Best Of :: People & Places
We almost lost this venerable company last year, in good part because people don't go to the theater often enough to support even the best playhouses. Which is senseless when you consider how truly impressive Actors Theatre's just-passed season was. It kicked off with a remount of the previous season's Nickel and Dimed, a comic adaptation of Barbara Ehrenreich's book about the working class that featured a delightful performance by Cathy Dresbach. Next up was Blue/Orange, a thoughtful and well-acted meditation on mental health. A stunning late-January production of Kiss of the Spider Woman featured what might well have been Richard Trujillo's best performance ever. As if this weren't enough, the company closed its already impressive season with an amazing production of Edward Albee's shocking The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia? that had audiences buzzing for weeks after. We're glad that wiser heads (and deeper pockets) have prevailed, and that Actors Theatre remains with us.
The Tricks' garden has Eden beat, no contest. Built around two old houses in downtown Tempe well off the beaten beer-spilled path of Mill Avenue the trellised, bricked, vine-covered spot is the perfect place to sit at the bar or relax at a table, with a good glass of wine. And one more thing we can guarantee: No one in Eden knew how to cook the way the Tricks do with menu temptations like marinated quail with a coffee honey vinaigrette or pistachio-crusted rack of lamb. Paradise.
According to the Bible, our ancient ancestors Adam and Eve grew ashamed at their nudity in the Garden of Eden after sampling forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge, and thusly, mankind was forever cursed with a sense of body modesty. Well, you can finally feel good about dropping trou outside the confines of your residence (without getting thrown in the cooler) inside the confines of El Dorado Hot Springs. This picturesque mineral-water spa located 45 miles west of the Valley is a clothing-optional compound with a bounty of bathing pools and tubs filled with natural H2O pumped straight from a subterranean spring. Five private areas located inside fenced areas and historic buildings including a small post office where old-school civil servants soaked their letter-carrying carcasses back in the day allow you to take a dip away from the prying eyes of the public for only $10 an hour per person. If you're feeling a bit more exhibitionistic, there's also a semi-private pool for $7.50 an hour per person. Cell phones and cameras are forbidden, however, so you needn't worry about any saucy pics of your skinny-dipping adventures getting posted on the Internet.
The appletini is the quintessential frou-frou cocktail. Flirty. Tasteful. Fun. Grilled Expedition at Desert Ridge Marketplace offers an appletini that's shaken, not stirred, and garnished with a Granny Smith apple slice. Its house special martini isn't exactly a trade secret just vodka with a splash of sour apple liquor but the restaurant's bartenders manage to get just the perfect combination of sweet and tart. This is an apple that will definitely sink its teeth into you.
Phoenix summers are hell. By August, the only flowers left alive in this town are on night-blooming cactuses. Wright House proprietors Peggy and Michael Wright must have made a pact with Satan's gardener, because somehow their lush landscaping manages to stay green and flowering nearly all year. The property houses three buildings a historic cottage house, an English ballroom and a recently added French villa that can be rented for weddings, special occasions and private parties. Wrought-iron fences and delicate gazebos are covered with ivy and fragrant jasmine. Stone walkways snake through country gardens planted with roses and perennials bursting in vibrant shades of fuchsia, pink and saffron. The best part? There's not one goddamned cactus on the lot.
For those of you who specialize in committing the most profane acts of immorality, now you can royally piss off God in a variety of ways at Apollo's Greek God Revue. As if the infamously sassy GLBT clientele that frequents Apollo's wasn't enough to get on the Lord's bad side, now guests can further annoy the Most High with the overt idolatry of Dionysian-loving tranny sing-alongs, the likes of which some fundamentalists might say could invoke the wrath of God with more urgency than the folks in those little towns called Sodom and Gomorrah. To add injury, the party happens every Sunday night, a day typically reserved by the rightest of the right for spiritual fasting and meditation. Perhaps the guys at Apollo's view their wacky Sunday night Greek drag extravaganzas as worshipful in their own way. Since the Lord hasn't struck them down yet, be sure not to miss a week; that would really light up this already fabulous party!
So your last houseplant turned black, you think putting leftover meat loaf in your orchid's pot means you've fed it, and you've now proven (multiple times) that you can, in fact, kill a cactus. No worries. The folks at Garden Territory have heard it all before. The shop offers gardening classes for all skill levels, from novice to seasoned grower. Learn how to plant an herb garden, grow tomatoes, or design and execute a backyard flower bed. Most of the instructors are self-proclaimed "Barn Goddesses" ex-hippies who now hover somewhere between corporate clone and tree-hugger. These ladies are so relaxed from morning yoga and afternoon aromatherapy that you could accidentally kill their whole demonstration garden and they'd just give you a hug.
How does your garden grow? Probably quite nicely, if you've hooked up with the folks at the cooperative garden at Scottsdale Community College. Spread across a couple acres on the northeast end of campus, a fragrant plot of tilled earth has provided fertile soil for SCC's students, faculty, neighbors, and other local residents to cultivate all manner of fabulous flora for more than a decade. This field of dreams is open to anyone willing to join a non-credit class for only $10 and pay a six-month watering fee ranging from $14 to $65 in exchange for their swatch of land (the size of which varies). Fruits like watermelons and cantaloupe sprout alongside rows of herbs and veggies ranging from turnips to tarragon. There's also a greenhouse-size selection of budding plants and trees in the garden of earthly delights, ranging from pine trees to yucca plants. And just because it's on a college campus, no, you can't relocate your cannabis collection here, so don't even bother asking.
After attending a few of Monkey Pants' "One O'Clock Shirtless Shot" promotions, we wholeheartedly endorse going topless at this wacky watering hole in Tempe. A single one-cent shot of any liquor in stock including such premium spirits as Patrn and Hennessey is doled out to anyone engaging in the half-naked high jinks (ladies are required to wear bras). It's quite often a post-midnight madhouse, as the nightly event is jam-packed with ASU frat boys, urban cowboys, and dreadlocked hippies, all of whom wanna get bare-chested for booze. We recommend doing some crunches beforehand.
Father Francis LeBlanc leads a church in El Mirage that celebrates the traditional Latin Mass as well as numerous other ancient Catholic rites. The rest of the Valley's Catholics celebrate the modern Mass born out of the widespread modernization of the Catholic Church in the 1960s known as Vatican II. Because LeBlanc refused to change to the modern-style Mass, he was kicked out of the diocese by former bishop, pedophile hide-and-seeker and Native American hit-and-runster Thomas O'Brien. This summer, a diocesan priest incorrectly stated in his parish bulletin that LeBlanc had been "excommunicated" by the pope. A minor faux pas, you say? One would think. But the mistake sent LeBlanc into an old-school tizzy. He filed a lawsuit. He demanded a very public apology. What was more fun, though, were the letters sent out by LeBlanc and his fellow traditionalist priests, in which they blame Vatican II, and the priests schooled under its liberal laws, for just about every heresy committed by a Catholic priest in the past 30 years. Some nuggets: "You people don't even use the proper Roman Catholic Bible!" one priest wrote. "Your job is to save souls; it is not to destroy them. When you discourage Roman Catholics from attending the true Mass the Roman Rite Mass you are destroying souls. You are leading the souls of your flock straight through the gates and into the fires of hell." Ouch! Yet another thrust of the spear. "Is it any wonder why those of us who desire the true Mass the Roman Rite Mass abandoned your 'mainstream church' with your heretical bishops, pedophile priests and hootenanny services?" That last little stinker really hit home. "Hootenanny services." Have you been to Mass lately? They remind us of the fevered Baptist revivals of the hillbilly South. The weird little hand dance thinger. The blaring band of Creed wanna-bes. Women reaching for the sky like peyote-crazed medicine doctors. What's next? "Heal!!!!"? LeBlanc calls for solemn reverence in his church. After seeing enough Diocese-sanctioned services, that seems like a pretty damn good idea.
Underwear night definitely operates under the premise "less is more." Every Thursday night, promiscuous persons flaunt what they've got at the LGBT-friendly bar while enjoying all-night drink specials. The house lights aren't the only thing that drops at 9 p.m. when men move and groove on the dance floor in tighty whiteys, and exposed ladies shake it all out to DJ Doom's house beats. It's not necessary to bare most of your bod to enjoy the evening, but there is a buck off the cover charge reward for those brave souls who decide to strip down or just show up in their undies.
Now, there's a lot of competition for this honor. We've read of pedophiles in Arizona who've each accosted scores of children. But Warren Jeffs, prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has not only had sex with minors himself, he's required multitudes of his followers to commit the crime since he took over as Polygamyland's top dog from his dad. Between Rulon and Warren, the Jeffses have forced young girls into sexual slavery for a couple of generations now. Which is why the FBI had the junior Jeffs on its Most Wanted list since August 2005, and why he was eventually nabbed on a highway in southern Nevada this summer and sent to face charges first in Utah and then in Arizona. His polygamist community of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, straddles the state line. Here's how Jeffs' nifty little religion works: Church doctrine holds that the prophet marry loyal male followers to as many "wives" as the prophet deems appropriate. What power! Girls as young as 14 have been required to submit to this rule and bed down with guys old enough to be their grandfathers. Some men those Jeffs really likes, naturally have been granted scores of brides. If men and women do not submit to this doctrine, they are banned from the community, stripped of their families and denied entrance into the "Celestial Kingdom." Anybody who's been paying attention knows what this is it's Mormon heaven, in which even mainstream Mormon men (who eschew polygamy while in the flesh; the Salt Lake City-based church now forbids it) get to do the wild thing with multiple wives in the afterlife. And we thought those terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center were crazy for thinking their actions would merit them a passel of virgins to bang in the wild blue yonder! But back to Jeffs: When we got a gander of him on TV in his jail jumpsuit, we realized he was lucky to be born into polygamy. A guy that skinny and scary would never get laid any other way.