BEST MUSEUM YOU'VE NEVER BEEN TO 2005 | The Bead Museum | People & Places | Phoenix
We've always considered beading strictly a consumer endeavor -- as in, we don't want to look at them, we just want to buy them. And it is true that we were immediately sidetracked by the Bead Museum's large (perhaps larger than the exhibit space itself, although, to be fair, it's under construction) gift shop. But after we were done shopping and plunked down our very reasonable $4 admission fee, we had to admit an instantaneous appreciation for the history of the bead. It's a mind-boggling chronicle dating way back to prehistoric times, when superstitious but fashion-conscious cavemen first strung seashells, seeds and animal bones into personal adornment for ritual and talismanic protection against stone-age evils, like man-eating mammals, marauding enemy clansmen and your run-of-the-mill natural disasters. Glendale's Bead Museum is one of the few in the world actually devoted solely to the bead. And, even with its exhibit space under renovation, we got more than an inkling of the historical and cultural importance of beads. Museum organizers have arranged their carefully culled collection in glass cases, which include well-labeled pull-out drawers in which artifacts are arranged by subject matter -- a great way to observe not only single beads, but beaded jewelry and ritual objects from around the globe in bite-size chunks. Both antique and contemporary beads and adornment from various cultures in Africa, East Asia, Europe, Latin America and India fill cases and drawers, all with engaging photos and text explaining what you're looking at and its basic significance. As we left Glendale, we vowed that our next outing will be to the Arizona Rock and Mineral Museum in downtown Phoenix. Just what goes on in that giant claw outside the museum, anyway?
Like a giant roulette wheel floating 24 stories in the air, the Compass Room spins atop the downtown Hyatt, adding character to our skyline. The disc-shaped building slowly completes a full clockwise turn every 55 minutes, so guests who stay for an hour are guaranteed an unparalleled panoramic 360-degree view. Since celebrating its 25th anniversary, the restaurant has been completely renovated with updated decor and an expanded wine cellar triple its previous size, offering more than 150 varieties. A reservation is suggested, especially if you're planning to drop in around sunset, when you'll likely find a backdrop of intense pinks and oranges blooming across the sky.
We love the Desert Botanical Garden, but not everyone has enough passion for cactus to make it through a two-hour tour. Which is why Paradise Valley's Barry Goldwater Memorial is so damn cool. Not only does it feature a big bronze version of the father of American conservatism himself, but it's got a great variety of succulents, each painstakingly attended and identified by plaque. At the Goldwater memorial, you can stroll along the little dirt path and see most of the botanical garden's highlights for free, including agave, two types of barrel cactus, ocotillo, and even a boojum tree, which looks like it belongs in a Dr. Seuss book but really hails from Baja California. It's the perfect intro to desert plant life.
Off the beaten path of most concertgoers, this Phoenix landmark's signature revolving stage is still spinning after all these years. With no seat farther than 75 feet from the stage, Celebrity Theatre presents intimacy incomparable to other competing concert venues. Since its creation in 1963, the Celebrity has hosted a stunning list of entertainers that includes Chris Rock, George Carlin, Smashing Pumpkins, Duran Duran, Garth Brooks, Brian Setzer, Carol Channing, and Diana Ross. But beware: Performers can be seen from every angle. We recall one night when one of Donna Summer's slit-up-the-back costumes was cut just a bit too high, leaving us hopelessly distracted from enjoying the disco diva's dance hits.
John Peirce's 1920s English Tudor revival home in the F.Q. Story historic district is the antidote to KB Homes bland. A five-foot winged dragon of copper weathered to a cool, reptilian green clings to copper vines covering most of the front porch. The beastie grins through razor teeth, and his eyes glow red at night. The Dragon House, as some neighbors have dubbed Peirce's place, also has a biomorphic green copper cap atop the chimney, and whimsical copper window frames and rain gutter spouts. The place looks like a set for a Lord of the Rings movie. Peirce's creations adorn other homes in the area, too. Drive around and look for more of his chimney caps and window frames on houses. Peirce's studio, behind his house, is open to the public Sundays from noon to 4 p.m., so you can drop by and meet the dragonmaster.
There's nary a place to rest your weary feet except for a few concrete stools on the smokers' patio, and you'll probably have to find parking on the other side of the Mill Avenue Bridge, but if you want to see the bands with the biggest buzz, you'll be coming to the Marquee Theatre. Many of the shows sell out, so it's wise to get tickets in advance. You might have to stand shoulder to shoulder with sweaty fellow fans to see a hot headliner like Nine Inch Nails, but think about it this way: The atmosphere is downright intimate compared to the amphitheaters where these bands could just as easily perform. It takes patience, but if you want to get up front -- or even just comfortably close -- it's not out of the question at the Marquee.
Evie Carpenter
There's a lot of local history in this gas station turned sandwich shop. The deli sits right next to the Pioneer Memorial Park and Cemetery, where some of Arizona's first settlers and political figures are buried, and the building has been a presence on Jefferson Street since its birth as a Mobil gas station in 1926. The inside walls are decorated with vintage metal signs and old photos, but the most striking decoration is the collection of Arizona license plates that covers all four walls. There are dozens upon dozens of rusted old plates, in various colors and stages of decay, dating back to 1912, the year before Henry Ford started mass production of automobiles. So while you're waiting for your sandwich, you can look up and wonder how it must have been to drive in Phoenix before there were freeways.
Everything else in the Valley is in a strip mall -- why not a music venue? While this place has been around for years, it only recently expanded to double its previous size, with a bigger stage, a bigger bar, and a broader lineup. Plenty of great national acts have played here, but it's clear that local rockers have made this their home. Need proof? Just take a look at the bookings calendar. On almost any given week, somebody's throwing another CD release show here.
For years, Valley bluesman Hans Olson lobbied valiantly to establish an Arizona Blues Hall of Fame, building a list of 65 inductees ranging from '40s bandleader Louis Jordan (who moved here for his arthritis) to local stalwarts like Small Paul Hamilton, Big Pete Pearson, and Rochelle Raya. In the end, Olson lamented, his dream of building a blues museum wound up being only "a plaque on the wall of the Rhythm Room." But that may be fitting, since virtually all of the living inductees on the list have played the Rhythm Room at one time or another. The plain-looking, boxy little club near the center of the city may not have the prestige of Cleveland's or Seattle's music museums, but as the default home of Valley blues heads, the plaque's in the right place.
We can't recall when we first noticed the signs stuck in the grass where Mill Avenue veers into Apache Boulevard, curving around Gammage Auditorium at Arizona State University in Tempe. But we figured they had to be a prank, since one of the poster-size boards -- designed to look like a green chalkboard -- held the message: "Always have at least 5 boyfriends."

Other signs read:

"The most important things can't be taught in a classroom."

"Network. It's not what you know it's who you know."

"Learn to Draw."

"Be kind to your knees."

"Don't talk about yourself too much."

"Don't eat tuna fish more than twice a week."

The signs made us think -- enough to call around and try to figure out what the heck was going on. Turns out, the public art project was a collaboration between ASU and the City of Tempe, the brainchild of an artist named Mary Lucking, who collaborated with members of the community to come up with the modern-day truisms.

ASU's Dianne Cripe reports some interesting reactions:

"Some people initially thought they were 'Burma-Shave-type' signs and were supposed to be read as a single message," she says.

One ASU music professor reported that he watched a woman pull up in her car to get a closer look at the "5 boyfriends" sign. She told him that was disgusting and changed it to read "1 boyfriend."

Cripe says: "Mary, the artist, thought that was amusing and then fixed it."

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of