Phoenix native Matt McMurry has never seen a single movie from The Fast and the Furious franchise. This is highly ironic given that McMurry, 16, not only represents the key demographic for such eye-candy action flicks, but is also a professional race car driver who just set a world record this past summer. McMurry was the youngest competitor ever to start and finish the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France, breaking the record previously set by Pedro Rodriguez, who finished Le Mans at age 17 back in 1959. Want some more irony? McMurry, currently in his junior year at Brophy College Preparatory, doesn’t even own a car yet. Vin Diesel weeps.
Star Trek trouper and social media king
It’s been almost 50 years since George Takei first played Enterprise helmsman Hikaru Sulu on seminal sci-fi show Star Trek, but the 77-year-old actor is more popular than ever, thanks to his late-life roles as political activist, LGBT icon and social media crackup. He came out as gay in 2005, to oppose then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s veto of the Marriage Equality Bill, and has since amassed more than 7.5 million followers on Facebook, all fans of his funny photos and jokey posts. Takei seems as at ease interacting with the masses as he is when relaxing at the home in Show Low, Arizona, that he shares with husband Brad Takei. We recently sat down to chat with the part-time Arizona resident, the day after he appeared at a dinner to support the Democrat candidate for Arizona governor, Fred DuVal.
99.9 KEZ-FM Host and Semi-Pro Wine Steward.
The term “radio personality” is a bit of a misnomer with Beth McDonald. Beguiling her loyal listeners with everything from recliner recommendations to reports on people who can’t stop taking photos of themselves (“Selfies Anonymous”) to her stance on gay rights, the Indiana export and morning drive-time fixture has a personality that transcends the medium. Celebrating 30 years on Valley airwaves this month, the Beth & Friends host sat down with PHOENIX magazine at Paul Martin’s American Grill in Scottsdale to reflect on her storied career – including 20 years doing the Beth & Bill show with the late Bill Austin on 99.9 KEZ-FM – and discuss yet another of her passions: wine.
Real Estate Renaissance Man.
Michael Pollack loves attention. The commercial real estate redeveloper’s name adorns many of his properties (most notably Tempe Pollack Cinemas) and he’s appeared on numerous television shows. He plays drums in his own namesake band (Pollack’s Corporate Affair), and even booked Blood, Sweat & Tears at Chandler Center for the Arts to celebrate his 40th year in business last November. In addition to his penchant for remodeling old buildings and strip malls (his company, Pollack Investments, has face-lifted more than 100 such sites in Arizona), Pollack is a hardcore collector of slot machines and 3D (animatronic) ad memorabilia. We recently talked with Pollack in his 3D advertising museum (take a virtual tour at pollackmuseum.com), among an army of whirring mechanical figures, including a giant spinning Hamm’s Beer bear.
As far as nominative determinism goes, Lowell Pickett – a man whose name could be an amalgamation of legendary blues guitarist Lowell Fulson and R&B singer Wilson Pickett, but who’s actually named after an old family friend – seemed destined for sonic saturation. The Minneapolis native, 65, helped found the famous Dakota Jazz Club in the Twin City in 1985 before heading west for a position at Scottsdale’s Musical Instrument Museum in 2010. As Artistic Director of the MIM Music Theater, Pickett curates a gamut of shows in the museum’s Meyer-speaker-equipped, acoustically-stunning 300-seat venue, from legendary names like Ronnie Spector and Herb Alpert to lesser-known sonic trailblazers like Grammy-nominated indie folk duo The Milk Carton Kids.
Monster-makers Daniel and Dawna Davis
Daniel Davis is a hard guy to miss. When peddling prints of fantastical creatures at comic and book conventions, the artist – who launched the illustration duo Steam Crow with wife Dawna (pictured) in 2005 – typically wears a striped shirt and brown apron, and sports a handlebar mustache that would probably put somebody’s eye out in close quarters. Along with his wife, the Peoria, Ariz.-based artist, 44, shepherds his menagerie of monsters and cartoony creatures everywhere from the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books to the massive San Diego Comicon to our own Phoenix Comicon, taking place June 5-8. Steam Crow’s art (available at steamcrow.com and in local stores including Lulubelle Toy Bodega and Made) resembles a dazzling amalgamation of steampunk, vintage wartime propaganda posters, 1970s cereal boxes and something you might find on the walls of an abandoned amusement park – perfect for Disneyland, where Steam Crow has shown and sold work in the park’s WonderGround Gallery for the past two years.
He appeared on The Today Show and Top Chef Masters, dated talk show diva Star Jones and rubs elbows with the likes of Anthony Bourdain. Still, Herb Wilson refuses to think of himself as a “celebrity” chef. “I would never attach that connotation to my name. We’re all just cooks,” he quips. A gypsy at heart, Wilson attended New York’s Culinary Institute of America (aka the “Harvard of cooking schools”) before whisking off to work under Gérard Pangaud in France. Afterward, he did executive chef stints at Le Refuge and Bull Run Restaurant in his native Manhattan, and Latin-Asian trailblazer Sushi Samba in Las Vegas. The bi-continental expertise he cultivated in Vegas will serve Wilson well in his latest adventure: partnering with restaurateur German Osio to launch East-West fusion eatery Sumo Maya in Scottsdale. The restaurant opened in early April.