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?

Nah.

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.

Considering the more-than-affordable treasures we've dragged home from this delightful vintage furniture shop, we're feeling very forgiving about the gigantic typo emblazoned across its tidy storefront. There, in huge plastic letters, we're promised "ANTIQUE'S," a possessive inaccuracy that would normally have us phoning the Grammar Patrol with angry complaints. But we're smiling, instead, because this cozy cache of cool old junk marks the return of shabby chic kingpin Michael Robertson, who blew town last year to open an antique shop in San Diego. Now that Robertson's California store is thriving, he's revisiting the Valley with his special brand of bohemian bourgeoisie furnishings. Just last week, after trolling Michael Todd's 2,500 square feet, we ran off with a deco waterfall bureau, an ancient iron bed (with side rails!), and an old oil painting of somebody's grandmother, all for less than a hundred bucks. What do you want -- good grammar or good deals?
In some ways, 2001 has been a bumpy year for the D-Backs. Consistently disappointing fan turnout has confirmed that the honeymoon days of 1998-'99 have faded. And the team's well-chronicled money problems have called into question its long-term viability as a major league baseball franchise. But in an era when player salaries and team budgets are dinner-table topics, it's easy to forget that the measuring stick that really counts is on-field performance. And the D-Backs have definitely delivered on the field, expertly mixing the overpowering pitching of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling with the astounding power hitting of Luis Gonzalez, and getting just enough help from a solid, journeyman cast. Along the way, they've given the Valley its most serious title contender since Sir Charles and his Phoenix Suns gave the Bulls a scare in '93.
In the ongoing war for sports-radio Arbitron numbers, the most obvious route to success is to be louder, ruder and more obnoxious than the competition. KDUS afternoon host Evan Andeen, known to his listeners as "E-Dog," doesn't fall into this trap. Sure, he's caustic and frequently indignant, but you sense that Andeen's anger comes from an honest disgust with the idiocies that go hand-in-glove with the world of jocks. Whether dissecting the D-Backs' wrongheaded aggressiveness on the base paths, or mocking the hypocrisy of the WNBA over Lisa Harrison's offer to pose in Playboy, Andeen -- with sidekick Moose Meyer -- is a rare voice of reason and intelligence in a genre overrun with macho bluster.
Everyone should have a cause. For KTAR afternoon host Tony Femino, the crusade of 2001 has been the brutal Valley heat (and the accompanying electricity costs). So, a few months ago, Femino launched a one-man campaign to get Avondale to give city employees the day off whenever thermostats exceed 115 degrees. If the plan has little chance of actually being enacted, you can't blame Femino for trying. An L.A. native with a history in sports talk, Femino brings much of that genre's game-face attitude to his shows, which are informative but irreverent, newsy but willing to venture into pop-culture silliness. It's to Femino's credit that he can dissect a presidential-election controversy or chat up Loni Anderson with equal enthusiasm.

"When I was injured in an accident . . ." With those familiar words, we bet you can already hear the creepy client endorsements from the Goldberg & Osborne commercials, featuring everybody's favorite shell-shocked accident victims, filmed from the waist up and speaking in a sort of Percocet-induced Night of the Living Dead monotone. Countless times per week, G&O airs the same hypnotic pitch: how the Valley-based attorney chain came to the rescue of a wrongfully injured zombie by obtaining a million-dollar McSettlement. Yet, because of the ad's Stanley Kubrick feel, you can't resist watching, can you? You can't look away. It's sort of like seeing . . . a car accident.
The magic of The Enchanted Garden is how low its prices are for charming ceramic cherubs, mansion-size birdhouses, flowery wind chimes and unusual blown-glass vases, cat-shaped pet bowls and wrought-iron clocks. It's tucked into downtown Mesa's Old Brick House, a furniture store that leases space on its different levels to anyone with a cool new line of tchotchkes to launch. Less a garden than a small boutique covered in unusual wall hangings, this booth sells ultra-feminine stuff that looks as good in the living room as it does on the patio.

If you're after the perfect, fresh, affordable tree that will outlast your holiday spirit, give The Home Depot a try. Each year, this hardware retailer fills a chain-link pen with the widest selection of firs and spruces to be found in the Valley. Overlook the asphalt-covered surroundings and you'll find all of the perks of a more traditional tree lot: helpful clerks, bright poinsettias, and a shocking number of tree stands. There's even an outdoor decor department, where you can outfit your new blue spruce with twinkle lights and some cool new bulbs. This year, trim hours off your holiday rush with a hunk of forest from the parking lot of your favorite hardware store. Tell 'em Santa sent you.
It feels almost traitorous not to bestow this award on Harkins' Camelview 5 in Scottsdale, which has pretty much single-handedly maintained what little independent and foreign film fare the Valley has to offer. But Dan Harkins has outdone himself with the Valley Art, a beautiful, modernized renovation of the spot where he claims to have been conceived when his parents lived and worked there, operating the Mill Avenue theater before it fell into disrepair. The Valley Art's stadium seating rises gently, offering both good viewing and the feel of a traditional movie theater, and, while the screen isn't giant, it is set in perfect relationship to the seats. Now if Harkins will just upgrade Camelview to the same level of cleanliness and comfort, indie film could be treated with the respect it deserves.

Phoenix is no Manhattan, but we're inching our way toward the Big Apple's $10 movie ticket prices. There are few alternatives for the financially deprived, except Tempe Cinemas. Miss a movie première? Wait a while and watch it here for less than half the price of a regular matinee. The ticket lines move quickly, and the box office is inside, so you don't have to sweat it out behind a bunch of sluggish patrons. Expect plush seating and thunderous THX surround sound; there's even an affordable, full-service snack bar, so you don't have to smuggle in outside goodies. There is such a thing as a cheap date.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of