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.
Arizona Diamondbacks star
Paul Goldschmidt, aka “America’s First Baseman,” hardly seemed destined for stardom. Ignored by major college baseball programs out of high school, the 6’3” Texas State product fell all the way to the eighth round before the Diamondbacks scooped him up in the 2009 Major League Baseball draft, and batted a pedestrian .250 his rookie season. But “Goldie” was stellar in 2013, hitting .302, blasting 36 home runs and placing second in National League MVP voting. The Scottsdale resident, 26, is known not just for his slugging and stout glovesmanship, but for his philanthropy, which has included Christmas shopping with disadvantaged youth and presenting a $100,000 check to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
Scottsdale native Brianna "Brie" Garcia-Colace has dropkicked, kneed and clotheslined her way into the upper echelon of World Wrestling Entertainment. She's used a little twin magic to get there – Brie is one half of the Bella Twins, along with her sister and tag-team partner Nicole (aka Nikki, who lives out of state). Garcia-Colace made her WWE debut in 2008, earned her first Divas Championship in 2011, and in March 2013, she and her sister joined the cast of E! Network reality show Total Divas. The show's first season captured Brie's real-life relationship with WWE superstar Bryan Danielson (ring name: Daniel Bryan), who popped the big question on the season finale. With the second season of Total Divas premiering this month, her Arizona wedding to Danielson slated for April and a second Divas Championship in her sights, 2014 is looking bright.
Author and Adventurer
Even in today’s world of GPS and Google Earth, there’s a bounty of unexplored territory in our backyard. Five years after probing the Grand Canyon’s least-traveled slots using the techniques of canyoneering – which variously combines climbing, rappelling, hiking and swimming – Todd Martin netted a 2012 National Outdoor Book Award for his self-published tome Grand Canyoneering: Exploring the Rugged Gorges and Secret Slots of the Grand Canyon. The 50-year-old Pittsburgh native turned Ahwatukee resident says he’s always been interested in the outdoors, since he was a kid who would bring home snakes from his exploits, and he continues to discover cool Arizona outdoors spots while developing his passion for photography. Martin, a Maricopa County air quality engineer who holds master’s degrees in electrical and environmental engineering, is also featured in the 23-minute festival film The Last of the Great Unknown. Find information about his growing media empire at toddshikingguide.com.
Gaming guru and star wars scribe
Since moving to the Valley in 1979, Vermont-reared game developer and author Michael Stackpole has carved out quite a niche in the realms of fantasy and sci-fi, penning New York Times best-selling novels set in the Star Wars universe, popular BattleTech-based books, and most recently, books based on the game World of Warcraft. Despite his penchant for penning all things alien and fantastical, the frequent Phoenix Comicon panelist takes his real-life exotica with a grain of salt – since 1988, he’s also been on the board of the Phoenix Area Skeptic Society (formerly the Phoenix Skeptics), a group dedicated to promoting critical thinking and debunking conspiracies and myths. He can frequently be found signing stacks of his books at places like The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale.