Best Local Band
The Love Me Nots
What’s black and white and plays all over? Phoenix garage rockers The Love Me Nots, whose longtime B&W motif belies their colorful brand of “spy-surf-fuzz-gogo” music (imagine Nancy Sinatra fronting Dick Dale’s band, with some farfisa keyboards thrown in). Since forming in 2006, this coed group has released four albums, toured the U.S. and Europe several times, and gotten props from publications like The Village Voice and Spin. Their 2007 debut album, In Black & White, spent ten weeks on the CMJ Top 100 chart, and their latest, The Demon and The Devotee, was deemed “perfect for barbecue parties” by Rolling Stone in France. Stream songs at thelovemenots.com
Best New Local Author
Move over, Stephenie Meyer: Another Arizona young adult book author would like some room on the “next big thing” bench. Tom Leveen (tomleveen.com), the former artistic director of now-defunct Chyro Arts Venue, inked a book deal with Random House Books for Young Readers and published his first tome, Party, in 2010. The novel tells the story of 11 teenagers (one narrative per chapter) within the framework of an end-of-school-year party in Santa Barbara. By the end of the book, they’ve converged and collided in surprising ways. Leveen’s second book, a story about a disillusioned young artist’s relationship with a punk musician, titled Zero, was published in April.
Best Play-by-Play Voice to Imitate
Greg Schulte of the Diamondbacks
Start with Harry Shearer’s hilarious impersonation of honey-voiced Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully on The Simpsons, add a dash of Captain Kirk and a handful of Ted Koppel and – voila! – you’ve got Schulte, who somehow makes a routine phrase like “fastball low and outside” sound like he’s bragging about his new Ferrari. arizona.diamondbacks.mlb.com
Yeah, we know: Your mother is a saint and absolutely the finest, most noble human being in the history of Earth. But did she help you build the Valley’s most celebrated restaurant empire by sharing the Italian culinary secrets of her childhood? And does she personally mash the meatballs and bake the biscotti at your Camelback-area trattoria? “Mio figlio!” she might say, ignoring the stabs of pain in her tired joints. “Could you bring me the flour, prego?” Face it: Pizzeria Bianco mastermind Chris Bianco may have the jump on us in the mom-coolness department. pizzeriabianco.com
Best Internet Mogul
That would be Aaron Matos, who – as a twenty-something human resources manager for a Phoenix publishing company – was among the first to recognize the potential for an Internet job board when he launched the online service in 1999. Thirteen years and nine acquisitions later, Matos’ privately-held “employment community” has spread to seven states and has its name on a sports arena. Hey, Aaron: How about a job, man?
Best Right-Wing Talk Radio Ringmaster
Mike Broomhead at KFYI
Even when he’s lending a microphone to the likes of Russell “Total Recall” Pearce and Arizona Secretary of State Ken “Birther of a Nation” Bennett, KFYI’s drive-time host stands apart from his fellow conservative talk-boxes. The Florida native got into radio a decade ago after his U.S. serviceman brother perished overseas, and his on-air personality – earnest and folks-oriented – bears the telltale marks of that painful rebirth. He’s like Sean Hannity without the smug self-regard – which is to say, nothing like Sean Hannity. Weekdays 4-7 p.m. kfyi.com
Most Badass TV Reporter
The Stanford-educated KTVK/3TV news operative is impossible to miss in the Valley’s sea of fresh-out-of-j-school field reporters – he’s older than most anchors, dependably under-dressed (last necktie sighting: 1997) and still carries some of the theatrical intensity learned during his days as a correspondent for news-tabloid programs Hard Copy and A Current Affair. He’s also a bulldog for a story, pushing past any crowd, any publicist, to grab his quarry by the neck. (Ask Warren Jeffs how that feels.) If you wanted to build a Valley news all-star team, you’d start with Watkiss. azfamily.com
Best Veteran TV Anchor
Lin Sue Cooney
The Valley has come a long way since the Phoenix Gazette announced the promotion of the city’s first female primetime anchor, Mary Jo West, in 1976 with the cutesy headline “Anchorette Debuts.” One of our pioneering newswomen, Lin Sue Cooney started at KPNX-12 back in 1984 and has since garnered multiple Emmys and emerged as one of the queens of the biz. It’s not just the Taipei native’s ever-youthful looks and cool-under-pressure foxitude that wins over viewers, it’s her breezy but professional manner and snappy repartee with co-anchor Mark Curtis. Maybe it’s because she’s an avid traveler and cook (she co-owns a pastry business, Sweet-Stops), and maybe it’s because we’ve let her into our living rooms for 28 years, but she’s the anchor we’d most like to have over for dinner – as long as she brings her chocolate-covered toffee. Weekdays 6-6:30 p.m.; 10-10:30 p.m.
Best Lefty Blog
Blog for Arizona
Liberal punditry can be such a snooze. There’s Glenn Beck, proclaiming the start of World War III (again!) and counseling us to hoard gold with little bits of hysterical spittle flying everywhere – just entertaining his brains out, actually – while NPR’s Diane Rehm methodically dissects another far-reaching public policy issue. Zzzzzz. Thankfully for lefties, the gloves-off Blog for Arizona fills the hyperbolic void. Run by Tucson lawyer Michael Bryan, the site provides a well-informed, reliably partisan spin on statewide and national events, often with catchy phrases like “neoconservative war monger advisors.” Now that’s gold. blogforarizona.com
Best Twitter War
David Liebowitz v. Scott Bundgaard
Isn’t it fascinating how the social media playground entices grown adults to act like junior high schoolers? Case in point: the now-classic Twitter throwdown last February between Valley PR pro David Leibowitz and disgraced ex-State Senator Scott Bundgaard. First, Bundgaard called out Leibo for his no-bid $100K yearly speechwriting contract with outgoing Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon. Leibowitz fired back with a snarky reference to the assault accusation that ended Bundgaard’s career. Then Bundgaard mocked Leibo’s waistline. And so on. It was better than The Real Housewives of New York City.
Coolest Charity Concept
Ear Candy/“Play It Forward”
During the Great Recession, music programs were the first to get the guillotine in many Arizona school districts. Enter Ear Candy, a Tempe-based nonprofit that funnels second-hand guitars, tubas and what-have-yous to underfunded high school music classrooms through online instrument drives. Ingeniously, Ear Candy also has a program – dubbed “Play It Forward” – to equip third-party charities and nonprofit groups with the tools to stage their own instrument drives. Because a band-geek is a terrible thing to waste. earcandycharity.org
Best Out-of-Work Politico
It was a brief but torrid ride for the young ex-Congressman from Paradise Valley. He soft-pedaled his past as a Dirty Scottsdale nightlife blogger. He called Barack Obama “the worst president in history.” He won office and partied responsibly in Tel Aviv. A casualty of Arizona’s congressional redistricting, he lost the GOP primary after just two years in office, but not before the National Journal named him “the most conservative member of the House of Representatives.” That means something in Arizona. We have a feeling he’ll land a gig somewhere.
Best Wheaties-Box Candidate
When Steve Nash was in town, it was a question worth debating: Who’s the biggest sports star in the Valley? The Canadian hoopster with the crazy handles, or the Minnesotan wideout with the hound-like nose for the deep ball? Now that the former has decanted for Los Angeles – pffft! – there’s no debate, no question, not even a suggestion that Fitzgerald is anything less than a Hercules-like superbeing who holds all of our dreams and hopes in his muscular arms like one of those sleeping babies in an Anne Geddes wall calendar. Don’t spike us, Larry.
Best Clutch Olympian
The Texas A&M junior (and graduate of Mesa’s Mountain View High School) wasn’t even supposed to qualify for the 2012 Olympic swim team. But she cowgirl’d up in a huge way in the Olympic trials, defeating favored swimmer Rebecca Soni in the 100-meter breaststroke; and again in London, contributing a leg on the gold-medal-winning 4x100-meter medley relay. The 20-year-old will be in her athletic prime during the Rio de Janeiro Summer Games in 2016. We shall see.
Best Place To Pull a Nine-Hour Workday
Oh, those crazy, cash-flush kids from Silicon Valley. Is it their sole purpose in life to make us media dinosaurs feel like busboys at a swank cocktail party? The 450-employee Scottsdale outpost of the rising user-review site attracts top talent by offering a work environment that more closely resembles a Real World set than a traditional office, with a game room, beer kegs, well-stocked kitchens, rock ‘n’ roll-themed conference rooms and something called a “relaxation room.” We’re thinking that’s a nap room. Talk about living the dream. yelp.com
Best Local Designer
The Midwestern transplant started making and selling jewelry as an art student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the late 1980s and has been openly bucking the “starving artist” stereotype ever since. Gauthier handcrafts every diamond pendant, emerald bracelet and platinum signet ring offered for sale at his two eponymous Scottsdale jewelry shops, and purportedly maintains one of the world’s top gemstone collections. Hey, beats doing $5 big-head caricatures at the mall. Two Valley locations. jewelrybygauthier.com