Best Of 2008

Painting by Morgan Steele

Best waste of tax money

Downtown Ambassadors
Downtown Orlando Information Center
201 S. Orange Ave., Suite 102

If you ran the City Beautiful, how would you spend $893,000? There are lots of options. You could feed a bunch of homeless people. Or maybe pay for some more cops. Or, if you’re the current administration, you could drop nearly $900,000 on “downtown ambassadors,” also known as those dorks who ride around on Segways doing not much of anything.

Best exonerated politician

State Sen. Gary Siplin
1436 N. Pine Hills Road

Two years ago, flamboyant state Sen. Gary Siplin was convicted of using state money to fund his re-election campaign, and it looked like his political career – Siplin is perhaps best known for trying to outlaw baggy pants – and his law practice were over. But wait! In December, an appeals court tossed the convictions because of bad jury instruction, and Siplin was back in business.

Best gender equality


David “Skortman” Steffen is not just a local phenomenon; his reach is both global and unexpectedly philosophical. Though his website does offer viewers the ability to purchase both men’s skirts and ruffled “manties” made to their own measurements, it also rings the battle cry for a repositioning of perceptions on bifurcated pants, meaning that men should no longer bow to trouser tyranny. The breezes belong to everyone! He does, however, admit to getting a hard-on while sewing panties for men. And he isn’t even gay. Enigma!

Best Oliver Cromwell impersonator

Bill Lutz

The Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation is on a mission: It wants to keep you pure of the iniquity of a jaunt to a hand job massage parlor. Jesus would not approve. Jesus would also not approve of selling ads to people who may be prostitutes, and so Lutz launched a two-year, $10,000 investigation into this very newspaper, which culminated in charges against the paper and three of its employees being dropped in late February. For all the moral outrage Lutz feigned for local television cameras, he never could figure out what law we broke.

Best monument to the condo bust

55 West
54 W. Church St., Suite 169

Remember a few years ago, when Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer told us to look to the cranes in the downtown skyline as proof of revitalization? Remember how we called bullshit? Yeah, we were right. And if you need proof, look no further than the still-dormant building on West Church Street, the high-rise that was supposed to bring rich condo-dwellers and street-level retail to our fair city, yet almost five years after its approval casts a big empty shadow over downtown.

Best pension plan

Betty Wyman’s post-political gig

Before the tears could even dry over the end of Orlando City Commissioner Betty Wyman’s four-term tenure, a miracle happened: Wyman took over as CEO of the After School All Stars program that she had already led while making a piddly $37,000 salary as a commissioner. And in doing so, she’ll get a raise to $75,000! All a big coincidence, no doubt.

Best truth to power

Orlando Sentinel photographer versus Sam Zell

On Jan. 29, newbie Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell walked into the Orlando Sentinel for a pep rally. He told the assembled writers that it was their job to write about what the people want, even if what they want is stupid. One brave soul, photographer Sara Fajardo, mentioned that readers want stories about “puppy dogs” and other inanities; Zell responded by rattling on like man who’d just drunk his lunch about “journalistic arrogance,” then threw in a “fuck you” for good measure. Behold the future of journalism.

Best real-life history museum

Old bombing ranges near Odyssey Middle School

Like that scene in Poltergeist when all of those coffins pressed through the freshly dug swimming pool to reclaim their rightful burial ground, the city of Orlando got an explosive reminder of its origins late last year. Turns out that before the days of gated patios and houses that look the same, all we used to be good for was bombing practice. The local news blithered over this for weeks, causing a hysteria with no logical conclusion, but the reminder of our humble origins in the military-industrial complex will remain forever priceless.

Best good citizenship

The staff of the Matador
56 E. Pine St.

On a Wednesday morning in September, around 3:30, the Matador was closed and the bartenders and staff were on their way home. Most of them were parked in the public garage at the corner of Central Boulevard and Magnolia Avenue. As they were walking toward their cars, they heard screams coming from the second floor, so they rushed up the stairs. There they found a man on top of a girl and another girl beaten and bloody on the ground. As they approached, the man bolted. Joslyn Smith went to aid the women, while Rodger Lay, Eric Foster and Brian Cannon chased the attacker. After a chase and a scuffle, they caught and detained a convicted rapist recently released from prison until police arrived. The man was arrested on three felony charges and held without bail. Now that’s what we call being good neighbors.

Best mustache

Orlando City Commissioner Tony Ortiz
400 S. Orange Ave.

It’s a tough battle for the fuzzy-lip honors in the city’s hallowed halls. Not afraid to chase a stereotype some 30 years old – that of powerful men who can save a little lunch on their upper lip – Orlando clings to its lippy forthrightness like it’s the South in ’78. Newcomer Tony Ortiz – the gurgling Geraldo now filling District 2’s commission shoes – out-follicles District 6’s sparse Sam Ings, reddish Fire Chief Jim Reynolds, and even former Police Chief Michael McCoy and his big gray wraparound. How does he do it? Well, his mustache is so impenetrably puffy that you cannot understand a word he is saying. Sexy!

Best bait and switch

The new downtown arena

Guess what? That fancy new arena the city is building for billionaire Rich DeVos’ basketball team is going to cost $100 million more than advertised! See, as the municipal bond market has swirled down the crapper, interest rates have shot up, and since we’re mortgaging the hell out of our tourist and downtown property taxes to pay for Rich DeVos’ Golden Pleasure Dome™, that means that we get to pay more! Awesome.

Best act of atheism

The “all religions are fairy tales” billboard
Colonial Drive near Old Cheney Highway

A minor blip on the local news radar – but one that eked its way into the snark stew of New York’s Gawker website – this little display caused quite a stir when it was erected a week before Easter. At first glance it looked like just about any Colonial Drive billboard. But, oh, it was far more insidious, and it took the inquiring minds of WFTV Channel 9 News to fix it. Straub’s, a nearby restaurant, claimed to have suffered business losses, the billboard company MediaNet did a big po-faced “we don’t know” as to the sign’s origins, and Jesus wept.

Best reminder of who you’ll be if you continue to eat biscuits and gravy for breakfast every day

Daybreak Diner
3335 Curry Ford Road

Orlando is not what it pretends to be. In the sprawl surrounding its new-urbanist core, the real residents of the city still suck down black coffee that’s not made at Starbucks and still take their eggs scrambled with bacon in them. At the Daybreak Diner, that “still” may live on forever, thanks to the series of seemingly unhappy candids that lines their sticky walls. There is nothing funnier than seeing photos of people who don’t like their photos taken, especially when they’re eating.

Best unplanned community

Homeless camp at the corner of Princeton Street and John Young Parkway

We kicked up some political dirt by covering the plight of some of the homeless people residing in this abandoned wooded area back in January. Their endless trails and boundless home-like constructions seemed the perfect backdrop for an unlikely court case involving somebody named “Scooter.” But in the ensuing months, the city has been fumbling around on the issue, trying to clear out the residents, even though some were sent there by their probation officers because, as sex offenders, they weren’t allowed to live anywhere else. Hmmm.

Best thorn in the side

Nicholas Egoroff

Not content to bask in the glory of a failed Ron Paul campaign, a failed city commission bid and that Paultard wig photo we keep running, industrious gadfly Nick Egoroff decided to infiltrate the Republican party’s upper crust by steamrolling his way through the Orange County Republican Executive Committee, devotees in tow. The whole thing sent party leader Lew Oliver into a full-tilt hissy fit and even required armed security. And you thought the Democrats were bad.

Best marketing stunt

New York’s mini-Orlando

It was last winter and the Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau was flush with fistfuls of cash. They had an epiphany: to set up a cabana with gator wrestling (ironically, illegal in New York), jousting, flamingos and half-naked babes in hot tubs in the middle of Times Square, and lure floods of redneck-at-heart Yankees who’d always secretly hoped to live the life of croc hunter Steve Irwin. It doesn’t appear that a repeat is planned.

Best racist display

The Maynard Evans High School debacle

Hinging their argument on the destruction of their quiet rural utopia, Clarcona-Ocoee residents have spent the better part of recent months crusading against moving the Evans Ninth Grade Center to their community. The problem? They’re all white and the Evans kids are almost all black, and moving the school might make their property values plummet. Maybe it’s really because they might have to take their Confederate flags down.

Best feud

Black Chapel Tattoo Studios versus Winter Park

It’s about time someone told uppity Winter Park to get the stick out of its ass. In January, tattoo-covered owner Eli Tobias of Black Chapel Tattoo Studios (2180 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park; 407-644-4467) was the one to do it, filing notice that he intends to sue after harassment by cops over loud parties and large crowds aimed at shutting the business down. The war may be just beginning.

Best bogus green effort

Orlando Green Business Program
City of Orlando
400 S. Orange Ave.

Hey, business owners: Do you dump chemicals and crap down the storm drain? If not, you might already qualify for the city’s worthless green business designation. And you get a sticker! Best of all, you don’t have to change your habits or bother with pesky steps like conserving or recycling because the city doesn’t have time to pick up your recycling anyway.

Best fat-rights blogger

Marianne Kirby

She’s 350 pounds of soft Orlando jiggle, and she says the body mass index is bullshit and people should recognize rights for those who are beyond pleasantly plump. She’s even posed nude to prove that point. So if you’re tubby and need some inspiration on fat power, or are just a chubby-chaser looking for the mother load, you’ve found it.

Best local embarrassments

Reality show contestants

When reality show contestants mention they’re from Orlando, it’s an instant cue to break out the popcorn. From the dead-eyed, overmedicated mother-daughter team of Patty and Laura from the short-lived Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants to the aborted Pauper to Princess, which filmed in Apopka and ended in the arrest of the show’s director for false imprisonment, if it smells like desperate exploitation, it’s probably got some Central Florida on it.

Best fuck-you to the disabled

Redhead Lounge
1800 N. Orange Ave., side door

Lighthouse Central Florida (215 E. New Hampshire St., is a wonderful organization that teaches blind people how to live independently: how to cook, do laundry, dial a phone and so on. One thing they can’t do is teach them to drive. So every day, vision-impaired Floridians get off the bus at the corner of Orange Avenue and New Hampshire Street and set off to walk the half-block to LCF, white canes in hand. All was well until last year, when bar-star boutique the Redhead Lounge moved in and not only began parking their SUVs diagonally on the sidewalk, but even set up a café table and chairs directly between the bus stop and LCF. Pedestrians have no choice but to walk in the street – kind of a bummer, when you’re blind.

Best takeover of a city block

Thornton Avenue area

They may be hippie-ish, but the granola-munching bunch that has taken over Thornton Avenue ­– Dandelion Communitea Café (618 N. Thornton Ave., 407-362-1864,; Evolve (604 N. Thornton Ave., 407-595-3731,; Florida School of Holistic Living (622A N. Thornton Ave., 407-595-3731,; Misty Forest Enrichment Center (611 N. Hyer Ave., 407-428-11111,; Shine On Yoga (619 N. Thornton Ave., 407-963-1956,; and the Little Green Spa (620 N. Thornton Ave., 407-254-0010, ­– seems to realize there’s strength in numbers. It’s not quite a commune (yet), but the Thornton Avenue posse is poised to establish its own version of a downtown arts district, albeit a crunchy, certified-organic one.

Best radio program you don’t listen to

The People Power Hour with George Crossley

WAMT-AM (1190)

Crossley, as everyone in Central Florida already knows, is a first-rate rabble-rouser with a nose for controversy. What you don’t know is that he’s also a DJ. His show, The People Power Hour, airs Saturdays at 11 a.m., and it’s an always-entertaining mix of high dudgeon and low humor. Each and every week he makes sure to mention the name “Osama bin Laden” just in case Homeland Security is listening, and you gotta love him for that.

Best new program on WPRK-FM (91.5)

The Bantering Idiots

And you thought WPRK was exclusively for college-age DJs who have trouble completing a sentence without six “umms” and a three “uhhs.” How wrong you were. The Bantering Idiots – Mondays from 10 a.m. to noon – is refreshingly stupid, relentlessly crude and pretty damn funny. Ed – the show’s token black guy who has been homeless and now works at Wal-Mart, if that gives you an indication of where the humor is at – is an undiscovered radio genius.

Best venomous blog

Defame: Orlando

If you secretly hate Orlando – and if you’ve lived here more than three years but less than your entire life, odds are good that you do ­– your website is now available for viewing. The anonymous blogger behind Defame: Orlando claims it’s all in the name of fun, not spite for the City Beautiful. But after scrolling through a few dozen posts featuring pics of drunk, vapid downtown hipsters displaying their spray-on tans and tattooed asses and reading the wry comments that accompany them, you get the point. There is precious little there here.

Best lifestyle blog

Tacky Fabulous Orlando

Blogger Deanne Schulz loves pointing out all the local idiosyncrasies that distinguish Central Florida. Recent posts have included such gems as a description of the stomach contents of alligators, local dance studios offering pole-dancing lessons, and Charlie Crist hitting on Morgan Fairchild. We can respect anyone who knows Orlando is as much about pink flamingos, mullets and pickup trucks as it is about the Mouse. And at her online gift shop, you can get that special person in your life a coconut purse, a pink-tutu can koozie or a can of genuine Florida sunshine. Tacky? Check. Fabulous? Double-check.

Best Orlando building

Orlando Public Library, downtown branch
101 E. Central Blvd.

It’s been around for a while (since 1966, with an expansion added in 1985), but the downtown library doesn’t get enough love. Its brutalist poured-concrete elevation is noteworthy simply for its strength and handsomeness, but the sheer unlikelihood of its existence in Orlando makes it worthy of architectural approbation. And the dialogue between the library and the Beaux-Arts facade of the nearby 1927 Orange County Regional History Center makes for a striking counterpoint. Sadly, the cutesy colored-light-and-sound installation on the west wall brings it all back to our Disney-fied town.

Best wrestling match

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer versus a pit bull

Our mayor is a lot of things, and a lot of those things are bad. But as we found out in March, he can kick a pit bull’s ass, and good! Buddy Dyer was out for a “jog” went he came upon a big bad doggy attacking a smaller, weaker puppy, and like the hero we all know him to be, jumped in and saved the smaller puppy from certain doom. Very butch.


Best Local Big Shot

1st: Jim Philips, Real Radio 104.1 FM
2nd: Aaron Haaland, A Comic Shop
3rd: Paul Geller, Republic Promotion Co., nightlife promoter

Best Local Politician

1st: Mayor Buddy Dyer
2nd: District 4 City Commissioner Patty Sheehan
3rd: State Rep. Scott Randolph

Best Local TV Newsperson

1st: Wendy Chioji, WESH
2nd: Bob Opsahl, WFTV
3rd: Jacqueline London, WKMG

Best TV News Hair: Male

1st: Bob Opsahl, WFTV
2nd: Bob Frier, WKMG
3rd: Jim Van Fleet, WOFL

Best TV News Hair: Female

1st: Wendy Chioji, WESH
2nd: Martha Sugalski, WESH
3rd: Jacqueline London, WKMG

Best Local Radio Personality

1st: Jim Philips, Real Radio 104.1
2nd: Jayde, XL 106.7
3rd: SBK (Soul Brother Kevin), Real Radio 104.1

Best Bartender:

1st: Supa Jeff at Back Booth
2nd: Bob at O’Shucks Billiard & Pub
3rd: Amber at Back Booth

Best Local Writer

1st: Billy Manes, Orlando Weekly
2nd: Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel
3rd: Bao Le-Huu, Orlando Weekly

Best Local Internet Site

1st: (
2nd: Defame Orlando (
3rd: Orange County Concepts (

Best Local Blog

1st: Defame Orlando (
2nd: Orlando Arts Blog (
3rd: Red, White & Dude (

Best Whatever

1st: Hard Knocks Orlando, 5707 Dot Com Court, Suite 1025, Oviedo; 407-359-9091
2nd: Tatáme Sake Lounge, 223 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park; 407-628-2408
3rd: Dandelion Communitea Café, 618 N. Thornton Ave.; 407-362-1864

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