Valley of the Drolls

New Times presents its first-ever Doofus and Darling Awards

The Horrid Zone: Nearly 10 years after signing onto Phoenix airwaves, KZON-FM has self-destructed and sold out.

We knew it was coming two years ago when The Zone -- once the only intelligent, progressive and independent rock station in town -- fired DJ Mary McCann. But we had hope that despite the loss of the Bone Mama, who symbolized those amazing early days when DJs knew their music and actually selected what songs to play, KZON would continue in some semblance of an alternative rock station.

Instead, The Zone has dissolved into total doofusism with puzzling attempts to solve its identity crisis. It continues to play emerging artists, but it's also added lame teenaged music to its playlists and overplays many songs to death. Worse, it recently hired potty-mouthed DJs who spend most of their time giggling uproariously at each other's nasty tales rather than playing tunes. Even our kids don't like them. In November, when Dave Smiley and Greg Simms got the ax to make way for the music-free King of Junior High Humor, Howard Stern, we knew the Zone was dead.

Darling: Modified Arts' Kimber Lanning.
Paolo Vescia
Darling: Modified Arts' Kimber Lanning.
Darling: Mark Grace. Trophy! Ring!
Darling: Mark Grace. Trophy! Ring!


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Unfortunately, ratings will probably rise because there is that huge segment of the Valley that adores Stern and Dave Pratt, the gimmicky King of Red Underwear (ha ha), who joined the staff January 2. But we won't be tuning in.

Chief of Chaff: If you don't like something the governor's done, don't look at the redhead. Chances are, the blame rests at the feet of Rick Collins, Governor Jane Dee Hull's chief of staff.

Collins is the most powerful guy you've never heard of. Even the most in-the-know capitol insiders can't tell you much about him (or maybe they're afraid to), except to say that he calls all the shots on the Ninth Floor. If he calls you back at all.

In their tenure, Hull and Collins have made predecessor J. Fife Symington and his henchmen -- Wes Gullett and Chuck Coughlin -- look downright statesmanlike. At least Fife and company stood up for what was right -- or, rather, what they thought was right. During the brouhaha over the proposed Cardinals stadium, with the mayors of Tempe and Phoenix at each other's throats, the insiders begged Hull and Collins to intervene. No go. The governor was noticeably absent. That's because Collins, who's doing Hull's job, governs via poll numbers. That clearly hasn't served him well since her numbers are in the tank. Why worry about what folks think when you're a lame duck?

Who knows? Makes us wonder about Collins' aspirations -- except lobbyists and legislators say Collins has pissed off so many people he'll never eat lunch in this town again.

Kidd Gloves: He wasn't just the Phoenix Suns' best player. Jason Kidd was the public image the team wanted to present: a dominant point guard who also happened to be a good guy, loving husband and doting father. Even if the team was at least a big man away from true championship contention, Kidd's brilliant presence offered the promise of titles and trophies in the future.

But on January 18, when Kidd was arrested for allegedly striking his wife Joumana -- herself a local sports-media fixture -- you could feel a total eclipse of the Suns coming on. Kidd publicly apologized, took four games off, and reached a plea agreement that included six months of counseling. But the incident was a black eye for the Suns, and Kidd's days with the franchise were numbered.

Kidd himself instantly realized that Suns owner Jerry Colangelo would not tolerate this behavior from his star attraction. Kidd was dealt to New Jersey in the off-season, and he's turned that perpetual loser into a first-tier team. But while he's rebounded, the Suns are left to pick up the pieces, and their current mediocrity looks like an ongoing proposition.


Amazing Grace: How could we not love the Arizona Diamondbacks' Mark Grace? The bucket of cigarette butts in the clubhouse. The invitations to all Arizonans to party at his house. The stripper analogies. The accidental f-bombs. The playboy past. The Bambino idolization of beer and marginalized health.

And how about that bizarre and hopefully alcohol-impaired speech at the post-World Series celebration? "Two words: Trophy! . . . Ring!"

Of course, none of this works without what appears to be his heart of brilliantly tarnished gold.

Or his competence. Beyond dead-ball-era charm, he's automatic with short-hoppers, a solid .300 batter and an inspiring clubhouse leader. His addition to the team this year, in tandem with Bob Brenly, gave the clubhouse a sustainably invigorating air of focus and levity impossible under the boot-camp stricture of Buck Showalter.

The Diamondbacks may have Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson and Luis Gonzalez. But they wouldn't be World Champions without Mark Grace.

The Art of Coordination: You could say that Kimber Lanning tends to spread herself a bit thin. As a record-store owner, a volunteer social worker, a college student majoring in psychology, and the driving force behind downtown's best art space/music venue, Modified Arts, she rarely has a moment of leisure.

But Lanning can't stand to see the local underground arts scene go ignored, and she hates the thought of important musical groups bypassing the Valley because there's nowhere suitable for them to play. That's why she long ago started booking shows at her store, Stinkweeds Records, giving the touring bands 100 percent of the receipts, and keeping nothing for herself. The idea grew into Modified Arts, a haven for local artists (with new exhibits at the beginning of every month), indie rockers and avant-garde jazz musicians.

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