First off, I would just like to say a hearty "thank you kindly" to all of you who said you were entirely unsurprised by my victory. When I asked my friend Michael (who forced me into participating in the first place) why it was so important to him that I get up there, he said, "Because I want to see you WIN." I promise you, I had no intention of winning. Spelling bees are a crapshoot; we all know that. My goal was only not to humiliate myself--more specifically, not to be eliminated in the first round.
As it turns out, I needn't have worried. Speller #1 was eliminated immediately... on the word accessory. The crowd was surprised but pretty forgiving. Plying people with alcohol always helps; does it not? And following that, at least half the first round contenders were ousted. (It's sad; spelling really is a lost art.) My first round word was nugatory--a word I couldn't define but have actually seen before, and therefore I spelled with no problem at all. I eased up and had the requisite inter-round drink. If I went out on "millennium" (which I surely would have spelled either "millenium" or "milennium"), so be it. We were all just there to have fun.
In the second round, I lucked out and got a word from the "Hipster" category. When I heard the word in a sentence, I wasn't at all worried I'd spell celibating wrong. But the third round, I actually worked for it. That round went something like this...
Nice girl whose number I forget: Butt fuck? Oh, OK. B-U-T-T space F-U-C-K.
Crowd: [Various cheers, hoots, and hollers. Obvious general appreciation for the Hipster and Pop Culture categories]
Judge: Speller number 28 [that's me], your word is "Ooh-blee-ett."
Crowd: [General menacing and foreboding groan]
Me: Ooh-blee-ett? Um, can I spell "Butt fuck" instead?
Judge: Nope. Sorry. Your word is "Ooh-blee-ett."
Me: Can I have the definition and origin, please?
Judge: An Ooh-blee-ett is a dungeon with an opening only at the top. Origin: French
Me: [seemingly long pause] Ooh-blee-ett... O-U-...
Crowd: Oooh! [General groans and whistles signaling "clearly you are WRONG!"]
Judge: Quiet, please. I need to hear the speller. Keep going, please, 28.
Me: Wait. O-U was right?
Me: O-U is RIGHT??
Judge: [Still nodding]
Crowd: [Suddenly silent]
Judge: [pause] That's correct.
Crowd: [Mad cheering all around, signifying clearly I AM a spelling goddess.]
The winner of the nearly-naked round was a fun little man named Jaime, who was so unshy about photodocumenting the performance that he urgently thrust his own camera in my hands before he went on stage. Again, I don't feel right about posting him in his tighty-whiteys, but here's a shot of him (with me) fully clothed after the whole event.
In round four, my word was conflagration, which I know only because I am a huge enough nerd that I took notes as we went along. Apparently the "drunken" part of this bee was getting to me by then, because I don't remember spelling that word at all. That round wasn't actually a total blur, though. I do remember counting the five remaining contestants around me and thinking surely I was doomed to fail at that point. "Maybe coming in sixth at spelling bees is what I do," I thought, remembering my sixth grade defeat in the regional bee. Maybe it's an unavoidable jinx in some way. If my word in that round had been pejorative, I've have thought the universe was speaking to me. Instead, I correctly spelled conflagration, proving again that the universe really pays no attention to me.
By round five, there were only four of us still in the running, and the three women in that group had formed an alliance, all saying (while glaring at Indiana Boy), "I don't care which one of us wins. But ONE of us has to TAKE. HIM. DOWN." I should note that he may not have actually been so awful. Alcohol does have a tendency to heighten emotions. But he rubbed most of us the wrong way in the first round (when the judges asked him to repeat the last part of his spelling and he pranced off the stage scoffing, "No. I spelled it right"), and his attitude only escalated from there. Also, he may not have actually been from Indiana, but I don't remember precisely which "I" state he claimed to be a former champ of, so for the sake of my story, he's Indiana's black sheep to bear.
In round five, I actually went down, by mysteriously trying to put a "th" in proselytize. (Was I thinking of "prosthetic"? I have no idea. Apparently I just never learned how to spell that word.) Luckily, all four of us tanked in that round, so they brought us all back up on stage. (Mind you, brought us back only after Indiana Boy tried to claim victory as last-man-standing by virtue only of his later-number place in line. Luckily, the judges said, "No, you have to spell first" and when he blew his word, we all got another try.)
At that point, they mixed up our order and made Indiana spell his word first. They also made him spell sans his pants, which tells me the judges didn't like him any more than we did. He flubbed his word, as did the two nice women who followed him, and then it was my turn again. (Note: What was that I said about not editorializing? Sorry, Indiana; you just rubbed me the wrong way, I guess.)
Judge: Speller number 28, your word is "guy-no-bib-la-phobia."
Me: Can I have the definition, please?
Judge: "Guy-no-bib-la-phobia." A fear or dislike of women authors.
Me: [Silently breaking down the root words, using that awesome liberal arts education of mine...] Guy-no-bib-LEE-OH-phobia?
Judge: [Squinting at the paper the word was printed on, obviously feeling the effects of the free PBR herself] Oh. Yes. Guy-no-bib-lee-OH-phobia.
My friend Michael says as soon as he heard me question the pronunciation, he knew I had the bee wrapped up. The host descended on me with that yellow and black striped hat and matching scarf and she declared me the winner of the whole bee. The scarf and hat wasn't the only prize, though. The grand prize was a free tattoo, courtesy of a local tattoo spot. It wasn't just any tattoo, however. Apparently I got very little say in it. "It's a tattoo of a drunken bee," she said. "And if you take it, you HAVE to get it, and you HAVE to decide RIGHT NOW. Otherwise we'll give it to someone else."
The crowd was cheering, saying, "Yeah! Get it!" But I'm far, far too practical for that. Suddenly I saw myself at 96, wondering why on earth I had a shriveled, dizzy bee on my ass. I mean, a bee tattoo, for the rest of my life? All because I won a spelling bee in a bar? But then again, a BEE TATTOO! For the rest of my life! All because I won a spelling bee in a bar!! Frankly, I'm having a smidge of winner's remorse about passing on the prize. They couldn't really force me to get a drunken bee, could they? Maybe at least a sober bee? Wouldn't that have been fun? Alas, I turned it down, and it's too late to change my mind now.
And with that, I think I've answered all of your questions. Oh. Except for -R-'s, regarding the 3D glasses. Those were for the burlesque show that followed the bee. One girl performed her act behind a curtain lit with a red and blue light. Hence, 3D glasses for the full effect.
I actually got to talking with one of the performers later, and she handed me her card and asked if I'd be interested in a burlesque class. Tempting, I suppose. A useful skill, maybe. But I think I'll stick to spelling for now.