Women of all ages looking for social interaction and a new way to challenge their skill sets have found an underground community with a different kind of playing field. Like flappers of the 1920s, Belles and Chimes, a pinball club for women in Denver is resisting out-of-date stereotypes. For these ladies, the focus of their fun is on what it takes to make skill shots and earn extra balls. Belles and Chimes is the newest chapter from the original club, which started in Oakland, California, in 2013. Their primary objective is to offer a fun environment to play pinball with other women.
There are multiple skill levels of players in the club from novice to world champion. These women come from all types of backgrounds, including but not limited to city and government workers, nurses, lawyers, tax accountants and photographers. There are no restrictions on who can play, except that you have to be a woman. Transgender women are welcome to join as well. The group meets the first and third Thursday of each month, hosting bi-weekly tournaments to qualify for the finals in April.
One of the reasons Haley Gabbard chose to move to Denver with her husband was for the pinball scene, and it didn’t take her long to start tracking down other women who shared her enthusiasm. She excited about the opportunity for as many women as possible to play and have a positive experience. “We’ve chosen to try ‘round robin’ style which means every player plays each player once,” Gabbard said. Gabbard explained that their approach to the weekly tournaments is an effort to give everyone an equal chance to play.
Andrea Bastien started playing pinball less than a year ago and took Gabbard’s suggestion to get the ball rolling for Belles and Chimes Denver. As a self proclaimed “introvert extrovert” who started playing pinball primarily for herself, she now looks forward to the time spent with the women of Belles and Chimes. “We’re all really good friends. We hang out and learn from each other and give each other tips,” Bastien said.
In February, the Denver club hosted its kickoff with a launch party at the 1Up arcade and bar on East Colfax Avenue. They meet the first Thursday at 1Up on Colfax in Denver and third Thursday at Cuckoo’s Nest in Lakewood at 7 p.m. The cost is $10 to play. All skill levels and drop-ins are welcome to attend. If you are a man, you are welcome to watch, but leave the flipping to the ladies.