Click on a category or scroll down the page to read about this year's winners for Seattle's best arts and entertainment...
Best movie theater
Best local TV personality
Best place to buy CDs
Best mainstage theater
Best place to buy vinyl records
Best fringe theater
Best theatrical performance
Best radio DJ
Best art gallery
Best club DJ
Best local music act
Best used book store
Best local TV show
(Item 30, Best place to spend New Year's Eve, can be found in the best of the millennium .)
15. Best movie theater
What's great about the refurbished Cinerama (2100 Fourth, 441-3080) is the same thing that was great about the pre-refurbished Cinerama: that Great Big Screen. We're sure that all kinds of wonderful technological miracles have been worked on the sound and projection systems, but what we like most about these improvements is that they don't distract you from the glory of that Great Big Screen. If only Paul Allen spent all his money this well! The fancy new accoutrements—the digital movie posters, the retro-future lobby design, the speckles on the outside that change color in waves—are all very nice; the seats might be a little roomier than they were before, we can't remember; but all that really matters is that the Cinerama still exists. The only other screen to compare is the UA 150, which is rotting just a few blocks away; too bad it's not in some other neighborhood, where someone might be motivated to rescue it as well. But at least there's still one movie palace to give Seattle the horizon-filling, submit-to-the-celluloid-dream, Great-Big-Screen experience that a movie should be. (Of course, finding new movies that deserve that kind of power is whole other question. . . .) The Harvard Exit, that snug neighborhood hangout, came in second, with the Crest pulling into third (a strong showing this year).
THINGS THEY LIKE
Former KIRO radio personality, Almost Live cast member
There are lots of fancy places around with snooty waiters and high prices, but for my money, and there's not a lot of it, the Old Spaghetti Factory is still the best place to go: a lot of food, good stiff drinks, and the help are young people eager to serve and enthusiastic about their jobs, and you come out with almost as much money as you went in with. The Kingdome: It's not going to be there much longer, so go look at it now so that someday you can remember that maybe it wasn't so bad after all. Ye Olde Curiosity Shop has a whale penis over the door, the saw off a sawfish, the hammer off a hammerhead shark for all I know, but where else can you go and not even pay an admission and see at least two dead people on display?
16. Best place to buy CDs
Though it's part of a chain, Sacramento-based Tower Records has become something of a Seattle institution with its Mercer Street and U District stores (500 Mercer; 4321 University Wy NE; 800-ASK-TOWER). Music fans flock to both locations to hunt down the latest CD or simply come by to browse through the massive selection in hopes of stumbling on an overlooked gem. Now the famed record chain has added a shiny new store in Bellevue (550 106th NE), allowing high-tech workers to pick up something for their hi-fis and giving suburbanites a new place to spend an afternoon or evening. And while Tower's a great place to buy CDs, it also remains the supplier of the handiest and most fashionable of all plastic shopping bags; everyone will know where you've been as soon as they see you walking down the sidewalk with your bright gold sack. Silver Platters, that shiny palace of discs, came in second, and Amazon.com ranked third.
17. Best place to buy vinyl records
Seattleites passed over Golden Oldies (second place) and Bud's Jazz (third) in favor of that old indie standby Cellophane Square, which has graduated from a rinky-dink shop in the U District (4538 University Wy NE, 634-2280) into a mini-indie empire, with stores on Capitol Hill (130 Broadway, 329-2202), in the U District, and near Bellevue Square (322 Bellevue Wy NE, 425-454-5059) as well as one in Bellingham. Readers liked the shops' quirky array of vinyl, where you can find everything from rock-'n'-roll rarities to the latest dance domestic 12-inch, as well as some recycled vinyl from folks who've since moved on to CDs.
18. Best nightclub
"Big, loud, and fresh—that's all you need to know." That's how co-owner Jared Harler described the sound system at ARO.space (925 E Pike, 860-7322) in the week before the club opened in March 1998. But it's not just the sound system that won the club a spot in the hearts of Weekly readers. After ironing out some scheduling snafus, ARO.space launched an ambitious program of live music and dance nights, regular weekly events and touring acts, art exhibits and multimedia affairs, and even the occasional lecture (not to mention a killer vegetarian cafeteria). Along the way, they've hosted gay, straight, and mixed crowds, coming close to being all things to all people—and that's quite a feat. Dimitriou's Jazz Alley and the Fenix scored second and third, respectively.
19. Best radio DJ
It should come as no surprise that the outraged devotees of the deposed Pat Cashman attacked our ballots in droves, making him a winner of such runaway proportions that we had to abandon our requirement that the Best Radio DJ be a DJ with a job. Cashman, whose wit and (occasional) wisdom has graced both radio and television in Seattle for years, was fired in one of the direst signs of the times of all time—the mandate that DJs be rude and crude enough to attract 28-year-old illiterate males with drinking problems and large disposable incomes. To those who liked at least a dollop of thought with their entertainment, Cashman was (and will be again, unless the world really is ending) a perfect companion. He had the whole wiseass act . . . well, down pat. Not to be undersold, the KUBE's Rob "The T-Man" Tepper and KOMO AM-1000's Scoot reached enough fans to come in second and third.
THINGS THEY LIKE
DJ extraordinaire, Stranger columnist
Pedestrianism! I come from Atlanta, the LA of the South, where people dress up to get in their cars. Here I don't have to have a car at all, I ride the bus or walk. I'm a people watcher—I watch people all night long when I'm working—and there's no better place for that than Broadway on Capitol Hill, the coffeehouse culture, afternoon coffee culture. It's a socialized kind of place, know what I mean? It's not like going out to the mall. I tell anyone who's a novice in town, you want to get to know Seattle? Get on the No. 7 bus and ride out to the end of the line and back.
20. Best club DJ
Re-bar's longtime resident will be changing venues for the first time in 10 years, relocating to the Backdoor Lounge, but that shouldn't stop the folks from flocking to hear the master at work. DJ Riz (a.k.a. Riz Rollins)—who moonlights as a columnist for The Stranger and as a radio DJ for KCMU every Wednesday, and who trades off with Nasir and Masa on Saturday's Expansions show—has an army of records to educate, entertain, and just get your booty shakin'. He's the all-purpose DJ, able to move between the vastly disparate worlds of house, R&B, jungle, and hip-hop with the flick of a wrist. DJ Krass, a regular spinner at the Vogue landed in second, while MC Lucky (who can be found at the Backdoor Lounge among other places) wasn't lucky enough to get above third.
21. Best local music act
Apparently, our readers aren't feeling much city pride these days, at least when it comes to music. Bellingham quartet Swamp Mama Johnson smoked the polls, earning nearly three times as many votes as runner-up Omar Torrez Band—who can at least claim Seattle residence—and nearly four times as many as the third-place group, some jokers who call themselves Pearl Jam. There were also lots of single votes for various acts, including a few from Olympia and Portland. We'd be completely dispirited if it weren't for two readers who chose 764-HERO—a band from Seattle that plays local clubs regularly and is also good. Imagine that.
22. Best local TV show
They've sold their old shows into syndication, they've won local Emmys aplenty, and they still care enough to hang around town making those wacky Renton jokes. Yes, Almost Live, KING-TV's venerable Saturday night sketch-comedy show, hasn't lost its charm for Seattle Weekly readers, who overwhelmingly chose John Keister, Nancy Guppy, and company as their favorite local TV production. Coming in a relatively distant second were professional nice guy John Curley and Evening Magazine, giving KING-TV an impressive one-two placement. (Third was cable-acces sweetheart Mad Molly Living.) Also getting votes were the locally produced/nationally broadcast Bill Nye the Science Guy; the local newscasts (at least those on channel 5 and 7—nobody voted for channel 4); Frasier (the sitcom set in Seattle); and KOMO-TV's Town Meeting.
THINGS THEY LIKE
Anchorperson, KING-TV News
When you called I was driving across the bridge looking at the mountains and I thought of that saying, "Men and women to match our mountains." What distinguishes Seattle and the whole Northwest is a set of values: creativity, ingenuity, and civility. New arrivals willing to respect our traditions, longtime residents willing to try something new.
23. Best local TV personality
His boyish good looks and unbridled enthusiasm have made KING-TV's John Curley an icon of local broadcasting (but he's no Jean Enersen yet, so don't let it go to your head, Skippy). Anyway, the ever-perky host of Evening Magazine is the favorite of Weekly readers, even those who don't know his name ("Curly, Hurley, whatever . . . we love him!" enthused one respondent). We can only hope everyone's happy now. Following in the big guy's wake were Almost Live cast members John Keister and Pat Cashman; the real Jean Enersen; the almost-real Kathi Goertzen; and even chipper weather guy Steve Pool. What, no Cindi Rinehart?
24. Best mainstage theater
Seattleites love a good musical. Or a bad musical, for that matter, if we're to look at the strong second- and third-place showings of both the Paramount and the 5th Avenue, neither of which have featured particularly strong seasons this last year (remember Victor/Victoria? Anybody?). In comparison, the Seattle Repertory Theater came in a distant fourth, and there's little question that its artistic director, Sharon Ott, is still uneasy in taking the local temperature even as she enters her third year at the helm of the Rep: Audiences were wild for the Ellington musical Play On! and the Bill Irwin/David Shiner clown extravaganza Fool Moon, but were decidedly less enthusiastic about The Sisters Matsumoto and a Noel Coward double bill. But it was A Contemporary Theater (700 Union, 292-7676), the Rep's cross-town "competition," that won with our readers hands-down. It's been an astonishing turnaround for ACT, which only a few years ago was teetering under the faltering leadership of then-artistic-director Peggy Shannon and their costly move to swanky new downtown digs in the renovated Eagles fraternal hall. But under the energetic and canny helm of artistic director Gordon Edelstein, the theater won this award for the second year in a row. His mixture of sterling revivals (Miller's Death of a Salesman and the recent Crucible), pocket musicals (Violet, Thunder Knocking at the Door), and consummate new writing (Quills, Summer Moon, and the workmanlike vehicle for outstanding actress Julie Harris, Scent of the Roses) has created a palpable buzz in the extensive corridors of the theater. To hold on to their lead, though, the theater may be hard pressed to continue to fill their two mainstages (and the smaller Bullitt Cabaret) with the sort of quality they've been fortunate to enjoy.
25. Best fringe theater
It's been a hard year for fringe and midsize theaters, with the Bathhouse, the Group, Alice B., Brown Bag, and the Velvet Elvis closing, and other venues including the Compound, Annex, and Open Circle looking to relocate. All of these companies received votes for this category, along with newcomers GREX, Nikki Appino's House of Dames, and improvisational maestros Jet City Improv. As in years past, there was also some confusion about just what a fringe theater was, with some votes going to the Empty Space, On the Boards, and even A Contemporary Theater. But ultimately the winner was Capitol Hill's Theater Schmeater (1500 Summit, 324-5801), which for eight years has been producing theater that sticks to their credo of "great plays, done simply." This has included everything from revivals of classic works from the Greeks through to recent American plays, including an exciting revival of Sam Shepard's 1979 Pulitzer Prize winner, Buried Child, along with the occasional bit of new writing (John Moe's likable comedies Zombie Temps from Outer Space and this summer's Montana Moose). They've also continued their popular series of late-night re-creations from TV's silver age, The Twilight Zone: Live on Stage and, as ever, have furthered the cause of live theater with their free ticket policy for under-18-year-olds. It's a time of transition for the Schmee, with new artistic director Sheila Daniels currently picking the 2000 season, but with a bit of luck and goodwill, this onetime underground parking garage and now cozy black-box theater has a long future ahead of it.
THINGS THEY LIKE
Art gallery owner
I love the weather, the grayness, the coolness. And I like that we have those few brief days of heat in summer and few brief days of cold in wintertime. I love the Federal Courthouse. [It's] just lovely, [I] always enjoy driving by it on my way to work, [the] rhythm of its windows as they break the facade, the way the stone it's built from changes under different lights and in different weathers. In a totally different direction, I love the Ruins; it's one of the best entertaining values in the city. With a menu that changes every month, it's like going to a new restaurant every time. And I love my neighborhood. We moved from Capitol Hill to Queen Anne and hated it. It was quiet and respectable and dull. Now we're living over the Bartell's at Pike and Broadway.
26. Best theatrical performance
In this new category, voters seemed fairly split between local productions and touring shows, with truck extravaganzas like Cats, Chicago, Stomp, and (despite our dire warnings) Rent receiving as many or more votes than Intiman's How I Learned to Drive and Little Foxes, ACT's Death of a Salesman (presumably a nod to returning actor John Aylward), and Vince Balestri's two-year tour-de-force as King of the Beats in the Velvet Elvis' Kerouac: The Essence of Jack. (Some local wags inevitably included the on-air performance of our president's testimonials as well, little realizing that what comes into your home via a small black box is a different medium altogether. Now, if Clinton had toured as the sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn in Chicago, we might have concurred.) But the overall winner was a show that's an ingenious combination of both local and international talent, One Reel's dinner theater Teatro Zinzanni (222 Mercer, 352-2727). Set in an antique Belgian wooden tent that's been reassembled, complete with marquee and entryway, near Seattle Center, the show features a combination of singers, dancers, clowns, magicians, and a contortionist, Ms. Aurelia Cats, whose sinuous malleability and sophisticated sexiness have been known to make male audience members forget their dates (to their later cost). With Russian illusionist Voronin, Seattle's own Kevin Kent (in a whole array of outrageous costumes and personas), and a rotating crew of other folks, this is truly an amazing company, one well deserving their commendation.
27. Best art gallery
First, a little clarification: Some of the bigger vote-getters in this category—the Seattle Art Museum, Henry Art Gallery, and Frye Art Museum—are museums, not galleries. (A museum is an institution that exhibits work for our enrichment; a gallery, on the other hand, has the tough task of selling art in order to keep a roof above its head). But every year you voters forget the difference, maybe because you'v been so wowed by recent museum exhibits—the stellar Chuck Close exhibit at SAM, the surprising cartoon show at the Frye, or the ingenious storage show at the Henry, to name a few highlights of this past year. The only legitimate gallery to get a decent showing in the poll was the Greg Kucera Gallery (212 Third S, 624-0770), which more than doubled its size last summer by moving to a new space in southeast Pioneer Square, right by a soup kitchen and edging on train tracks. Despite its humble surroundings, however, the gallery is all elegance, bringing top international contemporary artists to Seattle and managing to make the neighborhood feel a little bit like Soho.
"What's a choreographer?"
"Jar Jar Binks."
"The Sonic Kid — the guy who dances."
"Murray, behind the bar at Il Bistro
Best art gallery:
"The Lusty Lady"
"White Center Museum of Modern Art."
Best local music act:
"Me in the shower"
Best fringe theater:
"The Lusty Lady."
Best Theatrical Performance of past Year:
"Mariners ownership pretending they wouldn't ask for more money."
28. Best choreographer
At 43, Mark Morris is without question the leading choreographer of his generation, as admired by younger dance artists as he is loved by the public. Which is odd in a way, because his style is utterly antithetical to the prevailing mode of dance creation. Where new choreographers go in for indirection and irony, Morris invariably wears his heart on his sleeve; where they treat music like so much raw background sound to be ripped and tugged at will, he embraces the composer's least gesture as a command. Other modern choreographers, even creating within the strict vocabulary of formal ballet, tend to use the music as wallpaper, illustration, trampoline. Morris inhabits it: Once you've seen the movement he sets to a phrase, it's hard to conceive of any other gesture accompanying it. It's that element—"music visible"—which draws a public indifferent to the art of dance in general; that, and the sense, watching his dancers, that with a little training and Morris to help you, you could do that too. Lisa Foster sidled into second in this category, while Pat Graney and Wade Madsen tangoed to third, in a dramatic tie.
29. Best used-book store
The used bookstore is one of those cultural institutions that help define the worth of a city. The richer the intellectual life, the better and more numerous the used bookstores. Seattle is blessed with an abundance of them, both around the UW and around the city as a whole. Even so, we found ourselves confronted with a fair number of votes for Powell's, the Portland institution with the national reputation. But since this is, after all, a Best of Seattle issue, the strong fifth-place showing of Powell's went for naught. Top honors went to the store with the best name—Twice Sold Tales—with Half Price Books finishing second (has a nice mathematical ring to it, that juxtaposition). Personally, we feel you should pick your bookstore by the quality of the cat in the window.
30.Best place to spend New Year's Eve
See best of the millennium.
Check out more ballot winners! Read Seattlites' picks for best food & restaurants, stores & services, and city life. Or, go to the 1999 Best of Seattle main page.