Best Television News Show 2008 | Horizon | People & Places | Phoenix

We adore Ted Simons, and not just because, once upon a time, he wrote about music and some other stuff for us. Fact is, the guy's worked just about every place in this town (and several other towns), and always done well for himself. He fills an age-old void at Horizon, the local public-affairs show produced out of Arizona State University by public television, by providing a refreshing change to long-long-longtime host Michael Grant, a nice guy with a rather flaccid style and a big, huge conflict of interest in the form of a law practice.

But Simons is a humble journalist, not a lawyer, and it shows in his candor and refreshing style. The boy definitely does his homework. And we especially appreciate his ability to toss in a pithy one-liner or two when things start to get overly turgid — ah, the curse of Horizon. Tune us in!

There's not much on local TV around 2 a.m. (at least not anything worth watching sober). It's an utter wasteland of insipid sitcom reruns, infomercials for lap-band surgeries, and other Z-grade programming. Some entertainment can be found, amidst all the dreck, in the form of the over-the-top and somewhat peculiar commercials for ambulance chas . . . er, personal injury lawyer Glen Lerner. The stock-looking barrister hawks his legal services in amusing ways. One classic advert, set in 1972, features the childhood version of Lerner standing up for a buddy who was harshly tackled during a football game, demanding the ruffian give up his bicycle and clothing in return. Another spot sees the slickster attorney (usually clad in a shiny suit and a wide, sharktooth grin) starring as a miniature angel, standing on one shoulder of his injured client and beseeching him to ignore settlement offers from a devil-like claims adjuster perched on the other shoulder. Visit Lerner's Web site for ads more kooky ads.

Last fall, a Glendale-based business embarked on a mission to get attention for its cause. Hovering over the juncture of the I-17 and the I-10 stood a billboard's query in simple but gigantic script: "Are you as backed up as this traffic?" For's founder, Scott Olsen, it was an important question that required that clever directness. Olsen believes that eradicating constipation and cleansing the colon is the key to good health and disease prevention. Fair enough. Also, gross. What's grosser than gross, though? The unfortunate motorists whose only answer could be a miserable, "Yes!"

So, we're toodling along on Van Buren, not obsessing about sex for a change, when we pass a truck sporting a Statewide Erectors logo on the side and a large, green phallic erection in the bed. A double take showed the mechanical boner to be some sort of hefting device, but that didn't stop us from yukking up our Starbucks. Now, we all know that the good folks at this Phoenix sheet-metal-installation company couldn't have meant it, well, that way, right? What sort of entrepreneur, plotting the future of his new business, jumps out of his seat and shouts, "Eureka! I'll call it Statewide Erectors and install large, green phallic erections in the truck beds"? We have no idea, but we salute his unwitting humor. However, he owes us a Starbucks.

Long before clips of the Verne Troyer sex tape hit Internet gossip sites, the PHX's own version of Mini-Me, Chuey the Rock and Roll Midget, was presenting a sexual performance of his own for the camera, albeit a solo one. See, Phoenix photographer Giulio Sciorio has a series he calls "Faces of Ecstasy: Real People, Real Orgasms." They're close-up, PG-rated portraits of men and women making sweet love to themselves, capturing for all eternity the model's flippin' "O" face. Some folks look like they're in pain, some like they're on the crapper, still others look as wanton and hot as you'd want them to look. But nothing beats the look of closed-eyed concentration that Chuey exhibits while polishing his bishop. In fact, if one of Chuey's shoulders was not lower than the other (Sciorio's portraits never reveal the activities going on below the waist), you might reckon him to be dead. What is it the French call the orgasm, la petite mort? The phrase seems apropos here. Thankfully, Chuey himself is still alive, and rocking the mic at the Scottsdale bar Giligins, where he emcees all kinds of insanity and even has his own, fully stocked "midget bar," where patrons have to sit at eye level with the great and wee man.

Some people just don't take rejection very well. For instance, Kurt William Havelock had dreams of calling his Halloween-themed concept bar and restaurant "Drunkensteins," but after the Tempe City Council denied him a liquor license last fall, the 36-year-old restaurateur took the news kinda badly.

How badly? Well, Havelock reportedly came close to wiping out countless people gathered near University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale for Super Bowl XLII with an AR-15 and 200 rounds of ammo. According to the eight-page manifesto he mailed to various local and national publications (including New Times), it was a revenge scheme that Havelock plotted in response to Tempe's diss. (Most rejected restaurateurs woulda just gone back to the drawing board.) Fortunately, he tearfully turned himself in to Tempe police instead of pulling the trigger. In June, he was convicted of six counts of mailing threatening communications by a U.S. District Court and is facing up to five years in the federal pen. Thankfully, the only murdering going on that day was the killing of the New England Patriots' dreams of a perfect season.

So, what, Crispin Glover's a freak? Hey, tell us something we don't know, Buckwheat. After all, the cult B-lister's probably best known for an incident in which he aimed an on-air karate kick at David Letterman back in the day, in addition to playing weirdo roles in Back to the Future, River's Edge, Charlie's Angels, and Wild at Heart. Then there's his kooky art flick What Is It?, in which a cast of actors with Down syndrome kill snails, and big-breasted women in masks run around naked.

So it's no surprise to us that, according to the folks at Chandler Cinemas, Glover demanded his fee up front, in cash and in crisp, clean bills when he appeared at the theater for a three-night run of What Is It? in May. Supposedly, Glover owns a castle, or something, in the Czech Republic, and the Czechs don't dig the dirty bills. Glover also claimed the Chandler Cinemas damaged his film somehow, and demanded they pay for its repair to the tune of $610. Though the indie operators of Chandler Cinemas didn't really buy that their projectionist harmed the print of the weird-ass movie, they agreed to pay Glover to calm his ass down during a tantrum in which he berated the theater's projectionist and made her cry. For the record, Glover's denied the tantrum, and says he warned the theater ahead of time about having his cash up front. He also claims he never made anyone cry. Well, except for anyone with taste who had to endure that turd of a movie of his.

From 8:30 to noon on weekdays, you can switch on KTAR saliva jockey Darrell Ankarlo and hear him bitching about brown folk. Supposedly a big Christian, his broadcasts regularly pound away at the most defenseless members of our society — those at the bottom of the economic ladder, undocumented men and women who have to hide in the shadows just so they can bust their butts to survive in this country. He regularly whips up hysteria against illegal aliens, unfairly linking all of them to crime. He supports Sheriff Joe Arpaio's anti-Hispanic dragnets in the Valley, frequently having the sheriff on his show to butt-lick our corrupt top constable. He bashes "anchor babies," who are nothing more than American citizens born to undocumented moms. And he suggests Mexicans are dirty and lecherous, describing their neighborhoods as full of trash, and Mexican men as constantly leering at white chicks.

Occasionally, Ankarlo feigns concern for the plight of the undocumented, only to turn right around the next minute, wrap himself in the flag, and condemn them as a threat to the American way of life. Ankarlo's a despicable, self-serving windbag, turning a week of broadcasts from the Mexico-America border into the book Another Man's Sombrero, as if all it took for an Archie Bunker-type like him to become an immigration expert was a sojourn in Nogales. For all he does and the unbridled hypocrisy with which he does it, Ankarlo is the Valley's best bigot 'cause no one does bigotry better.

Around here, where political yella-bellies abound, picking the most egregious example of political poltroonery is rough work. After all, Arizona has a gutless attorney general who bends over when Sheriff Joe Arpaio institutes a bogus investigation of his office. And there's Arpaio himself, who wimped out of Guadalupe when the mayor there stood up to him, and who conceded Mesa to Police Chief George Gascón during the Sheriff's Office's anti-immigrant sweep in that city.

But nothing beats Mesa pantywaist Russell Pearce, a bigoted bully in the state Legislature who is used to getting his way. Pearce was looking to take on moderate Republican Jeff Flake this year for his District 6 Congressional seat, had an exploratory committee taking donations, and even started sporting a toupée in a lame attempt to compete with golden-boy Flake's toothy good looks. However, Russ' exploratory committee raised only about $24K, while Flake had a cool mil in the bank. And the state Republican Party was not enthusiastic about Russ' challenging the wildly popular Flake, so the big, bad Pearce pulled out. Um, wussed out is more like it. Since Pearce's term-limited out of the state House, he's running for the state Senate seat vacated by Karen Johnson. But if Russ'd been half the man he pretends to be, he would've stuck it out with Jeff Flake to begin with. In other words, look up the word "punk" in the dictionary, and (in a perfect world) you'd see a pic of Pearce.

Rumpled and occasionally gruff, Salvador Reza resembles at first glance some eccentric Chicano-studies professor, and if you let him, he can lecture with the best of them on the plight of indigenous peoples in the Americas. But Reza ain't no academic, unless you count his college as the struggle in the streets against the harassment and discrimination of undocumented workers. There he teaches regularly, usually with a bullhorn, all while going head-to-head with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, assorted Minutemen, and various other nativist numbskulls. Reza runs the Macehualli Work Center in north Phoenix, where he provides a place where jornaleros, or day laborers, can hook up with employers seeking short-term help.

The word macehualli means "those who deserve honor for their work," in Nahuatl, the language of the ancient Aztecs. And it is just that kind of honor and respect that Reza fights for regularly in civil rights marches, protests, and in speeches demanding same before the Legislature and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Because he is both unafraid and unrelenting, Reza has become the man redneck nativists most love to hate. Hey, as far as we're concerned, you judge a man by his enemies. And if the toothless, ignorant KKK-wanna-bes spend every waking moment cursing Sal Reza, then you know he's doing something right. Keep doing your thing, Sal.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of