What happens when you combine a smiling clown; four quasi-journalists; 10,820 greasy calories; and a year's worth of bragging rights? It's the Portland Mercury McDonald's Challenge!

The contestants:

Mercury Intern Christine "No Red Meat" Blystone
Editorial Assistant Chas "Skinny But Livin' Fat" Bowie
Former News Editor Phil "But I'm Retired!" Busse
Film Editor Erik "The Glorious Strategist" Henriksen

The contest:

Who can eat the most McDonald's food in one sitting? The winner of the McDonald's Challenge would be determined by victory in three categories: (1) Amount of money spent, (2) Calories ingested, and (3) Total weight of food consumed.

Upon hearing of our inter-office challenge, concerned loved ones asked if we were trying to do something "kind of like that guy in Super Size Me?" In actuality, nothing could be farther from the truth—instead of trying to prove a "no shit" hypothesis about the nutritional value of the food at Mickey D's, our fatty contest aimed only to demonstrate one point. Although four people with no regard for their bodies may pass 'neath the Golden Arches, only one can emerge the victor of the McDonald's Challenge!

Weak Hearts and the Eye of the Tiger

As soon as the contest was determined, the trash-talking and bet-placing began. Busse's Nordic blood and 60-pound weight advantage pegged him as an early favorite. Blystone, the demure intern who was roped into the challenge ("You're the intern. You have to do what we tell you."), was the wildcard—a dainty lady who doesn't eat red meat. Cubicle neighbors Bowie and Henriksen launched a campaign of psychological warfare, which mostly involved an infuriating onslaught of "Eye of the Tiger" being played whenever an opponent was in earshot. At one point, Henriksen locked eyes with Bowie and flatly told him, "You're an asshole." Bowie, as he is known to do, interpreted this hurtful statement as evidence that his master plan was working.

As the afternoon of the challenge arrived, the four grease warriors met at a McDonald's in NE Portland. With the competitors warily eyeing one another like veteran gladiators, Busse approached the counter first and threw down an intimidating gauntlet, ordering nearly $20 of fast food in one fell swoop. (A few short months earlier, a cardiologist had notified Busse that his heart was dangerously enlarged and that he had torn several heart muscles. The diagnosis wasn't life-threatening, but Phil was sternly ordered to watch his diet. Like a consummate food athlete, Busse did not reveal this troubling news until after the competition.)

Blystone and Bowie were up next, ordering a respectable amount of food while allowing for the possibility of return trips to the counter. Finally, Henriksen saddled up to the register and shocked his competitors by calmly ordering... large fries and a milkshake? "Oh, don't you worry about me," Henriksen smirked. "You just eat your food." Suddenly concerned about Henriksen's oblique strategy, the contestants found a booth and commenced to eat like a group of fat girls who got stood up on prom night.

I'm Lovin' It

The cholesterol warriors began to eat with a ferociousness not seen since Louie Anderson was fired from Family Feud. Henriksen handily devoured his 520 calories of glistening French fries; Bowie did some quick math to determine that his Double Quarter Pounders were simply misnamed Half Pounders; Blystone remained above the fraternal fray, silently and effortlessly sliding hot apple pies down her gullet; and Busse took a strong early lead, amassing an intimidating pile of empty cardboard boxes in his wake. Blystone shared some of her strategy with us.

"Going into this, I knew I had two disadvantages: chickdom and vegetarianism. Since I wouldn't be able to eat any high-calorie beef or chicken items like the boys, I figured I needed a strategy based solely on obscene volume. So I undertook 'water training.' For an entire week, I drank as much water as I could to stretch out my stomach. I also made sure not to eat too fast or too slow. I just steadily ate through my mega-meal, noticing my heart start to race from an overload of sodium as I finished off my last pie."

The food at McDonald's, while greasily tantalizing upon arrival, has a remarkably short shelf life. As piles of fries and burgers began to dry up and cool to room temperature, our challengers began to slow down their consumption and suffer some of the side effects of their bravery.

"Look at my left eye," Busse admonished. "It's twitching! No, I'm serious." He pointed at his eye and leaned toward Henriksen. "Look at it!"

Blystone began to mutter of nausea as her already-pale face blanched. Bowie's steady stream of shit-talking continued as he gagged on his last bite of cold Chicken Selects. And Henriksen? The stoic competitor continued to work on his massive, 1,160 calorie Triple Thick Chocolate Shake, promising to pull the old "tortoise and the hare" rope-a-dope.

Intestinal McCramping

By the one-hour mark, the contestants appeared to be on the verge of a sugar, salt, and cholesterol-enabled death. Busse, who had racked up an insurmountable lead, was sweating visibly and was the first to make a McDash for the toilet. Bowie and Blystone sat motionless, with expressions that betrayed the shock of their internal organs slowly shutting down. And even though he had barely finished his 32 oz. Triple Thick shake, Henriksen lurched to the front counter, and ordered not one, but two more. Henriksen's master plan was finally revealed—with a mere four menu items, Henriksen had ordered 4,000 calories worth of food. But while his strategy may have been Lao Tzu-worthy, his intestinal tract hadn't the fortitude to enact it.

"Them shakes kicked my ass," Henriksen noted, still trembling hours afterward from the 40 ounces of shake he'd managed to consume before giving up. "The damn things are like sucking on wet cement."

Wistfully wondering what might have been had he only been able to choke down two more shakes, Henriksen reluctantly admitted defeat and threw away over 2,000 calories of frozen chocolaty goodness.

And the Winner Is...

As the contestants took their turns in the McDonald's bathroom and tried to remember a time when the contest seemed like a good idea, judges began to tally the results in all three categories. Phil Busse, who is currently recuperating in his North Portland home, clearly won, manhandling his opponents in all three criteria. Bowie trailed with a distant second, followed by Blystone, who is rumored to be searching for a new internship. As for Henriksen? His brilliant but impossible strategy placed him dead last, consuming less than one half of the calories devoured by Champion Busse.

The Breakdown

Phil Busse—42.5 oz.; $18.85; 3,740 calories

1 Big Mac

1 Chicken Club Sandwich

6 pc. Chicken McNuggets

5 pc. Chicken Selects

1 lg. French Fries

32 oz. Triple Thick Chocolate Shake

Chas Bowie—38 oz.; $15.10; 3,000


2 Double Quarter Pounders with Cheese

5 pc. Chicken Selects

32 oz. Triple Thick Vanilla Shake

Christine Blystone—35 oz.; $10.70; 2,400 calories

2 Filet-O-Fish

2 Apple Pies

1 lg. French Fries

32 oz. Triple Thick Chocolate Shake

Erik Henriksen—30 oz.; $5.20; 1,680 calories

40 oz. Triple Thick Chocolate Shake

1 lg. French Fries