Sneakers, shorts and spandex are the new black for visitors at historical Mesa Cemetery. Those strolling the landscaped, tranquil turf topped by stately Italian cypress trees are just as likely to exercise or picnic as they are to pay their respects to the departed. And since the launch last year of annual cemetery tours every spring, Mesa Cemetery is also a place for visitors to unearth some of the city’s colorful history. “I started here as a landscaper,” Mesa Cemetery coordinator Rick Fifield says. “It took me forever to mow because I was reading all the headstones.”
Flowers. Coins. Unopened whiskey bottles. Bags of Baken-ets Hot ‘N Spicy pork rinds. These are just a few of the glut of gifts regularly left at the Mesa Cemetery grave site of famed country singer Waylon Jennings. Such presents are regularly removed per cemetery policy, but for all the adulation shown the late country crooner, his headstone is simple but dignified, marking the final resting place of “A vagabond dreamer, a rhymer and singer of songs.”
They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend. But for some girls, this is only true if the diamond in question is the one you circle after smashing a hanging curveball into the cheap seats.
Formed in the early 1930s, Phoenix’s bygone semi-pro softball teams represented an era of surging wartime popularity for women’s sports in America as male athletes fought abroad. The Queens, along with their hometown rivals, the Ramblers, helped Phoenix become the unofficial softball capital of the world in the mid-20th century by winning multiple national championships in packed ballparks, according to a 2010 Arizona Republic article.
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. But in 1960 and 1961, what happened in the resort playground of Paradise Valley aired on syndicated TV.
At least that was the case when the recently razed Mountain Shadows Resort was used as the background for a short-lived – and now virtually forgotten – syndicated TV crime drama called The Brothers Brannagan, about a pair of sibling private eyes who ran around the luxurious property keeping the guests and citizens safe. Filmed on location in the Valley and featuring the Mountain Shadows Resort sign in every episode, the show was a Dragnet-era Simon & Simon, with Phoenix standing in for San Diego.
Alice (CBS, 1976-1985): A show about a widowed waitress, shot in California but set at the real (and still open) Mel’s Diner on Grand Avenue.
Medium (NBC/CBS, 2005-2011): Patricia Arquette starred as real-life psychic Allison DuBois, whose character on the show was employed as a consultant for the district attorney’s office in Phoenix.
American Body Shop (Comedy Central, 2007): This improvised comedy show about an accident-prone crew at a dysfunctional auto body shop in Phoenix was canceled after one season.
A history of healing waters and prominent patrons lingers among aging palm trees and deserted buildings at Castle Hot Springs Resort near Prescott. Described as “an island of lush green, placid in its surroundings of ranches and gold mine properties, a spot where one can ‘listen to quiet,’” by writer Margaret Dudley Thomas in a 1974 issue of Arizona Highways, the resort’s rugged beauty is recalled in this photo (circa late 1960s) furnished by the Arizona Historical Society.
Forty years ago, Phoenix was transforming from a sleepy desert town into a full-fledged city. Shopping malls sprang up like crabgrass. Construction on Papago Freeway began. City-dwellers fled to the suburbs. Everything was in flux, including two Italians who would change the Phoenix food scene, bringing a big taste of Little Italy and big personalities to match.