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Shaggin' the Night Away

How to win a princess and influence people

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Shagging with Miss USA isn't an opportunity that comes along every day, especially for the bargain barrel price of $20. Thanks to Bridge Charlotte, a nonprofit organization that assists troubled teens in finding gainful employment, the chance to shag dance with Charlotte's very own beauty champion Chelsea Cooley was offered recently at a Valentine's Day fund-raiser. (Sorry for that cheap and obvious introduction, but if I had opened with "fund-raiser" -- despite the word's first three letters -- you would have proceeded directly to Citizen Servatius.)

Miss USA (and shag queen) Chelsea Cooley. - COURTESY OF MISS UNIVERSE INC.
  • Courtesy of Miss Universe Inc.
  • Miss USA (and shag queen) Chelsea Cooley.

Shag dancing, for ignorant non-natives, is basically swing dancing set to beach music instead of big band. Chelsea, who looks like the composite of every Disney princess, began competitive shag dancing at age 8. You better believe she would have chosen shagging as her talent, if the Miss USA pageant had a talent competition like Miss America does. Confused? The main difference between Miss USA and Miss America is that USA understands showcasing beauty queens struggling to play the recorder makes them less attractive. America used to dominate the pageant scene but USA has gained some ground of late. (Miss America now airs on the Country Music Network, while Miss USA is shown on NBC.)

In addition to USA and America, there are Miss Earth, Miss International and Miss World competitions, as well as my favorite, Miss Universe, the pageant that doesn't discriminate against alien beauty queens (although higher life forms must think the pageants are sexist).

On the way to the Merchandise Mart on Saturday night, I started scheming ways to sweep the princess off her feet. Impossible, you say? Then you must not subscribe to my personal motto: Shoot for the moon. If you miss, you'll land amongst the stars.

Here are the possible ways to woo princess Cinderjasmapochanta-White:

1. While dancing, whisper something flattering: You are my Valentine's Day dream.

2. Whisper something suave: I am your Valentine's Day dream. Then inform her that the Ascot Inn has romantic heart-shaped Jacuzzis, perhaps following up with a well-timed shazaam! (I guess there is really no such thing as a poorly timed shazaam!)

3. Attempt to discredit her crown by asking her a tough pageant-esque interview question. Then, with her champion confidence shattered, swoop in to catch her on the rebound by reverting to No. 1.

I went with No. 3, and sprung the following question as soon as I met Chelsea: "If a genie granted you one wish, what would it be?"

Without hesitation, Chelsea answered: "I would just wish that I'll always be able to put a smile on my Mom's face." Smooth.

OK, so I didn't dance with Chelsea. I had no cash and, unlike a strip club, there was no ATM on site. But when we posed for a picture, I did get to touch her on the arm -- somewhere below her tricep and above the elbow, which on the base system is just about 1/6 of the way to first base. So ... shazaam!

Sarah Klein heads a baking outreach program for Charlotte's homeless at Urban Ministries. - JARED NEUMARK
  • Jared Neumark
  • Sarah Klein heads a baking outreach program for Charlotte's homeless at Urban Ministries.

In case you're wondering, Chelsea doesn't have a boyfriend. She says dating is nearly impossible after the tiara. As of two days before Valentine's, she was dateless and planning on spending the evening alone at home.

Bridge Charlotte's fund-raiser was woefully attended due to inclement weather, which in this city means anything worse than partly cloudy. For next year's Valentine's Day gala, Bridge Charlotte is considering bringing in Star Jones. Um ... yeah, that ought to do it.

STICKING TO the theme of bizarre events for good causes, late last month I watched as a resident artist from the McColl Center for Visual Arts taught 12 homeless people how to bake bread at the Urban Ministries.

Sarah Klein, whose video work primarily focuses on the home and culinary traditions, started spreading her doughy gospel when she grew tired of the solitary confinement of most artistic creation. Seeking a more social atmosphere, she began baking bread with friends and family. After discovering that this communal activity brought out the best in people, who would share memories and stories with baking as the backdrop, she brought the medium to strangers.

McColl residents typically perform one major outreach during their three month stay, and Urban Ministry was the perfect match for Klein.

Art Works director Lawrence Cann will be helping Urban Ministries launch several organic food projects. This year, the ministry plans to start an herb garden that will try to sell fresh produce to local restaurants.

Next year Cann and Urban Ministries plan to launch a homeless bakery. Seeing the success of endeavors such as Art Works and the homeless soccer team, Cann is seeking more avenues for the 5,000 Charlotte homeless whom he says are "marginalized so quickly and in so many ways."

While I was interviewing Klein in her studio, a New Yorker stopped in during a tour of the building. Klein's bread project was brought up, and then I was introduced as a reporter with Creative Loafing. The New Yorker, a prospective resident, looked baffled. I've gotten perturbation, disdain and occasionally adoration, but never utter confusion. After she left, it hit me: She must have assumed, from the paper's name, that I worked for a bread publication.

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