Smart drinks

Quick! Spell the word "sacrilege."

OK, I know. I made it too easy by writing it out for you. Let's try again.

Grab a friend. Make him spell "esophagus" without looking at this page. Then have him chug a Shipyard beer and try to spell "peccadillo."

Imagine this semischolarly, all-alcoholic fun going on for an entire evening, the words becoming more difficult as the blood/ booze ratio inverts itself. You now have a good idea of the second annual Drunken Spelling Bee, which staggers into the Back Booth Saturday, June 1. Twenty contestants will vie to prove their mastery of Webster's English Dictionary while fending off the slurred speech and fogged memory only hard-core imbibing can bestow. Violating the rules brings steep consequences -- like public punishments concocted to match the interior-design motif of Catholic-school hell the club will sport for the occasion.

The bee is the brainchild of BB co-owner Ryan Marshall, who devised and executed its first edition two years ago, when he worked at the club's UCF-area predecessor, Java Jabbers Coffeehouse. Still spoken of in reverential tones by the lucky few who were there, the contest saw champion brainiac Leslie Roth nab first place by successfully spelling the word "idiosyncrasy" in a voice grown husky from hours of liquid abuse, as her narrowed, steely eyes advertised either victory or impending blackout. Roth will defend her title Saturday against stiff competition from WTKS-FM (Real Radio 104.1) on-air personalities Stacy ("The Philips Phile") and Melanie ("The Drew Garabo Show").

So what do radio folk know from literacy? Stacy claims to have held the highest spelling average in her college sorority; before that, she earned a "Super Speller" badge from her Girl Scout troop. (The time in between, she admits, was devoted to "cheerleading and boys.")

The word caller and judge for the night will be Philips foil Oddo, who went to the New York state spelling finals twice while in junior high school.

"I hate when I see something that's spelled wrong," Oddo says. "It really irks me." He doesn't discount Garabo's Melanie, who "seems to have a little bit on the ball." But doesn't his role as judge entail a conflict of interest?

"I judge them every day," he reasons, "so what makes `this` any different?"

Last time, winner Roth stumbled away with $75 in gift certificates and a table lamp. To ensure that this bee is the previous one "times 10," Marshall promises tickets to big concerts at Hard Rock Live and House of Blues, as well as handy household items donated by Fairvilla Megastore.

Fuddy-duddies who disdain the idea of the "Drunken Spelling Bee" should note that all participants must retain a designated driver. That's especially necessary for Roth, who has to hold her share of booze within a tiny, 93-pound body. Two years ago, "I shut everything else out of my mind and I went to that one sober space," she recalls of her survive-and-spell technique.

Roth's confident prediction of a repeat win, however, won't deter the indefatigable Stacy, who taunts, "All the other contestants are going to go down faster than I do on a first date."

That's one way to snag a ride home.

Waiting for the next Chapter

Is Chapters Bread & Books Cafe and Bookshop about to abandon College Park? Not if owner Marty Cummins has his way. Cummins, who has operated the restaurant/store on neighborhood soil for the past five years, says he would prefer to keep the business where it is, but he's been so dissatisfied with the slow development of the community that he's seriously considering moving his operation to Altamonte Springs or "the tourist area." Cummins specifies that his argument is not with any governmental body, but with property owners whose lack of vision, he says, is keeping the neighborhood out of step with up-and-coming locales like Thornton Park.

Accompanied by six other College Park business leaders, Cummins has aired his grievances to Dena Wild, chief planner of urban design for the city of Orlando. Their continuing dialogue is one of a few encouraging developments he says may help tip the scales in the "stay" direction when he makes his final decision sometime this summer.

While Wild appreciates Cummins' "very urban" ideas for the future of the neighborhood (and his investment in local projects like the Kerouac House), she's not sure how much a government agency like hers can do, or just how much of the community shares his outlook.

"It's a quiet commercial district," says Wild, who, like Cummins, lives there. "It doesn't have the big flash of Winter Park or Thornton Park. And maybe that's what the market wants."

Plate white way

While the destiny of College Park has yet to shake itself out, the immediate future of greater Orlando is awash in interactive dinner theater. Boston export "Joey & Maria's Comedy Wedding" comes to the Lakeside Reception Hall on North Orange Blossom Trail for twice-weekly summer performances that begin June 12, while "A Wild and Wacky Italian Wedding" will be thrown Sunday evenings from July 21 to Aug. 11 at the Diamond Players Club in Clermont. (Do Tony 'n Tina know about these shows? Is there a mobbed-up lawyer in their family they can consult?)

Meanwhile, the hotly anticipated SoulFire Theatre and Dinner Experience `The Green Room, March 7` is slightly behind schedule, its grand opening now set for late July. The debut offering, "Memories and Mayhem: The Reunion of the Cursed Class of '78," has also undergone some changes: The year of its characters' high-school graduation has been switched to 1982, to better reflect the ages of actors who auditioned for roles.

The show was written by Discount Comedy Outlet's Brian Bradley, which is great news to actual class-of-'82 grads (like me) who are blowing off our own reunions this year and leaving SoulFire to pick up the slack. If the endlessly funny Bradley had scripted my real high-school experience, I might have been tempted to show up more often.

Throw in the interactive art-gallery show planned for West Church Street's Temenos Ensemble Theater, and Orlandoans will soon be able to conduct a full range of social activities without ever having to speak to a genuine human being. Come to think of it, I bet my class reunion turns out just like that.


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