‘Goodtime’ for a good cause

by ERIC WATSON

Unlike many bowling leagues that attract members by offering big prize money, Goodtime Bowling League in Salt Lake City offers members a chance to bowl each week for a charitable cause.

Dean White, owner of Bonwood Bowl in South Salt Lake, said the Goodtime league has been making donations to various charities since they began bowling at his establishment in 1990.

“They’re a very charitable bunch,” White said.  “We get thank you notes all the time from places they donate to.”

Goodtime donates roughly $1,500 spread out over approximately six different charities each year, but as membership numbers continue growing, donations are becoming more plentiful.

Goodtime has grown from 14 to 24 teams since last year alone, according to league president Nate Christensen.  “My goal from last year to this year was to build the league,” Christensen said.  “We added 10 teams.  It was phenomenal.”

The league is up to 96 bowlers, which Christensen said directly connects to the $1,700 in donations so far this year.

Goodtime has donated to the Ronald McDonald House, Huntsman Cancer Institute, Utah AIDS Foundation and the Utah Pride Center this year.  Also, a donation was made to the family of a Bonwood Bowl employee who died in a traffic accident in 2007.

Some people assume that, since Goodtime is a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender bowling league, donations are strictly made toward LGBT organizations, but Christensen said that is not the case.

“Every bowler has a vote for which charities they would like to donate to each year,” Christensen said.  “The majority of our charities are not LGBT affiliates.”

The majority of the donations are collected from membership fees and various buy-in tournaments that Goodtime organizes.  The types of tournaments vary from week to week, but the charity theme remains the same. 

One example of a tournament called “strike it rich” gives bowlers a chance to win some money while still making a contribution.  The amount of winnings change each week depending on how many players buy-in, and the winner receives half the pot while the other half goes towards charity.

“If the pot is $100,” Christensen said, “$50 goes to charity.  A few weeks ago the pot was $180.”

Christensen explained that Goodtime does not simply “cut a check to each charity and say ‘see ya next year.’”  Goodtime contacts each charity individually to explain who they are and what they are doing in the community.

“I explain that we are a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender bowling league that is doing something good in our community,” Christensen said.  “We are individuals, and we do care.”

Goodtime has been a part of the International Gay Bowling Organization since the IGBO was founded in 1980.  Back then, Goodtime bowled at the University of Utah.

IGBO hosts prize tournaments for LGBT leagues all across the nation. Salt Lake Goodtime has hosted two IGBO tournaments, but Christensen said it did not turn out as well as he had hoped.

“[IGBO] wasn’t as successful as it could’ve been,” Christensen said.  “I have gone [to an IGBO tourney] in Orange County and it was an amazing turnout.”

In order to be a part of IGBO, Goodtime pays the organization $150 per year, giving Goodtime members the option to attend any IGBO tournaments nationwide.  Dallas, Texas will host the next national IGBO tournament this year, according to Christensen.

To ensure Goodtime remains successful each year, Christensen explained that the league tries to create a fun atmosphere for the bowlers while keeping charity at the forefront of the league’s agenda.

Recognizing Goodtime’s charitable donations, White recently wrote a letter to the Goodtime league expressing the importance of what they do for the community each and every bowling season.

“They get very little publicity,” White said, “but they’re not after publicity, and they’re never pretentious about their donations.”  He continued to say that not many people realize how much Goodtime is contributing to the community every year. 

White said that Goodtime, like many bowling leagues at Bonwood, hold a “turkey shoot” during Thanksgiving, where each team has a chance to win a turkey, “but instead of keeping their turkeys, 10 individuals from [Goodtime] donated to the food bank,” he said. 

 “I do their in-house banking,” White said, “so I know what they do with their prize money.  They keep very little for themselves.  They buy trophies once a year, and that’s about it.”

According to league member and former Goodtime secretary Chad Hall, 33, the league was at its largest during the 1995 to 1996 season, with 36 registered teams.

“Scheduling 36 teams for one night was tough,” Hall said.  “Twenty-four teams is probably our limit.”

Christensen said the league still has room to grow, but admitted adding too many teams might cause problems.  “I would feel comfortable having 28 teams,” Christensen said.  “As president, I would like to see the league stay within two-thirds of the lanes at Bonwood.”

Keeping a few extra lanes open gives the public an opportunity to experience what the league is all about, Christiansen said, and having too many teams could make the league feel impersonal.

Goodtime is open to anyone to join.  The league currently has members of all ages and sexual orientations.

Although Goodtime bowlers come and go, Christensen said he has bowlers that have been with the league over 10 years.  He estimates that 60 percent of the league changes from year to year, but he and former president Scott Mallar have added stability to a once shaky bowling league.

“We’ve gone through some growing pains,” Christensen said.  “[Mallar] did a great job of building up consistency within the league.  My goal is to keep it consistent and fun.”

SLC drag troupe raises funds, morale

by AMANDA CHAMBERLAIN

Forty-five-year-old Don Steward says he’s about as mainstream as it gets. The West Valley City resident has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in public administration, owns a small business and attends church every week.

“If I was an ice cream flavor I would be vanilla – probably sugar free,” Steward said. “I’m that dull.”

Perhaps it’s Steward’s dull home life that makes his charity work seem even more intriguing. He makes it a priority to stay active doing volunteer work, and has traveled across Utah and Wyoming mentoring nonprofit organizations. But it’s when he stuffs his 6-foot, 230-pound frame into a curve-hugging, polyester dress and 5-inch heels that his charity work appears the most vibrant.

Meet Ruby Ridge, Steward’s alter ego. He transitions into this bearded drag queen – brazenly outfitted with loud makeup, fluorescent hair and a sassy attitude – when he appears with the fundraising performance troupe, the Utah Cyber Sluts. As one of the about 10 rotating members in the troupe, Ridge performs improvisational comedy and lends herself to charitable events within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, such as Pride and WinterFest.

Most recently, the Cyber Sluts kicked off University of Utah’s Pride Week on Oct. 15, 2007, performing a colorful show for attendees free of charge. On Nov. 29, the troupe will doll themselves up in the finest Deseret Industries dresses and attend The Red Party at the Hotel Monaco to raise money for AIDS awareness. Just one night later, they will unveil their Christmas performance “Cyber Night, Slutty Night, What’s in Your Stocking?” at the Paper Moon.

But perhaps the Cyber Sluts’ most famous fundraising effort is Cyber Slut Bingo. Each month, the merry bunch hosts a different-themed game night in order to raise money for the Utah Pride Center.

“The Pride Center has had a partnership with them for couple of years now, and one amazing thing about the Cyber Sluts is how much they do for charity,” said Jennifer Nuttall, the Center’s adult-program director. “Initially, the Center was having difficulty raising funds, and it was their idea to come and do the Bingo nights to help out the center. Now that we’ve gotten to a much better place financially, we’re able to split the proceeds to go to both the Pride Center and the Cyber Sluts’ other charities throughout the community.”

In September, the Cyber Sluts collected more than $2,000 from Bingo night alone. And according to Nuttall, who attends Bingo night to direct “the Pride Center side of things,” the number will only continue to grow. She said the game night fundraiser is attracting a bigger and “more diverse crowd,” and at $5 admission per person, that can add up.

Nuttall also noted that the Cyber Sluts plan to take the event “on the road,” hosting Bingo night starting Dec. 14, 2007, at the South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society (6876 S. Highland Dr., Salt Lake City) for the next few months, then moving it to another part of the valley.

The Cyber Sluts experience no shortage of Bingo, AIDS benefits and Pride weeks, but just how does one find himself performing in drag for charity? Steward’s story starts with the formation of the troupe itself, which was inspired by the Denver Cycle Sluts, a similar fundraising outfit. Two inquisitive Utahns, Rand Bodily and Chris Trujillo, caught a Cycle Slut performance nearly 17 years ago and felt inspired to mimic their antics and generosity, according to an article published in the November 2007 issue of QSaltLake.

Taking their concept back to Utah’s salty turf, Bodily adopted the name Lucky Charms, and Trujillo became Andromeda Strange. As they acquired more volunteers, the twosome blossomed into a full-fledged performance troupe, which they named the Utah Cyber Sluts — tweaking the moniker to slightly differ from the Denver group’s.

As one of their first charitable efforts, they started Camp Pinecliff Weekend, an annual camping retreat for people with HIV/AIDS, their family and their caregivers. And while the camp acts to bring hope to those with the disease, it also serves as the birthplace of Ruby Ridge, who now is one of the event’s main coordinators.

“I knew Rand and Chris, and we just got to talking one night in the lodge and boom! Ruby was born,” Steward explained. “They are great performers and sort of dragged me along by my boot straps until I learned the basics.”

Though founders Bodily and Trujillo have passed the leadership torch on to other Sluts, such as Ida Slapter, the current “Madame,” Ridge and the rest of the troupe continue to reach out to the LGBT community, and beyond.

“They really promote a sense of community,” Nuttall said, “and they’re a great and fun social outlet for both our community and the community at large.”

Just like the Sluts aren’t limited to raising funds for just one demographic of the community, Steward isn’t limited to playing Ridge only under the Cyber Slut name. He also flexes Ridge’s sharp-tongued wit as a columnist for the local LGBT news and entertainment newspaper, QSaltLake. Her column, in which she touches on current events amid a bounty of endearment terms (calling readers “muffins,” “petals,” etc.), has gained a steady following. According to Assistant Editor JoSelle Vanderhooft, Ridge’s column, “Rocky Meadows Mascara,” is one of the paper’s most popular features.

“I’m really surprised at how many people actually read my column,” Ridge said. “I always did it as a joke, but people really respond to it.”

In many ways, the same sentiment applies to the Utah Cyber Sluts. Though they joke with funny names, bad fashion sense and diva attitudes, they get the attention of many in the community at large, and it’s due to their unique and entertaining take on charity work.