BEST TV REPORTER 2006 | Mike Watkiss | People & Places | Phoenix
Some years ago, the great science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury was asked by an audience member after a speech at Arizona State University, "What's the first thing that you'd tell one of your space aliens after they landed on Earth?" Bradbury didn't miss a beat. "Don't watch local TV news," he replied, to a rousing ovation. That said, we are pleased to report that Mike Watkiss passes our overly honed smell test as the real deal, a truly dogged reporter who loves to be first and right. His work on the polygamy scandal topped all other non-print types by a mile, and that's just one example of many. Maybe it's all those years doing the tabloid stuff on A Current Affair and Hard Copy. Or maybe it's the impressive education undergrad work at Stanford, and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia. Whatever the reason, we're happy to have this guy in town.
This popular establishment, located way up at DC Ranch, is well worth the trip on two engaging fronts. The sushi is excellent. And the signature martinis? Well, bet you'll have at least two. We especially love the "Mowie Wowie," a creative blend of Van Gogh pineapple vodka, tropical schnapps and a pineapple splash. Goes swimmingly with the yellowtail rolls. For more traditional types, the "Dean Martini" fits the bill your choice of a good vodka or gin, shaken and served straight up with a choice of specialty olives. And if you need a legal bump, try the "Clockwork Orange," which combines Player's Extreme Mandtango vodka with a blend of orange and tangerine juices, a splash of cherry juices, and here's the kicker Red Bull energy drink.
We don't know whether it's that '80s hair, the fact that she's Asian or that she projects that motherly TV charm, but Channel 12's Lin Sue Cooney gets our nod this year. We were always turned on by Donna Summer and the other disco queens of the day, and Saturday Night Fever is one of our all-time favorite films. We can just see the young, lithesome Lin Sue getting swirled around by John Travolta (before he chowed down too much and got the man teats) as Bee Gees falsetto blared. The gal's got great gams! Sure, Lin Sue has a little wear and tear on that face (she's been on TV here for 20 years), but it just gives you the impression that she's seen trouble and survived to pontificate about it on the tube. Maybe some of it's got to do with her husband's past legal troubles, but let's not get into that here. And maybe that warmth is just as much a fantasy as our dreams of her twirling around on the dance floor in high heels with her petticoats around her waist. Who cares? Come on, you've got to admit that Cooney is still hot, especially when she and co-anchor Mark Curtis (he of the porn-star mustache obviously touched up with Just for Men) sit on those high stools and all casual-like talk about the fun things that are going on in our fair metropolis. Like the arrests of a couple of serial killers, or how certain restaurants are really dirty. But the winning quality that Cooney possesses is that she really makes us think she cares about our little lives. Hey, if we came up a little short at Starbucks, we bet she'd pay for our double-decaf soy latte. We bet she really cares about those animals at the shelters she's always talking about, because when you look up "earnest" in the dictionary, there's her picture. Just kidding, of course.
We'd like this swank downtown nightspot even without the pomegranate martinis after all, just being able to write "swank downtown nightspot" is something wonderful in Phoenix. But it's this drink in particular that takes our feelings from "like" to pure rapture. Yeah, pomegranate is everywhere this year, but nowhere in town is it so perfectly tart/sweet as in the martini glasses at FEZ. We were so inspired by this drink that we bought our own bottle of POM and attempted it at home; suffice it to say, we were back at FEZ the very next night.
We don't blame anyone for automatically dismissing a guy named "Johnjay" as one of those annoying radio personae not worth a listen. But this show, which hit the airwaves of 104.7 FM earlier this year after major success in Tucson, is far more amusing than its hosts' names let on. Like Howard Stern, but unlike most of his successors, these two know how to pace their shows. They don't rush through bits or force a laugh. And unlike other would-be shock jocks in the Valley, they're better at talking about Hollywood gossip than sports making KISS-FM the perfect destination for Stern fans who couldn't care less about the Suns, but really need to know everything about Lindsay Lohan.
Plenty of people in Arizona listened to morning radio host Howard Stern obsessively, but not too many of them listened to him for all four hours of his show, every day, for 10 years. Or purchased a license plate honoring him. Or bothered to fly all the way to New York City to fete his farewell to FM radio. But Alice Rubio, a West Valley mother of three and Qwest customer service rep, did exactly that, earning mention in a New Times cover story and, subsequently, an on-air chat with Howard after his satellite debut. Stern clearly recognized devotion when he saw it. "She's gotta be the biggest Howard Stern fan ever," he told his audience. We're not arguing with that one.
As with any scrumptious cocktail, the proof's in the amount of alcohol involved. Now, some places serve their mojitos weak. So weak, in fact, that they taste like lemonade with mint leaves thrown in. Not so at Sierra Bonita, the excellent Southwestern restaurant that's into its second year in Phoenix. At Sierra, the bartenders know how to mix the restaurant's specialty. So much so that try as we may this year we couldn't (during an exhaustive survey of bars in the metropolitan area) find a mojito with as much kick. Hic! For those of you who haven't an inkling of what a mojito's all about, let us school your ass in how one's mixed: Squeeze a lime into a bowl. Add a tablespoon of sugar and a bunch of washed mint leaves. Mush up the mess really well and pour it into a tall or fat glass of crushed ice. Fill the glass to about three-quarters of an inch from the top with good white rum. Sierra Bonita uses Bacardi Limn. Top the concoction with club soda or Sprite, stir thoroughly, and drink. It's the perfect treat for a hot Phoenix night. In fact, the night we were last at Sierra Bonita, it was 100 degrees after dark, and while at first we minded being seated on the outdoor patio (the beautiful indoor bar was packed), we soon didn't mind at all. After our third $6 mojito, we may as well have been in La Jolla.
Yeah, right, Sex and the City made them famous, but even before that, we found them to be tasty concoctions. Some self-described manly men have contended that you must be gay or a girly-girl to be seen in public holding one, but guys who say that are obviously uncomfortable with their sexuality. Cosmos are for everybody who enjoys a fine, sweet, large cocktail. If you are prone to martinis, you will obviously think they're too sugary. But for anybody who's enjoyed Cuba libre or even a Crown and Coke in his time, a cosmo's a big step up. We're saying: It contains a lot of vodka, dude! If you like 'em dry like we do, you put two ounces-plus of Grey Goose, three-quarters of an ounce of triple sec, the same amount of cranberry juice, and half an ounce of lime juice into a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice cubes, shake well, and pour into a martini glass. And Barcelona likes 'em like we do. But what sets Barcelona's cosmos above the rest is their extra-large size and the dry ice that's added for special pizzazz. You look like you're drinking some mad scientist's exotic concoction. The only problem at Barcelona is that it's so crowded on a weekend night that you're likely to spill the libation down some buxom babe's cleavage if you try to move across the club. And you sure don't want to spill much of an $11 drink, if you get our drift.
In a city chock-full of nationally syndicated shock-jock talk and robotic rock, we're thankful for our National Public Radio affiliate, which broadcasts healthy doses of local Arizona news. Each weekday morning during "Morning Edition," we tune in to thoughtful, well-reported stories on subjects ranging from water politics to immigration reform. Specialty programming includes "Talking With the Governor" every third Wednesday of the month, and February's Arizona Week celebrates statehood with special-interest stories on topics ranging from rural organic farming to the history of Valley landmarks. The listener cannot live on news alone, so we look forward to Sunday nights, a dream for blues fans when Bob Corritore sermonizes about old-time Phoenix and its blues scene during the five-hour "Those Lowdown Blues."
It isn't that we always agree with Joe Crummey after all, he's enough of a conservative to substitute occasionally for the nationally syndicated right-wing nut Glenn Beck. But what we like about KFYI's Crummey is exactly what we like about hosts like Howard Stern: He's smart, he's not always orthodox, he's not shrill, and he understands pacing. Indeed, it's many a commute that we find ourselves tuning in to Crummey during some other station's commercial break, then listening all the way home. He may not be someone we'd vote for, but we can't help laughing, and sometimes even nodding in agreement.

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