Smack-talk goodbye for city’s popular Keblas
Nicole Brodeur drops in on the roast of James Keblas, recently let go as honcho of Seattle’s Office of Film + Music by Mayor Ed Murray. A few days later, Murray offers some explanation. And a revelatory breakfast for the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center.
Seattle Times staff columnist
If, someday, I don’t show up in this space because I’ve been sacked, please send Sir Mix-a-Lot to my house.
If anyone knows how to beat a person when they’re down, it’s Mix-a-Lot. He stole the show at a roast for James Keblas the other night at The Showbox by making a raunchy joke about Keblas’ new unemployment.
“Welcome your black ass to my race!” Mix-a-Lot said in a video “tribute” to Keblas, who was not reappointed as the head of the Seattle Office of Film + Music by new Mayor Ed Murray.
And no one could quite figure out why Keblas was out.
Except, of course, for Dave Meinert , a bar owner and nightlife activist.
“Because he’s a ...” Meinert began, then used the word for what pins do to your finger, as we took in the giant portrait of Keblas by artist and Sub Pop receptionist Derek Erdman, titled “Loser.”
Everyone agreed that Keblas had done a great job since taking over in 2005.
His City of Music campaign had Seattle music playing at Sea-Tac Airport. He co-founded The Vera Project. He streamlined the process for TV shows and films to shoot in the city, most notably the AMC series “The Killing,” and the works of directors Lynn Shelton and Megan Griffiths (who both gave tributes that night).
In the wake of his ouster, 1,267 people signed a change.org petition addressed to Murray seeking Keblas’ reinstatement. Murray has instead appointed Kate Becker to the post. (No slouch, Becker founded the all-ages Old Firehouse in Redmond, fought the Teen Dance Ordinance and joined the board at Vera when Keblas left for City Hall).
There was nothing to do but drink and talk smack.
The dais — led by emcee Riz Rollins — included famously foul-mouthed Sub Pop Vice President Megan Jasper (who said literally nothing I can print) and former Mayor Mike McGinn, whose suggestion for Keblas was to “put a pink mustache on your car” and become a Lyft driver. Or open a marijuana dispensary. Or sit on the street.
“That’s legal,” McGinn said. “At least for now.”
Seattle Music Commission board member Ben London handed Keblas a gaggle of gifts that should keep him in the game, if not on the city payroll: Lifetime family weekend passes to Bumbershoot. VIP tickets to Sasquatch. Guitar lessons. A signed copy of Macklemore’s “The Heist” and a hoodie and headphones from KEXP.
“I didn’t see any jobs,” Keblas said, taking the mike and surveying the loot. “The only way I can describe this is like being at your own funeral.”
Then he took to the crowd, which included DJ Marco Collins, restaurateur Michelle Quisenberry, auctioneer Fred Northup and film and music people of every stripe.
“The last time I saw all these musicians together was in the dollar CD bin,” Keblas said to groans. (“I was drinking gin and tonics,” Keblas said the next day. “It made me a little loose-lipped at the end there.”)
The crowd forgave him, donating money to a newly established James Keblas Fund that will benefit the Northwest Film Forum and The Vera Project.
A lovely legacy. A doozy of a hangover. But still no idea why he was out of a job.
Dancing for good cause
A few days later at the Plymouth Housing Group’s fifth annual Seattle Dances! competition, The Mayor shed a little light on the Keblas affair — a sliver of light.
McGinn replaced plenty of people when he took over, Murray pointed out. Now it’s his right to do the same.
So why Becker? Many reasons, Murray said, citing her accomplishments. But what I heard most clearly about her appointment: “Diversity.”
(We’ll see if that carries over to, say, the search for a new police chief.)
Enough politics, cue the music! Seattle Dances! pairs eight brave “celebrities” with professional dancers.
It also raises a ton of cash for the nonprofit, which gets homeless people off the streets and into safe housing and healthier lives.
Chad Zimba did the Cha-Rumba, Robin Chell the Swing, Jane Nelson the Bachata, Carol Bailey Medwell the Salsa, Duell Fisher the Tango, Laura Bachman the Lindy Hop, Nesby Glasbow the Cha-Cha and Chris Schmaltz the West Coast Swing. Bachman was the Judge’s Choice.
The night included a raffle for the choice of any one of the live-auction items. And instead of tickets, entrants chose a single fancy shoe — all provided by Nordstrom.
So imagine the weirdness when Blake Nordstrom and his wife, Molly, won the raffle.
Nordstrom chose a walk-on role at the 5th Avenue Theatre and an overnight at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel. But the fix was not in, and Nordstrom plans to gift the package to his secretary, Ruth Haney.
At the end of the night, it was Executive Director Paul Lambros doing the Jig: The event raised a record $522,666.
Breaking the silence
Attendees of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC)’s annual breakfast last Thursday each received a red button bearing the phrase “Be Loud.”
Executive Director Mary Ellen Stone urged attendees to wear the buttons for a week to spark conversations about sexual abuse, bullying and getting help at KCSARC.
Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess took Stone’s charge to heart and told the packed ballroom about the violence and verbal and emotional abuse in his childhood home — and how he was sexually assaulted at age 12, and for years afterward.
“It is a trauma that is devastating and long-lasting,” Burgess said. “I clearly needed help.”
He got it with therapy, which — despite having full medical benefits — he paid for in cash. He didn’t want to leave a trace.
Burgess asked the crowd to stand up if they or anyone they knew had suffered sexual abuse. Almost 1,000 people got out of their chairs.
“His willingness to stand up was eye-opening,” Stone said of Burgess. So was the money the breakfast raised: $376,000.
Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Sunday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Nicole Brodeur's Names in Bold
On Tuesdays, I tell you about my travels through some of the week's social and philanthropic events — not just the ones for the swells, but those for work-a-day folks who care about making this region move and improve. 206-464-2334