Seattle’s mayors are
a) dedicated public servants
b) budding standup comedians
c) goofballs who can at least laugh at themselves
d) Chippendale models.
Or (e) all of the above, for one night only, at the Washington New Council’s 2010 Gridiron West Dinner. Once a year the News Council, the unsolicited “outside ombudsman for the local news media,” cuts loose from its sober schedule of ethics education, hearings on alleged media malpractice, and j-student scholarships to give politicos and other local eminences the ultimate flattery—(mostly) good-natured mockery.
Gridiron West has lately celebrated outspoken conservative developers: Kemper Freeman, who owns Bellevue Square. and Suzie Burke, who owns Fremont and is a News Council director. Last Friday it sharpened its barbs and aimed higher. Four past Seattle mayors—Wes Uhlman, Charley Royer, Norm Rice, and Greg Nickels—plus a Paul Schell cutout took their licks on stage after their Chippendale moves. You thought Culture Fiend lied? You never saw Schell so buff or Nickels so skinny as in this outrageous video by Ken Jones (KJ Video Productions), also a rocking capsule history of Seattle’s last 50 years:
Mike McGinn, the post’s embattled current prisoner—er, occupant—stepped up to laud his predecessors and take his shots, channeling Rodney Dangerfield as he noted that where others call Norm Rice “Mayor Nice, I call him one of the few people who takes my phone calls. I have a position for him…. He’s going to be my special representative to Joni Balter.” McGinn took particular inspiration from one predecessor: “I think of Wes [Uhlman] all the time because he survived a recall.”
Suzie Burke noted that’s just the way Seattleites show their love. Under Uhlman, “unemployment was cut in half, the police and city services were reformed, and what does he get for it? A recall election.” Uhlman in turn reassured McGinn and Seattle’s citizens that things could be much worse: “Did you know there are 11 mayors of major cities who are in prison or under indictment?”
It’s no surprise that Uhlman, the grey fox of Seattle politics, ex-TV commentator Royer, and former aspiring actor Rice delivered their lines and took their jibes with aplomb. But McGinn, far from seeming the earnest activist of stereotype, also had a winningly self-deprecating delivery. The big surprise was Nickels—tanned, rested, unshaven, and funny after nearly a year out of office, with none of his old stern, stiff style. He saluted the challenger who upset him in the primary: “Mayor McGinn, [since losing] I’ve gone to Harvard. I’ve served at the United Nations. I’m more relaxed than I’ve been in a long time. And in a funny way, it’s thanks to you.”
But McGinn could draw some consolation. In keeping with the inevitable Emerald City theme, Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion sang “Ding dong, the tunnel’s dead. Ding dong, the wicked tunnel’s dead….” Does that mean McGinn gets to keep Governor Gregoire’s ruby slippers?