Best of Phoenix

Best of Phoenix 2015: Crescent Ballroom's Charlie Levy Fills His Businesses With His Own Love of the City

For more of the best people, places and things to do in Phoenix, check out our 2015 Best of Phoenix awards. 

My job is to make spaces where artists can present their craft and others can enjoy that craft. I came from Louisiana in the late 1980s to attend ASU. Since then, I've moved around Arizona some, living in Tempe, Tucson, and Phoenix. And although I'm not much of a fan of the desert, I've learned through the years that it's better to embrace what you have and where you are rather than trying to superficially change it.

For example, when we were designing Valley Bar, we chose yellow as the primary color, with muted grays — desert-inspired colors, instead of the popular trend of dark wood and black steel that's frankly more suited to the Pacific Northwest. And, hey, we named the bar after Rose Mofford.

I suppose if the desert has affected my work, it's mostly that I stay indoors and get more work done because it's so hot outside. On the other hand, the city itself definitely inspires me to try to create new stuff because people here are so enthusiastic about things outside the norm. There are a lot of people here who are yearning for a life that's a little less cookie-cutter than we sometimes get. They want different types of housing, politicians, food, and places to see live music.

I've tried to make the desert my own in certain ways. Because I'm not a fan of the heat, I got myself a swimming hole in the backyard. And to counterbalance my water consumption, I took the grass out of the front yard and replaced it with desert landscaping. I'm not sure how much water that actually saves, but it helps me sleep at night.

I can honestly say, for the 20 years that I've been in Phoenix, this is by far the best of times. I've never seen as many people have pride in this city and support things created here. In the past, I always felt as if Phoenix was trying to be Los Angeles Junior, but now it's as if people are embracing Phoenix and making it its own place. I can see it in little ways, too. Just walking down the street, I see so many people wearing locally branded T-shirts, like ones printed with the Jobot logo. Ten years ago, that would have been the Starbucks logo.

I'm finding more to like about the desert, although a lot of these have to do with cooling off. I like finding any sort of watering hole in the desert that I can jump into; that's pretty cool.

If there's anything I don't like about living here, it's that Phoenix isn't very pedestrian- or bike-friendly. I wish we could change that. It's getting better, but we have a long way to go. Also, Tempe should make that lake of theirs open to public swimming. Wouldn't that be cool? — as told to Robrt L. Pela

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela