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BEST OF ORLANDO 2007 - LOCAL COLOR 


Best opportunity to gloat

Trans Continental bankruptcy sale, June 12

Big Lou Pearlman may finally be in federal custody after months on the lam spent laughing at the rubes he fleeced, but at least Orlando got a brief opportunity to spit in his face, and rummage through his desk drawers, at the Trans Continental bankruptcy auction. Now we know what brand of talcum power he rubbed on his mottled thighs to keep them from chafing (Pinaud Clubman), and where he kept the hopes and dreams of thousands of star-crossed kids who thought they had a shot (in stacks of boxes, shoved in the corner of the basement). Hey Lou: We put our feet up on your desk. And we farted in your chair.

Best place to avoid life

Home Suite Home
2801 E. Colonial Drive, 407-896-1101
www.homesuitehome.com

While extended-stay hotels may not be a new phenomenon, they do provide a charming context to the real estate bubble burst and allow air-conditioned living environs for those who have been pressed to the fringe. When 11-year-old Ninotshka Pablos disappeared back in February after heading over to the Fashion Square Mall for ice cream, she had last been seen at Home Suite Home in Coytown. She was found safe, but the moment of fear revealed that there were six registered sex offenders sharing that address. The “resort”’s website encourages people to stay on and become “neighbors,” but perhaps a variable-rate mortgage isn’t such a bad idea.

Best place to get mugged

Mercy Drive, between Silver Star Road and West Colonial Drive

Looking for adventure? This ironically named street is just as seedy as it seems. In 2006, Orlando police reported 44 robberies and 218 assaults along a 1.7-mile stretch of this road. So if you want to live dangerously, come on down and take a stroll on the wild side.

Best political blogger

Ray Kockentiet
www.orlandovanitypress.blogspot.com

Mayor Buddy Dyer and company want the downtown venues as much as George W. Bush wanted his war. In both cases, these are public officials whose motives require exacting scrutiny, because when pols get covetous, truth becomes an annoyance. And in both cases, the mainstream media has largely given each man a pass; journalists now look back in shame at the lack of inquiry prior to Iraq, and the same will almost certainly prove true after the $1 billion-plus venues are built. Orlando’s mainstream media has consistently failed to ask the right questions. That’s where Ray Kockentiet comes in. An unassuming blogger fueled by outrage, Kockentiet has amassed a treasure trove of unbiased info about sports venues, stuff the Sentinel wouldn’t touch. Blogging was made for this.

Best Orlando Sentinel blogger

Mike Thomas

Have a dead pig you want to grill? Has your overpriced McMansion been on the market for two years without a buyer? Think Rich DeVos is an asshat? If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, a trip to the Mike Thomas Blog is in order. Thomas, of course, is the cranky-pants political/local affairs columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, and in April 2007, his corporate overlords forced him – kicking and screaming, we imagine – onto the Internet, because that’s where the kids play. And blog he has, often more than once a day, on anything and everything that crosses his mind. Sometimes insightful, sometimes rambling, it’s always worth a read.

Best reason to hate Cameron Kuhn

The closing of Global Grape Wines

First came Scruffy’s, the friendly Irish watering hole that became something of an Orlando Weekly annex. But Cameron Kuhn bought the West Washington Street building the bar was in to redevelop it, and Scruffy’s closed. So we migrated to a new drinking spot: Global Grape Wines on West Church Street, a cozy little bar with an excellent beer and wine selection. Kuhn bought that building to redevelop it, and Global Grape closed down. Pray we don’t start hanging around your bar.

Best local huckster

Alex Martins, Orlando Magic chief operating officer

Martins has the unenviable job of convincing you that his boss deserves hundreds of millions of tax dollars to make his basketball team more profitable. It doesn’t help that his boss, Rich DeVos, is a gazillionaire fundie weirdo. Nor does it help that Martins himself oozes condescension toward those who would send his tax money elsewhere, nor that he looks like a used-car salesman.

Best tax-dodging fundamentalists

Trinity Broadcasting Network

When even tax breaks from Tallahassee can’t keep a sacred tourist trap (the Holy Land Experience) afloat, the God-fearing can only pray for a savior with deep pockets. Holy Land’s messiah arrived in the form of Trinity Broadcasting, ensuring they’ll be fleecing the faithful for years to come. Can a creation museum be far behind?

Best downward spiral

Ric Keller

Just last November, U.S. Rep. Ric Keller won his fourth straight bid for re-election in Congress, even as Republicans everywhere else got their asses handed to them. Then the bottom fell out. First Keller cheesed off his GOP base by announcing that he would run again, despite campaigning as a term-limiter in 2000. Then he not only came out against the Iraq surge, but used some non-sequitur analogy about a lawn mower to do it. The base was pissed. When he reiterated his support for a Clinton-era cop-funding program via an LL Cool J lyric, we decided Ric might have gone off the deep end.

Best civic booster

Kathy Ramsberger

The OPAC executive director is on a tear. The performing arts center is about to get greenlighted with massive public support, not the least of which stems from the fact that Ramsberger and company have raised a ton of money – more than $70 million as of this writing – toward the long-sought arts center.

Best reason to like Fred Brummer

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day

A few months ago we published a story called “Everybody hates Fred” `March 29`, but that’s not true. We love Fred – sometimes. He’s a cantankerous old fart who gets off on being a contrarian, but local government needs one of those. Such a voice gums up the echo chamber in which most of the powers-that-be reside. Evidence? Brummer is the first and most solid “no” vote on all three community venues projects, because he thinks it’s a waste of money. At least someone’s saying what’s on a lot of people’s minds.

Best court battle

The Guetzloe files

Doug Guetzloe stores a bunch of records in a storage facility and forgets to pay the bill. The storage facility sells his records to the highest bidder, who turns them over to Tony Pipitone of WKMG-TV Local 6. Local 6 hypes the story to death. Guetzloe sues to get his records back. Then the state attorney’s office announces it wants the records as part of their investigation into Guetzloe’s scuzzy dealings. Court hearings, an injunction delaying the stories’ broadcast, more hearings, and finally a ruling allowing the story to air. And what did we learn? Guetzloe did political work for strip clubs a decade ago.

Best crazy guy

Clint Curtis

Remember Clint Curtis? He’s the guy who claimed Tom Feeney rigged the 2000 presidential election, then ran against him for Congress. Feeney, of course, beat him by 16 percentage points, because it’s a Republican district and Curtis is insane. Did that stop our man Clint? No, sir. Curtis went ahead and assumed Feeney rigged that too. So Curtis’ “campaign” – which apparently still exists for some reason – spent months canvassing neighborhoods and press-released the fact that in <em>their</em> super-official survey, Curtis actually won! Party on, Clint.

Best yuppie hang

Panera Bread
227 N. Eola Drive, 407-481-1060

www.panerabread.com

If you’re tired of watching drunken transients stumble through downtown, take a short stroll over to Panera Bread near Lake Eola and spend some time with rich housewives in gym clothes sucking down lattes, or the stuck-up Christian dad who just picked up his two brats from private school and brought them here to study. As an added bonus, this is also the best place to see an unimaginable variety of SUVs.

Best local Jesus

Swamburger
www.myspace.com/swamburger

Despite fronting an auspicious hip-hop act (Sol.illaquists of Sound) signed to a powerful national indie label (Epitaph/Anti-) and being fiercely straight-edge, this street prophet trawls the downtown dens of sin – among the complicated coifs and skinny jeans – to peddle his work or just spread the word.

Best disgruntled employees

Orlando International Airport
9201 Airport Blvd., 407-825-2000
www.orlandoairports.net

The 800 or so airport employees who screen your bags are just plain pissed off. All the time. They say managers treat them like trash, morale is at an all-time low and security suffers because of it. Not to mention the pent-up aggression. Happy flying!

Best reason to become a lesbian

Kurt Spath

Back in January, this paper reported the story of one Mr. Kurt Spath, who, to the best of our knowledge, actuated the most spot-on Patrick Bateman impression – minus the murders – this side of Bret Easton Ellis’ nosebleed-stained pillowcase. His lawsuit against a singles club for not providing thin women willing to drape themselves across his ego was the stuff of morbid fascination. He lost, naturally, but he also burnt himself as a warning to the pool of bubbling estrogen in this fair community. He may not be a totally bad guy, and Sports may not be Huey Lewis’ best album, but both are to be avoided. Fore!

Best balls

Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando
726 S. Tampa Ave., 407-246-1788
www.ppgo.org

Mature women pack a wallop in any marketing demographic. In this town, the board of directors for Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando forms an all-star lineup. Moving steadily ahead, never mind the fits and starts of political hang-ups, the women of PPGO are finishing Phase 1 of their growth plan and moving to Phase 2, opening offices in Osceola and Brevard county, without any government money.

Best infomercials

WMFE-TV
www.wmfe.org

Whether it’s Suze Orman prattling on about financial tips, someone praising a particular piano-teaching method, a special on yoga or that damned doo-wop boxed set, it seems that someone at WMFE forgot to turn off the pledge-drive programming switch. That prime airtime is being given over to face-cream sales rather than cutting-edge documentaries (those get shunted to the wee hours of the morning) or any of the large number of interesting high-def PBS shows (which almost never show up on the schedule) makes WMFE seem less like public broadcasting and more like public access.

Best trailer

Aiello Adventures
808 N. Shine Ave., 407-702-4005

It takes a special kind of person to run a hot-air balloon company, and judging by their trailer, the crew behind the “champagne balloon flights” at Aiello Adventures are special indeed. In addition to expected services like “balloon flights,” “balloon tethers” and even “marriages performed,” the trailer also advertises for things such as “fleas killed,” “bars emptied,” “alligators castrated” and, our favorite, “casual hero.”

Best career morphing

Jim Faherty

A cryptic character, Jim Faherty has been a force on the music and arts scene dating back to the Beacham Theatre. Between then and now there have been rises and falls, but the charismatic instigator’s back on the rise, plugged into the CityArts Factory, where he just opened his Pound Gallery. Pound will push a fusion of art and music, with happenings you’ll be hearing about.

Best place to pretend

The proposed Orlando creative village

By far the most preposterous byproduct of Orlando’s take on crafting a “world-class city,” the so-called creative village seeks to replace the old arena with a Sim City of computer geeks, tech corporations and cyber cafés. It all looks good on paper – well, no, actually it looks quite silly – but given that an initial deal for student housing with the aging Marriott Hotel crumbled early on, the whole pipe dream seems destined to go up in virtual smoke.

Best protesters

Orlando Food Not Bombs, orlandofoodnotbombs.org

Stop The Ordinance Partnership, stop-orlando.org

When Orlando voted to ban the feeding of homeless people in downtown parks last year, members of Orlando Food Not Bombs and Stop The Ordinance Partnership vowed to fight. And fight they have. From exploiting loopholes in the poorly written ordinance to staging a guerrilla protest at one of Mayor Buddy Dyer’s campaign stops, these engaged citizens take their democracy seriously. Here’s hoping they keep being a pain in the neck to city officials.

Best freshman in the Florida Legislature

Scott Randolph

When Scott Randolph kicked Sheri McInvale’s ass in the District 36 race last fall, there was much rejoicing: at last, a true progressive representing Orlando in the state Legislature. Randolph’s been as good as his campaign promised, already sponsoring bills that would require schools to notify parents if their kids were being subjected to abstinence-only sex ed, require the state to maintain a “campaign sunshine” website, clean up campaign financing and prohibit the use of public funds to benefit sports teams. Of course all of the above died in committee; this is Florida, after all. But isn’t it nice to know we’re represented by someone who doesn’t consider doggy dining a crowning achievement?

Best local cash-in on The Simpsons

The Gospel According to The Simpsons, second edition, by Mark Pinsky

Pinsky, religion writer for the Orlando Sentinel, put together a well-researched, thoughtful and insightful (if a little stodgy) tome on God revealed in Springfield back in 2001; no one else we’ve come across thinks more highly of Ned Flanders. But did we really need a second edition so he could theologically discourse on (and express his distaste for) King of the Hill, Family Guy and American Dad? Oh wait. There’s a Simpsons movie coming out this summer; of course we did.

Best street-level activism

Pat Greene’s SAMOSA

The personal is political, they say. Well, Pat Greene, one of our very favorite Orlandoans, has a bone to pick – or a chickpea to pick – and he’s engaging in a very personal campaign: SAMOSA, which either stands for Society to Appreciate More Samosas or Society for the Advancement of More South Asian restaurants, take your pick. “Why isn’t there an Indian restaurant in the downtown Orlando area? … I am begging anyone considering opening an Indian restaurant to look downtown or near downtown.I have considered putting a petition together to get attention for this. I can get names. I’ll wait outside of Publix with a clipboard.” One man, tilting at (curry-flavored) windmills.

Best display of tragedy

Babyland, Greenwood Cemetery
1603 Greenwood Street, 407-246-2616

The city’s Greenwood cemetery plainly exhibits its reverence for the ghosts of infancies past with three sections within the acres of the 127-year-old coffin garden. Baby Lands 1 and 2 are for old babies, but Baby Land 3 is a brightly colored tragedy island: rain-damaged stuffed animals on tiny, cramped-together tombstones for “My Sweet Little Boy” and “Our Little Angel.” A granite bench with the word “Mom” carved in it sits nearby. Very sad.


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(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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