Best Of 2017

Best, Biggest, Blondest Hole in Our Hearts
Photo by Rob Bartlett

Billy Manes

May 22, 1972–July 21, 2017

The loss of Orlando Weekly's longest-term writer and foundational voice is devastating not just to his friends and family, not just to his colleagues, but to all of Orlando. Our bereavement is nothing compared to the loss of potential that his departure from this mortal plane represents – but we take some comfort in knowing that his husband, Tony Mauss, has launched the Billy Manes Foundation, which will work to fund various literary and advocacy issues. And, per Billy's request, Mauss will also finish the memoir Billy started but didn't have time to finish. Rest in power, Citizen Manes.

Best Use of Rainbow Paint
Photo by Monivette Cordeiro

Lake Eola bandshell

512 E. Washington St.

We've seen a lot of rainbows in Orlando in honor of the 49 people who were killed at the gay nightclub Pulse last year. Some, like the ribbons made by Ben Johansen, are small, while others, like the 49 rainbow birds mural in Mills 50 by Andrew Spear, are much larger. But our favorite rendition of this LGBTQ symbol so far has been the one painted on Orlando's traditional gathering place – the Lake Eola bandshell. Local residents Deborah and Lauren Jane Gilmore, who proposed the idea, have stated that each color has a meaning: red to represent love; orange to represent Orange County; yellow for faith and hope; green for the fragility and renewal of life; blue to represent the collective sadness felt after Pulse and to honor first responders; and purple to represent valor and bravery. This remembrance is a colorful reminder that despite the darkness after Pulse, hope and light has endured.

Best Fashion Choice

Buddy Dyer's beard

This was probably the toughest call we had to make, but in the deepest confines of our (hairy) hearts, we knew it was the right one. Edging out state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and his weed-leaf socks, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and his beard iterations captivated local social media feeds as he went from a baby-faced elected official to a lumberjack-lite public servant in November to raise awareness for men's health issues. Our fashion interest was further piqued when Orlando's longest-serving mayor posted a high-school throwback photo of himself in 1976 sporting an incredibly large and fuzzy 'fro that was apparently natural. It's so poppin', we wouldn't be surprised if people went to their local hair stylists asking for Dyer's bushy bowling ball look.

Best Girl Boss

Chandra Arthur of Friendish

We swipe left and right to find love (or whatever); why not use the same concept of matching via shared interests to find new friends? That's the genius idea behind local tech developer Chandra Arthur's Friendish app, which she shortcuts as "a Platonic Tinder." In July, she was chosen to appear on Apple's Planet of the Apps, a Shark Tank-style web series that matches developers with industry mentors. Between this and Arthur's sizzling TEDx talk on how much time female and POC entrepreneurs have to spend code-switching, we'd say it's clear we have a rising star on our hands.

Best Swamp Girl

Savannah Boan, new education ambassador at Gatorland

Savannah Boan has long been a friend of the paper – she featured for many years as Billy Manes' sidekick in his Blister column, back in her days as "the Sexy Savannah," a Monsters in the Morning radio regular. The 6-foot-tall platinum-haired former Marine played the dumb blonde persona to perfection, but underneath that South Carolina drawl, there was always a brain working quicker than a crocodile's jaw can snap. Fitting, then, that she's returned to the Orlando area in full Swamp Girl glory after a stint in SoCal as a snake handler at the Reptile Zoo to serve as animal education ambassador and "crocodilian enrichment coordinator" at Gatorland. And it's no gimmick, either – to hear her tell it, she digs gators more than most humans. Brains, beauty and boldness ... our kinda girl.

Best Use of Our 
Tax Dollars
photo by Amanda Murphy / OCLS

Drag Queen Storytime

June 12, 2017

On June 12, the Orlando Public Library took a page out of the books of sister institutions from San Francisco to Brooklyn and scheduled a Drag Queen story hour. June 12, of course, is officially designated "Orlando United Day: A Day of Love and Kindness," and local performer Miss Sammy was joined by RuPaul's Drag Race contestant BenDeLaCreme for some G-rated storytelling for kiddies and enlightened parents. Talk about a reading rainbow! We pray that they do it again, since the reservations for 500 seats filled up faster than we could snap our fingers. But to the "concerned citizens" who tried to put a damper on this fabulous event with their officious protestations, we have this to say: Sashay away, sourpusses. No, seriously – other people's opinions matter too, so stop trying to pee on everyone's pillow. Don't like it? Don't show up.

Best WPA Homage
photo by Talking Head Studio / courtesy Credo

Downtown Credo's Orlando Parks Project

We dig coffee-slingers Downtown Credo for a lot of reasons (note: Bring back the Old Man and the Sea latte, yo!), but it was easy to single out this project on their community-oriented Conduit side for some extra love. Credo spearheaded a collaborative effort matching 20 local artists to 20 local parks and produced the resulting tribute posters (later also bound into a book) for sale. Half of the proceeds were donated to the Parks Department. The brilliant idea to use the bounty of local talent to spotlight our natural resources is reminiscent of the Works Project Administration of the 1930s, though the art is sui generis. Recommended for anyone who thinks Orlando not only doesn't suck, it's wonderful.

Best "Get Off My Lawn!"

Motion activated sprinklers at a house behind St. Matthew's Tavern

Look, we get it: Alcohol makes us have to pee too. But one neighbor of St. Matt's got so fed up with patrons of that bar using their garden (which it looks like they've put a lot of work into) as a Porta Potty that they hooked motion sensors up to their sprinkler system. Now, the wee hours of the morning are frequently punctuated by the sudden shrieks of public urinators getting blasted with an unwelcome jet of city water. It's a creative (and hilarious!) solution to an unsanitary nuisance, and has us thinking back to something our grandmother used to say every time we leave St. Matt's: "Do you have to go before we get in the car?"

Best Local Weatherman 
Who Loves Lamp

Brooks Tomlin


We find it extremely difficult to believe that anyone is still "unconvinced" of the reality of climate change ... much less a person who spends his days reporting extreme weather events. But believe it we must: Brooks Tomlin of local Fox affiliate WOFL calls himself a "climate deplorable" in his Twitter bio; in 2015, he posted on Facebook that "Earth's climate will continue to change due to countless variables and processes which our best models cannot capture and some of our leaders, rushing into climate talks and agreements, cannot understand." Yeah ... no. Then we tumbled to it – this has to be a long-running performance art joke, right? The name is the giveaway. Only someone as, um, simple as Steve Carell's "Brick Tamland" character from Anchorman would spout this stuff. We love lamp too, Brick, er, Brooks. LOUD NOISES!

Best Camera Work

OPD Cameraman Who Filmed the Arrest of Markeith Loyd

Orlando Weekly caught a lot of shit from you people after publishing a blog titled "We need to talk about Markeith Loyd's face" (Jan. 18). Loyd – accused murderer of his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, and OPD Lt. Deborah Clayton, and also implicated in the death of Orange County Deputy Norman Lewis – was arrested on Jan. 17 and was brought in for booking with serious injuries, including being blinded in one eye. When we questioned the account of Loyd's purported resisting of arrest, since one officer claimed he gave up "like a little girl," many of our readers expressed outrage, apparently incapable of understanding that calling out cops for using excessive force is not the same thing as defending the actions of a murderer. But then OPD released aerial footage of Loyd's arrest, showing him throwing down his weapons and literally crawling across a lawn at the direction of police. The OPD employee operating the camera, however, panned away from the arrest just as officers started punting Loyd in the head. It was a bold cinematographic choice, to be sure, but one that reeks of rank amateurism when it comes to covering up unsavory behavior by law enforcement.