PEOPLE & MEDIA
Fans of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast will enjoy Limited Engagement, a weekly arts and culture podcast birthed from writer Jared Duran’s monthly live show of the same name held at vintage shop C-MOD (some episodes are recorded there, others at Duran’s home). In his conversations with Valley creatives, Duran evinces the neurotic charm of a less frantic Woody Allen. This spring he published a compilation of the show’s first two years, The Arg in Blarg. ltdengagementpod.com
Most Iconic Arizona Newscaster Look That’s Not Mark Curtis’ Moustache
Yetta Gibson’s Pixie
In a sea of perfectly coiffed blonde bobs and lobs, Yetta Gibson’s bold brunette pixie cut stands out. Subverting and elevating broadcast beauty norms, the CBS 5 weekday morning anchor has a style that both reflects her personality and suits her job title. Yes, the Curtis soup-strainer is still the pre-eminent grooming choice in Valley media, but Gibson’s pixie pleases.
Best Talk radio duo
Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes
Both longtime KTAR 92.3 opiners, St. James and Hughes teamed up in 2015 to anchor the station’s A.M. drive-time slot, just in time for the slow two-year news cycle that followed. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) We like their animated but thoughtful banter. We like that their moderate-conservative sensibilities run counter to the more caustic wing of the KTAR lineup (cough... Darin Damme). And we like that simmering sibling rivalry they try to hide. Or do they? Good radio. ktar.com
Best Online Shop
Scottsdale mom Shari Lott turned her passion for child fashion into a thriving online retailer based out of a warehouse in the Scottsdale Airpark three years ago. The company has grown exponentially since then, amassing more than 400,000 Facebook followers and 136,000 Instagram followers. Lott prides herself on featuring fellow “mompreneurs,” many local. spearmintlove.com
Best Food Blog
Write on Rubee
In a medium saturated with subpar photography and abysmal writing, blogger Christina Barrueta sets herself apart by excelling at both, pairing beautiful images with passionate storytelling about local food and drinks and the master craftspeople behind them. Her zest for the Phoenix food scene jumps from every blog post and Instagram pic. It’s a delightful – and always hunger-inducing – romp. writeonrubee.com
Most Versatile Local Culture Critic
Writing for the Phoenix New Times, his own blog and other outlets, Naftule has a taste and eye for it all: tiny local zines, massive music festivals, artist profiles, one-off theater debuts and broader culture trends. And he doesn’t just critique: Naftule is a visual artist, writer and performer
Best of the Valley Trio
Best Sexagenarian Rocker
“Retired rocker”? Not by a damn sight. The pride of Cortez High released his 27th career long-play, Paranormal, this year.
With the demise of the great Muhammad Ali and his patronage of Celebrity Fight Night, Cooper becomes the dean of Valley charity-craft. Endeavors include the Christmas Pudding show, numerous golf fundraisers and The Rock Teen Center.
Best Classic Rock Radio Show
We try to stay away from national franchises and syndicated products in BOV, but since Nights with Alice Cooper is produced here, we’ll give him a mulligan. Besides, his humorous rock reminiscences on the show are golden.
Best of the Valley Trio
TV: Dave Biscobing
Our BOV pick for Best Investigative Reporter two years ago, the former East Valley Tribune scribe had a typically auspicious year in 2016, collecting Rocky Mountain Emmys for two stories, including Abusing the Truth, his exposé of ex-Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu’s disciplinary policies as an East Coast boarding school headmaster. abc15.com
Print: Craig Harris
The Arizona Republic
The awards keep piling up for longtime Republic reporter Craig Harris. In June, he was part of a team that received the Society of Professional Journalists’ New America Award for coverage of the housing crisis on the Navajo Nation. In February, he won a prestigious George Polk Award for his investigative series on questionable firings at the Arizona Department of Economic Security. More than bragging rights, though, his dogged reporting led to dozens actually getting their jobs back. Actionable storytelling: How’s that for fake news? azcentral.com
Radio: Jude Joffe-Block
Journalists at Phoenix’s National Public Radio member station do all-around great work, churning out thoughtfully reported stories around the Valley and beyond – from the Navajo Nation to Mexico City. Typical NPR. But if we must pick one, Joffe-Block has been indefatigable in her coverage of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his controversial anti-immigration policies. So much so, she’s co-writing a book about it. kjzz.org
Best Bespectacled Phoenix Celebrity
Nobody rocks a semi-ironic bolo tie and wild eyeglass frames better. Marshall Shore is a self-described “hip historian” and frequent PHOENIX story source who knows as much as anybody, and likely more, about the weird, forgotten fringe of Phoenix – from “Trunk Murderess” Winnie Ruth Judd to the old Playboy Club on Central. He’s also a total loon who looks like a trippy Colonel Sanders, and anyone who’s been around the arts and culture scene in the Valley should recognize him, or at the very least recognize the glisten of his embroidered, bejeweled suits. marshallshore.blogspot.com
Best Photo Op for Leftist Friends from Out of Town
The Trump Billboard
So your hipster friends from Boston or Berkeley or Portland assume the Valley is just an enclave of hardcore right-wing nationalism and obsessive gun love, right? Take them to see “Trumpocalypse,” Karen Fiorito’s memorable if unsubtle agitprop billboard depicting Trump surrounded by mushroom clouds and dollar signs that resemble swastikas. A selfie in front of it will make them the envy of their Facebook friends. Grand Avenue, near 11th Avenue
Best Radio Feud
Live 101.5 FM
Last fall, Lady La and fellow Morning Mess co-hosts Joey Boy and Aneesh got into a painful, very public audio battle over La’s lack of on-air sharing. She wanted to keep private matters private, while the fellows maintained that dishing on her personal life was a requirement of the job. The verbal contretemps ended on September 30, 2016, when La permanently left radio after 10 years, reportedly to “pursue other opportunities” (i.e. jobs that don’t require her to talk about sex.) We hear she’s moving into print. 840 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-260-1015, live1015phoenix.cbslocal.com
Bringing Mark Grace Back to the Diamondbacks Broadcast Team
We admit it: Many of our ball club’s decisions in recent seasons have left us scratching our heads. So we were relieved to hear the former first baseman’s wry line of gab, sprinkled with fun facts, back on the air. Ousted from the booth over personal troubles in 2012, he’s got a TV toehold again, as a pre- and post-game commentator on FOX Sports Arizona, and we hope it leads to a larger role. In the immortal words of Major League’s Harry Doyle: “He’s not the best color man in the league for nothing, folks!” foxsports.com/arizona
Best of the Valley Battle: Deliciously Hateable Lifestyle Bloggers
Yes, their thirst for social-media self-promotion is somewhat off-putting… but lord help us, we can’t stop scrolling.
The New Darlings
Instagram: @newdarlings (380k followers)
Between Robert’s full beard and Christina’s heavy fringe, these two are #hairgoals made flesh.
Plus: a lot of flat-brimmed hats.
Where in the world are the New Darlings? This year alone the Martinezes escaped Phoenix for a Parisian getaway and a two-week Scandinavian cruise. Enjoy watching them, mortals!
Follow along as the Darlings remodel their newly purchased historic home in Phoenix, with more succulents than any human could possibly need.
Instagram: @sarahmhubbell (6.7k followers)
Sarah lives a modern domestic dream with husband Ryan and young children Hudson and Olive (naturally!) in Phoenix, where Sarah founded the creative digital magazine Emma.
Hubbell’s historical home stands out from the blogosphere-wide parade of white-washed minimalist designs with plenty of color and lived-in touches.
Look familiar? You may recognize Sarah from her 2008 turn on MTV’s The Real World.
Most Candid candidate
TMI is the medium for Noah Dyer, a deep-deep-ballot political wannabe who shrewdly gained national headlines earlier this year by giving the public a peek into his closet. “Noah has had both deep and casual sexual experiences with all kinds of women... [and] had group sex and sex with married women,” reads the website for the self-declared Arizona gubernatorial candidate. The site also included something he made at one of those art classes where you paint and drink wine. We’re not sure which revelation is more damaging. noahdyer.com
The owner of Chandler’s old-school burger joint Wimpy’s Paradise has garnered some local news coverage for his kindness campaigns, including fundraising to replace kitchen equipment for two elderly patrons. But his standing offer of “free hugs” took the cake this spring when a suicidal man left a note on the back of his check. “I really just came for the hug. One day at a time, just trying to find reasons to live,” he wrote. Walters shared a photo of the note on Facebook and it went viral locally, with hundreds of shares. 48 S. San Marcos Pl., Chandler, 480-821-3197, facebook.com/wimpysparadise/
Best Mother-Son Duo
Jeri Williams and her son Alan are redefining the term “power couple.” Last summer, Jeri earned her place in state history as the first woman and second African-American to become Phoenix police chief. Meanwhile, Alan, who played basketball at North High in Phoenix, accomplished a goal that a very small percentage of schoolboys ever realize – breaking onto an NBA roster as a bruising 6-foot-8, 260-pound forward-center for the Suns. If you can think of a cooler tandem of trailblazers, we’d like to hear it.
Most Inspirational Athlete
Since suffering cardiac arrest on the ice before a minor-league hockey game last November, former Tucson Roadrunners captain Craig Cunningham has served as a hugely inspirational example of how to rebound with class and strength after life hits you with an errant, life-altering puck. Cunningham lost part of his leg and playing career, but has reinvented himself as a pro talent scout and was recently hired by the Arizona Coyotes.
Best of the Valley Battle: Most Clever Local Marketing Campaign
Eco-Chic Consignments Inc.
Multiple Valley locations
Valley sisters Ann and Jenny Siner, who founded resale clothing boutique My Sister’s Closet and furniture consignment shop My Sister’s Attic, aren’t afraid of bold advertising. Slogans for their stores include, “Sell Your Sole” and “Wanted: One Night Stand.” The apex – or, dare we say, climax – of their marketing campaign is perfect sign placement: For example, one giant billboard with the latter double-entendre perched above Tempe strip club Dream Palace for months.
Multiple Valley locations
We love a good pun at PHOENIX. You probably know that by looking at our headlines, e.g. “Freaky for Tzatziki” in this month’s Eat Beat section. But we’re rank amateurs next to the Valley’s favorite homegrown Italian chain – or, more accurately, their longtime ad man and copywriter, Gary Tarr. A tasting menu of his cheeky billboard one-liners: “Make the Forks Be with You,” “Don’t Pass This Joint” and “Legalize Marinara.” That last one is available as a T-shirt, if you’re looking for gift ideas”.