Best of Phoenix®

Best Of 2005


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Readers' Choice


Best Of :: People & Places

The wall mural in front of Maie Bartlett Heard Elementary School

It takes a lot to get our attention when we're driving, but the wildly colorful, Fauve-style mural painted on a wall in front of Maie Bartlett Heard Elementary School does just that. In fact, the first time we saw the block-long art project, we cruised by several times to determine what was going on. After a number of drive-bys, we finally asked, and determined that, as part of "Phoenix Youth Makes a Difference Day" in 2001 and 2002, students and staff at Heard Elementary, headed up by the inspirational Ms. Dehner, painted different vibrant scenarios that merge to create a pastiche of the splendiferous world around us. You've got your seaside scenes, your mountain and meadow scenes with farm animals and barns, and, of course, you've got a creative blend of Washington, D.C., and New York, with the Capitol Building appearing next to the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and a bunch of off-kilter skyscrapers (maybe the skyscrapers are from L.A.). Cactus-crowded mesas morph into tropical vegetation and brightly colored fish, which swim toward planets in outer space in a continuum that ends with a cheerful school bus on a busy street of charming little houses and a large American flag.

Now we know where Phoenix's Phuture Picassos hang out. Go, Heard Vikings!

2301 W. Thomas Rd., Phoenix, 85015

Lord almighty, we feel our temperature rising, especially when Mesa resident and diehard Elvis Presley fan Duke Hicks takes to the stage and unleashes his realistic reproduction of the legendary superstar. Having offered up his Elvis imitation act for more than two decades, this delivery man and part-time country musician is arguably one of the longest-lasting King clones in the Valley. He's been seen at a plethora of private parties, countless corporate functions, a regular gig at Philly's (a bar-restaurant in south Scottsdale), as well as at the Frontier Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, where Hicks says he nabbed "a rousing standing ovation" following his performance. (He's even set to star in an upcoming documentary on Elvis impersonators titled Heart of the King.) Aping what he calls "classic Elvis" (a.k.a. the skinnier, non-drug-addled version), Hicks dons a sequin-studded white jumpsuit and the King's trademark shades and croons his way through an eerily accurate rendition of Elvis' repertoire, which encompasses more than 50 songs -- from chartbusters like "Burning Love" to more subdued numbers like "You'll Never Walk Alone." Hicks admits he may have to let out his costume in the near future, as -- just like his hero -- he's developing "a little bit of a paunch." Just stay away from the pills, Duke.


Even if you ain't got big chips, there are places -- especially in Scottsdale -- where it will behoove you to act as if you do, and the J Bar is one of them. This super-slinky waterin' hole packs in the booful people on peak nights Thursdays through Saturdays, and the high-class chicas therein can smell a scrub coming from a mile away. So let us school you on how to act like you're a playa, even if your ride is a Hyundai. First, the swagger. You gotta be cocky, and a little snooty. Turn up your nose at the finest-lookin' ho's in the room; after all, it's their job to get next to you. As far as garb goes, tinted glasses are mandatory, and shabby chic always works. Wear your best shiny shirt right out of the package with a pair of your most raggedy jeans. This tells the ladies that you're rockin' so much dolo that you can afford to be lazy. Don't wash your hair for a day, then mousse it all up into spikes. And stop by the men's counter at a department store to spray on a sample of its most expensive cologne. Finally, if you don't have a gold card to throw out at the bartender, prepare a thick cash roll of mostly ones with two C-notes on top. You'll only break the first one, but the bitches' eyes will pop when they see you break out that wad. Then nurse one, maybe two martinis with your wing man and wait for the honeys to beat a path to your studliness. Yeah, baby, there's nothing like the life of a $30,000-a-year millionaire at the J Bar.

Casino Arizona at Salt River

Okay, so you're no Marilyn Monroe. Neither are we. But that doesn't mean you don't deserve a little wind up your skirt once in a while, honey. Casino Arizona -- and we're not talking about that big tent off Indian Bend Road, we mean the nice building farther south on the 101 -- has six lounges, three restaurants, keno, 50 blackjack tables and almost 1,000 slots (and we hear pai gow poker could be on the way). The thing we like best about Casino Arizona is the air-conditioning system that blows from the ground up, dispersing cigarette smoke and, as a side bonus, sending a breeze your way, if you know what we mean.

524 N. 92nd St., Scottsdale, 85256
ZLB Plasma Services

Settle down, big spender. Just because the bank account is down for the count (and the casino has already cut up your Visa), don't go home just yet. You need cash in a flash -- but wanna avoid turning tricks in the parking lot -- so head for one of ZLB's two locations. Presuming you're drug- and disease-free, have strong veins in each arm, lack any recent tattoos or piercings, and can keep quiet about all your illicit trysts, you'll be getting some blood money. In exchange for a few hours -- where you can watch movies or converse with other hard-up homies -- and 880 milliliters of plasma (the protein-rich liquid part of your blood), ZLB's phlebotomists will cough up $25 for your very first visit, and $40 for your second (you'll get $20 and $30 for following weeks thereafter, respectively). Forget about a repeat bloodletting feat, though, as every plasma bank in the Valley has a 24-hour recovery period, cross-donating is verboten, and you can only get pricked twice in a seven-day period. It's not a fistful of C-notes, but at least you can get a couple more go-rounds at the $5 blackjack tables.

1000 E. Broadway Rd., Tempe, 85281

Everyone worships the good Lord in his or her own way. On Fridays, Muslims hit the mosque, and on Saturdays, Jews go a-synagoguing. Christians of many denominations make Sunday their day of prayer, and we fall into this category, although our chapel, if you will, is Shepherd's Nite Club, where communion is in the form of a Jack 'n' Coke, and baptism is referred to as "Super Soak-Her," a wet-tee-shirt contest like no other in our Valley of the Sin, uh, we mean, Sun. Here hot amateur gals and some off-duty pros get nearly nekkid for Jehovah, allowing gallons of very cold H2O to be poured all over their skimpy tops and thongs. That's when the Holy Ghost takes control, inspiring these heavenly honeys to crawl all over the men in the congregation, and minister to them in a religious fervor known to perform miracles such as raising the dead and making the blind see! Indeed, we like to think if Jesus comes again, he'll mosey on over to Shepherd's for a cocktail and gander at all this piety on display. After all, there's no cover, and it beats Bible study, that's for damn sure.


BEST COMMUNITY MURAL: The wall mural in front of Maie Bartlett Heard Elementary School


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