BEST PLACE TO SPOT HOT MOMS 2007 | The Enchanted Playground | People & Places | Phoenix
We don't know what our parents did without the indoor playgrounds that have popped up at malls across the Valley. It's perfect: You push little Emily around the mall in the stroller 'til she screams bloody murder, then you buy her a soft pretzel and a lemonade (all these mall playgrounds seem to have pretzel stands strategically located), and rest on a comfy couch while she burns off energy running around a cute, cushy-floored, air-conditioned playground. It does suck when some other kid pukes, and these playgrounds can get crowded, but we're still big fans.

Funny, each has its own personality. If you happen to be a mother of, ahem, a certain age (say you had your kid when you were over 30), be prepared to be asked, at the Fiesta Mall playground in Mesa, whether you're out with the grandkids. At the Chandler Mall, you'll get a gander at the high-tech Intel crowd.

And at Scottsdale Fashion Square, it's all about the hot moms — or, more specifically, the MILFs. If you don't know what a MILF is yet (we've told you before, in previous "Best ofs") go Google it. This is a family publication. Okay, that's a huge lie, but even so, we've got our standards. Anyhow, you know what a MILF is. You're just being coy.

As we said, it's all MILFs, all the time at the Enchanted Playground at Fashion Square. We figure most of these women have been to see that Scottsdale plastic surgeon who promises the "mommy makeover" — no, not that disgusting "down under" procedure; this is the one where they take the fat from your post-pregnancy stomach and stick it into your now-sagging boobs. Whatever work these women have had done, we've gotta give them props, because it was a success. That's one attractive lineup of moms, watching young Britney and Logan romp — as long as you go for super-tans and hair extensions.

Better than a fashion magazine, or even an issue of People. And you get to feel like a good parent, too, because really, you're just here to let little Emily play, right?

Back in the day (i.e., the '80s and even some of the '90s), the highlight of each social season in this town came not during "season" at all, but in the middle of the summer, when Danny Medina — doyenne, as it were, of the society mag Trends — would make his grand entrance (at least once, literally carried by studly young men) at "Beat the Heat," the magazine's charity event and fashion show. Along with models who showed off the latest high-end couture (well, it was usually clothes from Dillard's, but everyone squinted), Medina's handpicked "Fashionalities" took the runway. The Fashionalities were chosen for their service to the community as much as their sense of style, and sometimes it showed. But, hey, just like that episode of Sex and the City in which Carrie trips on her too-high heels in her Dolce & Gabbana panties, it was fun to watch real people preen. (Well, okay, it's true no one like Sarah Jessica Parker ever took the stage. But you get the idea.) Medina left years ago, replaced by a very affable gentleman named Bill Dougherty, who has kept Trends and "Beat the Heat" (which just celebrated its 25th anniversary) going. No, the whole thing isn't what it once was — Medina had impossibly naughty shoes to fill, so you won't get the same quality of unsubstantiated gossip, darn it — but Trends still features lots of photos each month of society stalkers, out painting the town. And because you'll pretty much see the same crowd now that you saw when the magazine premièred in 1982, this is the best place we've found to monitor all the plastic surgery these folks have had to keep things in place. Best of all: Not long ago, Trends changed from newsprint to a glossy format. All the better to spot that eye job, my dear.


Dirty Scottsdale

We admit we're more than a little guilty of practicing the nasty act of schadenfreude (a.k.a. getting our kicks from the misfortune of others). While it's not exactly the nicest habit to possess, sometimes we can't help but snicker at human train wrecks.

So it's no surprise we're fans of Dirty Scottsdale, the infamous blog devoted to trashing the city's debauched club scene and the outrageous urbanites who populate it. Since springing up six months ago, DS honcho Nik Richie has served as P-Town's Perez Hilton, posting a slew of embarrassing snapshots of Scottsdale clubgoers accompanied by brutal commentary. There are similar blogs (such as Skanksdale and Scottsdale Sucks), but DS is far and away the most popular of the bunch — nabbing upwards of 3 million hits a month — and the most vicious. Few escape Richie's snark, as he endlessly rips into scenesters of every stripe, be they douchebags, himbos, $30K millionaires, faux-hawked poseurs, passed-out hotties, or prowling cougars. We've even heard said scenesters send in the photos themselves, looking for their 15 seconds of infamy. Keep 'em coming, Nik. Just make sure you don't post any pics of us unconscious in the Myst parking lot.


It's A Sweet Life . . . Now!

Phoenix comic Maggie Hunts knew something was wrong when her family started hiding Oreo cookies in the dishwasher and embarrassing trickles started running down her leg. When Hunts was in her twenties, she learned she had diabetes. Ever since, she's been on a quest to turn the D-word into laughs and a new way of living.

"There's hope for us! Yay!" says Hunts, who's just released her new how-to book called It's a Sweet Life... Now! It's a practical guide/comedy romp of her true-life adventures as a real person with diabetes — not a doctor with a sugar-level chart.

"When I come across most diabetes books, it's depressing... they're all intimidating numbers and facts," says Hunts, "but nobody tells you what to do when you fall off the horse after trotting over to Krispy Kreme." With chapters like "Occasional Sin," "Burp the Cell Phone," and "This Little Piggy," Hunts offers easy tips to live with a difficult disease. It's straight up meshuggeneh! (How can you not laugh at a diabetes book that includes a Yiddish glossary?) One of the best parts: Hunts — who also teaches tantra workshops with her partner — tells you how to have hot, raunchy sex while on an insulin pump. Now that's sweet!

We're quite certain she has a name, but we know her only as Gretchen — sort of like Madonna. Or Prince. Because this woman is truly a rock star of the weight-watching world. There's nothing really special about Weight Watchers, one of the oldest and most ubiquitous diet programs in the country. You go to a meeting once a week, you weigh in, you sit for half an hour and hear some person yammer about how they lost weight and offer tips. Then you eat a prescribed amount each day (you're assigned points for food, based on calories, fat and fiber, and you get more points if you exercise). When it comes to WW meetings, it's all about the leader's personality, and Gretchen has charisma by the gallon. Her Thursday noon meeting is usually standing room only, and it won't take you long to figure out why. (She leads others, too. Call Weight Watchers for details.)

Gretchen may be serious about weight loss, but she doesn't take herself — or her members — too seriously. She's also not perfect, although she is at her lifetime goal weight (damn her). For example: She'll dutifully pimp a Weight Watchers product, like their ice cream bar, starting off so good: "They're delicious and only 2 points a bar!" And ending so bad: "But let's see, there are eight per box, so that means 16 points." She knows us too well, and that makes us want to stay on the straight and narrow. And she's a goof. She waves a metallic pompom each week, leading the group in a cheer to those who've earned a ribbon for losing 10 pounds, and threatening to add weight next week for anyone who doesn't at least mouth the words. Our favorite WW moment was when Gretchen sang one of her original songs — a cappella — set to the tune of "All That Jazz" from Chicago. Her version is called "All That Fat" and we're not going to share the words here (although we still remember them). You'll have to pay the membership fee and go to the meeting yourself.

We used to make it a hobby of sorts, collecting glowing references to John McCain in the national media. It got so obvious that for a while, his deliciously bitchy staff used to send copies along, just to be sure we didn't miss anything. Sadly, we had to take up beading when the B.J.s stopped coming for our state's senior senator, and these days, his Straight Talk Express appears to have permanently derailed in Baghdad. But we were amused not long ago when we noticed Mrs. McCain gracing the pages of a recent issue of Harper's Bazaar. We weren't sure, at first, that it was our Cindy McCain, because John's wife is almost 20 years his junior, but this chick looked like she could be his granddaughter. But no, that's Cindy Hensley McCain, and she looks fabulous.

A little too fabulous, if you ask us. Poor Cindy's been through a rather embarrassing Percocet addiction and a serious heart attack, not to mention that she's still in a marriage to a notoriously mean man, and the beer heiress has managed to come out smelling like a rose, hanging from a tire swing in a ball gown (really) and looking like — well, looking like she's had some work done. Photo retouching, even in the pages of Harper's, wouldn't transform anyone quite this much. Even more than her expressionless face, we couldn't stop staring at, um, an extension of Cindy's face — her hair. Hey, more power to you, Cindy, and good job of turning your personal story around, too. We love the Harper's headline: "Myth vs. Reality."

Maria Baier locked, as of press time, in a heated run-off battle for control of Phoenix City Council District 3 – is, by far, the most interesting candidate of the year, and we include all national political figures in that assessment.

For one thing, she's a staunch conservative backed by an unlikely but powerful lobby, the firefighters. That could have something to do with the fact that her brother, Bob Khan, is the city's fire chief. Beyond that, she's certainly a qualified candidate, and, we hear, a heck of a nice lady. Baier has a lot of credentials, many of which she lists on her campaign Web site. She went to law school, worked for 10 years in the governor's office (most interestingly, as a speechwriter for Fife Symington) and she was the spokeswoman, way back, for the state attorney general. She now works in the field of land conservation (that could mean so many things that we won't even go into it), as a consultant (ditto). And she's on the board of the Phoenix Zoo.

But Baier's most fascinating gig gets short shrift. At the end of her bio, she mentions that she worked as an independent contractor with the San Francisco Examiner. She must have run out of room, because she didn't tell the backstory: Long before she went to law school, worked for Symington, got married, and had a beautiful family (you can see them on her Web site, too) she worked for the San Francisco Examiner along with her beau, Hunter S. Thompson, who was writing columns for the paper. Yes, the Hunter S. Thompson. (Sadly, the late Hunter S. Thompson. He killed himself in 2005.) You're right, it does sound like an unlikely match. But check out Thompson's dedication in his 1988 collection Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the '80s and read the first line:

"I dropped Maria off in front of the tattoo parlor just before midnight."

We don't know if Baier will prevail in the run-off November 6, but we gotta admit, we're rooting for her. How many current Phoenix City Council members do you think have tattoos?

Hey, the man sent J.D. Hayworth packing. It doesn't matter if he fails to do anything else for two whole years; Arizona and New Times readers everywhere owe him big time.
Okay, so his name sounds like the punch line to a joke about local theater, but Phoenix native Max Crumm made us all proud when he took home top honors as one of two winners of NBC's You're the One That I Want this past March. The show went looking for male and female winners to play the leads in the new Broadway revival of Grease (talk about a grand prize!) and 21-year-old Crumm nailed it. The Desert Vista High graduate got his start in kiddy theater in the Valley before bolting for L.A. and dreams of stardom. After a grueling five-month audition process, he squeaked into the final spot, becoming the latest Broadway Danny Zuko. We couldn't be happier to have contributed to the Grease legacy with one of our own, especially because Crumm started out as a Danny underdog, criticized for his "slacker" attitude and bowl-shaped haircut.

Go, greased lightning — and bravo, Mr. Crumm!

We admit we were bowled over by 17-year-old Jordin Sparks from the moment she first performed on this perennial pop music fest, but we were so busy being crushed out on Melinda Doolittle that we forgot to root for our hometown girl.

That is, until Week 5, when Miss Thing stood there in an evening dress, belting out the most exciting version of "I (Who Have Nothing)" we've heard since Shirley Bassey made it famous a hundred years ago.

After that, it became clear that this statuesque home-schooled songbird was our fave — and she still is (in spite of that first single, "This Is My Now." Yikes!), even if we're not entirely convinced she's not actually a 34-year-old because, really, how can a Glendale teenager sing so beautifully and with this much style? One last question about our favorite songstress: Where's that debut album?!

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of