BEST DANCE FLOOR 2005 | Barcelona | People & Places | Phoenix
A big, swank Spanish restaurant by evening, by night Barcelona becomes a meat market pulsing with dance tunes and beautiful people on the prowl. Most nights, count on a DJ who knows how to keep the place hopping or a band that does a decent job covering good dance tunes. But unlike lesser clubs, Barcelona never feels ridiculously crowded or too smoky to breathe. The bouncers are great at keeping traffic off the dance floor, so you're not going to get knocked in the ribs when you bust a move.
Geeky guys of the Valley, take note. Ever seen those licentious late-night commercials for local interactive date lines? Usually they're squeezed between the oh-so-mockable Goldberg & Osborne advertisements, starring hot-to-trot hotties who probably wouldn't let your unphotogenic ass buy them an overpriced martini at Myst. While these intimidating adverts have kept you from calling, the truth is that these beauties are in the minority on Livelinks, the most popular of the local chat services. Populated by plenty of dog-faced desperate housewives and other less-than-lovely ladies, the line's a veritable sexual smorgasbord of females looking for phone fun or an overnight rendezvous. Stay alert for ladies on the lookout for "generous gentlemen" (read: prostitutes) or trannies out to play the crying game (not that there's anything wrong with that). So if you can somehow sweet-talk some honey into slipping you her location, give it a shot, Ace, 'cause he who hesitates, masturb . . . well, you know the rest.
If you're a lad on the lookout for some no-cost titillation, break out your rabbit ears and tune to KGF Channel 53, the UHF Spanish station, which runs amazing infomercials for Prieto's Auto Sales that air at varying times Thursdays through Sundays. We're talkin' some real skin on a real skinflint's budget. Broadcast from each of the used car dealership's three lots in south Phoenix, the 30-minute adverts show off a bevy of barely dressed buxom barrio babes, usually wearing nothing but a skimpy bikini top, micro-minis, and high heels, who fondle various auto interiors and exteriors while pimping Chevy SUVs and Mitsubishi Eclipses. It's like an issue of Lowrider magazine come to life, and brings new meaning to the word "autoerotica." What really sets this stuff apart from the carnal content on Univision is how the cameraman, God bless his soul, will occasionally linger on the ladies a little longer than necessary. Better than watching scrambled porno, we say.
All these new ballroom-dance-related reality shows and feature films have us craving a smooth spot to glide across a dance floor. The place that comes to mind is a jazz club tucked quaintly into a corner of Uptown Plaza at Central Avenue and Camelback Road. Johnny's Uptown caters to those with aspiring twinkle toes. Its modest-size dance floor is set against a stage that's always bubbling with live music, one that allows just enough room to swivel and pivot yourself into a stupor. Dance soirees happen nightly and tend to run late, with such entertainment as Doc and Nayo or the Xcite Band playing until 2 a.m. Ella had it right when she sang, "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing," and Johnny's is the place to swing it 'til it won't swing no more.
There was nothing good on television the other night, so we started surfing through all 550 channels of dreck until the sight of some skinny teenagers smacking each other around with kendo sticks caught our eye. It looked like an episode of Viva La Bam, but it turns out we had just tuned to local public access (Cox channel 98 and Qwest channel 24), and, more specifically, SWWF Rampage, the weekly showcase of the Valley's quasi-backyard rasslin' group, which airs Tuesdays at 7 p.m. While it's way more raw than WWE RAW with below-bargain-basement production values, the violent exploits of all the wrestling wanna-bes on the roster are inherently viewable. Just like the I-fear-to-look-yet-I-cannot-look-away mentality of a car accident video, the over-the-top "superstars" like Cris Anarchy, Doc Fairday, Havok, and the Suburban Ninja keep our eyes locked on the screen. Call it a guilty pleasure that's gonna keep us tuning in next week, same mat time, same mat channel.
If you need a place to sit back with a bottle of beer while watching a game, a place where you can sing your troubles away to an off-pitch karaoke song, or a place to rock along with local bands, BJ's is where you'll best land. And before you try to score points with a giggle at this hopping spot's funny name, know that the owners have got you beat. The work uniform at this casual nightspot is a tee shirt splashed proudly with the phrase "I ♥ BJ's." (Of course, knockoffs of this shirt are for sale, and for just $15, too.) Unlike most sports bars, BJ's hosts live music and karaoke simultaneously every weekend, with bands like Monsoon Alley, and Big Mama and Whitebread. The crowd is a fun mix of neighborhood locals and ASU West students looking to unwind after class, all looking for cheap drinks, a quick game of shuffleboard, and maybe even a round of darts. With all this fun and more, who can help but ♥ BJ's?
Don't expect any alone time in either of the restrooms at Half Moon, an upscale sports bar that caters to corporate lackeys looking to unwind -- and to undress, apparently. Each restroom has what appears to us to be a strategically located video camera mounted in a corner, pointed right at you. It's not uncommon to find a gaggle of guys huddled around the sink, gawking at the 17-inch LCD screen on which a trio of girls in the restroom next door are tossing their unmentionables over the stall, gettin' freaky with each other. We once saw a flat-chested hottie stuff her bra with toilet paper before hunting for a CEO at the bar. And the ladies get to see plenty, as well, whether it's a goon digging for gold or an insecure middle-management type shoving a pair of socks down his pants. Is it all just a gag, you might ask? Hey, the camera never lies.


The Will

A few days before Penny Long made her reality TV show debut last January on CBS' The Will, the Arizona Republic ran a feature on the Cave Creek woman predicting that "You will read about her in Us Weekly, . . . spot her on Access Hollywood, and come into work on Monday morning and talk Penny, Penny, Penny . . ."

The Republic was dead wrong. The Will was to have followed Penny, fourth wife of local developer Bill Long, as she battled a gaggle of relatives over who would inherit a ranch owned by her ancient and very wealthy (but not yet dead) husband. Instead, the network canceled the series after just one episode, making The Will one of the biggest flops in TV history. See ya later, Penny.

Standing nine feet tall, weighing in at five hundred pounds, this enormous monstrosity can put any bar mascot to shame. Set at the entrance of Hurricane Bay in north Phoenix, a giant replica of a volcano inspired by Mount Wannahockaloogy from the Disney movie Finding Nemo transports patrons directly to the Islands. Complete with a waterfall and smoke billowing from the top, the nameless sculpture overlooks a dance floor lighted in turquoise, and a grass-skirted bar, and can be seen from every point in the equally oversize nightspot. Some believe that if you touch the behemoth for good luck, you are destined to find the beautiful virgin before she is sacrificed to the gods.
Owned by local real estate investor Michael A. Pollack, this funky modern theater boasts a lobby filled with video games, autographed photos, and life-size cardboard figures of celebrities, which patrons love to use for funny photo ops. But the truly edgy stuff happens on the big screens, where award-winning indie films make their Valley premières, and artsy repertory films get exposure, too. Every summer, the theater hosts the "One Night Cinema" series, which presents first-run, award-winning foreign films such as Moolaadé, Lost Embrace, and Vodka Lemon. In January and February, the cinema hosts the Sun Lakes Jewish Film Festival, where acclaimed yarns such as Left Luggage and Zahor get a chance to shine on the silver screen. Tempe Pollack Cinemas is also a great place for local film companies to share their works; the theater recently hosted the world première of Phoenix Film Project's Laws of Deception.

We're happy to see one brave soul go up against the Valley's movie monopoly.

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