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Originally published January 14, 2013 at 9:06 PM | Page modified January 14, 2013 at 10:53 PM

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The Elvis crowd at EMP; Inslee to have a ball

It's a good hair day at the EMP when the spirit of Elvis is in the air. Jay Inslee to have a ball in Olympia.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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Name your Elvis. Leather-clad Comeback Elvis? Aloha from Hawaii Elvis? Skinny Elvis? Army Elvis? Bloated, Drug-Addicted Elvis?

They were all there at the 16th Annual Elvis Invitationals at EMP Museum the other night, in the form of 24 contestants who sang, tossed scarves and thank-you-very-muched for a packed Sky Church crowd — and four judges, including author Charles Cross; Café Racer owner Kurt Geissel; producer Paula The Swedish Housewife; and "Evening Magazine" reporter Jim Dever, who took the stage in a jumpsuit stuffed with bags of packing peanuts. Fat, Sweaty Elvis.

The event, emceed by El Vez, was put on by Elvis worshippers Marlow Harris and Jo David — she a real-estate agent with Seattle Dream Homes and he an artist/graphic designer.

It's a competition, sure, Harris said, but it's also a place for impersonators to bond — even the five female competitors, a strain known as the "Elvette."

"Elvis is the great equalizer," Harris said. "He's a lover, not a fighter."

Backstage was a powder-blue and pompadour epicenter, where stylist Isabell Trenchard was ready in case any King-domes collapsed. "Back-comb, and then spray it up with tons of hair spray," she said of her technique. "Tons of hair spray."

The crowd included Brian Miller, whose full-time job is filming segments for TLC's "Hoarders."

"Don't worry," he said when we shook. "I washed my hands."

The last to perform took first place: Danny Putnam, who sang "Trouble" in an electric-blue-sequined jumpsuit, accompanied by two Playboy bunnies. Viva Seattle!

Round ball and full bellies

Sounds like Gov.-elect Jay Inslee has his priorities straight: Once he's sworn in Wednesday he's headed straight to the Governor's Mansion for a family game of hoops, then the Inaugural Ball on the Capitol campus in Olympia.

The food is being prepared by cooking students from all over the state, but it will be students from the Lake Washington Institute of Technology in Kirkland handling the marshmallows, truffles and mini fruit pies. Really. They're all being hand-formed.

"It has not been 'Hell's Kitchen' at all," said instructor Janet Waters, the coordinator of the school's baking program and secretary of the Washington State Chefs Association. "I'm really proud of them."

One student is a former funeral director who decided to be a baker "and fell in love with chocolate." (Insert "Death by Chocolate" joke here).

Waters wouldn't tell me who she voted for ("I don't like to mix food and politics.") and has instructed her students to keep things sweet and leave their politics at home. "It doesn't matter who you voted for," she said. "We still provide the best food we can."

A little jammer with your coffee?

Customers at the drive-thru Starbucks on Seattle's First Avenue South have been doing double-takes these last couple of weeks. The barista known as Ahi Sweeney was revealed to be "Tempura Tantrum" when the Rat City Rollergirls appeared on Bravo's "Top Chef: Seattle" the other week.

"Three or four times a week, I get 'Hey! You were on 'Top Chef'! Will you sign my cup?' " she said the other day. Sweeney's happy to sign, but also hands out a Rat City schedule and urges people to go to the bouts, which kick off with a league doubleheader on Jan. 19 at Seattle's KeyArena.

On the show and in her honor, two chefs prepared a tempura-based dessert, with little "tantrum" sauces on the side. The judges were unimpressed, but Sweeney liked them.

"I'm not a food critic," she said. "I thought the ideas they had were great, and the flavors were good, even though the judges thought the tempura batter 'failed.' "

Judge Tom Colicchio is "intense," she said, while host Padma Lakshmi is "just kind of delightful."

Really?

"I probably saw a different side of her," Sweeney said. "She wasn't judging me."

A toast to derring-do

Seattle loves to read, so of course folks came out to a house party Saturday to support 826 Seattle, the nonprofit reading and tutoring spot located in the Greenwood neighborhood.

But this town also loves football. So National Book Award finalist Domingo Martinez had to wait to read from his memoir, "The Boy Kings of Texas" while the Denver-Baltimore game went into double overtime before ending with a 47-yard field goal for Baltimore. Once that was settled, the crowd tucked in to listen to Martinez, then 826 Seattle Executive Director Teri Hein, who said that the organization sees 3,000 kids annually, including Mimi "Mimi Zack" Zekaryas, 10, who read a personal essay oozing with self-confidence, writing skill and thanks.

"We are feeling pretty darn full of ourselves," Hein said, adding that the nonprofit is determined to expand its reach and partner with schools and other nonprofits. Whatever helps kids.

In the crowd: Educator Brigitte Bertschi; new 826 board members like venture-capitalist John Zagula and Sasquatch! creative team member Lynne Resnick; and interactive media guru Howard Cutler, who is on the board of 826 National.

Hosts Mitch Karton and Ann Gardner (he's one of the founders of Seattle Medical Associates; she's an accomplished glass artist) met after he bought one of her pieces at an auction, and broke it. He called to ask her what to do. They've been married 20 years.

"If I had known her before," Karton said, "I would have broken it earlier."

Caroline Maillard, the outgoing chair of the board, is leaving on a high note.

"We've had two years of amazing growth and increased visibility — and incredible feats of derring-do,"she said. "It's a magical place to be."

Names in Bold column appears every Tuesday. Reach Nicole at 206-464-2334; nbrodeur@seattletimes.com. Twitter: @nicolebrodeur. Subscribe on Facebook: facebook.com/STNicoleBrodeur

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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.
nbrodeur@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2334

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