball. Talismans are a frequent sight at bingo halls.

"Mama needs a new pair of shoes!" roars Jennifer Nisenson, 28, who slides a sonogram of her baby over her six-for-a-dollar bingo cards for good luck. Her other hand squeezes a lucky--and anatomically correct--troll doll.

"The fun part is watching people's quirky habits," says Nisenson, chain-smoking Virginia Slims. "We turn it around and create our own routines. We laugh at ourselves. It's better than bowling."

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