Best Of 2006


Get a second job!

Want to buy a non-slummy condo in Orlando? Fat chance, kid. Housing prices continue to soar across Central Florida, while you're stuck in a rental. You say you're ambitious? And desperately want a piece of this booming economy? You've got a problem. You can't qualify to buy anywhere you'd want to live. Even though record numbers of apartments in the city have gone condo, they're all too expensive for you! You could bitch about it OR just wait for Mayor Buddy Dyer's promised "workforce housing," designed to bring young professionals downtown, right where he wants them — a reality coming later rather than sooner. Or you could take matters into your own hands. We hear Domino's is hiring.

Year-round gaudy lawn display

Envy is what you'll feel when you lay your eyes upon the shrine at 2403 Vine St., at the corner of Bumby Avenue. Look at the plastic animal figurines! Waterfalls! Windmills! It's insane! There's just got to be a code violation somewhere among the giant water buffalo and 10-point buck standing guard. Why wait till the red-and-green season to turn the exterior of your domicile into neighbor-loving art that flashes in the dark?

Excuses, excuses

Screw up at work and desperate to escape the blame so you don't get canned? Consult Ernest Page! Only last year, the now-suspended city commissioner got his hand stuck in the proverbial cookie jar when he threatened — on tape, no less — to yank a city contract from a developer unless the nonprofit he owns got a cut of the money. And it wasn't even Ernie's first run-in with the fuzz! In the 1980s, when he was a Council newbie, he got busted fencing stolen property and did a few months in the slammer. Twenty years ago, while he was conducting his own stolen-property investigation, he ended up being frog-marched. He was only doing the people's business, he cried out as explanation. The current whopper: He was talking to that developer as a private citizen, not as a commissioner. OK, so maybe on the recording he introduced himself as "Mayor Page." But that was during that confusing six weeks when he served as mayor after Buddy's arrest. He didn't say he was a commissioner. And private citizens can't kill deals, silly. What a master! What moxie! When you need to weasel out, walk like Ernie.

God's man in City Hall

When the Almighty called Sam Ings to run for mayor nearly three years ago, he listened, even if it didn't quite work out for the former cop and evangelical minister. But everything happens for a reason. When Buddy Dyer was temporarily suspended in March 2005 and things were moving toward another mayoral election, Ings decided to again to run. Turned out, there was no other election, so Ings' cheeks never stung with the butt-whipping he had in store. Sigh. But there was nothing stopping him from avenging his lost shots when he teamed up with Doug Guetzloe to get Dyer recalled in October 2005 … d'oh! That didn't work out either. But Jesus taught us never to lose faith. So when Ernest Page was indicted and his city commission seat opened up, Ings ran. And won! The Lord worketh in strange ways.


Best local big shot

1st — Jim Philips

The Philips Phile, WTKS 104.1-FM


2nd — John Ludwig

Partner and founder of PUSH


3rd — Russ Rollins

Monsters in the Morning,

WTKS 104.1-FM, XM Radio


Best local politician

1st — Buddy Dyer Orlando Mayor


2nd — Patty Sheehan

Commissioner, Orlando City Council

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3rd — Richard T. Crotty

Orange County Mayor

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Best local TV newsperson

1st — Wendy Chioji

WESH Channel 2 News


2nd — Bob Opsahl

WFTV Channel 9 Eyewitness News


3rd — Tom Terry

WFTV Channel 9, chief meteorologist


Best local radio personality

1st — Jim Philips

The Philips Phile, WTKS 104.1-FM


2nd — Doc Holliday, Johnny Magic and Grace

The Doc & Johnny Morning Show, WXXL 106.7-FM


3rd — Shannon Burke

The Shannon Burke Show, WTKS 104.1-FM


Best local writer

1st — Steve Schneider

A&C editor, columnist (“Dog Playing Poker”), writer; Orlando Weekly


2nd — Billy Manes

Columnist (“Blister”), writer; Orlando Weekly


3rd — Mike Thomas

Columnist, writer; Orlando Sentinel


Best “whatever”

1st — Dandelion Communitea and Cafe

618 N. Thornton Ave., Orlando; 407-362-1864


Standing for … something!

The Orlando Sentinel is where opinions are made, where the town's controversies are dissected and analyzed, and it's where to learn what you should think! Just turn to the editorial page every day for a new lesson. Therein lie such stern decrees as: Barry Bonds is a very bad man. Or: Women select their mates based upon appearance. Or: Rebuilding the World Trade Center is good. Don't stop to bitch that while every newspaper in the world lambasted the Bush administration for secretly collecting phone records, the Sentinel's voice was conspicuously absent. You'd be wrong to believe those other publications, according to the Sentinel. We bear witness to the fact that the Sentinel serves its readers, the ones who hang on every word and agree that downtown horse-drawn carriages are AWESOME!

Watch Katherine Harris implode

Too often the boring world of political machinations is so heavy, so weighty with policy and rhetoric, that it's easy to get turned off. For comic relief, you need Katherine Harris. Since the outset, the make-up diva's campaign for U.S. Senate has been a slow-motion train wreck. Campaign operatives ran from her like the plague, and her cause was so lost that she pledged $10 million of her own money to ratchet up her campaign fund. When polls had her 30 points down, even her Republican brethren tried to elbow her out, convinced she's an incompetent mess. But she presses on, unaware that, even with her radical makeover to remove the dragon-lady label, she doesn't have a chance in hell. If you're in need of political levity, you can't buy better laughs than this.

Fly in the ointment

When it comes to scenemakers of indeterminate origin but boundless if unbridled energy, one Franklin Ratliff makes the best-to-watch-in-action specimen. In his customary docile state, the FR is an easygoing critter that subsists on a steady diet of dramatic presentations, freshly painted still lifes and opening-night buffets. But try to get him to swallow anything not specified in his owner's manual — such as daily-newspaper arts coverage that falls short of his mighty expectations — and the FR is all but guaranteed to turn nasty, firing off breathtakingly insulting e-mails to the "guilty" party (usually Sentinel queen bee Elizabeth Maupin) while taking pains to cc just about every other creature in the known world. The Internet is littered with his imprimatur — especially sites devoted to drag racing. Poor form? Sure. But volatility is a small price to pay for the entertainment that the FR offers. You never had this kind of fun with your ant farm, that's for sure.

Walk with a zombie

Enjoy the works of The Living Dead artist George A. Romero, but not thrilled about paying those high DVD prices? An affordable study in native zombiedom is playing out at a ribbon-cutting near you. The reanimation technology that made Haiti famous keeps fetid swampwater coursing through the veins of supernatural predator Glenda Hood, a distinctly Floridian brand of flesh-eater that keeps coming back from almost-certain death. A controversial run as Orlando's mayor didn't stop the Hooded one from slithering to the coveted position of Florida's Secretary of State, in which the born survivor expended less of her unholy energies fixing the state's voting irregularities than trying to Hoodwink the public that everything was A-OK. Her time in Tallahassee up, she's now back to prowling the City Beautiful's public-appearance beat, sucking up praise and offering to "help out" in the drive to revitalize an Orlando she herself helped push toward ruin. This soul-sucking spectacle guarantees hours of fun.

Comeback girl

Start your day with a nice, cold plate of sweet revenge by tuning into WKMG Channel 6 First News, where homegrown role model Marla Weech demonstrates that there are second acts in Central Floridian lives. With your "I'm a Weech watcher" fishing hat and T-shirt firmly in place, bathe in the faint but golden glow of triumph that emanates from your set as the morning's top stories tumble from the lips of Weech — who was considered yesterday's news when she was bounced from WFTV Channel 9 to Action 27 a few years ago, but who recently re-emerged on affiliate television to sweeping success. How sweeping? Try generating a huge ratings spike that's set records for its 5:31 a.m. time slot. Deluxe fan-club packages include a fail-safe alarm clock and a dart set decorated with images of perennial Weech detractors like the Sentinel's Hal Boedeker. Happy throwing!

Marm, not harm

You've tried 12-step programs. You've tried hypnosis. You've tried acupuncture. But your only genuine hope for kicking drugs and alcohol is the Seminole County school system, which in 2005 advertised for a "prevention lecturer" who could keep its kids off the addictive substances through the force of her inspiring persona and inarguable rhetoric. At least one potential applicant was told that the county was looking for "moms who have college degrees, but are too old to go back to school and don't want to teach." Remember, sufferers, recovery is all about options, so why not learn from someone who doesn't have any? Whether you're a young glue-huffer or a Sterno-crazed vet who can pass for an addict half your age, getting the monkey off your back is as easy as plunking your butt down in a Seminole County classroom and letting the prevention lecturer work her middle-age magic. She's just like your mom, so naturally you're going to hang on her every word.

Another day in paradise, er, Parramore

Counted among the many amenities of life in Central Florida — palm trees, golf courses, plastics, etc. — is the glorious ability to appear that you're doing nothing when your motivations may be more upwardly mobile and/or fabulous. Take the economically dilapidated area at the corner of Amelia Street and Parramore Avenue. At any hour of the day, people from all walks of life stand, sometimes in the middle of the road, with seemingly no (legal) purpose at all — just a cluster of wandering thoughts and their resulting existential discoveries. Sure, there's a bus stop, but most are a good hundred yards from it. What are they talking about? Or, rather, why are they not talking at all: just standing, sagging, sometimes shirtless and/or pregnant? At least farther up the road on OBT, you can tell that they're hustling a quick hand job, or any of the other illicit perks that are the area's signature.

Giving Tree gave up

Shel Silverstein's poignant plea, "Come, boy, sit down, sit down and rest," is summarily chopped down by the existence of the giant, tragic oak stretching across Constitution Green Park, at the intersection of South Summerlin Avenue and South Street, resting (indeed) on the outskirts of the Thornton Park condo boom. You can sleep under it (people do) or lean up against it, but what's most strikingly fantastic is that it grows itself back into the ground … in several places. Structurally speaking, the Giving Tree is in possession of immense drunken metaphor potential, and it's a landmark of failure that you won't soon forget!

Curbside decor

Not only does the city of Orlando offer a glittering array of political controversies and Buddy's neck-fat jokes for your disposal, but they also care about downtown homeowners and their special yard-adorning needs. This spring, the city launched its cart-based automated garbage collection system with too little fanfare and too many missed pickups. More noise was needed for the arrival of these oversized black rolling bins with "Take it to the curb, Orlando!" etched onto their sides, now plopped onto sundry cobblestone curbs. What to do with them? Certainly not waste them.

Get your bird flu here!

The clippy sound-biting of local news promos has taken on a new, toothy tone: The gators will get you! Watch out for attack birds when you run to your mailbox! But as reported by WESH-TV's I-Teams in May, the avian flu fear level was punched up (along with the ratings) on Orlando's monitor. According to the forever-concerned Wendy Chioji, we could get it first! You hear that? Orlando is potentially the model city for an incurable infection! Citing the transient nature of a tourist town and the natural occurrence of birds over undeveloped land (blah, blah), Chioji and company managed an "exclusive" on the obvious. Things really do (or could) happen in Central Florida!


The music of the wiry, seductive (have you seen him move?) jazz sax master Sam Rivers is a gift gracing our town, which he calls home. And immortality is our fervent prayer for the octogenarian who's always on the go, casting his spell at public performances. We hear that his evergreen nature was proven only last spring, when he walked away from a late-night accident in which he and his car rolled over four times! Rivers himself shook his head as he meandered away from the wreckage. "I guess it's not my time to go," were the golden words reported to us.

Exploding head!

Jim Clark is a stern man; just look at the mug shot that accompanies his "Up Front" column in Orlando Magazine. Everything about it, from the angle to the piercing eyes and knit brow, says, "Don't screw with me." Clark's writing is the verbal equivalent of that mug shot. Each month he rips into a hapless subject — the Orange County School Board and the Orlando Sentinel are favorites — like a twister in a mobile home park. Then comes the rest of Orlando mag, a lineup of photos of white people at parties and stories about the city's best dentists and most expensive houses. Clark's column and the rest of the magazine make odd bedfellows, to say the least.

Only $30 for a spot in heaven

Been a Christian all your life, but don't know for sure that your seat is reserved at the Lord's Table? Going to church is good, but the Holy Land Experience is better, because it costs $30 to get in. Both the Florida Legislature and the IRS say the Holy Land isn't an amusement park, and it's sure not a dusty old museum, so what could it be but a church? Remember the saying: The more you spend, the more you're saved.

(Holy Land Experience, 4655 Vineland Road, Orlando; 407-872-2272; www.the

Head-on collision awaits

Combine clueless pedestrians, a poorly marked "bus only" lane and people trying to find a courthouse parking spot and there you have it: nonstop demolition derby action. The corner of Orange Avenue and Livingston Street is blessed with this confluence of elements, and daily — nay, hourly — there's someone who doesn't bother to parse the confusing traffic pattern and guides his car right into the path of an oncoming LYNX bus. For the one-of-a-kind feeling that only comes from anticipating disaster, this is the place.

Nesting with the Rat Pack

The pseudocity of Celebration amazes even the skeptical with its manufactured wholesomeness. Snow at Christmas in this state? They make it fall. Pie-tasting festivals? Crisco rules! Even a stroll down Main Street is soundtracked with relaxing Dean Martin music, piped into speakers that are picturesquely disguised as rocks.

School board's class clown

OK, so sometimes Orange County School Board's Kat Gordon plays the race card when it's not relevant. OK, so she's also missing a filter between her brain and her mouth. Just think of the glass as half-full and suddenly you'll understand that her blunt outbursts are not only really funny stuff, but that they are often needed counterpoints to the extreme business at hand.

Let Vicki run your campaign!

Want to run for public office? Doesn't everyone? But you're going to need a campaign operative, and there's no one else in Orlando who has mastered the Karl Rove-inspired art of mudslinging quite like former city commissioner Vicki Vargo. Her tactics don't always work — notice the word "former" — but she's proven herself capable of stooping to the lowest possible level, even when her allegations are baseless. Those of us following the 2006 City Council race didn't have to look any further than www.reckless, the now-unplugged site that Vargo erected when her campaign was tanking. There she accused opponent Robert Stuart, who runs a charity organization, of taking food out of the mouths of starving children, positing that he's a monster because he sent campaign e-mails that were mistakenly routed through his work account. "`I`t ranks at the top as one of the most selfish acts of any politician in recent history," Vargo proclaimed. That's someone you'll want on your team.

As the granola crunches

Even as the homogenized establishments of evil corporations anchor the disgusting overdevelopment of our town, there are strong signs that independent entrepreneurs are making a stand. Better yet, there are avid consumers supporting such enterprises, like Dandelion Communitea Cafe, which sprouted up in a quaint repurposed homefront on a side street off Colonial Drive (head north at Little Saigon). Happy Hempy Hummus is among the veggie-friendly munchables, served with wholesome teas and elixirs and community activism.

(Dandelion Communitea and Cafe, 618 N. Thornton Ave., Orlando; 407-362-1864;

Big bust

There's nothing cops like better than rounding up strippers who've shown too much of their naughty parts. And when they want a takedown, nothing gets in their way. In recent years, the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation tainted stings at Rachel's and Cleo's gentlemen's clubs with allegations of chicanery that put the dancers to shame. This year, they're at it again. It's being said that Winter Park cops used a bust at Club Harem (the building on Lee Road that looks like boobies) to harass a club manager who two months earlier had filed a harassment complaint against one of their own. These are Central Florida's finest, so look out, pervs!

Prolific letter-writers

When it comes to backing their man, the "friends and family" of Issac Stolzenbach — of Police Beat, as well as other occasional features in this paper — outnumber any letter-writers in the entire history of Orlando Weekly. Bar none! The screeds arrive in bundles, not only demanding "more Stolzenbach" but spelling his name correctly EVERY TIME. I-S-S-A-C. Unbelievable! Who would catch the variation on the traditional, Biblical spelling: Isaac? Not our usual letter-writers, many of whom have trouble spelling the name of the city in which they live. Either Stolzenbach has a creative stalker OR some really proud 'rents and an extended network of (possibly coerced?) cohorts.