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.
stage combat instructor
Andrea Robertson loves a good fight. Not the improvised scrapping you might see on a playground or in a boxing ring, but the kind that plays out in dark theaters and dimly-lit auditoriums. Robertson teaches stage combat, which she defines as a choreographed fight that tells a story but is safe for the actors and looks realistic to the audience. “It’s telling a story through violence,” she says. Robertson stages fights using a variety of weapons as well as basic hand-to-hand combat.
As a theater major at Western Illinois University, Robertson enrolled in an Elizabethan weaponry class and learned to use a rapier and dagger. “It felt like home,” she says. And so, a career was born.
Maestro Michael Christie joined the Phoenix Symphony eight years ago and promptly coined his own magical mix of music and multi-media theater. Christie – whose resumé includes stints with the Brooklyn Philharmonic and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra in Australia – introduced Arizona audiences to the works of numerous living composers and the now-popular Intermission Insights, a halftime Q&A with featured musicians.
Stand Up Scottsdale! Funnyman
Comedy is rooted in pain, they say, so little wonder Howard Hughes does it for a living. During one particularly trying stretch of his pre-showbiz life, the Stand Up Scottsdale! owner and performer got divorced, suffered a stroke, and buried his beloved dog. More recently, Spike TV and Bar Rescue paid a visit, resulting in a nationally televised sparring match in which host Jon Taffer accused Hughes, in essence, of being a bummer onstage.
cardinals signal caller
The merry-go-round of mediocrity that was the Arizona Cardinals’ quarterback position mercifully ground to a halt in the offseason. Out: Kevin Kolb, Max Hall, John Skelton and three years of failed leadership at the game’s most important position. In: a Heisman Trophy winner with a proven track record of pro success.
upwardly mobile MAYOR
Two years after defeating Republican Wes Gullet in one of the bloodiest Phoenix mayoral races in recent memory, Greg Stanton is all smiles. The former District 6 councilman and deputy attorney general rides into the second half of his term on plenty of ups (e.g. a bullish economy, being named “Best Elected Official” by the Capitol Times) and few downs (e.g. having his nose broken at a Phoenix Mercury scrimmage).