Tracy Chapman @ A Spelling Bee for Cheaters in San Francisco

Tracy Chapman @ A Spelling Bee for Cheaters in San Francisco

Musician Tracy Chapman was among the spellers competing at “A Spelling Bee for Cheaters”on February 17th at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. The event was organised by the creators of the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, 826 Valencia (a San Francisco literacy organization offering tutoring and workshops for kids and adults) and City Arts & Lectures.

Tracy was candidate #6,  correctly spelled “cow”, “hoa” and “merkin” made it to the third round and raised $5,000. Read this great review of the event online


spelling bee for cheaters

From the San Francisco Chronicle, 02/10/2011:

Why have 826 Valencia, a nonprofit dedicated to helping students with their writing skills, the highbrow City Arts & Lectures and the “Putnam County Spelling Bee” colluded to promote cheating on spelling, especially at a time when cheating is the norm, thanks to the ubiquity of spell-check programs? Because a spelling bee that dishes up local celebrities and crowd-sources participatory teams of cheaters makes for a good fundraiser.

Next Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Herbst Theatre will be the site of the San Francisco Spelling Bee for Cheaters, the proceeds of which go to 826 Valencia, the Bay Area student writing and tutoring program that writer Dave Eggers co-founded in 2002 […]

The event works as follows: Those who wish to participate create a team of up to 10 people who raise money for the ability to compete and cheat in the bee. Interested parties may sign up at Each team that has raised at least $1,000 then nominates one person to represent the group onstage. Feldman, her husband, Jay Reiss, and her sister, Liz Feldman, will serve as judges. Writers Michael Chabon, Daniel Handler and Lisa Brown; musicians Tracy Chapman and Thao Nguyen; and “Mythbusters” host Adam Savage will serve as the celebrities. When a contestant gets stuck on the spelling of a word, he may request a cheat from his team. The cheats do not come cheap: A one-letter clue is $500; a second try costs $750; a peek in the dictionary is priced at $1,500; for $5,000, contestants can skip the round; and, for $25,000, well, probably just buy the trophy. […]

Tickets for the event are $25-$75. There’s also a 6 p.m. $200-per-ticket VIP party, where attendees may hobnob with celebrity contestants. Read more

Listen to Liz Saint John’s radio interview of the creators and participants of the Event next:


From the San Francisco Chronicle, 02/17/2011:

This Thursday, February 17, local non-profit 826 Valencia joins forces with the creators of the Tony Award-winning 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and City Arts & Lectures to present a Spelling Bee for Cheaters at the Herbst Theatre. With a slogan like “Cozen, swindle, and scam your way to victory” and a star-studded lineup of celebrity contestants, this fundraiser (proceeds from all tickets sold will go to funding free programming at 826 Valencia) is not to be missed.

The spelling bee will feature celebrity contestants Michael Chabon (Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay), Grammy Award-winning musician Tracy Chapman, Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), Lisa Brown (wife of Daniel Handler and illustrator in her own right), Adam Savage (of “Mythbusters”), bank robber-turned-author Joe Loya, and local musicians Thao Nguyen and John Vanderslice.

While volunteering at the after-school tutoring program, I caught up with a handful of students, 826 Valencia staff, and some Spelling Bee for Cheaters contestants to find out how they feel about spelling, the hardest words they’ve ever had to spell, and what advice they’d give to spelling bee participants. Kids (and adults) really do say the darndest things!

What comes to mind when you think of a spelling bee? And how would you feel about competing in one?
Ivan, age 11: A bee that spells.
Lilia, age 13: I think of nerds. No offense to all the nerds out there.
Alex, age 11: I would feel excited like a monkey with 4,000 bananas.
Biridiana, age 6: It makes me kind of nervous.

What advice would you give to someone who was nervous about being in a spelling bee?
Melody, age 8: It’s ok, don’t worry, you’ll do a great job, I think you might win.
Giussepe, age 9: I’ll kick your butt if you lose.
Marco, age 12: Relax, study, memorize words that may come up, and feel confident in yourself.
Esteban, age 8: Sorry about the words.

John Vanderslice, 826 Valenica tutor, Spelling Bee for Cheaters celebrity contestant: The winner will most likely be an overachiever who sleeps in an oxygen tent in between 14 hour days of memorizing the Oxford English Dictionary. We can’t all be that weird.

What is the hardest word you’ve ever had to spell?
Jasmine, age 9: Electricity.
Valeria, age 13: Orthodontist.
Yovana, age 9: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
Lilia, age 13: Ruelas. It’s my last name but I spell it wrong sometimes.
Vickie, 826 Valencia Programs Director: When I was little, “through,” because of “though” and “thorough” made it hard for me to tell them apart.
Biridiana, age 6: Rescue.
Edgar, age 14: Antidisestablishmentarianism.

Miranda, 826 Valencia Programs Coordinator, Spelling Bee for Cheaters contestant: Eighth, which I have to spell every day because I work with eighth graders. Probably not the best word to be bad at.

Giussepe, age 9: Thanksgiving.
Marco, age 12: Questionnaire.
Raul, 826 Valencia Programs Coordinator: Inconvenience.
Esteban, age 8: People.
Alex, age 11: Sarcastic.

John Vanderslice, 826 Valenica tutor, Spelling Bee for Cheaters celebrity contestant: Floccinaucinihilipilification (Noun, def: the estimation of something as valueless, encountered mainly as an example of one of the longest words in the English language.) I was eliminated by the second “c.”

Who would be on your spelling bee Dream Team?

Marco, age 12: My uncle, Einstein, Steve Jobs, my tutor Dmitriy, and the guy that discovered DNA.
Miranda, 826 Valencia Programs Coordinator, Spelling Bee for Cheaters contestant: Michael Chabon, Michael Jordan, Woody Allen, Jesse Eisenberg, and Conan O’Brien. You can’t lose with a notoriously good speller, a basketball player, a neurotic, an actor who played a genius, and a comedian.
Edgar, age 14: Superman, Batman, Ironman, a robot, and Stephen Hawking.

John Vanderslice, 826 Valenica tutor, Spelling Bee for Cheaters celebrity contestant: Thomas Pynchon, JD Salinger, Lauren Hill, Bobby Fischer, and Howard Hughes (At least they’d be out of the house, right?).

Giussepe, age 9: Albert Einstein, my tutor Ben, George Washington, a nerd, and the Flash.
Raul, 826 Valencia Programs Coordinator: Bugs Bunny, Angela Davis, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Vickie (Programs Director), and Marco (student).
Vickie, 826 Valencia Programs Director: Stephen Hawking, Toni Morrison, Michael Chabon, Alice Walker, and Angela Davis.
Alex, age 11: Me, Spiderman, SpongeBob Squarepants, Curious George, and Caillou.


Who would be on YOUR dream team? It’s too late to compete in this particular event but the night promises to be entertaining for participants and audience members, alike, so buy your tickets now!

Thursday, February 17, 7:30pm
A Spelling Bee for Cheaters
Herbst Theatre
401 Van Ness Avenue

Read more

Spelling Bee Favorites by Ashley Jordan Gordon
Spelling Bee Favorites by Ashley Jordan Gordon

Tracy Chapman got the word COW

Tracy Chapman wins the round

Adam Savage survives this round

Tracy Chapman strikes out

Photos from Ekai

Spelling bee for Cheaters

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Comments 8
  1. I am trying to contact Tracy, I would like to work together on a low profile show in Nevada City Ca, promotions would be limited to kvmr a local public radio station and word of mouth, the venue the Minors Foundry, and the proceeds would benefit Strongheart Inc. A new community non profit organization that is still in the write up stages.
    Working with Tracy is something I visualize, I believe that we are of the same directive, that is a better planet. And I am a huge fan, through the years I have found comfort in relation to her work.
    If Tracy is associated with this website at all please let her read this message and hopefully she will message me back.
    thank you,
    Winema M. Suehead
    aka Strongheart

  2. Tracy, where are you? I only just found out about you, I’m 14, and already I think you are amazing, so amazing I can’t put it in words. The work you do – it’s just so hard to explain how much I admire you. I’d give anything to talk to you personally. I want to meet you so much it hurts, but for now at least, I hope you are happy. I love you Tracy. :)

  3. I don’t know where this urban legend comes from (surely from the lyrics of “For My Lover”) but no, she’s never been arrested for anything!

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