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.
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.
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.
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.