BEST AUTHOR WHO LEFT TOWN AND CAME BACK

Tania Katan

What's a nice Jewish girl like Tania Katan doing in a place like Phoenix? Very well, thank you. Katan was raised (at least partially) in the Valley, a proud graduate of McClintock High in Tempe, and she escaped to assorted environs including San Francisco and Long Beach, according to her book, My One-Night Stand With Cancer, which you really should read. Now she's back, and we're glad to have her. Katan is a fantastic writer; reading her book is like sitting down for a glass of wine with her -- although you'll be giddy enough from the literary ride she takes you on (even considering the subject, which you've guessed from the title). She's also a playwright and performer, and we hope to see her on a stage near us soon. For now, you can catch a glimpse of her when she runs in several races this October. We won't tell you why, but you won't be able to miss her.
Groggy's
A pool hall, as opposed to a billiards parlor, should be comfortable but with an edge. The kind of place where no one tells you to take your feet off the neighboring barstool; where the drinks are strong, a game costs 50 cents, the sticks are straight, and chalk is plentiful. You want a place where people treat each other with respect, but fighting words are occasionally exchanged. Attractive members of the opposite sex are a bonus, but not required -- you're here to shoot pool, not watch players bend over to make shots. Groggy's is just such a rough-around-the-edges spot, with six tables and plenty of room between them. Skill levels vary from rank amateur to pretty damn good, but this isn't a place for hustlers; just a kick-back-and-relax neighborhood tav where the eight-ball rules. The bartenders know their business; even when it's busy, you'll never wait longer than a minute for a refill. And Groggy's has it going on: The kitchen makes a mean sandwich, and the digital jukebox plays virtually any song ever recorded. Drop in when Tits on a Stick (she insists they're real and she really answers to that name) is working. 'Nuff said.
Even before its publication, Martha Beck's Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith was causing cramps among Latter-day Saints around the globe. Which is one of several reasons we're proud of Beck's Phoenix connection (she now lives here), right up there with her "I'm not gonna take it" attitude, her regular column in O magazine, and the smooth, amusing style with which she wrote about a painful subject. Beck's memoir describes sacred Mormon ceremonies and accuses her recently deceased father, Hugh Nibley, a well-regarded authority on Mormon teaching, of sexually molesting her as a child. We're just plain proud of Beck for standing up for herself in such a big way, and for dodging the physical threats, lawsuits and smear campaigns launched against her. We're delighted to call her our neighbor.
George & Dragon Pub
It's hard to resist the charms of a bar that serves up both darts and bangers and mash, which is why George & Dragon is our pick as the best English pub in town. A low-key spot, it's bigger on comfort than style, catering to football hooligans and people who like a good pint -- real Brits, in other words, and the Americans who love them.
Fibber Magees
We've picked Chandler's Fibber Magees as the Best Irish Pub again for one salient reason: To be a great Irish pub, you not only have to have great drink, an authentic atmosphere, and Irish music, you also have to have a solid Irish menu, one that does more than give lip service to the cuisine of the Emerald Isle. More than any of the other fine Irish establishments in the Valley, Fibber Magees delivers on Irish eats with baskets of soda bread, plates of boxty -- the Irish potato pancake -- bangers and champ, trad Irish breakfast with black and white pudding, and so on. One or two other Irish places in the area make a stab at Irish food, but none comes close to the quality of what you get at Fibber Magees. Yes, you can get a proper pint of Guinness here, as well as a shot of Jameson. And there are plenty of fair colleens to gaze upon. But the food is why we keep comin' back, and it's why Fibbers keeps winning this award.
Homeward Bound
We've gotta tell you, if we have to go to one more charity luncheon, we're going to puke up our chicken plate. We gave at the office, sweetie -- now can we go to the mall and shop? Here's exciting news from the society scene: Now there's a charity luncheon where you can actually pick up a fabulous handbag (one that might even have some history) and give to a very good cause at the same time. The Old Bags Luncheon, sponsored by Homeward Bound, a Valley organization that provides transitional housing for the homeless and victims of domestic violence, features a silent auction of vintage and designer purses. Some are donated by department stores, but others come from celebrities: Last year's auction featured a vintage Hermes bag given by Sofia Coppola, and even Oprah made a donation. So did Cindy McCain. We're not so sure we want her baggage, but we hear there were bags by Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Ferragamo. Certainly worth choking down some rubber chicken, and since the luncheon's scheduled for November 8 at the Arizona Biltmore, the food might not be so bad.
Red Sea Hookah Lounge
If you regard pitas, shish kebabs and belly dancers as a distraction to your hookah pipe smoking, then the Red Sea Hookah Lounge is the place for you. The Red Sea isn't a restaurant; it's a straight smoking joint. Sprawl on the velvet love seats and order up a water pipe of tobacco in flavors like mango, blueberry and peach. If you want food, they'll go to the bar next door and get you something. Otherwise, this place is about smoking, and nothing else.
Her Web site doesn't provide hook-ups for the lovelorn, because Madame Matchmaker says the best way to meet your one true love is by exploiting her peculiar talent for tying people's knots. And if Bonnie Wills should maybe disdain online dating services, who are we to judge? She is, after all, responsible for hundreds of local marriages, and, if she happens to (God forbid) hook you up with the wrong person -- which she almost never does -- she'll go back and start over again, on her dime. This is matchmaking the old-fashioned way, with Bonnie interviewing prospective lover boys and gals, then arranging dinner dates that, she swears, more often than not result in true love. Losers and schlemiels? Not to worry when it's Bonnie doing the matchmaking -- she does criminal background checks on each client.

Mazel tov!

L.A. has Hustler. Chicago has Playboy. New York has Penthouse. So what does P-town have in response? Playtime, fool. If you haven't seen it, Playtime is glossier than 944, with content we're a hell of a lot more interested in perusing. Its purview is the PHX's extensive strip-club scene, one of the largest in the nation, as well as all things adult in the Valley of the Sun. Not only does Playtime do features on local strippeterias, it also publishes Penthouse-style pictorials of local dancers in their birthday suits, and informs you of where they usually dance. A stalker's delight! Fortunately, like Chauncey the Gardener in Being There, we just like to watch, officer. And the price is right for our pockets: free if you stop by one of the many strip clubs in town that have a rack of 'em waiting for you at the door.
Le Girls Cabaret
A veritable seraglio of heterosexual sin that could turn one of those altar-boy-caressin' Father Feelgoods in the Catholic Church into a red-meat-eatin' lover of the female form, this palatial chichi emporium boasts 160 of the finest dames in the Valley, each of them getting half-nekkid just for you. Penthouse also offers up 10,000 square feet of flashing lights, plush chairs, plasma TV sets, long-ass bars with a strip of ice down the middle so you can set your glass down and keep your drink frosty, three stripper stages, and a high catwalk leading from the gals' dressing room to the main stage. Still want more? Penthouse also features an old-school, four-star menu with everything from surf-and-turf to stuffed pork chops. And if you've got the moola, there's an exclusive, members-only VIP section where you can survey the action on the floor from behind tinted windows. Overall, the classiest strip joint in town, bar none.

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