BEST BAR IN TEMPE THAT (SHHH!) ALLOWS SMOKING

Yucca Tap Room

Yucca Tap Room
Lauren Cusimano
Kudos to the Yucca Tap Room for a courageous common-sense approach to the anti-smoking Nazis. At considerable financial risk (establishments that allow smoking can be fined up to $500 by the city, and snitches can rat to the police online), the Yucca keeps a healthy supply of Altoids tins behind the bar. They are not there to cure bad breath. Rather, the tins make dandy ashtrays, which can be quickly closed in case the cops show up. The tins are not available during live music performances or when it gets busy. They are for slow, lazy afternoons, when everyone in the place either smokes or doesn't object if others light up. Which is exactly the way it should be.
Perky and blonde, Holly Dunlap could easily pass for a Scottsdale soccer mom with a taste for cute shoes. But while she's a Scottsdale native, and while the shoes are adorable (hey, don't take our word for it -- ask the editors at Vogue), Dunlap is actually one of the hottest young designers in Manhattan. (Once again, see Vogue.) The Saguaro High grad's company, Hollywould, started with bags and shoes to die for, and made the big leap last fall into clothing with a line of flippy, sexy dresses made exclusively for Saks Fifth Avenue. Dunlap's inspiration? The dresses her mom wore in the 1970s while entertaining poolside, back in Scottsdale.

If we could afford them, Holly, we certainly would.

Sail Inn
One of the last surviving old Tempe bars, the Sail Inn regularly hosts Grateful Dead cover bands like The Noodles and Xtra Ticket. Both bands kick out mind-reeling jams, much to the delight of Deadheads who come from miles around and are still kicking up the dirt 10 years after Jerry Garcia's death. Even former Grateful Dead keyboard player Vince Welnick occasionally drops in and brings his keyboard magic to the Sail Inn's inside and outdoor stages. The Noodles play every Sunday beginning at 4:20 p.m. and jam until about 9 p.m. Xtra Ticket makes appearances once in a while and adds a few of its own high-energy jams to the Dead's massive library of music. And think again if you're expecting a crowd of aging hippies out spinning on the dance floor -- there's a steady stream of youngsters letting their freak flag fly, some of whom never saw the Grateful Dead play. We hope the music never stops at the Sail Inn.
Everybody from Target to Home Depot sells plants, but only Tera Vessels can tell you the secrets to making them thrive here in the world's most populated oven. Vessels runs a nursery in an old downtown bungalow, selling plants, gardening accessories and art. But it's the garden surrounding the house that signals you're in the presence of someone who could grow coreopsis in concrete --- an apt metaphor for gardening in Phoenix.

Butterflies and hummingbirds flit through towering Maximilian sunflowers. Drifts of blanket flowers surround wands of hollyhocks, and koi swim in cool ponds. Vessels, wiry and tan from spending so much time working in her beloved garden, is a veritable plant whisperer. Have some coffee with her and tell her your garden troubles. Penstemons stunted? Tera can help. Aphids gobbling your hibiscus? Tera can help. Worried about the state of the world? Tera can't help you with that, but remember, growing something -- or trying to, at least -- always makes you feel better.

Apollo's
When heading down Seventh Street, drivers can't miss the massive blue and yellow sign that screams "Apollo's!" and marks the spot where a personable bunch is always busy welcoming a good time. And for anyone, gay or straight, who can't resist belting out his fave tune in public, Apollo's -- one of Phoenix's oldest gay clubs -- is the place to be. Thursdays through Saturdays, bargoers can enjoy an evening of chart-toppers by would-be starlets hoping to conquer their stage fright before the next American Idol audition. Apollo himself would be proud.
Although Roosevelt Street sometimes seems like a teenage wasteland during First Fridays -- especially since those darn kids do nothing but bum cigarettes outside Modified Arts -- adolescent phenom Legend Logsdon is proving that assumption incorrect. Though only 13, Logsdon has a keen eye for turning trash into amazing 3-D found-object treasures, transforming such finds as an eight-foot-long saguaro cactus rib into an artful alligator. One of his latest works is "Monsters and Machines," a series of mixed-media paintings incorporating devices like electrical meter boxes into hybrid creatures equal parts ogre and automaton. So far, this boy wonder's shown his work at Seattle's Hugo House Gallery and Holga's, the downtown Phoenix artist commune where he resides with mother and former graf artist Tara Logsdon. Let's hear it for the boy.
The Wares, Vivian and Derek, are the ultimate power couple when it comes to nightlife in the PHX. Not only do they regularly help bring major acts to the Valley, like the Ying Yang Twins, they also promote, do ad buys for, or in some manner represent a multitude of the flyest events out there, whether it's a club night downtown or an erotic male revue at the Celebrity Theatre.

Hubby Derek Ware is a former pro football player who's worn the jerseys of the Cardinals, the Bengals and the Cowboys at different points in his career. His wife Vivian personifies the height of media savvy and beauty, a class act all the way. Together they're an unstoppable team, one that can be counted on to be competitive, yet brutally honest in their business dealings. Their Web site has become the 411 for urban Phoenix, a place to go when you need to know what went down or is about to go down in town and beyond. And on a personal level, they're down to earth, and not at all stuck on themselves. Phoenix could use more folks like them, for real.

Karamba
Electroclash had already peaked by the time this Friday-night dance fest got started, but that didn't stop Phoenix's young and trendy from coming out en masse to freak dance to Fischerspooner. Wisely, though, founder DJ Nimh (who stays involved but has since moved to New York City) established a weekly mix that went beyond the now oh-so-over music genre; now glam, dance-punk, and New Wave faves are Hot Pink! staples. These days, Sleazy Sean and Colt host the night, and sometimes lure visiting rock stars and DJs (Hot Hot Heat, Barry Weaver, etc.) to throw down some beats. We never thought this party would survive to see its second anniversary, but Hot Pink! is still bringing the heat.
Everyone needs friends like Chris and Jim McLennan. Not content to sit in the audience and enjoy their favorite filmmakers, professional wrestlers, comedians and performance artists, this Scottsdale couple has helped bankroll the efforts of Valley creative types using profits from their Web-based bead business since 2001. In addition to funneling financing, these funky philanthropists also provide promotional assistance to the likes of auteur Zach Yoshioka, and the ring warriors of Impact Zone Wrestling, as well as such bands as Radiance, and The Strand. If that weren't enough, the pop-cultural patrons also help organize their ongoing Comedy SlamFest, and provide the booking at nightspot The Sets in Tempe. So far they've been backing the right horses, as The Strand recently inked a deal with a major distributor who got their stuff into Tower Records and Best Buy, and Yoshioka's busy making music videos and DVDs for the artists of Subnoize Records. So artists of the local scene, take note: Mom and Dad may not open their wallets anymore, but Uncle Jim and Aunt Chris just might.
Phoenix has some great DJs of all stripes, proficient in all types of musical genres, but is there anywhere in town a DJ of more renown than Pete "SuperMix" Salaz, the Buddha of House, who has long reigned over the night like some affable Aztec god? If you spotted Salaz on the street, you'd just see a portly, easygoing chap, not one who would stir you one way or the other. But this Maestro of the Wheels of Steel is a legend that other DJs bow down to, a mixmaster women throw themselves at, begging to be inseminated. Think we're kidding? Show up at the next underground RedMonkey event, re-created from those which once took place at the Riverbottom Lounge long ago, and you'll witness for yourself the passion people have for SuperMix and his signature evenings of dirty house. Partnered with DJ Senbad, a.k.a. Sean Badger, Salaz helped make Batucada the success it was at Scottsdale's Next, and now he and Senbad are bringing house back to Phoenix with Lemon Drop Saturdays at Majerle's 9-Lounge. So 20 years into his career as a DJ, the legend is still going strong. Keep spinnin', SuperMix. Keep spinnin'.

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