Proper spelling is about as sexy as the word thesaurus. However, much hotter than polished orthography is a slow, sexy striptease. By that standard, the Honeysuckle Strip Spelling Bee must the sexiest bee around.
It has the one key element that other spelling bees lack – nudity. Contestants are asked to spell three words over the course of the bee. Each time a word is misspelled, the contestant must remove a third of their clothing until they’re down to their underwear. Or their bare skin.
Here’s a play-by-play of the Bee:
11:00 p.m.: Sitting at the bar in the Mainline Theatre. Which of the people here are contestants? I try not to picture everyone naked and fail miserably.
11:30 p.m.: The Bee starts. Sherwin Tjia, the organizer of the event, explains the rules. The contestants compete for thirty dollars in prize money, awarded respectively to the Best Speller and Best Striptease. All 15 contestants who volunteer to play in the Bee also receive a free drink to lube them up before their performance. Audience members pay for their drinks, but, as one audience member quipped, “I’m lubed up already.”
11:40 p.m.: The tension is building. The music from “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” plays as the spellers attempt their first word. I’ve seen people misspell “logorrhoea,” “Echinacea” and “ovoviviparous.” The stage is littered with shoes, socks and jackets, but nothing else. When am I going to see some nudity?
11:45 p.m.: Now, apparently. Only fifteen minutes into the game and a woman is already topless. Hannah, a skinny girl in tight jeans, flings off her tank top after misspelling “seneschal.” She walks bare-chested to the bar to get another drink.
12:00 a.m.: Round 2. Sarah, a tall blond, comes to the stage. “I’d like to thank my spelling bee coach, and my fifth grade teacher, and all the people who helped me learn how to strip,” she says coyly. She shimmies out of her jacket and jeans, revealing a sexy schoolgirl uniform underneath.
12:30 a.m.: Intermission. Leaning at the bar is a guy who is totally naked from the waist down. It gives whole new meaning to the term “cocktail sausage.” I take a step back and bump into a woman wearing a see-through bra with red hearts on the nipples. Next to her, a topless girl sips at a beer.
12:45 a.m.: Round 3. Clothes are coming off everywhere. The stage is covered in bras and panties. I’ve seen enough gyrating hips to last me a lifetime.
1:15 a.m.: The Bee is over. 3 of the 15 contestants are fully nude. The majority of the others are down to their underwear. The winner of Best Strip is Joseph, a mustachioed hipster who danced his way out of plaid pants and zebra-print briefs. He prances over to the judge’s table wearing only a bow-tie. The judge hands him a wad of cash. “I have nowhere to put it,” Joseph jokes.
1:30 a.m.: People are slowly starting putting their clothes back on. People walk out the door, some of them grinning and holding hands. I’ve laughed, I’ve blushed, I’ve learned how to spell “ichthyology.” And that’s hot.
The final Honeysuckle Spelling Bee’s is Thursday Sept. 17 at Mainline Theatre (3997 St. Laurent). Spellers sign up at 10 p.m., bee at 11 p.m. Tickets are $7.