Best Of 1997

Best of Orlando-City

Best political rumor

It's said that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Here's another fact: Power absolutely corrupts the way that people perceive those who have it. How else to explain the innuendo readers served up about Mayor Glenda Hood? ("Glenda or Glenn." "Glenda Hood and Linda Chapin -- a subplot on ‘Ellen'"?) More enticing and politically relevant: Our Republican mayor, elected in a non-partisan race, is a good shot to run for lieutenant governor alongside Jeb Bush.

Best political promise made good

The whimsy of readers mirrors the love-hate relationship that some civic movers-and-shakers seem to have with the city: people think things are good, but often not good enough. Orlando's constant bidding to become som ething else -- a big-league football town, a major league baseball town, host of a "world-class" art exhibit, the site for a "world-class" performing arts center -- illustrates the soft underbelly that makes us the civic equivalent of Sally Field entering puberty. We want to be liked! We really, really want to be liked! Thus, readers are at least willing to embrace the promise of the Lymmo transit loop, which, although a whole lot less convenient than the buses it replaced, advances the pledge of politicos and policy wonks to forge a pedestrian-friendly downtown with an attraction of its very own. That said, readers still singled out Mayor Glenda Hood, one of Lymmo's longtime backers, as ...

Best promising politician gone bad

; ;

How, exactly, Glenda Hood went bad is hard to define. You can't measure someone against their potential when they had little to begin with. She certainly has not retreated on her word, since in a passionless first (and second) campaign with no real foe she won without ever being forced by anyone -- certainly not the Sentinel's überfriendly editorial board -- to outline a vision for the city. Mostly she has encouraged neighborhoods to spruce up, which they've done to a remarkable extent with seed money funneled directly from the mayor's office. Beyond that, Hood suddenly decided after taking office that Orlando needs a performing arts center, although not once has she proposed a public referendum or suggested just who will pay for it, or how. Details, details. No, the sense of disappointment springs from Hood's evolution into prim schoolmarm and shepherd of ordinances designed to steer the "morals" of the populace. First came a teen curfew, hurriedly passed just before the World Cup Soccer playoffs and banning kids from downtown, where the spiked hair and pierced lips of a few might frighten the tourists. A surprisingly rational debate followed that brought the bars and churches to a compromise on proximity. But that even-handedness was abandoned in the civic overreaction to all-night dancing at The Club, which seemingly overnight was condemned as a magnet for drug abuse among youth. Though Hood and her council colleagues agreed that the larger problem won't fade, it didn't avert a vote backing a recommendation from the mayor's task force to close bars at 3 a.m. Whether or not Hood eventually runs alongside Jeb Bush, she couldn't be doing more to court GOP conservatives.

Best use of public funds

It sure cost a lot -- $21 million. And the project's high visibility guarantees that Lymmo is not something easily overlooked, which is why readers singled it out. But not so overwhelmingly that it didn't also top the balloting as ...

Best waste of public funds

Indeed, those who see Lymmo as a public boondoggle declared it so by voting in numbers six times greater than those who cheered the expense. The Lynx folks did a boffo job of promoting Lymmo's startup at the end of all that confounding construction. Let's see if they can turn around the image of something that, for now, appears to make sense only as a private free shuttle for the downtown lunch crowd -- and only infrequently at that.

Best neighborhood

Its retail core is surrendering slowly to franchises, and even its beloved Publix may finally be getting that long-fought renovation. But College Park's concrete-block bungalows and cozy balance of community and commerce along pedestrian-friendly streets make it a favorite -- unless you look to the city center. When tallied together, votes for Lake Eola Heights, Colonialtown, Thornton Park and those marked simply "downtown" prove the desire of residents to claim that most urban of oases as their own.

Best reason to mortgage the house for Magic tickets

Chuck Daly brought not only a certain class when he joined the Magic organization, but also a winning attitude. Chuck doesn't mess around. He's just what the blossoming Penny Hardaway needs. on the sidelines. Go Chuck.

Best advice for Chuck Daly


10. Turn the collar down.
;9. Pacifiers are cheaper by the case.
;8. Listen to Julius Erving.
;7. Get rid of 3D.
;6. Do the right thing.
;5. Let Penny run the show.
;4. Defense.
;3. Win! Win! Win!
;2. Take the money and run.
;1. Watch your back.

Best place to get shot

Partying with Orlando Magic small forward Dennis Scott, of course. Hey, 3D, being a bad boy in the NBA is no fun. Ask Denis Rodman; it brought him to tears on national TV. Deep down, we're all secretly hoping that Scott's recent summer camp gangsta rap concert and run-and-gun party guests were publicity stunts staged by the Magic, giving us a taste of the upcoming season's bad-boy attitude.

Best flash point

Ever wonder why Orlando Predators games are so eagerly attended? Beyond the fact that it's the fiercest athletic competition this side of WCW, could the reports of frequent "show me" displays by impassioned female fans help to keep the seats filled? What's amazing about these bare-breast sightings is that the women always seem to be well-endowed and pin-up pretty. (And we are supposed to believe this is a random occurrence?) A funny thing: just as the City Council was pushing for a more straight-laced nightclub scene, only blocks away the revelry veered toward debauchery at a family event at a city facility.

Best non-contagious medical malady

When Orlando gynecologist Pablo E. Melgarego was charged earlier this year with sexual battery for touching his patients in a way that sexually aroused them, the Sentinel reported his claim that he suffered from "trigger thumb, a hand defect that causes his thumb to move uncontrollably." Somehow this questionable condition slipped into the abyss, denying a good many the opportunity to exploit the ridiculous explanation that could -- and should -- have become the "Twinkie defense" of the 1990s.

Most annoying television personality

With several commercial spots in a single hour, the Bryan Automotive Group (Jimmy Bryan Honda, Jimmy Bryan Mazda, Jimmy Bryan Toyota) has cluttered late-night network television and created the visual equivalent of fingernails scratching the blackboard: It's Michele, the fuzzy red-head toting the "1-800" placard as she strolls along a lane of parked cars ("We've got six at that price!") without any hint of irony or imagination. Wait! If you're watching TV during the daytime, she's there, too! Forget the sound stages at Universal and Disney; the output from the Bryan lots by itself would seem to be quadrupling television production in this area.

Best evidence of a columnist in restraints

Sentinel editors have so narrowly defined Greg Dawson's role as a general interest columnist that it was only a matter of time before the frustrated talent resorted to writing about gardening oddities -- and on Jan. 10, he did just that, devoting an entire column to a lemon grown by Barbara and Gerold Higgins of Longwood that measured 19 and one-fourth inches around.

Best evidence of a columnist in decline

Leslie Doolittle's career at the Sentinel has been one to watch, not least because it illustrates the paper's priorities. At one time she served on the Sentinel's editorial board. Then she created and wrote the paper's first regular column on the tourism industry. But that bright and overdue idea was abandoned a year ago when Doolittle jumped from the business pages to page A-2. Now she's a marketable "personality" in a job where, when not devising reader contests, she mostly rewrites copy off the entertainment wires and from the pages of People. Keep that in mind as the mainstream media strives to distance itself from the checkout-counter tabloids. (At least the promotional rollout -- with a photo of Doolittle dressed as Marilyn Monroe, in a blonde wig and billowing white skirt -- died swiftly.)

Best retreat when threatened

Readable replacements for real news, the Sentinel's "ticked-off" columns give the illusion of being in touch with the community without ever having to talk to the community at all. But a funny thing happened when the concept -- a fixture in the living and sports sections -- was extended to the business section. People called in to complain about management and to advocate unions. Notice how quickly the feature disappeared?

Best imitation of a laggard party guest

Orlando magazine proved how hard it is to say goodbye with such a drawn-out adieu to Bob Morris that you thought he'd never leave. Its June cover teased readers with "Bob Morris says bon voyage" -- a throw to Bob's regular back-page essay, this one sharing observations about airports. Turns out that Bob was doing all that flying in search of a job in California. The magazine responded in July by replacing Bob's column with a celebrity Q&A. Its first subject? You guessed it -- Bob Morris. Then the August issue hit the stands. On the cover: Bob Morris. "Five Things Bob Morris Misses About O'Town," said the headline. One thing O'Town doesn't miss, because Orlando magazine won't let go: Bob Morris.

Best concrete statement

After Universal Studios built two 10,000-space parking garages back-to-back -- each floor of the six-level facility is the size of 12 football fields -- the trade journal Parking Today observed, "Now there are two man-made objects you can see from space: the Great Wall of China and Universal's Parking Structures." (More alarming: the discovery that there's actually a publication called Parking Today.)

Best architectural statement of no faith in the neighborhood

; ;

Apparently the Orlando Magic organization has taken to heart all those cries about crime in South College Park. Residents of the neighborhood that abuts Colonial Drive across from the O'rena responded by blocking their streets to through traffic; the Magic followed suit by building a bigger, better Magic Fanattic store at Colonial and I-4 that looks like a bunker against nuclear attack. Its concrete block walls are painted battleship gray, with a metal strip across the center and curved roofing sufficient to deflect any fallout. Cool windows fashioned to resemble basketball lines are placed high up on the two-story structure still under construction; at ground level, however, metal grills will be raised and lowered electronically to protect and secure the contents behind the four display windows facing Colonial Drive. Maybe they expect the crowd from Angel's Diner across the street to overdose on dessert and attack in a sugar rush. Or maybe Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary and his deputies had it all wrong in those commercials, and Angel's isn't a safe place to eat.

Best taxi driver

At last, a cab driver whose desire to make conversation with the fares is actually justified! Brian Millner of Yellow Cab Company is a part-time comedian who never misses a chance to try out new and consistently hilarious routines on the unsuspecting, usually beginning with the frank "admission" that he doesn't have a license. It's all A-list material from there on in, as Millner rattles off one priceless one-liner after another ("Did you know that Delta Burke married a hunter? That's how they met -- he didn't court her, he treed her!").

Best simulated hockey-type experience

The Orlando Jackals roller hockey squad went all the way in 1996, bringing home the Murphy Cup -- sort of a Stanley Cup on training wheels -- and then continued to triumph at least into the semis of the season just concluded. But what we like most about the team is not their drive to win; what we like most is that they keep driving without fan support! We probably could pick D.B. Cooper out of the crowd before we would recognize any of of these guys. But we're learning to roll with it.

Best excuse to avoid hosting visiting relatives

10. It's the rainy season.
;9. Fumigating for bugs.
;8. Hurricane's coming.
;7. Open sores.
;6. Sinkhole swallowed house.
;5. Landlord prohibits it.
;4. Having pool drained.
;3. Encephalitus outbreak.
;2. Busy performing community service sentence.
;1. Pet gator doesn't like strangers.

Best zoo

Forget Peter Fonda: The truly memorable guests at Enzian Theater, Orlando's lone arthouse cinema, are the various species of lost and confused fauna who regularly make their way into its rafters. Recent highlights have included surprise appearances by bats, birds and some form of aphid, which dropped onto our date's head as she ate her Caesar salad. Film is an adventure, but seldom has the moviegoing experience owed as much to Marlon Perkins as it does to Marlon Brando.

Orlando's worst radio format change

Despite many problems, the old WJRR was at least trying. Its DJs usually were the first in town to play cool new rock songs. They even earned a reputation in the national press for breaking new bands. Other radio stations took cues from WJRR's playlist! Orlando was at the front of a trend! But, like most original or unique things in Florida, it was doomed. WJRR's corporate owners decided Orlando needed yet another generic hard rock station striving for the perfect mix of Aerosmith, Metallica and flash-in-the-pan new bands with cute facial hair. Ugh. Go ahead, wipe 101.1 FM from your tuner. You won't be missing a thing.

Best hypocrisy in broadcasting

Paxson Communications is the Florida-based media conglomerate whose Real Radio 104.1 brought us Howard Stern and, more recently, the mano-a-mano dare between talk hosts Drew Garabo and Russ & Bo to see who in their new time slot would be first to get a naked woman in the studio and on the air. Paxson -- owned by Lowell "Bud" Paxson, a born-again Christian who started the Home Shopping Channel and controls a broadcasting empire that includes the Worship Network -- is not one to follow a high moral road in search of ratings. Odd, then, that Paxson halted advertising this spring by Fairvilla Adult Mega Store, the pornographic equivalent of Toys "R" Us and a longtime Real Radio client. The action illustrates how companies with near-monopoly control can effectively censor content. And it made Paxson look all the more ridiculous when, days later, listeners tuned in to hear talk host Russ Rollins hype a stimulant offered by another paid advertiser: "Hey guys, are you looking to raise your performance in the bedroom? Can't get it up like you used to?" Added sidekick Bo: "I got laid before I came to work tonight. And it made me stay harder longer."

Best reason to tune in talk radio

When Ms. B left WTKS's Real Radio to host her own morning show on 102 Jamz, the powers that be at Orlando's talk-radio giant should have sensed the power of estrogen. Indeed, in the last ratings period, Ms. B guided her morning team to second place, slightly behind Real Radio's A.M. anchor, the syndicated Howard Stern. Yet even though Real Radio's lineup runs on testosterone, each of the station's three male-led shows features a female in some sidekick fashion, proving that it's the women who make talk radio worth tuning in. And unlike the kowtowing Robin Quivers of Stern's show, these women actually entertain. Each of the three -- Russ and Bo's queen of the trailer park, the Sexy Savannah; the boring Philips Phile's resident yenta, Moira; and the sophomoric Drew Garabo's husky voiced producer Mandy, who has been sorely missed since the show's push into an earlier time slot reduced her on-air presence -- more than hold their own against male domination.

Best approximation of a poem in support of a tax

Here at Orlando Weekly, the mail brings the darndest things, most of which we shield from readers because, well, you've never done anything especially cruel to us. But this particular communication -- a fax, actually -- is one we just couldn't keep to ourselves. It came from Mary Ellen Levocz after the Orange County Commission voted to seek a 1-cent sales tax increase. And though we haven't taken a position on the tax, we are moved -- not least by the need to make an easy joke -- to say that we don't know which is verse. (Confidential to Mary Ellen: Are you OK? Call us. We care.)

I'm left lying on the ground
;ignored -- never picked up.
;I hang loose in the bottom
;of many pocketbooks
;and I am thoughtlessly tossed
;into jars and cups for many years
;and classified as a nuisance.
;I'm far from shiny
;and I'm frantically sought
;only when there is a desperate need ...
;usually someone else will toss me
;to the clerk to speed up the line.
;It's no big loss.

Well, I am honored now.
;I am a challenge
;and have new-found worth.
;I can now be considered part
;of a much-needed school plan.
;I can give new life to Orange County roads.
;I can be an environmental help
;in storm water management.
;I can provide kids the much-needed
;chance to "recreate" in green parks.

You never thought much of me
;'til I got the name "tax."
;Well, I'm still the same as I was ...
;a penny.
;The question now is whether you,
;the residents of Orange County, are
;willing to give me a more worthy
;vision of accomplishment?

I can do it.
;I, the cent, the "tax,"
;the loose, not-so-shiny coin,
;the jarred copper.
;I can be more than that.
;Can you see my value, my worth,
;enough to make a difference?

Best dumb idea of the year

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 irrascible 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 resumes by the spring of 1999.

Best prediction for 1998

Just days after Rolling Stone praised Orlando's thriving rave scene to a world-wide audience, tight-assed local officials cracked down and enacted a law forcing clubs to close at 3 a.m., just about the time hard-core raves get going. What? Elected officials don't recognize the value of cultural trends lacking a Disney logo? What a surprise. Here's a solution. In 1998, club owners should position raves as a solution to the alarming rise in late-night crimes committed by Orlando youths. Much like Midnight Basketball Leagues in urban cities, all-night raves should be pitched as the positive alternative. Raves will be the place where kids can get off the street, enjoy a healthy fruit juice drink and exercise away those extra pounds with hours of aerobic activity (a fat kid is a kid in danger). It's all a matter of packaging and presentation. "Raves save the kids!" That'll look good on a poster. Slap it above a rainbow coalition of today's baggy-clothed youth and an American flag. perfect. It's time to learn something from those right-wing weenies -- if you hide behind patriotism and "the kids," you're invincible

; ;

Sidebar: Readers Picks:

Best Local Boy/Girl Made Good:

Wesley Snipes

Best Reason to Cheer City Council:


Best Reason to Jeer City Council:

Anti-rave ordinance

Best New Downtown Arrival:


Best Celebrity Sighting:

Carrot Top, all over town

Celebrity You Wish was Single

Wendy Chioji, WESH-Channel 2 anchor

Celebrity You Wish Would Leave:é

Marla Weech, WFTV-Channel 9 anchor

Best Public Restroom:

Lake Eola Park

Best Building:

New Orange County Courthouse

Best Local Landmark:

Lake Eola fountain

Best TV Anchor:

Wendy Chioji, WESH-Channel 2 anchor

Best Radio Talk-Show Host:

Drew Garabo, Real Radio 104.1

Best Newspaper Columnist:

Liz Langley, Orlando Weekly

Best Reason to Move Here:


Best Reason to Leave Here:


Best Theme Park Ride:

Tower of Terror, Disney-MGM Studios

Best Place to Bike:

West Orange Trail

Best Place to Hike:

Wekiwa Springs State Park

Best Place to Canoe:

Wekiva River

Best Place to Jet Ski:

Lake Ivanhoe

Best Beach:

Cocoa Beach

Best Weekend Escape:

St. Augustine

Best Place for Urban Solitude:

Lake Eola Park

Sidebar: Most unforgiving natural feature

Up north, it is dismissed as crabgrass. But here the stuff is known and revered as St. Augustine sod, the lawn cover of choice, a luxury item favored for resale, as well as its ability to thrive in this climate. So it seemed advisable to buy a home featuring a lawn of the sod, although it seemed a bit tough underfoot, compared to bluegrass varieties proliferating in the Midwest.

Just how tough became increasingly clear as I bent to pushing my human-powered rotary mower through the stubborn stuff. A carry-over from our Ohio home and a small yard only partially covered with a weak lawn, the mower was my environmental statement, as well as a weekly opportunity for practical aerobic exercise. Yet in Central Florida, what most consider a brief task became each weekend's project. To conserve energy, I learned every change in grade of the yard's topography and plotted routes minimizing uphill passes.

My neighbor, a lawn-mower repairman, offered me the use of one of his riding mowers. His wife, after first inquiring blankly about what I was pushing, began to refer to me as "Mr. Flintstone." As we improved our lots, they noted the difficulty of "keeping up with the Flintstones." Of course, I responded,"Yaba Daba Doo."

Once the excitement of the challenge became the specter of another weekend spent grunting behind my mower, I considered alternatives. With summer, the lawn seemed to grow faster than I could recover from the previous week's ordeal. I became convinced the mower, a 20-year-old model rescued used by my late father-in-law, was in need of service.

But numerous calls to mower stores failed to put me in contact with a suitable mechanic. I began looking for someone to sell me a new human-powered machine, but again came up empty-handed. Then a co-worker encouraged me to call Paul Mikula, president of a local antique-tool organization. Yet, while Mikula was anxious to talk about his rotary mower, as well as a one designed specially for edging, he evenutally acknowledged that he kept these relics for their historical significance, while relying on a riding mower to cut his lawn.

My wife worries the exercise is too much for my aging heart. When I was sick, my neighbor took pity and mowed the entire lot. And my other neighbor pitches in each week, cutting well beyond the property line on our common side.

During the height of the growing season, I toyed with the idea of joining the motorized age. But with the coming of fall, I intend to hold out. I guess we'll find out who's more stubborn.