Best Of :: People & Places
Have you had it up to your disposable camera with Western-themed tourist traps featuring fake cowboy shoot-outs and chuck-wagon dinners served in mining pans?
Then dare to look beyond the obvious at Somewhere Over the Rainbow, a three-acre oasis of oddities near Cave Creek and Sweetwater roads, assembled by 77-year-old retiree Gus Brethauer. He has spent the past 25 years turning his property into a glorious pack rat paradise, and these days, he gladly gives tours in return for a voluntary donation.
The kids will enjoy highlights like a UFO landing pad, a prehistoric Temple of Doom, a grove of artificial Christmas trees (complete with plastic forest denizens), a "haunted" bungalow, and a mirror maze fashioned from discarded reflective surfaces. Older visitors will get a kick out of old Phoenix rubble -- decorative plastic "WP" trim from West Plaza Shopping Center and a stone gargoyle from the old Fox Theatre. Come prepared to walk (tours through the desert terrain take about two hours), and leave your disbelief at home.
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
Best Kids' Free Fun Spot
Kiwanis Park Recreation Center
6111 South All-America Way, Tempe
Best Kids' Fun-at-a-price Spot
9445 North Metro Parkway East
Best Kids' Restaurant
several Valley locations
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.