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Best exploitation of a ladypart

Susannah Randolph’s uterus

Nobody saw this coming. While the Republican legislature was pretending to ride high on its rodeo hog – chewing the beef jerky of “jobs, jobs, jobs” while quietly assuring the dulled synapses of an underpaid public that this smirking wingnut majority would not be abused in the name of a conservative social agenda – that very same majority was crafting a record 18 pieces of spiteful invective aimed directly at the crotches of Florida’s womenfolk. A palpable panic (or a rolled eye of ennui) rattled through the increasingly subjugated left, liberal legislators and constituents alike developing nervous tics, and this, the dumbest of states, seemed almost resigned to its destiny of becoming the flyover red state that nobody actually flies over.

That is until Orlando – or rather State Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, and his activist wife, Susannah – finally said something. That something, it turns out, was a scientific term, an apparently disgraceful reference to female anatomy: “uterus.”

Rep. Randolph sneaked a retaliatory reference to his wife incorporating her uterus into a floor debate involving corporate deregulation (because then those lauded laissez-faire economics might actually apply) and unwittingly set off a flurry of fainting spells among the more uptight in the conservative ranks. House Speaker Dean Cannon chastised Randolph and tried to diminish him as an Alan Grayson-lite troublemaker. At issue, according to Republicans, were the unblemished intellects of the pubescent pages scurrying around the state capital, their ears burning at the mere mention of a reproductive organ. The language was considered “inappropriate” by Republican leadership, mostly because “Republican leadership” is another term for “puritanical prudes.”

The confrontation gained national attention – a good thing for Florida, for once – and Susannah’s uterus became something of a micro-celebrity: the sort Facebook pages were named after, the sort that inspired pink “uterus” buttons and protests in Tallahassee. The ACLU even launched a website, incorporatemyuterus.com, where Mrs. Randolph did just that, calling her private innards the “Pink Free-Speech Zone” – an act that later resulted in the appearance of a plushy toy playfully named “Mulva.” It may have been one of the more absurd moments in this surreal spring session – the Associated Press went on to call Randolph’s uterus a “runaway hit” – but it was also the best. And that’s saying something.

 

Best election cycle that could’ve been a theme park

Florida midterm elections

Forget Halloween Horror Nights; last November, the Sunshine State brought out the real creature feature in the form of its political hopefuls, all of whom seemed to have been summoned to the state via gypsy curse. You had lumbering billionaire Frankenstein Jeff Greene, shiny-headed Superman villain Rick Scott, impeccably preserved mummy Charlie Crist and, well, whatever the hell Kendrick Meek was supposed to be. This high-stakes fright night didn’t end with a parked-car makeout session, though. Instead, Scott stuck around to keep us screaming for at least another four years. We want to wake up!

 

Best refusal to bow out

Former U.S. Congressman Alan Grayson

Former U.S. Congressman Alan Grayson may have been ousted from his seat by Republican Dan Webster in November’s election, but that doesn’t mean Grayson plans to give up his soapbox. He now blogs on Huffington Post about everything from Sarah Palin to health-care reform to federal government spending – and his missives still hit our inboxes with regularity. Grayson’s weighed in on WMFE’s plan to sell its TV station to a Christian broadcaster, the shooting of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the killing of Osama bin Laden and anything else that captures the national zeitgeist. Does Grayson have his eye on public office in the future? He hasn’t mentioned any specific plans, but in April, the Committee to Elect Alan Grayson (still a going concern, apparently) sent out a press release announcing that the Grayson campaign outraised Webster by $8,000 in the first quarter of 2011. “The amazing part is that Mr. Grayson was not actively trying to raise money,” the press release gloated. Don’t call it a comeback.

 

Best explosion of political unrest

Awake the State

The state’s nascent liberal base reacted loudly to the election of Gov. Rick Scott and the supermajority of conservative legislators this year – not once, but twice, all over Florida. The first (and arguably best) of the two local protest rallies happened on March 8, right at the beginning of this year’s legislative session. Hundreds gathered outside the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce building on Lake Ivanhoe – OMG, the chamber even called in security reinforcements! – to make sure they (peacefully) registered their discontent about the corporate hijacking of state government. A sequel of sorts followed on May 11, which, in the wake of extreme losses for Democratic causes in Tallahassee, was less a bookend than a rallying cry to keep the angry momentum. This is the state of our state: You need a megaphone to scream the obvious.

 

Best political approximation of Bosom Buddies

CannonHair™

Though Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon’s senior-photo-day sandy-blond coif may not bear much resemblance to Tom Hanks’ 1980 Bosom Buddies Buffy-fro, his partner in legislative crime, Senate President Mike Haridopolos (he of the Paul Ryan Medicare flip-flops and overarching flip-fop) couldn’t be more of a Peter Scolari if he tried. In what should have been a great moment in Central Florida representation, these two Floridian psychos commandeered what might have been the most sensational pratfall-slapstick attempt at governance ever (and that includes the bitchy reign of former House Speaker Marco Rubio). Even if every syllable uttered from their conjoined lips is tantamount to an attack on reason, you just can’t help but adore the chemistry of two Republicans embroiled in situational comedy. Only this time, the laugh is on us.

 

Best way back into the closet

Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Powers’ moment in storage

A political reporter’s life is not a glamorous one. Typically, the best a scribe can expect from an interview is a scowl and a script with few refreshments in between. But when Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Powers arrived at a Bill Nelson fundraiser hosted by Vice President Joe Biden in March – an event into which even we were refused entry – he could hardly have expected that he’d be banished to a storage closet. But that’s exactly what happened. When he arrived, he was instructed not to talk to any party attendees and to wait in a small storage room until Biden and Nelson arrived. Naturally, the whole incident was blown up, in full FReeper fashion, as proof of the secrecy of Democrats and their private parties, but following an apology from the Biden staff for not finding a better “holding room” for the Tweeting reporter, the whole incident was washed back into the realm of the reasonable.

 

Best matronly scolder

Linda Chapin

Former Orange County Mayor Linda Chapin is not one to be tussled with. Following a late-December Happytown™ wrap-up of the questionable circumstances surrounding the troubled Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in which we satirically broadstroked DPAC head Kathy Ramsberger’s “bottle-blond” hair, DPAC board member Chapin stormed the Orlando Weekly offices, printout in hand, to put us in our places. Oh, there were cries of “sexism” and whatnot, but even those were effectively muted by the fact that this paper’s editor is a woman and the offending journalist is a bleached gay. Chapin, though, was unfazed and asked (somewhat rhetorically) “What do you expect us to do? Just drop the project altogether?” Well, yes. But we also realized that caricature is an oiled tightrope, and we issued an apology in print shortly thereafter. It’s what our mother would have wanted us to do. Linda Chapin, it should be noted, is awesome.

 

Best quizzical calico beard

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer

Hirsute enthusiasts must have felt their jawlines itch when the news broke: In honor of the Orlando Magic’s placement in the NBA finals – which they shortly thereafter tumbled out of again – Mayor Buddy Dyer decided to let his freak flag fly and grew out some bristle in support of the team’s “Fear the Beard” campaign. Dyer’s follicular fantasy resembled, at least in its early weeks, something you’d see on someone who went on a weeks-long, hell-bent whiskey bender. It featured myriad colors and had no clear lines. A few weeks later, though, the beard apparently proved to be a boon for the mayor. It not only effectively disguised his excess neck weight, it also – to hear him tell it – pleased his wife, Karen. Itchy!

 

Best against-type interview answer

Phil Diamond goes hang gliding

On the surface, Orlando Commissioner Phil Diamond appears two nervous blinks away from an anxiety attack, the kind of contrarian who’s more comfortable cruising green accounting ledgers for systemic errors than grandstanding his characteristic righteousness in front of a crowd of malcontents. But that’s not true! We sat down with Diamond two weeks after he threw his hat into the ring for the 2012 mayoral stakes, and we even watched him cry a little at the mention of his childhood, but our Phil isn’t one to be pigeonholed as the classroom geek. Instead, Diamond wowed us with just how unpredictable his life as a well-adjusted accountant and attorney has been. You want wild? Diamond eloped to Alaska to marry his bride. And you know what else? He once went hang gliding over Tennessee! Everything is not as it seems.

 

Best employee tragically dedicated to the craft

Cathy Jackson, Homeless Services Network of Central Florida

It takes a special person to effectively run a homeless shelter. It takes an even more special person to effectively run an organization entrusted by the federal government to allocate funds to nearly all of the eligible homeless shelters in Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties. As head of the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida, Cathy Jackson doesn’t just handle that complicated work – she devours it, then asks for more. Jackson has a borderline-unhealthy fetish for data on homelessness, manifested partly in her enthusiasm for a massive database that keeps tabs on Central Florida’s destitute, and partly in the forest of Post-it Notes emanating from the stacks of research material she regularly totes to community meetings. Despite a chilly climate in Washington and Tallahassee toward the less fortunate, Jackson still wades into the pallid bureaucratic abyss for an unsung cause.

 

Best way not to revive an activist group

Orlando Copwatch

The mission of the nationwide Copwatch movement is a noble one: to record the actions of police officers on video so fewer cops abuse their power. Thus, when the Orlando chapter of Copwatch was born in 2007, we were excited; when it fizzled out a year later, we were bummed; when it was reborn again late last year, we should have been pleased, but we weren’t. It wasn’t just because the new group consisted largely of Ron Paul libertarians and Tea Partiers, but also that it didn’t appear to understand the Copwatch mission. An example: Copwatch II’s first newsworthy action was not a damning video taken by the group’s own videographers, but a protest at police headquarters of an incident that none of the members had witnessed. And the video the group does produce is usually peppered with righteous preaching at police officers, which undermines the credibility of the movement as a whole. Can’t we just let the videos do the talking?

 

Best fighting the power

Orlando Food Not Bombs

When the city of Orlando’s controversial “large group feeding” ordinance – which restricts sharing of food with 25 or more people at public parks within a two-mile radius of City Hall – was first passed in 2006, we never thought that five years later we’d be reporting on the latest deliberations from the 11th District Court of the United States on the constitutionality of the law. The issue received deserved attention, thanks to the tenacity of Orlando Food Not Bombs, the group that provides free vegetarian meals to the public every Monday morning and Wednesday evening at Lake Eola Park. Despite the aforementioned court verdict against them, and despite parting with longtime lawyer Jackie Dowd, the group has refused to back down: Since June 1, Orlando Food Not Bombs has seen 27 of its volunteers arrested for handing out meals without a permit.

 

Best Waste of Public Funds

Casey Anthony Trial

On the downside, this thing is costing you, Florida taxpayers, a bundle. In March, Casey Anthony was declared indigent, so we’re footing the bill for both the prosecution and the defense in her murder trial – and it’s not gonna be cheap: The cost of housing, feeding and carting the jury around alone was estimated at $360,000; hundreds of hours of “investigation” will be billed at $40 per hour; the bill for crime-scene processing is estimated at nearly $10,000. And that just scratches the surface. The upside? This thing was high drama! Adult men crying on the stand, an imaginary nanny, nightclub drama, bad tattoos and a mysterious entrepreneur who delivers cake to the jurors! Broadcast on local channels all day, every day, with recaps, analysis and instant replays in the evenings. At least taxpayers got their money’s worth out of it.

 

Best friend this paper has ever had

George Crossley

It was a sad day in hell last September when the news came across the transom that Orlando hellraiser George Crossley had collapsed and died at the offices of WEUS 810 AM while doing what he loved best: raging against the dying of the liberal light. When Crossley was heading up the local ACLU chapter, he was a frequent go-to guy (and sometimes an annoyance, though we mean that in the nicest possible way) for Orlando Weekly, a stumbling uncle full of righteous indignation. Of course, it wasn’t always that way; George had a tabloid history involving televangelism and a botched hit-job, but as second acts go, he was an unshakable source of inspiration, showing up at every rally and effectively washing clean the sins of his past with sweat and hard work. If you never knew George, then you missed out. And we miss him.

 

Best gay-bar drama

All of it

Ooooh, guurrrl, has this been a year for broken heels among the area’s pink watering holes or what? If you kept an eye on the Facebook pages of any of the local gay drinking establishments, you’d be drunk on the nonsense. First, everybody was buzzing about the alleged $7.5 million Parliament House foreclosure issue – one that was apparently resolved by February, with promised improvements already in process. Then, a sort-of offshoot of the old P, Mr. Sisters, opened up in late 2010. Former famous Parliament bartender Brian Humphries (fired shortly after a piece ran in this damn paper) owned a stake in the new East Colonial Drive megalith, which almost immediately earned its own share of the late-night whispers – a WFTV Channel 9 story in May displayed your standard neighbors up in arms about the gay bacchanalia and the noise it produces. But Mr. Sisters eventually parted ways with Humphries, too. Email blasts from Mr. Sisters’ ownership followed (“Two sides to every story,” was one subject line), making things appear messier than maybe they really are. Have a drink, Mary. This is going to be a bumpy ride.

 

Best Plushiephobia

Orlando police blow up a stuffed pony

In September, a menacing-looking stuffed pony was spotted lying in a cul-de-sac near an Orange County elementary school. A cautious (paranoid?) person reported the suspicious object to the police, and panic ensued. The elementary school was placed on lockdown, an explosives-detecting robot was brought in to examine the artificial equine and police eliminated the threat by placing an explosives packet next to it and blowing the toy to smithereens. Turns out that all of the freakout was for naught and the pony was just a discarded kids’ toy, probably left in the street by, well, some kid on the way to school.

 

Best new neighborhood

The Milk District
East Robinson Street and North Bumby Avenue

We know that technically this spot isn’t new to anyone, and we most definitely tip our hats to beloved Milk District stalwarts Sportstown Billiards (still going strong after more than half a century) and the Bull & Bush. But recently we’ve grown to love the Milk District (aptly named for its proximity to the T.G. Lee Dairy factory) even more – it’s home to a few of our favorite new haunts, like the Sandwich Bar, Spooky’s Black Cat Café and the Milk Bar (no nipple-drippings here, only 50 different kinds of craft beer). We love that the Milk District is an oddball destination where we can shop for affordable vintage fashions (Etoile boutique), scratch an eight ball (Sportstown) and sip organic wine in a pretty, open-air courtyard (Social Chameleon) with friends. All in one walkable strip.

 

Best student activist group

IDEAS UCF
ideasforus.wordpress.com

The graveyard of college-activist groups is vast, but a tombstone for UCF student group IDEAS – Intellectual Decisions on Environmental Awareness Solutions – isn’t going to be chiseled anytime soon. The group has turned traditional activism on its head by stressing hands-on projects and scientific study, rather than theorizing and navel-gazing. For IDEAS’ work, whether it be simple trash cleanup, rebuilding a lake’s ecosystem or, say, creating a student-run office at the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, the group has garnered numerous plaudits, including most recently the conservation organization of the year award from the Florida Wildlife Federation. The group’s organizing model is so effective (or infectious) that it has spread to nearly a dozen campuses across the country. OK, enough praise: Don’t get cocky, fellas!

 

Best unwitting response to a national conversation

Nations Trucks
3700 S. Orlando Drive, Sanford; 407-936-2222; nationstrucks.com

When Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was critically injured (along with 12 others) and six people were killed, including a little girl, by a Houston madman in January, the country inevitably did some gun-control soul searching. At one Sanford auto dealer, however, it was time to double down. Nations Trucks, which had already made international headlines for its “Buy a truck, get a free AK-47” offer months before, made damn sure that folks knew the offer still stood by placing a sign in front of the dealership featuring its signature assault rifle … and lighting it up at night for passersby! What are pro-gun-control hippies gonna do, anyway … protest the clearly strapped clientele? Bang, bang. They shot us down.

 

Best playground for insane international warlords

All of Central Florida

What is it about Central Florida that makes us so irresistible to murderous villains? Could it be that our delicious humidity reminds them of their warm-climed homelands? Gen. Eugenio Vides Casanova, recently charged by the Department of Homeland Security with torturing civilians during his tenure as defense minister of El Salvador, turns out to be a Central Florida resident, having retired to Palm Coast, Fla., in 1989. Deportation hearings are being held here in Orlando. This comes on the heels of last year’s conviction of Charles “Chuckie” Taylor Jr., erstwhile Evans High School student and son of former Liberian thug-president Charles Taylor, for stomach-turning acts of torture against his father’s opponents. Shouldn’t these guys be in Miami? It really seems more like the hot spot for violent fugitives from justice. But maybe we watch too much TV.

STILL GREAT: Flashback to Best of Orlando, 1997

Best dumb idea of the year

Central Florida News 13

WE SAID THEN: Local TV news sucks bad … so bad that we'll watch the Gardening Channel or between-station static to avoid it. You too? Well, come this autumn, we're getting Central Florida News 13, a 24-hour all-local news channel brought to you by the Tribune Co. and Time-Warner. Get ready for live coverage of store openings and wacky mini-features about irascible locals who bring color to our otherwise mundane lives. For us, the math is simple. Local news, in half-hour blocks, is unviewable. A station broadcasting local news 24 hours a day will be ... mmmm ... 48 times worse than the current model. Unless News 13 provides something useful (like up-to-the-second wait times for Space Mountain and other attractions), we predict ex-News 13 employees will be sending out résumés by spring of 1999.

WE SAY NOW: We never did get up-to-the-second Space Mountain wait times, but we did get up-to-the-second Casey Anthony trial coverage. That must count for something.

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