Best Of :: Megalopolitan Life
Our earliest memories of late '60s/early '70s life in the Valley are not of tubing the Salt River or visiting the Phoenix Zoo, but -- well, okay, we admit it -- shopping. The best excursions were to the elegant Biltmore Fashion Park, where we recall peeking in the windows at Rosenzweig's Jewelers and Mills Touche, and wondering what that Red Door at Elizabeth Arden's could possibly mean.
But we most fondly remember Saks Fifth Avenue, the highest-end store in the city, a sensory whirl of perfume in the air, pristine jewelry on display, and customers who looked like they could afford it. The more subdued exterior was a treat, too: a desert-tan backdrop with sandstone mosaics designed in 1963 by artist John Smith.
Several years ago, Saks relocated elsewhere in the mall, and we were dismayed to see the mosaics come down. But some nostalgic soul salvaged some of the work, and turned it into a garden installation that you can visit just east of the original Saks -- a priceless bit of Phoenix at a cost everyone can enjoy.
Best Movie Theater
Best Movie Theater Snacks
Best News Station
KTVK-TV Channel 3
Best Professional Athlete
Best Pro Sports Team
Best Radio Personality
Krazy Kid and Ruben S.
Best Spanish Language TV Station
Best Tourist Trap
Rawhide Western Town and Steakhouse
23023 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
Best TV Newscaster
In his native Kazakhstan, International Boxing Federation cruiserweight champion Vassily Jirov learned to develop his boxing footwork by being forced to outrace angry police dogs down a narrow hallway. By comparison, facing a 190-pound pugilist in the boxing ring has to seem like a snap. Sure enough, the self-proclaimed Russian Tiger -- who moved to Scottsdale in 1996 after winning a gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics -- has cruised through his unheralded weight division like it's just a preliminary to some anticipated main event. That main event would be either a heavyweight title shot or a step down to take on light-heavyweight king Roy Jones Jr. But, with his unmatched knockout percentage and relentless body-attacking style, Jirov might continue to be a victim of his own success, scaring away opponents unwilling to tangle with a tiger.
This is the Valley's most splendid tribute to the equipment that paved the Garden of Eden, courtesy of designer Bill Tonnesen. Even before you reach the renovated interior, the building's exterior walls and courtyard are designed to praise the visual virtues of the company's earthmoving tools -- mostly Caterpillars. Just about every surface and nook celebrates the sculptural appeal of big loud things that dig, split, drill, scrape and core. At Empire, it's all about blades, pistons and bits done up as pure decor. But be prepared: The weight and size of the details tend to leave first-time visitors gape-mouthed and asking, "What kind of rig did that come from?"
There's a rare spiritual resonance about this work, created by artist James Carpenter in collaboration with the Richard Meier Architectural Firm. It can be found inside the cylindrical glass-and-steel courtroom at the west end of the atrium at the Sandra Day O'Connor Federal Courthouse. The parabolic glass ceiling hangs like the lens of a clear-seeing eye on a spider web of metal cables and connectors. The beauty of it is in the subtle way its craftsmanship and precision rise above the merely practical. They make poetry of what law books lay out in dull prose and the courts themselves sometimes ignore: that the illuminating search for truth and justice should focus the mind on every fact, large and small -- dimpled chad or not.
After nearly a decade as the state's attorney general and a couple of stints on talk radio, smarmy Grant Woods -- unofficial leader of the Mod Squad of left-leaning Arizona Republicans -- has stepped back into the shadows.
Or has he?
Is the incredibly ambitious, relatively young, spotlight-addicted Woods content to sit on his duff and fatten his coffers by acting as spokesman for folks like hockey magnate Steve Ellman, the Bidwill Boys and, on occasion, actually practicing law?
Earlier this year, the Republican announced emphatically that he won't run for governor in 2002. But don't count him out. This guy's a master at sticking his finger in the wind and figuring out which way to blow -- promises to the likes of his good friend Matt Salmon be damned. Come early 2002, if it looks like Grant can win, count on Grant to jump in the race.
And if not? He's still the best politician in the land, by our estimation. If you don't believe us, just look at the list of local perennial loser candidates choking the ballots: Paul Johnson, Terry Goddard, Steve Owens -- must we go on?
Knowin' when to fold 'em is the mark of a true political talent. No one's going to call Grant Woods a has-been. At least, not for a while.