BEST BUILDING WE CAN'T WAIT TO POKE OUR HEADS INTO 2007 | Tempe Center for the Arts | People & Places | Phoenix


Tempe Center for the Arts

From the outside, it looks like a spaceship, but the buzz around town is that the new Tempe Center for the Arts is out of this world. The building is so new that as of press time, there hadn't yet been a formal performance, and we couldn't find a parking spot for the family preview day. But we heard from folks who were there that they are truly impressed with the facilities — both inside and out — which feature small and large auditoriums, a sculpture garden, and plenty of space to display art of the non-performing variety. And these are people who are hard to impress. Watch out, Scottsdale and Mesa, or it'll be curtains for your own facilities. We can't wait to get our butt in a seat, front-row center.
Courtesy Pei Wei
Warning: What you are about to read might be very upsetting. If you are faint of heart or have an unnatural obsession with meaningless, ugly Phoenix buildings, please move on to the next category.

We love the new Pei Wei/Starbucks compound at Seventh Avenue and McDowell. There. We said it.

Now let us explain. For months, we avoided the corner. We knew the beloved Emerald Lounge (really, more of a light green shack, if a shack can be made of slump block) was gone, with a couple of nasty chains erected in its place, and frankly, we just didn't want to have to look. But then we met up for dinner with a dear friend who lives a stone's throw away, and we had to sit in the parking lot for a few minutes, first, to compose ourselves. It was shock and awe, but not the bad kind. We were thrilled. Finally, a sign of urban civilization, a corner in Phoenix holding something other than a Circle K. (Don't worry, the one across the street is still there.)

We never expected a Pei Wei could look so hip, so, well, San Francisco (okay, you have to squint, but relatively speaking, you've got to admit that we're right). But with all the corrugated steel and urban-y architecture — and then the exposed brick, painted cement floors, and airy spaces inside — we have to tell you we were darn impressed. We figure somewhere at Pei Wei HQ there's a big notebook filled with prototypical Pei Weis — you know, the strip mall Pei Wei, the stand-alone urban Pei Wei. That means there are plans to put Pei Weis on urban corners all over North America.

Maybe we've lost perspective, maybe we're desperate, but we don't care. Give us our brown rice, chicken with broccoli, and a bottomless Diet Coke, and let us hang out a little longer, acting all urban and shit. We just hope Pei Wei plunks one of these suckers on a corner at 12th Street and Jefferson. But not the southeast corner, 'kay?

Anyone who wants to argue that the downtown arts scene isn't going anywhere can just shut their pie hole, after the first Friday in September. That's the night that Beatrice Moore and Tony Zahn opened their newest building to the public, for a sneak preview. The 15,000-square-foot Bragg's Pie Factory is quiet and cavernous, the walls a bright white, and metal work in the high ceilings painted in pastel shades (a Beatrice Moore signature touch, no doubt). But give them some time, and La Melgosa will make this section of Grand Avenue rock. A cafe is already slated to open (with talk of a farmers market) and there will be several retail spaces (an architect and graphic designer have signed up) and room for plenty more. We're delighted Moore/Zahn fought to get their hands on the building — they're the guardian angels of Grand, and we hope they never give up the fight to preserve and celebrate the down-and-dirty 'hood that has slowly become home to more galleries and nightspots, and that they show a lot of love to the wonderful, creative tenants they already have. (We're watching!) On the same evening as the Bragg's preview, the city officially celebrated the decision to (finally) allow on-street parking on Grand. We can't wait to see what sort of "Best of" we can give Bragg's Pie Factory next year.
If you've lived in Phoenix for any substantial amount of time, you've witnessed an overabundance of strip malls.

Don't hate them; they're a way of life. We must love them, coddle them, and appreciate strip malls for all the glorious things they can offer.

Too much effort for you? That may change with the help of Sloane McFarland, who has decided to spend $12 million to rip one of those drab suckers apart and build something fabulous. He's revamping the strip mall on 16th Street and Buckeye, and unveiled his plans in style this past May by opening the decrepit structure for curious guests to explore.

The redevelopment will be called Yourtown, and in each space, McFarland worked with colleagues to create art installations to express what his future plans will bring. Various abandoned retail shops were filled with conceptual evidence of planning that we are anxious to see come to fruition. In the space that used to be a flower shop, piles of ground coffee were dumped on the floor, emitting the pungent odor of what will soon surely be the hottest coffee shop in the area. (Or any part of this town, we dare say.) We look forward to what this local pioneer has to offer, and after his work is done, we may see our strip malls in a whole new light. At the very least, we'll have a cool new hangout.

Phil Gordon doesn't have the best taste in town. That honor goes to his wife, Christa Severns. So maybe she's the one who decided the mayor should set up his re-election shop in the former 307, a one-time transvestite bar just east of the way-cool monOrchid gallery that has stood largely empty for years. We're not too interested in the ghosts of drag queens past; what we really dig is a mural stretching across one wall, painted by none other than Ted DeGrazia. You may not recognize the name, but you've seen DeGrazia's images of sad little Indian — or are they Mexican? — children. DeGrazia's dead, so we can't ask him (nor can we ask him if it's true he painted the mural to settle a bar tab), but there's a big show of his work up for the next several months at the DeGrazia Gallery of the Sun in Tucson — go to for details. As for Mayor Phil, we think it's sort of silly that he bothered to open a re-election HQ at all. Maybe he just wanted to look at that cool mural. Can't blame him. In any case, we're glad an elected official paid some attention to a cool old building, even if he hasn't provided the leadership — so far — to make sure the downtown art scene really thrives. You got four more years, Phil. Do it for Ted.
How does one become Greater PHX's best local nutbar? After all, the Valley's a veritable can of Planter's, what with all these right-wing loonies, Minutemen, and anti-immigrationists runnin' around. But Kent "Cow Killer" Knudson (a convicted felon for shooting someone else's cow on his property) gets the nod because as "chief cook and bottle washer" for 9/11 Truth AZ, he's taken the state version of a national fruitcake movement and driven it right into the ground.

As if it weren't enough that these freaks believe 9/11 was an inside job by our own government, Knudson embarrassed the unembarrassable by roping in Holocaust-denier Eric Williams to help organize Chandler's 9/11 Accountability Conference.

Once the news of Williams' participation hit, speakers started dropping out left and right. Knudson compounded the problem by assuring folks that Shoah-shirker Williams was out of the conference, even though he showed up to tend his booth, sell merch, and at one point, was invited up on the podium.

Many of Knudson's fellow kooks were disgusted, and the last we've heard, 9/11 Truth AZ was having financial probs. Gee, wonder why?

J.T. Ready's the Ernst Roehm of the East Valley, the Hermann Goering of Sand Land, the two-ton titan of AZ white supremacy. Ready's rep was already dirt after his disastrous campaign for Mesa City Council in 2006, wherein it was revealed that he'd fudged his CV a tad, omitting the fact that he'd been court-martialed twice while in the Marines and given a bad-conduct discharge. He also has a conviction in Florida for assault. Locally, he bumblefucked by firing his weapon on an illegal immigrant who may or may not have been up to no good.

Maybe Ready figured his days as a legitimate candidate for anything were over. How else to explain his embrace of white nationalist rhetoric, his visit to the neo-Nazi National Vanguard's Winterfest event, and his profile on, "an online community for whites by whites"? The guy even refers to his "headquarters" as "the Eagle's Nest," after the famous Adolf Hitler retreat. Rumor is J.T.'s got a Bertchesgarden in Mesa, too. No word on whether or not it's a double-wide.

Talk about your bloody Valentines. Tiffany Sutton, 23, outdid them all by allegedly trying to drink the blood of paramour Robert McDaniel, 46, back on February 14 of this year. According to police reports, after a night of boozing, meth, and sex, Sutton asked McDaniel if she could tie his ass up.

McDaniel, being a male of the species under the influence of this spacy little minx, allowed her to do so, after which Sutton stabbed him repeatedly with a knife and chased him with a pickax because she wanted to suck on an artery. Fortunately, a friend of McDaniel's happened to stop by the shack where these two lovebirds were playing Operation, saw his pal nearly unconscious from the loss of blood, and decided to phone the po-po.

Once the coppers got there, it was revealed that Sutton had gotten McDaniel to sign the back of a detective novel called The Eighth Circle with this statement, "You, Robert McDaniel, swear no wrong will come to me, Tiffany Lachelle Sutton, due to tonight's events." Now, because of the media coverage, Sutton has male fans worldwide who want her to pop a straw into their veins, including some fella who calls himself "Angelic Scar," who's set up this Web site, where he fantasizes about partying with that "crazy hot bitch who drinks blood."

The sweet life indeed. U.S. Airways CEO Doug Parker banked more than $11 million in his most recently reported compensation package. So, it's understandable that Parker would use a few of those hard-earned pennies to buy himself a cold one this past January 31. After all, Parker had just lost a $9.8 billion bid to take over Delta Airlines.

Problem is, according to media reports at the time, Parker bought himself a few too many consolatory drinks, and then he decided to drive himself and his drinking buddies home from the exclusive "Birds Nest" revelries at the FBR Open.

About 11:30 p.m., Scottsdale Police sergeant Mark Clark spotted Parker's speeding, swerving BMW and pulled him over. The police report tells the rest: "I observed/detected the following: bloodshot eyes, watery eyes, odor of alcohol on the driver's breath. Speech was: slurred," Clark wrote.

When the New York Stock Exchange closed that day, U.S. Airways stock (LCC) was selling for about $56 per share. Since Parker's DUI, the company's stock has plunged to about $30 per share.

You do the math.

Oh, okay, we'll do it.

Multiply U.S. Airways' 91.5 million outstanding shares by a loss of $26 per share, and crude math calculates the company has lost about $3 billion in market value. Granted, there are more factors at play than Parker's one-too-many. Still, we award Doug Parker a "Best of" for both the most expensive beer and for single-handedly manipulating a publicly traded stock.

Although mopeds will never be as hip and sexy as the Vespa, we decided to embrace the nerdy cool of the geeky vehicle after we started seeing members of the Tom Cruisers ambling around Tempe on their motorized velocipedes. Consisting of 15 or so twentysomething guys and other college-age males, with nicknames like "Designated Wizard" and "Gunther Pleasureman," the clique serves as the Valley's chapter of the Moped Army, a nationwide enthusiast group. Besides their weekly hangout session at their garage near Four Peaks Brewery, on Eighth Street in Tempe, we've spied the Cruisers piloting their putt-putts in slow-moving formations (top speed: 40 miles per hour) to nearby bars. This past January, they staged their first (and to date, only) "rally" at the Last Exit Bar & Grill, titled "Death Rides a Moped," which featured performances from such local bands as Back Ted N-Ted, Minibosses, and Get Down! to Brass Tacks. Let's hope the real Tom Cruise has a sense of humor and doesn't sue 'em over the name.

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