Best view saver
All hail the mighty Irene Wall! At first Wall's quest to save Victor Steinbrueck Park's sweeping view of Elliott Bay and the Olympic mountains seemed entirely quixotic. After all, Wall was up against a powerful triumvirate—the Marriott Hotel chain, the Port of Seattle, and City Hall, who wanted to build a nine-story, $65 million behemoth that would rise up and steal our precious views. The irony of two government bodies showing such deference to corporate interests and giving such short shrift to the public interest was lost on no one, but Wall didn't seem to have a chance in hell. Her early efforts to engage government regulators met with failure. She appealed, without the benefit of counsel, to the Shoreline Hearings Board, where she faced off against heavyweight lawyers from the Port, the city, and Marriott. And she beat their butts fair and square; the Shoreline Hearings Board ruled in her favor. From Steinbrueck sack-lunchers to Market customers, we're all indebted to Wall for her courage and persistence.
Best appointment by Paul Schell
There were high hopes for the Seattle Arts Commission when Mayor Wes Uhlman set it up going on 30 years ago. Over the intervening years, those early hopes have slowly died away, as finding cash for public arts funding got harder and harder, while community demands for art to serve as a panacea for all social ills grew apace. Susan Trapnell, a veteran of private-sector arts administration, is the first director in the Arts Commission's history to come to the job with hands-on experience in the creative side of art: in the care and feeding of artists, in support of their visions without losing sight of the bottom line, in collaboration with other arts organizations in pursuit of common goals without losing sight of her own specific ambitions. If she manages to survive the frustrations of serving in an office that for decades has been little more than a paymaster to the pressure groups that dominate the arts establishment, she has the qualifications to help design a civic arts strategy for the new century: one to take advantage of the unprecedented wealth of the community while recognizing that straight-ahead subsidy is a thing of the past.
Best band that throws books at you
In the movement to canonize soft-spoken indie rockers who talk about their feelings way too much, we have done a disservice to those hard-working ladies and gentlemen who take the long road to the human heart. While Bloodhag (http.//members.xoomcom/childhistory/bloodhag/bloodhag.htm) could sing songs about 21st-century alienation of self and commodification, they'd rather yell about Jules Verne, Michael Moorcock, and J.G. Ballard. And lest they sway you into a somnambular hypnosis with their mesmerizing mayhem, they will awaken you with a science-fiction book to the head, hurled out of the same suitcase that is believed to have armed Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. Chaos and required reading lists stick to these bookworms like blood to a hatchet, and if you're not going to pay attention to these gentlemen (some of whom also own Seattle's best arcade, Hi-Score), you're going to pay in blood—or a novel to the noggin.
Best audience member
To marshal the enthusiasm necessary to see two or three shows in a week, 52 weeks a year, requires an almost superhuman dedication to your art of choice, not to mention buns of steel. For many years the P.I.'s Joe Adcock aced out all competition by somehow attending the opening night of every show offered anywhere in the Puget Sound area, often being, by report, in two different venues at the same time. But since July 1998, Adcock has placed a distant second to a mysterious Mr. Joe Boling. Boling, a retired Army officer, was initially a subscriber "only" to the Opera, ACT, and Intiman, but intrigued by the Seattle's vast wealth of theater, he began collecting subscriptions and theater tickets with a ferocious avidity. Last year, he "topped out" at 31 subscriptions and attended over 330 performances. Boling's tastes, in both medium and subject matter, are jaw-droppingly wide, and include "opera, ballet, symphony (choral works), modern dance, performance art, musical theater, student work, improv, late-night, benefits, and drama," with theater estimated at about 60 percent of the total. Boling estimates that he's seen over 600 shows in the past two years, and while other interests, including coin collecting, bike riding (for the MS society), and military conventions have taken up a fair amount of his time recently, he has nonetheless averaged over one show a day for the first half of 2000. "I expect to still see over 250 performances in 2000, and I already have over 40 on my calendar for 2001," he admits.
Best new City Council member
OK, maybe she's a tad too concerned about those poor circus animals, but Judy Nicastro has lived up to the promise she demonstrated on the campaign trail last year. The tough progressive may have a fondness for grandstanding on the dais, but few of her colleagues would dare call her on it. Her hard-edged rebukes to City Attorney Mark Sidran during one debate rattled the little club-closer so completely that he could only retaliate by making sexist remarks in the City Hall elevator. Here's a quick "big vote" scorecard: Judy developed a progressive agenda to help renters, while Heidi Wills went on a Chamber of Commerce trip to Europe. Meanwhile, Jim Compton developed a WTO review process so flawed one of his colleagues refused to participate. Judy fought like hell to save the monorail, while Heidi and Jim worked to kill it. Judy worked to repeal Sidran's towing law that unfairly targets the poor and minorities. Jim and Heidi voted to uphold the law. That's 3 for 3 for Judy, leaving the scoreless Heidi and Jim in her dust. You do the math.
In a recent Northwest journalism contest, the Times' Steve Kelley and the P-I's Art Thiel tied for last place in the sports-column category. Who's submitting entries these days, Susan Lucci? Day in and out, the dailies' two lead jock columnists are the most consistent good sports reads on either side of Denny Way, with an edge to Thiel for his trademark phrase-twisting one-liners. And while, as editorial writers say, the Times' Ron Judd is gaining on the inside (does anyone else write about clam limits and term limits in the same sports column?), our nod goes to P-I baseball writer Jim Caple (email@example.com, 448-8006), who references the grand game from a loftier perspective. Typical of his work was a piece on a baseball broadcasting-rights squabble in Montreal—where Expo games are aired in French only ("Mon oh mon!")—segueing into recollections of a memorable 1979 radio deal drummed up by two Cal-Berkeley students to broadcast A's games on their 10-watt college station. After the team's commercial radio deal faltered, the twosome made a last-second pitch to do the broadcasts as a community service and gained the rights for $1. It stands as the lowest such fee in the history of broadcasting—forever known as baseball's "one-figure deal." It was a stellar story—you gotta love this guy.
Best menu creator
A lot of factors beyond food go into the making of a first-class restaurant: d飯r, service, price, and ambience all count. But for lasting success, nothing counts so much as the menu. Does the mere thought of the menu make you want to return, again and again? To judge from her new spot, Fandango (2313 First, 441-1188), restaurateur Christine Keff has the magic-menu touch. The food at Fandango's older sister, Flying Fish (2234 First, 728-8595), is wonderful, and there the biggest pleasure is the customizable bill of fare, adjustable to a whole tableful of varied appetites. Fandango, by comparison, is a "theme restaurant," but within that theme—Latin American, mainly Brazilian-inspired—Keff has created mouthwateringly varied combinations, leaning distinctly toward the hearty side (oxtail, chicken, and starchy-vegetable stew, suckling pig, short ribs) but offering plenty for more delicate appetites (tuna escabeche, orange-caper scallops, mole of squid). Every single item croons, "Try me, try me!" And every single item makes you glad you did.
Ever seen a surly waitress? Well, sure you have: Go to a real restaurant in any trendy Seattle culinary district (Belltown, Queen Anne, Capitol Hill), and the status quo features a lot of gals who turn off the charm after they take your tip. But it's that special brand of waitress who stays cool during and after the shift, the one who knows what's happening at all times, that we all know and, sigh, love. Of course, if she's attractive to boot, we're happier still. And the best of this rare breed, Darcy Anderson, serves up her sweetness with style at Hattie's Hat (5231 Ballard NW, 784-0175) in good ol' Ballard. Darcy's a knockout, no doubt, but the kind of knockout that lets you go 12 rounds with her before she goes for blood. Here's to our sincere wish that Darcy will be serving us Bloody Marys and sausage gravy for years to come.
Best free-form DJ
Darrin Wiener, a.k.a. Plastiq Phantom, is fast attaining local-legend status thanks to the smartly sculpted post-techno of his stellar four-cut EP, Select Imputor? (Sweet Mother). But just as fun as his brainy track-making or his taste in obscure samples is what he does when he swaps his sequencers and mixing board for a crate of wax and a pair of Technics. Like most "free-form" DJs, the 22-year-old has a serious jones for juxtaposing goofy source material: He'll throw silly sound effects on top of abstracted post-dub, or segue from kiddie korn into one of Aphex Twin's more level-headed, dance-floor-friendly tracks. But unlike most of his conceptually minded peers, the Phantom actually makes something of his willfully eclectic foundations, building sets that flow with the instinctive logic of his records, and even though he rarely uses straight dance tracks, he gets bodies moving just fine.
Best PR guy/gal
The demands of promoting, season in, season out, are responsible for a high attrition rate in our local PR community. Dealing with artists, staff, the general public, and the snarling pit bulls known as critics requires charm, tenacity, charisma, and an ability to walk the fine line between truth and fiction—particularly when you're pitching a show that you know in your heart of hearts is a rabid Pekinese of a production. So in recognition not only of the immensely hard work required by their profession, but in awe of the general good humor that they are able to keep while performing their task, we award Gary Tucker as best PR Guy and Gayle Roberts as PR Gal of Seattle. Tucker, who's worked at a number of local theaters, currently makes his home at ACT, while Roberts runs her own agency, Gayle Roberts Public Relations, along with being a standard-bearer for the 5th Avenue Theater. It's well-known that in addition to their work for cash, both Tucker and Roberts have lent their expertise and time to a number of events that are either charities or so in need of help that they should count as charities. Tucker, with his easy laugh and trademark weird shoes, and Roberts, with her Amazonian physique and flashing smile—not to mention her flashing camera—are a common sight at post-show parties, and both promoters often provide entertainment far more scintillating than anything offered earlier in the evening.
Best drink slinger
Very few drinkeries on Capitol Hill are scene-free, and even fewer have service besides. But Canterbury Ale & Eats (534 15th E, 322-3130) stands a pickled slice above them all, and for one simple reason: Seana Lynch. Hustling about ye olde boozery with sprite-like gusto, this impish delight damn near does a jig every time you order a bevy. Seana knows a thing or two about a thing or two, let us tell you. Watching her serve up the sauce at the 'Bury is like watching a really good sports player do something really good with their sporting costume and/or sporting equipment. Or like watching an airplane driver drive his plane real good to land without crashing. Or, better yet, like a mosquito buzzing from sleeveless T to tank top to muscle shirt to get the best blood. Or. . . . (Man, shouldn't have had those last four Long Islands, 'cause it might be having an effect upon this here writing here).
My third wife—now there's a story. Took all my money, stole my Camaro. That's why Tip Wizard is reduced to living in a mobile home and doing children's birthday parties.
Best departing dancer
Anne Derieux's hypnotic performance in the pas de deux of George Balanchine's Agon at Pacific Northwest Ballet last autumn proved she owned the stage—and her partner Jeffrey Stanton as well. In a signature moment where she hovers in a deep arabesque over him—he flat on his back on the floor—she seemed to have reduced him to a cipher, responsive only to her. Now Derieux is retiring from PNB, reportedly frustrated with artistic differences, and will look for other work in arts administration. From this perspective, her dancing in Agon seemed fraught with unrealized possibilities. It is of little consolation to recall her powerful presence; she will be missed.
Best organized activist
Week in, week out, Jean Buskin, a gracious scientist, dedicates her free time to promoting peace and social justice. Her primary activity is working with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a faith-based pacifist group, but most of know her as the author of Peace and Justice Events, Seattle's most comprehensive weekly activist calendar that she distributes to hundreds of readers via e-mail. She lists all types of events, be they large or small, militant or touchy-feely, anarchist or Marxist, mainstream or extremist. Her most recent offering includes 240 listings with subjects ranging from hemp education to micro radio to the US war on Colombia. To receive Buskin's calendar by e-mail, send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org, and specify if you want it in text or RTF format. Or visit the calendar online at www.scn.org/ activism/calendar. Thanks to Jean, maybe we'll get more of that peace and justice yet!
Best drag queen
Dina Martina isn't your stereotypical drag queen: She doesn't lip synch to "Material Girl"; she sings "99 Luftballons" in a soothing, off-key voice. Dina doesn't shake her hips from side to side with the beat; she dances poorly, in too-tight, cheap shoes. She doesn't exude glamour with glittery makeup and a platinum-blonde 'do; she radiates a naive fucked-upness, with smeared mascara and lipstick and a head of black hair that looks like two dead cats sewn together. She doesn't barrage the audience with crass comments and lewd asides; she speaks from the bottom of her sweet, just over-the-hill, Las Vegas-lounge-singer's heart. Writer and performer Grady West, who has been staging Dina Martina for 11 years, began the cabaret act as a joke in Pearls Before Swine. Now, over a decade later, he's transformed the gag into a brilliant multimedia mix of kitsch and sentiment, as evidenced by last year's Dina Martina Christmas Special. If the planets align, Dina Martina's star just might shine on Seattle sometime soon; she may drop out of the sky and come crashing through the roof, but she'll shine nonetheless.
Best neon artist
"Neon artist" is what Dale Chihuly would be called if, after he bent his glass into shape, he had to make it airtight and then fill it with an inert gas that glows red when electrified. The neon feat doesn't get as much respect as glass-blowing, but the arcane art of tube-twisting and lighting is performed by a variety of local creators, from those working for large commercial firms down to struggling one-person studios. For pure, hand-formed originality and endurance, longtime Pioneer Square neon artist Gary Kennedy must own the local one-man record. His gasworks, produced in a small studio on South Washington Street (and sold in Belltown at 1928 Second, 351-6166), adorn barroom windows, walls of fine homes, and an assortment of business from restaurants to travel agencies (a dedicated struggling artist, he sometimes works trade-outs, as he once did for airfare to Barcelona). He has even done work for movie sets, and lately he's swung toward artful neon festooned with pounded-copper sculptures. "They're selling," he says, fretting over the prospect. As the man who once got beat up by the Hell's Angels, supplied funny cookies to the original Moby Grape, and chauffeured Janis Joplin around in a '51 Hudson, he's worried what success might do to his image. We're not.
Best of Seattle, 2000
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