Best Of 2009

Best of Orlando 2009 - Local Color

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Best collapsing house of cards

The Dr. P. Phillips Orlando Performing Arts Center

It's not DPAC's fault. They didn't create a cockamamie funding scheme for the half-billion-dollar edifice by assuming that property values would escalate forever, and that tourists would keep coming, and that the stock market wouldn't tank and take with it wealthy donors' gifts. That was the city's doing. One economic collapse later, the flag that DPAC waved announcing its 2012 opening has come down, and nobody thinks the arts center will be a reality anytime soon. But it served the mayor's political purpose — the $480 million Orlando Magic arena is right on schedule.

Best local politician on the national stage

Alan Grayson

Building on his Vanity Fair profile, the Congressman From YouTube has become a politico player; even Rep. Barney Frank has taken a shine to him, having allegedly remarked on his trademark flashy pinstriped suit in a congressional corridor: 'Guys and Dolls in town?' Why is he awesome? No. 1: He was the very first freshman legislator to pass a bill this term, and his was a doozy: It lets the treasury secretary limit executive salaries and bonuses at financial institutions we bailed out. No. 2: He took a bashing on Neil Cavuto's Fox Business show for said bill, even though he didn't have to go on at all; guy's got balls. No. 3: His latest bill would require employers with more than 100 employees to provide at least one paid week of vacation per year for full-timers, a protection 140-plus other countries guarantee but the U.S. lacks.

Best scandal

Pay-for-play at the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority

On Feb. 27, an unsealed grand jury report exposed the disgusting sore that the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority had become: Members had essentially shaken down contractors to funnel money to politicians they liked (hello, Rich Crotty). And somehow, nobody went to jail. To make matters worse, the day before the report's publication, the Authority raised tolls.

Best entrepreneur

Joshua Witter

If there's a sucker born every minute, there's also someone born ready to exploit them. Sometimes, this exploitation is sinister; for instance, swindling old people out of their life savings. Other times it's funny. Case in point: Orlando man Joshua Witter, proprietor of Post-Rapture Post: The Postal Service of the Saved. Witter, an atheist, has struck a deal with the faithful. If the Lord Jesus Christ returns in his lifetime, Witter will, for a reasonable fee — $5 to $10, mostly, though there's a jaw-dropping $799 'hand-scribed on parchment' offering — deliver messages to their undeparted family members. As of May, at least 70 people had taken him up on his offer. As one buyer explains in a web testimonial, 'It's such a small price to pay, especially when you think of those who will be left behind and need counsel after the Rapture.'

Best dumb lawyering

Griffith J. Winthrop III

One the one hand, it's easy to empathize with Griffith J. Winthrop III. The lawyer represented Orlando police chief Val Demings in an impossible situation — Demings' demand that City Hall critic Easy Harris take down, a website that mildly mocks her. But when Winthrop told the Sentinel in April that 'truth is not always a defense [for libel],' and recommended that Harris 'get â?¦ himself a really good lawyer,' that empathy went out the window. As First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza promptly pointed out, defamation cases in Florida require first and foremost a 'false statement of fact.' As of this writing, is still up and running.

Best warriors for Jesus

Torukukai Aikijitsu
159 E. Jackson St.

When Jesus said, 'No man cometh unto the Father, but by me,' he forgot to mention his army of samurais. Orlando karate instructor Sensei Joe Morejon founded the art of Torukukai Aikijitsu, which replaces those pesky, millennia-old Eastern values of the martial arts with good ol' American Christianity. 'Torukukai Samurai put on the full armor of God,' their website barks at the Daniel LaRussos of the world. Price ranges ($59-$89 a month) are reasonable compared to other schools. How Christ-like!

Best local color

RV Studios
630 W. Central Blvd.

Like a pop-art phoenix rising from the ashes of the 1980s NYC graffiti movement, Robin Van Arsdol has resurrected his art legacy and made it relevant to time and place. The exteriors of the three warehouses in RV's Parramore complex have become canvases for local graffiti writers — a veritable graffiti sanctuary — with events to create and celebrate the expressions and the lifestyle behind it. This is the year for Orlando street art to explode, and RV's the fertilizer.

Best research foundation

American Nudist Research Library
2950 Sun Cove Drive, Kissimmee

Because the only way to improve public nudity is to combine it with the fun of a term paper. Founded in 1979, the ANRL was created 'to preserve the history of the social nudist movement in North America and throughout the world.' Their efforts allow visitors to learn that naked people have been documented in publications not put out by Bob Guccione. Makes Playalinda Beach seem a little noble, doesn't it?

Best display of vanity

Daisy Lynum

City commissioner Daisy Lynum is not controversial, and saying otherwise is not only wrong, but racist, as well as infuriating to her loyal constituents, as Lynum herself will tell you: 'Your description of me as controversial is an inaccurate and negative label of me which I do not appreciate or accept,' she wrote on May 8 to Orlando Sentinel reporter Mark Schlueb after he wrote about her 2010 re-election campaign.

Best holy petting zoo

Live Nativity scene
Central Christian Church
250 Ivanhoe Blvd.

Every year at Christmas, the Central Christian Church (aka the drive-in church next to I-4) goes whole hog with a living crèche featuring not just a real live holy family and three actual wise men, but also two donkeys, a miniature goat and at least one sheep! For Orlando kids accustomed to a certain level of showmanship just standing on line at the theme parks, it may be corny, but if you can sneak a set of ears onto the sheep you might be able to convince the younger ones they're at Disney. OK, maybe not. (And don't miss Easter Week, when CCC stages multiple scenes from Christ's life, including — ick — a crucifixion on the shores of Lake Ivanhoe.)

Best local member of the American Taliban

Mat Staver
Liberty Counsel

If there's a Christian somewhere who isn't getting preferential treatment, or has been reminded of the wall in this country separating church and state, it's Mat Staver to the rescue! Maybe there's a gay person who wants to adopt a child, or a gay couple who want to live in dignity. Not on Mighty Mat's watch! With a Bible in one hand and a copy of the Florida statutes in the other, Staver is on a singular crusade for 'religious freedom.' It's odd how that phrase always seems to translate into litigation on behalf of right-wing Christians — never Muslims, Jews, Buddhists or Hindus — but never mind. The law is the law, and it must be applied fairly â?¦ for right-wing Christians, anyway.

Best local mountain

Orange County Landfill
5901 Young Pine Road

Central Florida, in case you haven't noticed, is short on alpine experiences. But there is one summit you can tackle that will challenge the limits of man and machine: the garbage mountain at the Orange County Landfill. Unfortunately, you can't just drive up there for the fun of it. (And it is fun, switchbacks, muddy ruts and all. You won't need four-wheel drive, but it would help.) You have to be discarding something that doesn't belong in the other sections of this sprawling facility. But if you have a bunch of old household refuse you want to heave, you've got a ticket to the top. Pause while you are up there to take in the astonishing views — and smells.

Best comment on running over cyclists

Kristen Schaal
April 8 at UCF Arena

Comedian Kristen Schaal (aka kooky fan Mel on HBO's The Flight of the Conchords) localized her opening banter at UCF Arena with sideways praise about Orlando's cleanliness and magical-ness. As she tells it, she was so high on the City Beautiful that when she ran over a bike rider, she couldn't stop at the scene because she 'just didn't want to see that.' It ruins the scenery.

Best guilt trip on wheels

First Baptist Church of Winter Park Sidewalk Sunday School

It's Saturday afternoon. You crack open a cold one and slide your godless palm under your belt, Al Bundy'style. Suddenly, you hear a gaggle of doe-eyed children accusatorily singing 'He's Got the Whole World in His Hands.' A cruel joke from the big guy? No, it's First Baptist Church of Winter Park, a Ned Flanders-on-wheels bus church that takes particular joy in parking outside a certain Weekly writer's apartment. You have to admire portable guilt trips.

Best ugly living room to hang out in

Little Fish Huge Pond
309 E. First St., Sanford

Here's a list of art shows that have run at this tiny downtown Sanford pub: Facebooked. Graphic Content. Stories From the Cocktail Napkin. ?Velveeta!? Are you beginning to get the picture? Mo Wisdom decorates her bar like a tacky, blind trailer-park denizen. Yet somehow, paintings of sphincters and plastic dinosaurs go just swimmingly with a hookah and one of Mo's homemade vanilla-chili beers. You'll see.

Best singing newscaster

Evrod Cassimy, Central Florida News 13

Oh, yeah. You feel that? It's the scintillating sound of silky-voiced Evrod Cassimy, his melodic cadence setting the mood just right â?¦ if the mood you're looking for concerns safety tips for Halloween. Since last year, Cassimy has been Central Florida News 13's baby-faced general assignment reporter, but did you know in his free time he's an up-and-coming Ne-Yo? He's recorded four songs so far, but more importantly, he sells autographed glossy photos of himself for $3.99 a pop.

Best ongoing gay feud

Patty Sheehan versus Michael Wanzie

Way back in the day of gay gossip delivered via cups connected by strings, somebody said something to someone that no one can be quite sure about and all hell broke loose. Local loud-mouthed raconteur Michael Wanzie and local lesbian city commissioner Patty Sheehan soon became the Hatfield and McCoy of Orlando queer politics, with public screaming-match flare-ups at Easter Bonnet benefits and the like. At last November's Watermark awards ceremony at Hamburger Mary's, the deep-fried macaroni-and-cheese balls hit the fan over Wanzie's denunciation of religion (he was dressed in papal garb at the time) vis-à-vis Sheehan's partially Catholic entourage. The issue this time was the failed battle against Amendment 2, but the pure drama runs wonderfully deeper.

Best Facebook politician

Linda Stewart

Wonder what rambunctious Orange county commissioner and now mayoral candidate Linda Stewart is up to? Look no further than the multiple daily status updates on her Facebook page (where she's wearing a visor and riding a bike!). Sure, the Obama victory taught us all a thing or two about social networking, but Stewart — who used to be limited to occasional
e-mails about just how great she was doing, usually on 'green' things — has become an Internet ubiquity. And to hear her tell it, everything — including last night's dinner — is great!

Best local charitable group

1st: Food Not Bombs,
2nd: Rock for Hunger,
3rd: Coalition for the Homeless,

Best local website

1st: Orlando Weekly,
2nd: Orlando Sentinel,
3rd: Metromix,

Best local TV newsperson

1st: Bob Opsahl, WFTV Channel 9
2nd: Jacqueline London, WKMG Channel 6
3rd: Martha Sugalski, WESH Channel 2

Best local big shot

1st: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
2nd: Aaron Haaland, A Comic Shop
3rd: Tiger Woods

Best local blog

1st: The Daily City,
2nd: Defame Orlando (defunct),
3rd: Taking Names,

Best local politician

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

Best local radio personality

1st: Jim Phillips, Real Radio 104.1-FM
2nd: Soul Brother Kevin, Real Radio 104.1-FM
3rd: Talk Nerdy to Me, WPRK 91.5-FM

Best local writer

1st: Billy Manes, Orlando Weekly
2nd: Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel
3rd: Mike Thomas, Orlando Sentinel

Best place to take visitors from out of town

1st: Walt Disney World,
2nd: Universal CityWalk,
3rd: SeaWorld Orlando,

Best local politician in need of a slap upside the head

1st: Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer
2nd: Commissioner Daisy Lynum
3rd: Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty

Best reason to live in Orlando

1st: The weather
2nd (tie): Walt Disney World
2nd (tie): A Comic Shop, 114 S. Semoran Blvd., Winter Park, 407-332-9636,
3rd: The nightlife

Best reason to leave Orlando

1st: The weather
2nd: Crime
3rd: Walt Disney World

Best TV news hair

1st: Martha Sugalski, WESH Channel 2
2nd: Bob Opsahl, WFTV Channel 9
3rd: Martie Salt, WFTV Channel 9

Best whatever

1st: Hard Knocks 5707 Dot Com Court, Suite 1025, Oviedo, 407-359-9091,
2nd: Reign Streetwear Boutique, 114 S. Semoran Blvd. Suite 2, Winter Park, 407-677-4713,
3rd: SAK Comedy Lab, 380 W. Amelia St. 407-648-0001,

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