Portland Mayor Charlie Hales was the last man standing in a local celebrity spelling bee on Jan. 31 at the Portland Art Museum, held as a benefit for Schoolhouse Supplies, which provides free classroom supplies to local teachers.
Trouble is, there were also four women in the competition. And every single one of them fared better than the six male competitors, who included Dave Dahl (Dave's Killer Bread), Reggie Aqui (KGW News), and Chris McGowan (CEO, Portland Trailblazers).
The winner? Dandy Warhols keyboardist Zia McCabe. She edged out last year's champ, actress Pat Janowski, by correctly spelling the word "gnathonic". We'll save you the google: It means "toadying, sycophantic."
Hales did "pretty good for a guy," said McCabe. "There was the writer, the news guy, the mayor. But in the end it was four cute female performers." The final four spellers consisted of McCabe, Janowski, ballet dancer Candace Bouchard, and cupcake chef/reality TV star Kyra Bussanich (Crave).
McCabe said she studied from a 1200-word list in the week leading up to the spelling bee, but was so confident she wouldn't be the winner that she didn't even listen to to instructions for the final rounds.
"I’ve never won any kind of competition," said McCabe. "The only other trophy I won was four inches tall for giving a speech on hoof rot in the fourth grade." The spelling bee trophy is, needless to say, significantly taller than four inches.
According to Eli Madrone, spokesman for Schoolhouse Supplies, the spelling bee raised $250,000 in funds from the 373 attendees.
McCabe, who has been a vocal anti-fluoridation advocate—she organized a "Public Water, Public Vote" benefit concert supporting the successful petition to refer the city council's pro-fluoridation vote to the public-—said she used the opportunity to buttonhole the mayor on the issue. Hales endorsed the fluoridation vote during the election.
"He was awesome about it," said McCabe. "He said, he thought it was an open-and-shut case, but 'now that I'm hearing from people I realize I need to look into it further.'" The decision on fluoridation will not be made by Hales, however; a public ballot this May will decide the issue.
Oh, and the word that knocked out our mayor? "Fusillade." (A barrage of arms fire or or a "sudden outburst, as of criticism.")
"Given the speed with which news stories smack into City Hall," wrote the mayor's spokesman Dana Haynes in an e-mail, "let me be the first to point out the irony."
Vid of the final minutes below, filmed by Dar Sernoff (with occasional commentary from Dar Sernoff.)