REVIEW – I know what you’re thinking. A drunken spelling bee sounds like a lot of fun, and you know what? You’re exactly right.
It’s a blast. The Drunken Spelling Bee at The Balcony at the Trocadero Sept. 17 was everything you’d expect: people trying to spell while intoxicated, a raucous crowd, obnoxious judges and hosts heckling spellers after every letter.
The Drunken Spelling Bee began as a short film with the same name, created as a project for the 48-Hour Film Challenge by Uncut Productions, a group devoted to being “innovative [and] creative” and “[putting] on killer productions on shoe-string budgets,” according to their MySpace profile.
As a promotion for the film, the first Drunken Spelling Bee was held at a favorite haunt of the Uncut Productions crew – Bob and Barbara’s at 1509 South St. in 2006. The contest was successful enough that the group decided to throw another and has since been holding them the first Monday of every month.
On Sept. 17, the Uncut crew showed up around 10:30 p.m. and posted sign-up sheets after setting up. To get in, you have to pay $3 and sign a waiver longer than my arm.
Your first beer is on the house and you are encouraged to chug it and grab another as quickly as you can. It is a drunken spelling bee, after all. DJ Brown, aka Browntown Rodeo, kept the energy high all night with classics such as “Black Betty” and “Funky Cold Madina.” With 15 spellers on the list, we were just about ready to begin – but then Tony Spectacular showed up.
Tony Spectacular is a Drunken Spelling Bee legend. His lowest finish ever was third place, which only happened once, and he won the previous bee at Bob and Barbara’s. The man who has contestant spot No. 13 held for him and is quite a character. He sports a “Born to Spell” tattoo inside his lower lip and lives by the bee’s official credo: “My goal is not only to win but to be the drunkest one in the contest.”
Just after midnight, the hosts, the Rogerio brothers, Chic and Buzzy, got the crowd warmed up and ready to start. These larger-than-life Italians would probably look more at home in a Quentin Tarantino movie than real life. Chic rocks a Gerry curl, glasses, a headband and a mustache usually seen on Dateline’s To Catch a Predator, while Buzzy wears a brown fedora and sweats. By the time the contest began, the judges – Frustrated Fran, Angry Mike and DJ Brown – were already exchanging insults with the brothers.
The contestants for the evening were a good mix of both men and women and even included of few of Temple’s own faculty (who shall remain nameless). I saw four brave souls fall during the first round – one actually fell off of the stage – and we took a dance break before round two.
Round two’s words were a bit more difficult and two more spellers went down, with a few others dropping out because it was getting late.
With everyone officially sloshed, the third and final round, the dreaded round of fears, began. All of the words in this round were “-phobia” words and stumped the six remaining spellers, so Buzzy declared a sudden death round. They kept with the “round of fears” theme and Tony Spectacular ultimately won on “herpetophobia,” the fear or reptiles. His prize was two cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.
If you care to try your luck at spelling drunk or are looking for a great time on a Monday night, head down to Bob and Barbara’s for the next Drunken Spelling Bee. See if you can take down Tony Spectacular and pocket $50.
Eric O’Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.