Monday, September 22, 2014


Light Brigade

phm1112 pfhistorymini1 lg

Fortunately for connoisseurs of Phoenix’s fading heritage of mom-and-pop roadside businesses and their eye-popping neon displays, Michael Levine has equipment few people possess. “A lot of people want old signs, but not many have the machinery and space to salvage and house them,” Levine says. The energetic Brooklyn native has rescued some of the city’s last remaining historic neon signs – one-of-a-kind pieces of promotional art that were installed when cars sported tail fins and Van Buren Street was the main drag for cross-country motorists.

Among the signs salvaged by Levine is one from the Sun Villa Motel, formerly located at 2529 E. Van Buren. “Its scale is incredible,” Levine says. The sign is so tall that only the top 15 feet can be displayed in his Levine Machine Complex building, located in the Warehouse District. Levine was lucky that its neon tubes were intact. “All we had to do was fire it up!”

Levine wasn’t so fortunate with the lower portion of the sign. “I power-washed out 40 years of pigeon poop and bird skeletons,” he says. “It was unbelievably putrid; I couldn’t get the smell out of my head for a week.” So why does Levine do such dirty work? Of his passion to preserve the Valley’s architectural elements, Levine says, “It’s really simple. Once they’re gone, they’re gone, and they won’t be coming back.”

Tipping the Ssscales

Reptile-rescuing activists tend one of the Southwest’s most intriguing animal exhibits.

“It’s a learned fear,” Russ Johnson says. “Think about it: the first day of Sunday school. Who’s the heavy?” The longtime lizard lover is speaking of the anxiety or revulsion so many people feel with regard to reptiles. Johnson is clearly immune.

Read more: Tipping the Ssscales

Express Yourself

Will Phoenix and Las Vegas get their long-awaited federal interstate? Bet on it.

Biker and former trucker Kenny Ratliff is a regular on the road to Vegas. He’s driven from Phoenix more than 30 times, sometimes for work but always for pleasure – if only to cruise the Strip and observe its singular wildlife. And he’d go more often, if not for the cumbersome 285-mile drive, with its halting stop-and-go leg in Sun City and pokey interludes through Wickenburg and Kingman.

Read more: Express Yourself

Paws and Effect

Meet Fozzie, the nation’s first full-time crisis response canine.

Their first call as partners was a fatal car crash on the Carefree Highway involving two 15-year-old girls. It was 2 a.m. The first officer on scene found one of the victims dead. Next to the deceased girl was her best friend, holding her hand, very much alive. But she was mute, in shock, unable to tell officers what had happened or if she was hurt.

Read more: Paws and Effect

I fought the law and...


The late-night, at-home arrests of New Times executives last fall sent shockwaves through Arizona. Was it an “inappropriate abuse” of police powers exercised by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas, or were the elected officials just policing a “law-breaking newspaper?” Now the New Times is suing for millions, and a court will decide if Maricopa County’s top law enforcement officials must answer for what happened that night. Here’s the inside story that leads you down the winding road to this blistering showdown.

October 18, 2007, started off as a night worth celebrating: It was the 16th wedding anniversary of Jim and Molly Larkin, a couple who treats each other – after four children and all these years – like they’re still on their honeymoon.

They’d had drinks at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa on Camelback Road with Jim’s longtime business partner, Michael Lacey and Lacey’s girlfriend, but even on a night when they could have painted the town, the Larkins preferred to go home and eat dinner with their children.

Read more: I fought the law and...