The Clarendon Hotel
Don't expect to find howling coyotes and Monument Valley vistas within the environs of the Clarendon Hotel's art-friendly lobby and spacious suites. From nude portraits by Chris Raboin to Leigh Merrill's abstract photographic landscapes, the stylish boutique hotel boasts a variety of local artists, including the hippest window shades in town. Created by eye lounge painter Doug Oland, who uses a fairly formal painting style in the way he makes marks and builds through layers, the sliding curtains are printed on a specialized plastic that models the plywood medium that Oland paints upon. Each room houses at least one of two reproductions of Oland's Southwest-themed large-format abstracts. One portrays an agave plant augmented by floating pink and red hues; the other illustrates a desert monsoon with indigo clouds. We can't resist; we've gotta say it: The Clarendon's got it made in the shade.
Ever wonder what it would be like to wander around the inside of a lava lamp? The closest simulation might be a walk through Scorch Bar, with its shiny silver chrome and glowing red interiors, plasma-shaped tables, and futuristic restrooms. Not only is the ladies' restroom always clean to the OCD-degree, but there's also a big, trippy window right above the sinks, which looks directly into the men's restroom next door (don't worry, bashful boys, the girls can't see anything beyond your sinks). Since both restrooms are identical, most people go to wash their hands and don't realize they're standing in front of a window instead of a mirror . . . until they look up to see the startled face of someone of the opposite sex. You never know, ladies that could be Mr. Right over there. At least you know he washes his hands after he pees.
The Rogue Bar
The boys' toidy at this popular punk paradise might be dirty, cramped, poorly lighted, and swelteringly hot, but there's a reason the guys keep making return trips and not because they've got to drain all the PBR they've downed. Nope, it's probably because of all the gonzo graffiti covering almost every inch of the Pepto-pink walls and ceiling of this lurid loo. Besides the usual seamy scribblings, there are amply amusing announcements and hilarious invectives, which are equal parts entertaining, insightful, and outrageous. Surreal sketches of vomiting demons and absurd astronauts make males want to linger long after they've done their business, as do piercing proclamations: "ROCK-N-ROLL MUTHAFUCKERS!" and "Life is short, drink hard." There are even lessons to be learned, as a sarcastic drawing of a recently deceased fashionista (complete with blood pouring from her nose) sits next to the anti-message "Be glamorous, do coke." Hope no one wanted to do any blow in this restroom.
Lost Dutchman State Park
We think that outdoor weddings are the bomb, especially because we live in paradise for six months of the year. That said, some very deep pockets are required to get hitched at Desert Botanical Garden, nearly every outdoor-wedding buff's first choice. But Lost Dutchman is just as lovely, and, best of all, it's budget-friendly. How budget-friendly? You probably won't believe us, but you'll pay next to nothing for the facilities. The wedding site itself an intimate amphitheater located beneath the looming brow of Superstition Mountain and surrounded on all sides by lush Sonoran Desert flora costs nothing. The large group ramada located nearby perfect for the reception is equipped with electricity and can be rented for $25.
If money is no object, get yourself hitched amongst the twinkly orange lights adorning the trees at Royal Palms, just beneath Camelback Mountain. This resort (completely rehabbed in the '90s; we miss the heart-shaped pool but otherwise love the redo) is the perfect blend of Mediterranean charm with a nod to the desert. The lawn is the perfect place to hoist your huppa (or canopy, all religions welcome), and the ballroom is small but so charming. We recommend the roasted chicken, and be sure to reserve the honeymoon suite once included in the cost of the wedding, we hear that now you've got to fork over several hundred for the privilege, but trust us, it's worth it for the claw-footed bathtub alone.
We heard so much for so long about the remodel of the Valley Ho that, frankly, we never thought it would happen. But it did, and boy, was it worth the wait. From the moment you step out of your car in the driveway, you're transported back to the '50s, but with a 21st-century twist. Iridescent tiles offset the mid-century furniture, and the lobby is so cool, even in the dead of summer. The Rat Pack croons by the pool via speakers and the rooms are divine. We particularly love the executive suites, with wraparound patios and a bathtub big enough to fit your whole birthday party, if you so choose. Well worth the price of admission, which, true to the form of the boutique hotel model, is quite affordable. Unlike other boutique hotels, which skimp on details once you've left the common areas, we were pleased to find plush towels, nice sheets and funky decor, in every nook and cranny. We assume they left the popcorn ceilings on purpose, for a retro feel, so we'll forgive the otherwise unforgivable. This is one Ho we intend to spend plenty of time with.
Textile taxidermist Tara Logsdon engages in some fuzzy haps when she goes to town on her furry patients during "Ursidae Anaplasty" Latin for "Bear Plastic Surgery." The Holgas resident artist scours Valley thrift stores and rescues teddies that are in grave need of physical and psychological repair. From there, the surgeon employs needle-busting hand-stitching techniques and repairs dismembered appendages using recycled material from Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Burberry products. Logsdon rarely performs the surgeries outside of her home studio, but when she does venture to various downtown art spaces, singing nurses provide emotional support and DJs supply post-surgery anesthesia with tight booty-shaking beats. The body-modified bears are available for purchase, but must go to a good home doctor's orders. And that's not the only thing that Doc Logsdon prescribes she also writes prescriptions to humans (the freaks on Extreme Makeover, for example) who are extremely desperate.
Leave it to Scott Jacobson one of our all-time favorite Phoenicians to be the one who donated his tie collection to the cause of his good friend Ally Resnick (daughter of Denise, another fave) so she could make her own prom dress. Ally wore the dress to the prom held at the Scottsdale Plaza Conference Center, sponsored by Phoenix Country Day School. In this era of hundred-thousand-dollar Super Sweet 16 parties, pardon us for being prudes, but we're delighted to see a young lady who didn't raid her college fund to buy a dress that will make her look like Paris Hilton's slutty little sister. Whoops, sorry, Nicky.
Eye-catching decorations abound inside Tad Caldwell's combination fashion boutique, art studio, gallery space, and hair salon in east Phoenix. The walls and ceiling are covered with a vibrant rainbow mosaic of graffiti, the works of local artists are scattered throughout the establishment, and Caldwell himself sports a shock of bright orange hair. But the most unusual ornamentation is the body shell of a 1979 Plymouth Fury, which is painted bright yellow with red flames and is bolted sturdily to the concrete wall over an innocuous row of hair dryers. Caldwell says his M.C. Escher-style placement of the car, which has been gutted of its interior and engine for weight, is because he "thought it would look cool" and because he at one point wanted to turn it into a towel rack, of all things. Currently, the stylist and sculptor uses it to store dismembered doll parts and as a screen when he occasionally shows indie movies. And here we thought cars were just for driving.
When word about the red paper clip trading frenzy hit national media outlets, including Good Morning America, World News Tonight, and National Public Radio, it brought Valley musician Jody Gnant into the national spotlight. A year ago, a light bulb went off in the head of Kyle MacDonald, an enterprising young Canadian who wanted to trade a thin piece of metal for a home of his own. Using the Internet as a bartering tool, he slowly made trades for bigger and better items. His first trade was a fish-shaped pen, the seventh exchange was a snowmobile, and by his 10th trade, he held a recording contract, a dream for the folk singer-songwriter Gnant. She e-mailed MacDonald through his Web site, www.oneredpaperclip.blogspot.com, and offered one free year of shelter in her 1920s-era Garfield neighborhood duplex. He accepted, flew out, and they made the swap at high noon on a warm April afternoon. Jody's recording contract includes 30 hours of recording time, 50 hours of mixing, and transportation to and from the Toronto studio. The album will be pitched to record execs for Sony and XM Radio. And to think MacDonald chose a Valley lease over a 24-hour lap-dance-a-thon from a stripper in Japan.

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