Best Of 1997


Best appearance by Orlando in an independent film

Coming close to matching the sleazy Chad of "In the Company of Men" is The City Beautiful as presented by writer/ director Victor Nunez in this summer's arthouse entry "Ulee's Gold." Compared to the sleepy tranquility of the film's North Florida primary locale, Nunez makes Ulee's (Peter Fonda) trek to fetch his daughter-in-law from the Sodom and Gommorah-like Orange Blossom Trail look as if the Southern Baptists just may be right about the moral degradation of the town that Mickey calls home.

Best appearance by an Orlando actor in an independent film

Most filmgoers will remember "In the Company of Men" for its brutally misogynistic Chad, who devises the scheme in which two men woo a woman for mere sport, intending from the start to simultaneously drop her like a hot rock. But one of the film's men will be immediately recognizable to those familiar with the Orlando Shakespeare Festival. Mark Rector, who next month will be quothing the raven in OSF's production of a script he co-wrote, "Poe: Deep Into That Darkness Peering," gets his fair share of screen time in the indie flick that has America's watercooler conversations heating up. (In case you're not acquainted with Rector's mug, he's the office manager who informs the ruthless Chad of his victim's hearing impairment.)

Best humiliation on film of a former Orlando Magic forward

We really wanted to catch the premiere of Shaquille O'Neal's latest stab at big-screen herodom, "Steel." Honest we did. But by the time we had showered, dressed and made it to the theater, it had already closed. And here we were, still kicking ourselves for having missed both "Kazaam" and "Microcosmos." The rest of the country seemed to share Orlando's reluctance to spend good money on Shaq's Tin-Man-on-crack impression. Before its swift and no doubt merciful death, "Steel" was on record as having earned a per-screen-average of $155. If only half those folks had bought popcorn! Guess we'll all have to wait for video on this one: Even the manager of a local second-run cinema admitted that she had passed on the opportunity to screen "Steel" for one measly week. Instead, she made a comparatively safer bet, booking the caped turkey "Batman and Robin." "No one in Orlando is gonna pay to see Shaquille O'Neal," she chuckled. Of such insight are future Zanucks made.

Best corporate merger of fantasy and reality

With its new Coronado Springs Resort -- themed after northern Mexico and the American Southwest -- Disney has hit upon a setting where its Spanish-speaking employees finally are a part of the ambience.

Best outdoor art

For being in such a beautiful locale, Orlando can seem like it has an awfully meager amount of things to offer by way of aesthetics. The city's image is typically boiled down to the Lake Eola fountain and the SunTrust building with its cap of four green, postmodern pyramids. But sights tucked away here and there are much easier on the eyes than the searing stretches of crowded highway and strip malls endemic of the town. One you might not even have noticed sits at Rosalind Avenue and Church Street, right in front of the Orange County Administration Center. "The Leaper," by Roy Shifrin, is an impressive figure in bronze, a muscular male form, blindfolded, holding outstretched wings, ready to jump into a void it can't see with an inspiring confidence that most of us could use a taste of in our day-to-day. Shifrin's inspiration for this and several other pieces was the pioneering feats of the U.S. space program. Orange County was given the statue, reportedly worth $75,000 at the time of its unveiling, by WIlliam Jovanovich, then chairman of the board of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. "The Leaper" is not only a beautiful thing to look at, but it's the equivalent of emotional underwire, giving you the little uplift you might need, and worth a side trip in your downtown journey just to check out. And its placement isn't a bad thing either; you could use an uplift of some kind when having to deal with administrative anything. (The building also has a beautiful lotus pond alongside it that will afford you a moment of serenity to ponder life, the universe and the burning question, "Why the hell can't every public structure throw something attractive in front of itself like this?")

Best indoor art

Now that we've got you all worked up with lofty dreams through Mr. Shifrin's work, allow us to knock you in the entirely opposite direction. The best indoor art is not inspiring or even attractive, but it may be what you need more: it's funny. The most lushly gorgeous indoor public art in Orlando is, bar none, in a bar. You've all passed the giant tipsy cartoon hog's head sign outside the Loaded Hog saloon (11 N. Orange Ave., Orlando). But if you haven't had the good sense to go in (and we recommend it on the weekdays when you can have some elbow room) you haven't seen the best part; on the other side of the head is the caboose. That's right, the best indoor public art is the giant hog's butt just inside the door of the Loaded Hog. Walk in, look straight up and you will see, in all its flesh-colored splendor, the biggest ass you've ever seen, directly over your head, looming larger than you ever thought an ass could, even that of your lycra-wearing neighbors in the trailer across the way. It's a tremendously fine thing, this swiney heiney, and we've often stared at it while drinking many of the fine beers the Hog has to offer and thought that a speaker should be strategically placed therein, or that one should be able to turn the little piggy tail so some prizes fall out. (We have been told by unreliable sources that during a night of revelry, confetti will shoot out of the magnificent end. But that is something you will just have to go to the Hog and see for yourself.))

Best (and most unheralded) film program

Community colleges are not supposed to have good film production programs. Luckily, nobody told that to Ralph Clemente. He leads a film program at Valencia Community College that does more than show students how to point a camera and get coffee for the star. These students make movies. Real movies. Good movies. Valencia brings in directors and producers who have viable scripts and small budgets. If the filmmaker agrees to shoot in Central Florida, Valencia provides crew and equipment. That crew consists of Valencia students who acquire invaluable work experience on a movie set. And results have been impressive. Among Valencia's best releases, the comical "Blowfish" played to packed houses at the Florida Film Festival this year (and came close to snagging the audience award). If Orlando ever reaches its goal of becoming a film production capital, Valencia's film program will have something to do with it.

Best reason for a Rogaine revolution

The shaved-head look. It was sexy on Sinead O'Connor and Patrick Stewart -- at least initially. But it's a tired trend. Guys, before you think you're cool, think Mr. Clean. Don't cut it off. Cut it out.

Best out-of-town stage production

Seaside Music Theater in Daytona Beach is used to bold choices. And although, like Civic Theatre, its bread-and-butter is the blue-hairs who twittered excitedly in their seats at the announcement that next summer's season of musical repertory will include the chestnuts "Camelot" and "Fiddler on the Roof," Seaside typically follow its ambitions to greater heights. (Also, unlike Civic, it imports talent and pays them a living wage.) That's what led to this past summer's staging of "The Who's Tommy." With a driving rock score and a convoluted narrative that relies as much on dance as sung dialogue to tell its tale, it is not the sort of thing one expects to encounter away from the touring circuit. But Seaside was undaunted, and grabbed the rights as one of the first regional companies to produce the spectacle. And a spectacle it was. From start to finish, this show moved. Donna Drake, a dancer in the original cast of "A Chorus Line," choreographed with such seamlessness that you couldn't tell where she stopped and director Lester Malizia stepped in. Fireworks exploded; strobe lights flashed; the curtain call, which followed the one brief lull in the second act, erupted into a dance of joyous exuberance. (Given the bold show of theatricality, it will be interesting to watch what Malizia does when he directs the Civic's staging this winter of the sweeping and ambitious "Angels in America.") Naturally, some in the 65-and-over core audience were scared off, and the most expensive show in a season where productions average $225,000 to mount didn't perform as well as the box office hoped. But the energy was infectious among those who witnessed it. "I have to go see this again," said one geezer to the missus on the way out. "It's the first time my heart beat without my pacemaker."

Best way-far-off Broadway stage for Broadway talent

The tickets weren't cheap. That's because as fund-raising functions, the events had a secondary goal: feed the hungry accounts of Civic Theatre and a local AIDS service organization. But in turning its MainStage over for intimate musical concerts, both by the touring cast of "Miss Saigon" and Orlando native (and "Phantom of the Opera" star) Davis Gaines, the Civic oversaw evenings just as memorable and heartfelt as anything the Orlando Broadway Series trooped out on the stage at Carr Performing Arts Centre.

Best sword play

About the time Disney began to hype the animated dud "Hercules" at its theme parks, Universal was hyping a much sexier Hercules and Xena powered by the muscled, real-life curves of Kevin Sorbo and Lucy Lawless. It was a mismatch from the start --and it carried over into the merchandising. Universal's toy sword, almost twice as big as Disney's, came with a shaft that alights at the press of buttons that trigger one of two distinct sounds: shwank and clank. Of course, Universal's cost more, too -- around $20 to Disney's $14. But it's worth it.

Best hope for the Orlando International Fringe Festival

Keep it downtown. Even though construction this past spring splintered activities and made almost invisible the festival's central forum -- hidden, as it was, by construction fence and so miserably attended that some street performers canceled shows and vendors bowed out early -- downtown reflects and feeds off the festival's vibe. How bad was it this year? Set up in unfamiliar territory across from the new courthouse and doused with some cool, rainy weather, the sixth annual event of small-scale theater works drew just about 27,000 people, down from 80,000 during its 10-day run in 1996. But the sporadic artistic triumphs -- after all, the schedule of performers is filled on a first-come, first-served basis -- were no less rewarding. So before downtowners have reason to balk, and the storefronts that serve as makeshift stages become any harder to find, here's what Fringe organizers should do: Nab the owners of Casey's Subs, the Robinson Street eatery that -- unlike any other businesses in the festival's proximity -- extended its hours for the festival's run and made a killing. Drag them before the Downtown Development Board, the Downtown Orlando Partnership, City Hall -- anyone who needs to be reminded of the Fringe Festival's economic clout. The Fringe will survive is moved elsewhere. But if let out of town, the city suffers.

Sidebar:Readers Picks:

Best Place to See a Movie:

Enzian Theater, 1300 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland

Best Place to See a Play:

Civic Theatres of Central Florida

Best Musical Performer:

Jacqueline Jones

Jacqueline Jones

Best Actor/Actress:

Becky Fisher

Becky Fisher

Best Visual Artist:

Steve Lotz

Steve Lotz

Best Storefront Art Gallery:

Timothy's Gallery, 212 Park Ave. North, Winter Park

Best Album of the Past 12 Months:

Fiona Apple, "Tidal"

Fiona Apple, "Tidal"

Best Concert of the Past 12 Months:

Tina Turner at Orlando Arena

Best Locally Staged Production:

"Saturday Morning Rocks!"

Best Cultural Festival:

Orlando International Fringe Festival

Best Art Festival:

Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival

Best Public Sculpture:

"Harvey," outside the Barnett Tower, Robinson Street and Orange Avenue

Best Local Band on "Letterman":

Seven Mary Three

Seven Mary Three

Best Museum for Spending a Sunday Afternoon:

Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, 445 Park Ave. North, Winter Park

Sidebar: Best of the Orlando theater spectrum

Of course to be fair and give the rest of the artistic world a fighting chance, I have exempted my own plays and performances from consideration.

Gregory Patrick is blessed with two Best of Orlando titles:

Best One-Man Performance Art for "Revelation 13:5," and Best Shameless Self-Promotion and Messiah Complex for "My Golgotha." My Golgotha? Mr. Patrick you are not Christ. Repeat. You are not Christ.

Best One-Woman Performance Art:

Shannon Humphreys Culver in Mac Wellman's "Land of Fog and Whistles," an offering of the Orlando International Fringe Festival.

Best Improved Theatre Space:

The Acting Studio (952 S. Orange Ave., Orlando), which has gone from a stage the shape and dimensions of The Partridge Family Bus to a marvelously flexible thrust stage, and has gone from presenting peep shows with dialogue to -- "Godspell" notwithstanding -- adventuresome risks in alternative theatre.

Best Imitation of Beast by Man:

Dan McCleary's boarish, hedgehogish, spidery portrayal of the title character in last spring's Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival production of "Richard III."

Best Imitation of Beast by Woman:

A toss-up between Becky Fisher's precise imitation of the catty Bette Davis in Civic Theatre's "Me and Jezebel" and the limber Brook Hanemann as spider-monkey domanatrix Terri in the Fringe Festival's "Bondage."

Best Imitation of a Major Theatre City by a Repressive Thyroidal Cow Town:

Orlando during the spectacular theatre banquet that saw the Fringe Festival, the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival, "Miss Saigon" and some 15 other theatrical options by local theatres all staged in the space of a few weeks last spring.

Best Disney Dig:

Michael Shugg's set design of a rat-faced entrance to a Vacuum Cleaner Hall of Fame in the Valencia Character Company's production of "Tourist Trap."

Best Imitation of Art Imitating Life:

Director John DiDonna's current staging of "The Iceman Cometh" at Theatre Downtown (2113 N. Orange Ave., Orlando).

Best Imitation of Art Imitating Art:

Director Chad Lewis's environmental production of a modern American art museum in "Museum," also at Theatre Downtown.

Best Nude Performance:

Clare Barry in the Fringe Festival offering by Britain's Eyewitness Theatre, "Lysistrata."

Best I-Wish-It-Were-Nude Performance:

I'm not even going there.

R.A.Bell



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

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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

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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

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Sidebar: Readers Picks:

Best Local Boy/Girl Made Good:

Wesley Snipes

Best Reason to Cheer City Council:

Lymmo

Best Reason to Jeer City Council:

Anti-rave ordinance

Best New Downtown Arrival:

Lymmo

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:

Weather

Best Reason to Leave Here:

Weather

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.



Best night to go downtown

Within the past five years, downtown has gone from a virtual wasteland to a dense zone of bars, clubs and restaurants. Now, on weekends, a huge population descends upon Orange Avenue, crowding any place that serves up cold beer and good music. Problem: there's too many of ya. And "lots of people" doesn't always equate to "lots of fun." (Just ask China.) Examples: Just waiting to use an ATM machine can take 20 minutes, parking can be like searching for the Holy Grail, and drinking doesn't usually include specials. Solution: Thursday night. There's just enough people out, parking is plentiful, club nights are cool (try Taboom at Barbarella, 70 N. Orange Ave., or Sound Lounge at the Go Lounge, 27 Wall Street Plaza) and drink specials seem to be everywhere. See you -- but not you -- then.

Best Drink

A collection of vices that rivals the backstage area of a Marilyn Manson concert, the Corniche, a creation of Monaco Cocktail Bar (56 E. Pine St., Orlando), incorporates dark rum, brandy, Kahlua, cream and just about anything else slow to inanimate. Smooth on the way down, but takes no prisoners once it gets there. Go through three or four of these suckers, and you'll feel as if you've been mercilessly beaten around the head and shoulders with a very large, very heavy Three Musketeers bar. Monaco is the only place to go for the real deal, but in a pinch, an inferior but suitable substitute may be procured by striding into Tanqueray's (100 S. Orange Ave., Orlando) and requesting "whatever's laying around."

Best place to get a perfect pint of Guinness Stout

Pouring a pint of Guinness Stout is almost a sacred thing, almost a science. First, this Irish beer has to be at the right temperature -- not too chilled, and not at room temperature. Second, an Imperial pint glass must be used. Third, when poured from the tap, the glass is half-filled, then allowed to settle. Finally, the glass is filled to the top, allowing the famous creamy head to surface. The Bull & Bush (2408 E. Robinson St., Orlando), a British pub, does this better then anyone in town. We're not sure if that's considered sacrilege -- a British pub serving an Irish beer? -- but we'll ponder it the next time the Bull & Bush pours us a delicious pint.

Best rejected names in the "Rename Tsunami" contest

5. SoSueMe
;4. Death Valley Beach Club
;3. Hell 'N Gone
;2. Tiramisu
;1. Tsanford and Tsun

Most pretentious club (tie)

Two words: dress code. If you thought uniforms were only for Catholic school kids and IBM employees, guess again. The Blue Room (12 W. Pine St., Orlando) and Icon (20 E. Central Blvd., Orlando) seem to think pants and collars equals class. Get real. It doesn't matter how it's done in the "big city" -- we don't need to imitate their elitist habits. And if frat boys in dockers and Polo shirts equals modern sophistication, we don't want any part of it. Never mind the fact that it gets real hot here. We're in the subtropics, remember?

Best pick-up line

10. "Do you believe in love at first sight, or should I walk by again?"
;9. "You look like someone I should know better."
;8. "I've just left the seminary and I have six months to live."
;7. "I thought Grace Kelly was dead!"
;6. "No wonder the skies look gray. All the blue is in your eyes."
;5. "Are you girls together as a couple?"
;4. "Nice outfit. Can I talk you out of it?"
;3. "Ever been with a pagan warrior god?"
;2. "I can lick my eyebrows."
;1. "I got the F, C and K; all I need is you."

Best band stumbled upon accidentally

There was not a microphone or guitar in sight as four sharply-dressed guys set up their gear -- upright bass, a weird drum kit, sax and trombone -- on the tiny stage upstairs at Crow Bar (23 S. Court Ave., Orlando). Deciding to sit and check out a few songs could not have been a wiser choice. Playing to all of eight people that night, Slowly Rubbings proceeded to kick ass with a noir-heavy mix of oddball jazz. Imagine Morphine writing the soundtrack for a crime thriller using horns instead of vocals. And whenever their game plan started sounding a bit narrow, they'd pull out a surprise (like the be-bopping version of the theme from "I Dream of Jeannie"). Forget grunge. Forget acid jazz. Regardless of their dumb moniker, Slowly Rubbings made the coolest sounds of any local musicians this year.

Best job of curtailing Friday and Saturday night traffic on Orange Avenue

Great job on that cruising law, ladies and gentlemen. That really did the trick, didn't it?

Best rechristening of a failed nightclub venture seeking instant popularity

Asian Nights didn't last long -- a couple of weeks at most. The nightclub that aimed in part to draw its customers from the neighboring Asian commercial district centered at Colonial Drive and Mills Avenue just never clicked. Whether it was the name, we'll never know. But in remaking the club as a restaurant, the current owners obviously went for easy familiarity. Just a block away, Wally's tavern (1001 N. Mills Ave.) is a neighborhood mainstay. Wah Lee's (921 N. Mills Ave.) is now the name of the Vietnamese-Chinese restaurant that took Asian Nights' place.

Best "no, that's not a misprint" event

Zuma Beach: your place for goth. Huh? Your eyes do not deceive you. Every Monday night the surfed-up Zuma Beach (46 N. Orange Ave., Orlando) is transformed into Anne Rice's bedroom, complete with black candles, a coffin and plenty of gothic music. They call it "Monday Night Mass." OK, so it's not all goth -- they spin plenty of Visage-era stuff -- but it is the thought that counts. What's next, Hip Hop Wednesdays at Harold & Maude's?

Best phone call when you want to know what's doing Stace Bass has her own agenda.

; ;

She promotes Michael Andrew, Orlando's irresistible king of swing, in his many musical incarnations, and she recently signed on as a publicist at the House of Blues. She's also the sister of Shayni Howen, co-owner of the Sapphire Supper Club, which gives her an interest in plugging that scene as well. All that aside, however, her voice mail -- she promotes it on flyers as the Bassline (262-1000), so we're not breaching any confidences here -- is an enticing come-on to the club scene. She lists names, dates, venues -- and all delivered spontaneously in a luxurious, smoky voice that frequently laughs at itself. And when she ends her long spiel with the invitation to leave your name and number for a call back, "or just to let me know how you've been, what you're doing, where you're going," she means it.

Best scene most likely to replace The Club

The after-hours bottle club Cyberzone (843 Lee Road, Orlando) has some interesting lineups booked, and rumors abound of other clubs that may open without pursuing the troublesome liquor license. But while Orlando's city government may think it has successfully suppressed drug use among clubgoers (we, and they, all know better) by passing the 3 a.m. "curfew" aimed at The Club at Firestone, plenty of other places cater to electronic music that operate within the city's legal hours. It's the push-it-down-and-it-pops-up-elsewhere theory: Thursday night at Barbarella -- Taboom -- now features DJ Jeffee spinning jungle on the patio and Q-Burn spinning trip-hop in the back den. It's an 18-and-up thing, and if the first week after the City Council vote was any indication (hundreds showed up), the kids are hot for it until the 3 a.m. closing. Go and keep the scene alive.

Best place to not throw a "rave"

Anywhere in Polk County, but more specifically the Polk County Fairgrounds. Anybody who attended the Aug. 31 Zen Festival would have to agree. Seems that the people who run the fairgrounds double-booked the facility and ended up with both the Zen Festival and a Polk County Deputy Sheriff Convention on the same night. It was hard to tell who looked scarier: the throngs of colorfully costumed techno junkies of the freaking ARMY of gun-toting, good-old-boy Polk County deputies wearing official issue 10-gallon cowboy hats and really big guns.

Sidebar:Readers Picks:

Best bar before midnight:

Blazing Pianos, in The Mercado, 8445 International Drive, Orlando

Best bar after midnight:

The Club, 578 N. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best bar for after work (tie):

Cactus Club, 1300 N. Mills Ave., Orlando
;Orlando Ale House, three area locations

Best bar when you're out of work:

Wally's, 1001 N. Mills Ave., Orlando

Best bar in which to network:

Sapphire Supper Club, 54 N. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best bar at which to work:

Wills Pub, 1850 N. Mills Ave., Orlando

Best dive bar:

Wally's, 1001 N. Mills Ave., Orlando

Best Irish bar:

Scruffy Murphy's, 9 W. Washington St., Orlando

Best happy-hour spread:

Kate O'Brien's, 42 W. Central Blvd., Orlando

Best jukebox:

Go Lounge, 27 Wall Street Plaza, Orlando

Best sports bar:

Orlando Ale House, three area locations

Best gay/lesbian bar:

Southern Nights, 375 S. Bumby Ave., Orlando

Best place to play pool:

Sportstown Billiards, 2414 E. Robinson St., Orlando

Best place to hear poetry:

Go Lounge, 27 Wall Street Plaza, Orlando

Best dance bar:

The Club, 578 N. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best dance DJ:

DJ Sandy

Best new late-night use for The Club:

Return to tire service store

Best new hot spot:

Icon, 20 E. Central Blvd., Orlando

Best live music venue:

Sapphire Supper Club, 54 N. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best open-mike night:

Go Lounge, 27 Wall Street Plaza, Orlando

Best pick-up bar:

Zuma Beach, 46 N. Orange Ave., Orlando



Best night to go downtown

Within the past five years, downtown has gone from a virtual wasteland to a dense zone of bars, clubs and restaurants. Now, on weekends, a huge population descends upon Orange Avenue, crowding any place that serves up cold beer and good music. Problem: there's too many of ya. And "lots of people" doesn't always equate to "lots of fun." (Just ask China.) Examples: Just waiting to use an ATM machine can take 20 minutes, parking can be like searching for the Holy Grail, and drinking doesn't usually include specials. Solution: Thursday night. There's just enough people out, parking is plentiful, club nights are cool (try Taboom at Barbarella, 70 N. Orange Ave., or Sound Lounge at the Go Lounge, 27 Wall Street Plaza) and drink specials seem to be everywhere. See you -- but not you -- then.

Best Drink

A collection of vices that rivals the backstage area of a Marilyn Manson concert, the Corniche, a creation of Monaco Cocktail Bar (56 E. Pine St., Orlando), incorporates dark rum, brandy, Kahlua, cream and just about anything else slow to inanimate. Smooth on the way down, but takes no prisoners once it gets there. Go through three or four of these suckers, and you'll feel as if you've been mercilessly beaten around the head and shoulders with a very large, very heavy Three Musketeers bar. Monaco is the only place to go for the real deal, but in a pinch, an inferior but suitable substitute may be procured by striding into Tanqueray's (100 S. Orange Ave., Orlando) and requesting "whatever's laying around."

Best place to get a perfect pint of Guinness Stout

Pouring a pint of Guinness Stout is almost a sacred thing, almost a science. First, this Irish beer has to be at the right temperature -- not too chilled, and not at room temperature. Second, an Imperial pint glass must be used. Third, when poured from the tap, the glass is half-filled, then allowed to settle. Finally, the glass is filled to the top, allowing the famous creamy head to surface. The Bull & Bush (2408 E. Robinson St., Orlando), a British pub, does this better then anyone in town. We're not sure if that's considered sacrilege -- a British pub serving an Irish beer? -- but we'll ponder it the next time the Bull & Bush pours us a delicious pint.

Best rejected names in the "Rename Tsunami" contest

5. SoSueMe
;4. Death Valley Beach Club
;3. Hell 'N Gone
;2. Tiramisu
;1. Tsanford and Tsun

Most pretentious club (tie)

Two words: dress code. If you thought uniforms were only for Catholic school kids and IBM employees, guess again. The Blue Room (12 W. Pine St., Orlando) and Icon (20 E. Central Blvd., Orlando) seem to think pants and collars equals class. Get real. It doesn't matter how it's done in the "big city" -- we don't need to imitate their elitist habits. And if frat boys in dockers and Polo shirts equals modern sophistication, we don't want any part of it. Never mind the fact that it gets real hot here. We're in the subtropics, remember?

Best pick-up line

10. "Do you believe in love at first sight, or should I walk by again?"
;9. "You look like someone I should know better."
;8. "I've just left the seminary and I have six months to live."
;7. "I thought Grace Kelly was dead!"
;6. "No wonder the skies look gray. All the blue is in your eyes."
;5. "Are you girls together as a couple?"
;4. "Nice outfit. Can I talk you out of it?"
;3. "Ever been with a pagan warrior god?"
;2. "I can lick my eyebrows."
;1. "I got the F, C and K; all I need is you."

Best band stumbled upon accidentally

There was not a microphone or guitar in sight as four sharply-dressed guys set up their gear -- upright bass, a weird drum kit, sax and trombone -- on the tiny stage upstairs at Crow Bar (23 S. Court Ave., Orlando). Deciding to sit and check out a few songs could not have been a wiser choice. Playing to all of eight people that night, Slowly Rubbings proceeded to kick ass with a noir-heavy mix of oddball jazz. Imagine Morphine writing the soundtrack for a crime thriller using horns instead of vocals. And whenever their game plan started sounding a bit narrow, they'd pull out a surprise (like the be-bopping version of the theme from "I Dream of Jeannie"). Forget grunge. Forget acid jazz. Regardless of their dumb moniker, Slowly Rubbings made the coolest sounds of any local musicians this year.

Best job of curtailing Friday and Saturday night traffic on Orange Avenue

Great job on that cruising law, ladies and gentlemen. That really did the trick, didn't it?

Best rechristening of a failed nightclub venture seeking instant popularity

Asian Nights didn't last long -- a couple of weeks at most. The nightclub that aimed in part to draw its customers from the neighboring Asian commercial district centered at Colonial Drive and Mills Avenue just never clicked. Whether it was the name, we'll never know. But in remaking the club as a restaurant, the current owners obviously went for easy familiarity. Just a block away, Wally's tavern (1001 N. Mills Ave.) is a neighborhood mainstay. Wah Lee's (921 N. Mills Ave.) is now the name of the Vietnamese-Chinese restaurant that took Asian Nights' place.

Best "no, that's not a misprint" event

Zuma Beach: your place for goth. Huh? Your eyes do not deceive you. Every Monday night the surfed-up Zuma Beach (46 N. Orange Ave., Orlando) is transformed into Anne Rice's bedroom, complete with black candles, a coffin and plenty of gothic music. They call it "Monday Night Mass." OK, so it's not all goth -- they spin plenty of Visage-era stuff -- but it is the thought that counts. What's next, Hip Hop Wednesdays at Harold & Maude's?

Best phone call when you want to know what's doing Stace Bass has her own agenda.

; ;

She promotes Michael Andrew, Orlando's irresistible king of swing, in his many musical incarnations, and she recently signed on as a publicist at the House of Blues. She's also the sister of Shayni Howen, co-owner of the Sapphire Supper Club, which gives her an interest in plugging that scene as well. All that aside, however, her voice mail -- she promotes it on flyers as the Bassline (262-1000), so we're not breaching any confidences here -- is an enticing come-on to the club scene. She lists names, dates, venues -- and all delivered spontaneously in a luxurious, smoky voice that frequently laughs at itself. And when she ends her long spiel with the invitation to leave your name and number for a call back, "or just to let me know how you've been, what you're doing, where you're going," she means it.

Best scene most likely to replace The Club

The after-hours bottle club Cyberzone (843 Lee Road, Orlando) has some interesting lineups booked, and rumors abound of other clubs that may open without pursuing the troublesome liquor license. But while Orlando's city government may think it has successfully suppressed drug use among clubgoers (we, and they, all know better) by passing the 3 a.m. "curfew" aimed at The Club at Firestone, plenty of other places cater to electronic music that operate within the city's legal hours. It's the push-it-down-and-it-pops-up-elsewhere theory: Thursday night at Barbarella -- Taboom -- now features DJ Jeffee spinning jungle on the patio and Q-Burn spinning trip-hop in the back den. It's an 18-and-up thing, and if the first week after the City Council vote was any indication (hundreds showed up), the kids are hot for it until the 3 a.m. closing. Go and keep the scene alive.

Best place to not throw a "rave"

Anywhere in Polk County, but more specifically the Polk County Fairgrounds. Anybody who attended the Aug. 31 Zen Festival would have to agree. Seems that the people who run the fairgrounds double-booked the facility and ended up with both the Zen Festival and a Polk County Deputy Sheriff Convention on the same night. It was hard to tell who looked scarier: the throngs of colorfully costumed techno junkies of the freaking ARMY of gun-toting, good-old-boy Polk County deputies wearing official issue 10-gallon cowboy hats and really big guns.

Sidebar:Readers Picks:

Best bar before midnight:

Blazing Pianos, in The Mercado, 8445 International Drive, Orlando

Best bar after midnight:

The Club, 578 N. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best bar for after work (tie):

Cactus Club, 1300 N. Mills Ave., Orlando
;Orlando Ale House, three area locations

Best bar when you're out of work:

Wally's, 1001 N. Mills Ave., Orlando

Best bar in which to network:

Sapphire Supper Club, 54 N. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best bar at which to work:

Wills Pub, 1850 N. Mills Ave., Orlando

Best dive bar:

Wally's, 1001 N. Mills Ave., Orlando

Best Irish bar:

Scruffy Murphy's, 9 W. Washington St., Orlando

Best happy-hour spread:

Kate O'Brien's, 42 W. Central Blvd., Orlando

Best jukebox:

Go Lounge, 27 Wall Street Plaza, Orlando

Best sports bar:

Orlando Ale House, three area locations

Best gay/lesbian bar:

Southern Nights, 375 S. Bumby Ave., Orlando

Best place to play pool:

Sportstown Billiards, 2414 E. Robinson St., Orlando

Best place to hear poetry:

Go Lounge, 27 Wall Street Plaza, Orlando

Best dance bar:

The Club, 578 N. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best dance DJ:

DJ Sandy

Best new late-night use for The Club:

Return to tire service store

Best new hot spot:

Icon, 20 E. Central Blvd., Orlando

Best live music venue:

Sapphire Supper Club, 54 N. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best open-mike night:

Go Lounge, 27 Wall Street Plaza, Orlando

Best pick-up bar:

Zuma Beach, 46 N. Orange Ave., Orlando



Best-dressed sidewalk mannequins

Volume always increases visibility, and outside Venus & Mars (1115 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando), the number of smartly attired display figures sometimes constitutes a virtual crowd. The temptation is to stop and pose with them -- although in your drab outerwear, you'd be a dead ringer for a stiff next to these colorful characters.

Best place to shop when you want to be alone

Greta Garbo would have loved the Seminole Towne Center. After bombarding Central Florida residents with their "shoppa new mall, mall" jingle two years ago, the shopping center these days can sometimes seem like a veritable tomb. During weekdays you can practically roll a bowling ball down the "mall, mall" without hitting anyone, save for lonely shopkeepers.

Best place to realize your stuff stinks

Robin Leach, Martha Stewart and the freaking Royal Family combined couldn't make you feel you are living below poverty level any more than a brief stroll down Park Avenue. There is no doubt about the fact that it's the Best Place to Walk (because it's one of the only areas in a 20-mile radius that is not flanked by an ugly, multilane, high-speed state road, a walk on which it only feels like you are being nearly missed by cannon balls). The thing is, on Park Avenue you end up walking past stores such as Jacobsen's, where you can buy a pair of nondescript black pumps for $220; Timothy's Gallery, a cross between a very hip museum and a store, where you can spend $95 on a perfume bottle without the perfume in it; or the Real Estate Center of Winter Park, where you can pick up a nice little waterfront house in town for a mere $529,000. All this can leave you feeling a bit like a financial midget. Park Avenue is, indeed, an example of capitalism gone right. And with all that loot, merchants are able to pay attention to the one thing that most other places in town seem unable to: aesthetics.

Best place to make your stuff smell better

Scented candles aren't exactly a novelty; you can get that at Winn-Dixie, fercrissakes. But not like the kind you can get at the Park Avenue Gallery (136 Park Ave. South, Winter Park). Yankee Candles are the Jelly Bellies of the candle world, not only because of the unusual selection of scents but also because you have to stand there in disbelief at how deliciously accurate and strong the scent is. The Hazel Nut Coffee candle smells like you just walked into a Barnie's. The Lemon Chiffon doesn't just smell like lemon; it smells like lemon cake. Exactly like lemon cake. The Morning Mist has that clean, clear, expensive laundry detergent smell, and the Festival of Lights smells like spice cake. Best of all, the Halloween candle comes in shimmering black and smells of the only odorific said to be an aphrodisiac: black licorice. A sweet smell can be among the best accessories a room can get, and though you wouldn't think you could get anything on Park Avenue for under a buck, the Yankee Candles start at 89 cents (and go up to $18.50 for the big ones in glass jars). A little of these power-packed things go a long way, and the scent stays in the air for quite awhile, so if eau de bargain is your scent of necessity but you like a little elegance as well, burn your money on Yankee Candles. We are almost certain they smell better than your house does right now.

Best place for a drag queen photo shoot

Forget all that transcendental meditation crap; if you want to experience the enlightenment that only your inner child can provide, pay a visit to the new F.A.O. Schwarz at Pointe Orlando (9101 International Drive, Orlando). Although one quick look at the price tags may jolt you back to adulthood, don't fret: After being greeted by real-life versions of a nutcracker and Raggedy Ann, you still can frolic through fields of stuffed animals; command a life-sized Darth Vader to speak; hit the race track with remote-controlled cars; take a tour of a fully furnished, life-size dollhouse; and satisfy your sweet tooth at the F.A.O. Schweetz shop. But the most transporting spot may be the entire department that pays homage to the queen of plastic dolls, Barbie, complete with a chandelier comprised entirely of pink satin pumps. It's enough to revive any girl's favorite memories of dress-up -- or, for that matter, provide a perfect backdrop for the boys who still do.

Best window display if you look really close

Rainbow City (934 N. Mills Ave., Orlando) just continues to expand its display of cards, collectibles, T-shirts and trinkets marketed to gays and lesbians, as well as those who think there's nothing wrong with that. (Who knew homosexuals liked to shop?) But all that window display space is bound to challenge shopkeepers, who, in one tiny corner of one great big window, have welcomed their new neighbors to the north, Absolute Leather, with a little leather display of their own. It's "Billy," the anatomically correct (and, at $50, rather overpriced) "gay" doll, whipping a few of his friends into shape. Bet you won't see that at Toys "R" Us -- at least not until the toy gets home, where we discover that it's been a bad, bad toy and needs to be punished. Unless, of course, it likes that sort of thing.

Best place to "come on down"

With an atmosphere that combines elements of "The Price is Right" and a massive footwear outlet, Shoe Carnival has been attracting shoppers to its store at the International Value Center near International Drive since February 1996. As you roam the aisles of towering displays of brand-name sneakers, shoes and purses, you suddenly hear a Shoe Carnival employee announce over the intercom that it is time to "come on down" to the center of the store and spin the discount wheel. With only minutes to spare, you race to the wheel, often donning your newly chosen pair of footwear, and anxiously await your turn at getting an additional $1-$5 off your purchase. And if you just happen to be in the store when there are plenty of shoppers or visiting tour groups, you can witness one lucky shopper enter the big money machine and attempt to seize discount coupons as they are furiously blown about the enclosed tank by special air vents. Bob Barker's preaching got you down? Don't worry -- here, no one reminds you to spay or neuter your pets.

Most un-Disneylike souvenir to be handed while leaving a Disney theme park

Gay Day -- the one that helped get the Baptists all riled up -- has never aspired to be more than a day of family fun at the theme parks. But this year some private promoters got into the act and staged their own, concurrent events. Among the biggest was "One Mighty Party," a street dance that capped Gay Day, and for which the promoter had rented out Disney-M.G.M. Studios. More than 2,000 people bought tickets. But renting a theme park still is a pretty expensive thing to do, which is why the promoter enlisted co-sponsors, one of which was a company that markets a product called "Wet." And certainly you can't fault the co-sponsor for sensing a marketing opportunity. Thus it was that partygoers, on their way out of the park -- many carrying Disney merchandise -- also were given a smile and a plastic tote bag that contained their very own bottle of "personal lubricant."

Best bug breeder

OK, so butterflies shouldn't be put into the same family as roaches. But really, they are bugs, just cute, colorful ones so lovable you want to give 'em names and squeeze 'em like any other pets. No wonder there's always a crowd around Lorenzo Zayas, an entomologist who emigrated from Cuba 16 years ago, and who has now brought more critters out of their cocoons than all the psychologists in town put together. Saturdays at the Winter Park Farmer's Market is where you'll find the kind and gentle breeder, surrounded by his customized cocoon cages, fashioned from plastic cups. He'll patiently explain the differences between monarchs and moths and make sure you're stocked with chow to suit your caterpillar. When the little buddy hatches, there's no one better with whom to share the genuine thrill.

Sidebar: Readers Pick:

Best Tattoo/Piercing Parlor:

Unity, 75 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando

Best Independent Video Store:

College Park Video, 3001 Edgewater Drive, Orlando

Best Shoe Store:

Left Right Left, 817 E. Washington St., Orlando

Best Jewelry Store:

Kathmandu, 120 E. Morse Blvd., Winter Park

Best Wine Selection:

Dexter's, 200 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, and 808 E. Washington St., Orlando

Best Microbrew Selection:

Go Lounge, 27 Wall Street Plaza, Orlando

Best New Age Store:

Spiral Circle, 750 N. Thornton Ave., Orlando

Best Ethnic Market:

Medina's, 2405 E. Washington St., Orlando

Best Home Furnishings Store:

New Metropolis, 1901 N. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best Antiques Store:

Bangarang, 2309 N. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best Massage Therapist:

Eric Rollings

Eric Rollings

Best Place to Work Out:

Downtown YMCA

Downtown YMCA

Best Flea Market:

Flea World, North Hwy. 17-92, Sanford

Best Farmer's Market:

Winter Park Farmer's Market, Saturdays at New England and Pennsylvania avenues

Best Florist:

Best Florist:

House of Flowers, 1318 N. Mills Ave.

Best Vintage Clothing:

Galaxie, 910 N. Mills Ave.

Best Music Selection (Independent):

Park Avenue CDs, 528 S. Park Ave., Winter Park

Best Music Selection (Chain):

Best Buy, three area locations

Best Place to Buy Used CDs:

Park Avenue CDs, 528 S. Park Ave.

Best Place to Buy Vinyl:

Rock & Roll Heaven, 1814 N. Orange Ave

.

Best Retail Bookstore:

Barnes & Noble

Best Used Bookstore:

Chapters Bookshop, 717 W. Smith St., Orlando



Best untried theme for a restaurant

10. Catch & Eat Fish
;9. Bring Your Own Buffet
;8. Bikini Bistro
;7. Dead Celebs
;6. TV Dinner (with personal TV)
;5. Goth
;4. Laundry Bar
;3. Good Food Cheap
;2. Food Fights "R" Us
;1. No shirt, no shoes -- yes! -- service

Best restaurant reading room

Bathrooms in restaurants and bars certainly have their uses, not only for the obvious purpose, but for escaping unwanted company or conversations, or to exit to thereby assuring that your food or drinks will show up at the table. Some bathrooms are heinous and unfit for use as public facilities, some are sumptuous, elegant and even have attendants in case you forget how to do anything in there, but none of them seem designed to get you to stay. Except for the one at Chapter's Bookshop and Cafe (717 W. Smith St., Orlando). Not only is the ladies' room at Chapter's unusually big and homey, it has a bench in it, like you might have invited a visitor in there with you and need a place for them to sit down, too. Not only that, it has a book shelf. With books on it -- World Book Year Books going back as far as 1957 that seem to invite you to hang out and discover everything that happened in history, politics, and entertainment up to and including the present time while you're sitting around waiting for, well, whatever you're waiting for. You don't want to hide in there for too long, though, because the coffee and the food are excellent and the selection of old books is enormous. But it certainly is worth noting that the full bookcase in Chapter's bathroom is the most interesting invitation we've ever;seen to set a spell on the toilet.

Worst place to go when you have to "go"

On Thursday nights, Dexter's Wine & Cheese in Winter Park (200 W. Fairbanks Ave.) is packed, and there is only one single-stall restroom for the ladies. In fact, the sign on the door should just say, "Lady." Thursdays are when the social set head out for networking and noshing on veggie peanut pasta and tortilla pies that are stacked like flying saucers. They also go for the wine tastings and jazz combos. Be sure to answer nature's call before dropping by. And after you get there, don't drink more than you can hold. Otherwise you'll do most of your;shmoozing in the back, while waiting in line for bladder relief. But hey, the well-dressed types in the queue just may tip you off to the latest additions to the clearance rack at Tuni's. And the bar's rotating art collection is a nice distraction while you wait.

Worst place to go when you want to "go" in private

For shy guys, it's The Mill Bakery, Eatery & Brewery in Winter Park (330 W. Fairbanks Ave.). Anyone who dines near the south side of the bar, by the stage, will notice that they are placed in a curious juxtaposition to the men's room. Every time the door swi-i-i-ngs open, you get a pretty decent glimpse of the urinals and whoever is using them. It alternates between offensive and amusing, depending on how much honey wheat beer you've imbibed -- and there's probably an opportunity for a bar game in there, somewhere.

Best upscale French in an up-and-coming neighborhood

Just barely edged out of the top spot as Best New Restaurant, Chez Vincent (533 W. New England Ave., Winter Park) sits smack in the middle of a gentrification project, just west of Park Avenue. It's the most sophisticated dining arrival in this enclave of casual neighbors. Small and intimate with a smart decor, it's a good bet for quiet midday meals or elegant dinners after hours. The location hasn't yet caught up with the upper crust ambience, but it probably will eventually.

Best combination of liquor and chocolate

The Jack Daniels chocolate layer cakeat Sapphire Supper Club (54 N. Orange Ave., Orlando) is just the best damned chocolate cake we've had in years: Warm, moist layers of cake are permeated with hints of whiskey and plenty of creamy icing. And it's served in such a heaping helping that they ought to card anyone who orders it.

Best inspiration for a scene out of a Quentin Tarantino movie

Carnevale D'Amalfi Drive-Thru Italian Restaurant in Union Park (9728 E. Colonial Drive) is the restaurant equivalent of an Elvis moment. It looks like a big Italian merry-go-round. Prancing carousel horses ring the building. Balloons twirl in the breeze by a sign out front; flags flutter on top of the roof. Go when you're really hungry, and maybe a little bit dazed, after a long day at work. Pull up through the drive-through lane, lined up with prancing carousel horses. Order a big, fat pan of lasagna. And while you wait, listen to the piped-in Italian pop and Rat Pack hits. When you hear Dean Martin wail, "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie ..." you'll know what we mean. If you have an overactive imagination, you can almost imagine a bloated, slightly sinister John Travolta leaning through the window to hand you your order -- except that this is a totally harmless mom-and-pop joint that also happens to have some of the most savory, homestyle Italian cooking in town, and it's ready to go within minutes.

Best-kept secret for free gourmet food

Culture vultures are tuned in to this phenomenon, but the general public is largely unaware that whenever there is an exhibition opening at certain local museums and galleries, there usually is an impressive spread of food. Maitland Art Center has a consistent cornucopia of appetizers and desserts; Orlando Museum of Art has thrown some pretty impressive catered affairs; and the fall and spring open houses at McRae on the Lake offer a bonanza of gourmet fare. We've sampled prawns, filet mignon, clams casino and caviar -- all in the convenient form of finger food -- at these receptions, and have rarely seen an admission charge. There usually is a bar, with wine and beer on a donation basis. We don't like to admit it, but this is usually about 50 percent of our motivation for attending. The other reason is to support the arts -- in spirit, if not always with our wallets.

Best place to go solo

"Lagniappe" is French for "a little something extra," and Lagniappe Cafe (691 S.R. 436, Altamonte Springs) doesn't just give lip service to solitary diners; they give them free desserts or cocktails. Don't miss the Bananas Foster bread pudding, pretty much a dressed-up French toast dish with brown sugar rum sauce. Also good: the New Orleans-style beignets, traditional pastries deep-fried, dusted with confectioner's sugar and served hot.

Nastiest dining trend

Upscale restaurants, such as the exquisite Le Provence, that offer cigar menus.

Best place for a power lunch

Across town and at large, it hasn't yet gained familiarity despite a classy ambience, top-drawer menu and professional staff. But the downtown crowd seems to have tapped into Sergio's (355 N. Orange Ave., Orlando) as a backdrop for business dealing and special celebrations; it's even close to the center of power, located in the shadow of the new courthouse. From the moment you enter the plush lounge that leads to the main dining area, you'll know that you're in for an extra-special experience. Dinners are culinary and visual treats. Try the tagliolini di spinaci al gorgonzola e pinoli (or just try pronouncing it): spinach pasta, tossed with a creamy Gorgonzola sauce and topped with pine nuts and marinated tomatoes.

Best salsa bar

Fresh ingredients, ample portions, simple items and value-added prices. What more could you ask for? A hot sauce bar! Well, Tijuana Flats Burrito Co. (three area locations) already is a mile ahead of you. In addition to selling literally hundreds of different sauces over the counter and through a mail-order catalog, the restaurant/store has a permanent bar of 12 rotating sauces available to add plenty of fire to their tasty burritos, tacos and quesadillas. Most make Tabasco taste like ketchup, so order a cold beer to doyuse the flames. A must-stop for connoisseurs of Tex-Mex, hot sauces and value.

Best place for patio dining overlooking a construction site

Patio dining in Orlando is pretty pathetic. While in most cities the urban bistro concept is situated in bustling shopping plazas with plenty of pedestrians to view, most of Orlando's sidewalk cafes lack even the requisite sidewalk. Instead, diners are treated to strip mall franchises that tack on patio dining as an afterthought. Two Colonial Plaza spots come to mind: Cooker Bar & Grill, with its annoying view of Colonial Drive, and Barnie's, with its benign exposure to nothing more enticing than the parking lot. On the other hand, Chez Jose and Moo's Brothers (700 E. Washington St., Orlando), the newest and best place for patio dining, is currently plagued by the woes of construction at Summerlin Avenue and Washington Street. But never fear. With its light fare, great desserts, a wonderfully mixed clientele and an appealing atmosphere, biting down on a burritto outside on its covered deck couldn't be better.

Best place for an affordable late-night snack

Formerly the Yab Yum coffeehouse, Harold & Maude's Espresso Bar (25 Wall Street Plaza, Orlando) was converted with an emphasis on an over-21 crowd, coffee liqueur drinks and desserts. But while the redecorated atmosphere seems to scream upward mobility, several items on the menu can be yours for mere pocket change. The humus and chips ($2.50) is a tasty snack for two or a hardy meal for one. Or how about a pitcher full of tater-tots ($3) served with a secret sauce? And coffee (with free refills) is only a buck. For the best sandwich in town, The Torpedo ($3.50) combines mouth-watering Brie cheese, tomato, onions and apple butter, all served up on a toasted baguette bun. Like a dyed-in-the-wool Brit playing Scarlett O'Hara, it shouldn't work, but it does. And deliciously so. If only nations could learn to get along as harmoniously as the ingredients of this tasty treat. Food is served until 2:30 a.m., although food here is the only real value; their drink prices will have you reaching for your gold card.

Best place to view Orlando's underbelly while dining

Late-night dining, particularly on the weekends, is scarce downtown. And unless you're content with the mundane Bennigan's or T.G.I. Friday's, the pickings are slim elsewhere as well. That was until the opening of Cuoco Pazzo (1 S. Orange Ave., Orlando) right in the heart of the downtown club scene. Open until 4 a.m. on weekends, Cuoco Pazzo not only serves up great Italian food and pizza but also, if you're lucky enough to nab a window seat, plenty of entertainment via the sidewalk as well. The mix of people pounding the pavement until the wee hours of the morning couldn't be any more diverse. From couples who look like they got lost on their way to South Beach, to redneck goat ropers leaving the rodeo at Eight Seconds, to slacker street punks too broke or indifferent to pay the cover charge at The Club, the endless parade is one fashion faux pas after another, and worth witnessing from a safe distance behind glass.

Best hummus

There's no denying the craving for the miracle concoction called Red Pepper Hummus that's whipped up by the creative and healthful cooks at Chamberlin's Natural Food Market in Winter Park (one of five area locations). Not hot, but richly flavored by red bell peppers that give a blushing hue to the blend of mashed chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and tahini, this twist on the Mideastern staple is creamy and satisfying. When they make a fresh batch, the relatively pricey cartons disappear from the deli at an alarming rate. Once you try it, there's no going back.

Best excuse for skipping church

At $23.99 per adult, it's slightly pricy for the quality of a self-serve buffet that is largely sampled and consumed in conditions too dark too see just what, exactly, you've heaped onto your plate ("I think it's grits -- you eat it first"). And the service on its opening weekend suffered from a sellout crowd -- not something that any new restaurant is well-prepared to handle with an untested staff. When you buy a ticket for a 10:45 a.m. brunch, you rightly expect that you won't still be standing outside in line at 11:10 a.m. But once the technicians finally located the proper music, and profuse apologies smoothed over most of the glitches, the House of Blues' Sunday Gospel Brunch surrendered itself to song and the Savior and -- hallelujah! -- the energy did flow forth. A transplanted fixture from founder Isaac Tigrett's other Houses of Blues, the Sunday brunch celebrates the religious musical roots of a culture -- the rural, African-American South -- that Tigrett, a native of Jackson, Tenn., also champions through the folk art that covers every inch of his club's walls and the blues that he sandwiches between more marketable mainstream pop, rock and other acts. And in time the club just may expand its brunch to seven days. But while Tigrett insists that he did not sell his soul to become an anchor at the new Downtown Disney West End, this much is clear: Disney finally has found a way to make money off of Jesus.

Sidebar: Readers Picks:

Best Bagels:

Einstein Bros., 10 area locations

Best Breakfast:

First Watch, four area locations

Best Bookstore Cafe:

; ;

Barnes & Noble, 4324 E. Colonial Drive and 8358 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando

Best Burger:

Checkers Drive-Thru, 24 area locations

Best Chinese:

4-5-6, 657 N. Primrose Drive, Orlando

Best Coffeehouse:

Harold & Maude's Espresso Bar, 25 Wall Street Plaza, Orlando

Best Cuban:

Black Bean Deli, 325 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park

Best Deli:

TooJay's, 2400 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando, and 515 E. Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs

Best Diner:

Angel's, three area locations

Best Dessert:

Pete's Bubble Room, 1351 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland

Best French:

Le Coq Au Vin, 4800 S. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best German:

Bauern-Stube, 5607 S. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best Greek:

Athena, 501 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park

Best Indian:

The Clay Oven, 1275 S. Hwy. 17-92, Longwood

Best Italian:

Sorrento's, 651 N. Primrose Drive, Orlando

Best Japanese:;

Ichiban, 19 S. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best Mexican:

PR's, 499 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park,and 4768 S. Kirkman Road, Orlando

Best Middle Eastern:

Tony's Deli, 1323 N. Mills Ave., Orlando

Best Pizza:

New York Pizzeria Delicatessen,373 N. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best Seafood:

Straub's, 5101 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando, and 512 E. Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs

Best Steak:

Outback, seven area locations

Best Sushi:

Ichiban, 19 S. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best Thai:

Thai House, 2101 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando

Best Vegetarian:

Chamberlin's, five area locations

Best Vietnamese:

Little Saigon, 1106 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando

Best Weekend Brunch:

Lili Marlene's at Church Street Station,129 W. Church St., Orlando

Best Outdoor Dining:

Julie's Waterfront Cafe, 4201 S. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best Intimate Dining:

Manuel's on the 28th,390 N. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best New Restaurant:

Bahama Breeze, 499 E. Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs, and 8849 International Drive, Orlando

Best First Date Restaurant:

Pebbles, four area locations

Best Restaurant When Someone Else is Paying:

Manuel's on the 28th, 390 N. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best place to cure 3 a.m. munchies:

Denny's, 31area locations

Sidebar: Best alternative dining when all you were expecting was the catch-of-the-day (or every day, for that matter)

Stereotyped as having only herring to eat, which is not only a silly-sounding fish but a tiny one, Norwegian cuisine is thought of as cold, meager and monotone. If you had to chose an ethnic cuisine, you would opt for Inuit or Martian before Norwegian (because although you may not know what you're getting, at least you'd know it wouldn't be bait).

That is where, as has happened so many times before, you would be wrong, and it's the great trick of Restaurant Akershus, the Norwegian venue at Disney's Epcot Center.

No one really knows what to expect of Norway. They could hand you a smelt and a water roll and for all you know that would be authentic.

But apparently they're greater epicures than many of us imagined, which is why this restaurant experience totally threw us off guard. The restaurant is gorgeous and warmly radiant like the castle feast scenes in Arthurian movies, an intimacy aided by imagining how cozy this place would be if it really were frigid outside. The drinks help out a lot here, too. If everything in Norway is as exponentially large as their beers, I will look into getting us passports if you check prices on the air fare. Also, the shots we were encouraged to drink -- some sort of minty flavored shnapps whose name we couldn't pronounce even before drinking -- may have contributed to the room's inviting glow.

The staff that coaxes you into these drinks, by the way, is stunning, and could coax a vegetarian into eating a herd of cows. Which brings us to food. Yes, there is herring. There are lots of things on the cold buffet, cheese you've never even heard of before, marvelous breads, meats, vegetable salads and that herring (plus other fish) done in enough tangy, salty, marinated-y ways to make your mouth water. There are hot dishes, too, venison among them as we recall, all very good, but for the sheer novelty and delectbility, the cold stuff is what we preferred at Restaurant Akershus.

See, when you're a kid, tattoos and nose piercings are, like, real alternative. When you get old, real alternative is eating Norweigian. In fact, it's so obscure there's only one place to try it and we suggest, for a real change, that you do.

Liz Langley



You know you're an Orlandoan when ...
;... you leave and you miss it.
;... you say, "What humidity?"
;... you think 60 degrees is freezing.
;... you remember when there were huge live oaks downtown.
;... you are in traffic for two hours every day.
;... you stop on I-4 to gawk at disabled vehicles.
;... you don't take I-4.
;... you think the fast lane is on the right.
;... you wonder where the GreeneWay goes.
;... you see that every other car around you is a rental, and it's no big deal.
;... you're afraid to jaywalk downtown.
;... you never watch local TV news.
;... you get stuck behind a horse and carriage on Church Street.
;... you avoid Church Street altogether.
;... you don't go to I-Drive.
;... you don't have to swat mosquitoes because they die in your sunscreen.
;... a palmetto bug flies into your hair.
;... you learn to live with the lovebugs.
;... you notice all four seasons.
;... you carry a sweater in August.
;... you can tell the month of the year by what time of day it rains.
;... you have season passes to Disney World.
;... you don't go to Disney World.
;... you can't believe people actually go to Disney World for vacation.
;... you feel a cultural deficit.
;... you stick up for the Asparagus.
;... you're offended by snide comments about Orlando in movies.
;... you give directions.
;... you think Orlando is a big city.
;... you want to be in the crowd at Lake Eola on July Fourth.
;... you've been to Wally's
;... every bartender knows your name.
;... every mosquito knows your name.
;... you retire in North Carolina.
;... you'd be willing to risk life and limb just to slap the shit out of Shaq.

Best categories we overlooked

Best costume party: Orlando Frontrunner's Halloween party.
;Best charity: Centaur
;Best dinner show: King Henry's Feast
;Best drag queen: Miss Sammy
;Best Elvis impersonator: Walt Steffens
;Best urban boutique: Venus & Mars
;Best local website: www.unitystore.com
;Best arcade: Rocky's Replay
;Best comedy house: SAK Theatre
;Biggest loss: Starlite Drive-In
;Best nude beach: Playalinda
;Best bartender: Shecky, Fat Tuesday
;Best costume shop: Costumes Unlimited
;Best place to play darts: Crickets
;Best West Indian dance ghall: Gossips
;Best local magazine: Bitch Rag
;Best place to get into an accident: Making a U-turn on Northlake Boulevard

Best ballot stuffing

It's probably our own fault. Street performer Rade Zone arrived from California for a job at Disney, lost it, took his act to the street downtown where he encountered Orlando's rigid regulations governing public sidewalks, and we got a story out of it. Next thing you know, we were throwing a party and booking Rade Zone to perform. Now, we sorta understand why he lost the job at Disney. But that doesn't negate our interest in his cause -- nor, apparently, his interest in us. Rade Zone stuffed the ballot on his own behalf, and he did so in several categories. Not that he didn't try to mask it. Each ballot was carefully written out and affixed with a different name -- bogus, we assume. The tipoff was his voting in the category of Best Pick-up Line: "You ever seen Rade Zone perform?" "Don't leave until you've seen Rade Zone." "I know Rade Zone." "I can't believe we got a RadeZone-autographed T-shirt!" Rade, if you're reading, we caught you. But congratulations on getting your name in the Orlando Weekly. Again. (Are we easy, or what?)