Illustrations by Eric Cox
This Halloween, scary is in the eye of the beholder.
Eight years after we anointed our original 10 Scariest Arizonans, cower before our writer’s updated list of the most frightening – or, in some cases, frighteningly formidable – people in the state.
When I was a tyke, Stephen King’s novel ’Salem’s Lot – specifically the book’s hideous vampire king, Kurt Barlow – had me clutching a wooden crucifix at night and sleeping with the hall light on.
What frightens me these days? Well, the state Legislature whenever it’s in session. That, and prolonged mass extinction via fire, flood and draught as a consequence of climate change. Still, the Legislature presents a more immediate menace to the commonweal. Cyber Ninjas, anyone?
The point is, “scary” is a relative concept, so when PHOENIX asked me to come up with a list of the “scariest” Arizonans – while steering clear of violent or sexually depraved criminals, which are too legitimately scary – I picked some nontraditional bogeymen along with a proper smattering of politicos and wackos.
Here then follows a list of 10 Arizona denizens who curdle the blood in diverse and sundry ways. You may not fear them, but I guarantee you someone does.
Nathan Wayne Entrekin
Nathan Wayne Entrekin’s 15 minutes of doofusness warns us all of the collective madness of crowds. The cherubic 48-year-old dressed up in a gladiator costume that he bought online and drove from Cottonwood, Arizona, to Washington, D.C., to storm the U.S. Capitol on January 6, along with other disgruntled Trumpists. Entrekin meant to depict Captain Moroni, a warrior for democracy from the Book of Mormon, but in the FBI report on his escapade, his fellow uprisers pelted him with wiseacre cracks like “Hail, Caesar!” In videos the FBI found online and on his phone, Entrekin huffs and puffs his way in and out of the Capitol, wandering into senators’ offices, asking for ice cream and generally having a grand time, chanting “USA, USA” and filming it all with his phone for his mom, with whom he abides in Cottonwood. G-men arrested Entrekin in July and charged him with entering a restricted building and disorderly conduct. He’s since been released. His “scariness”? Being part of an amorphous mob whipped into insurrection – someone who otherwise would have stayed in his burg and cosplayed at home.
When personal injury attorney Byron Browne shows up in court, I want him to look just like he does in his commercials and ubiquitous billboard advertisements, like a mean-ass biker with a shaved head, showing off his tattoos and his massive guns in a business suit cut off at the arms. In his TV spots, the Canadian expat and Arizona State University law school grad bills himself as “the no BS, anti-lawyer lawyer,” though he looks like he belongs in the WWE, piledriving John Cena’s handsome head into the mat. Too bad he doesn’t do criminal law – he could do the “leap of faith” off the judge’s podium onto a county prosecutor. Based in Gilbert, his specialties are slip-and-falls, vehicular accidents and animal attacks. Word is, if a Rottweiler bites him, he’ll bite back.
Mayor Kate Gallego
Is Kate Gallego a cyborg sent from the future to save Phoenix from Skynet? Or maybe she’s here to help Skynet rule the planet? Either way, in interviews and appearances, our Terminator-esque mayor often comes off as preprogrammed – if not by the malign super-computer that will one day crush humanity, by an elite education, first at Harvard University for undergrad, and then at Donald Trump’s alma matter, the Wharton School, for her MBA. As a politician, she can be quite Schwarzenegger-like. Take her elimination of rival Daniel Valenzuela in the 2018 special election, or the way she squashed her closest competitor 2-to-1 in her 2020 bid for her first full term. But even the Terminator was not invincible. At the start of the pandemic, she sought emergency powers and was denied them by the City Council. Then she went Ah-nold on Governor Doug Ducey, slamming his handling of the COVID crisis. She scored loads of airtime as a result, but no concessions from Ducey. Still, if she were one day to pull back the skin on her face to reveal glowing eyes and a titanium skeleton, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash.
The mere mention of ABC15 investigative reporter Dave Biscobing’s name must strike pure terror in the hearts of crooked politicians, venal businessmen and dirty cops. If it doesn’t, it should. The Milwaukee native has a shelf full of national Emmys and other prestigious prizes for stories detailing the shenanigans of shady nonprofits, the creepy past of former Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, and the tasering and manhandling of an innocent dad in front of his kids by Glendale cops, to name just a few. More recently, Biscobing’s groundbreaking exposé of the Phoenix Police Department’s scurrilous attempt to use criminal street gang statutes against nonviolent protesters led to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and discipline for PPD Chief Jeri Williams. In other words, Biscobing is a one-man journalistic wrecking ball. If you see that spiky hairdo headin’ for you, and you’re doin’ wrong, amscray while the gettin’ is good.
At 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder is built more like a football player than a hoopster. Indeed, the Georgia-born Crowder, 31, started out as a quarterback for his high school team, but switched to basketball in college, like his old man, ex-NBA player Corey Crowder, whom he credits for turning him from a geeky, overweight kid into a model of muscle mass. Suns fans know No. 99 for blocking shots in mid-stride or getting rough when need-be on the court. The New York Times called him “a power forward with some flair.” Indeed, who can forget his lob to Deandre Ayton for a last-second dunk, and win, in game two of the Western Conference Finals against the Clippers? Or his trolling of LeBron James’ Mountain Dew commercial “El Grande LeBron” with a victory salsa dance in game six of the series against the Lakers? Damn straight, Crowder will get up in your grill and later pirouette on your proverbial grave. For Suns fans, that’s badass. For hoops stans in La-La Land, it’s scarier than rush-hour traffic on the 405.
In Arizona, nativism and its brutish, knuckle-dragging devotees remains evergreen, with each few years bringing us a new crop who love to intimidate and badmouth immigrants. Harrison, the Medusa-haired, bullhorn-wielding star of the so-called “patriot” movement, which likes to hurl slurs at Muslims, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans online and off, is one of these. Along with her former nativist pal Lesa Antone and other roughnecks, Harrison targeted local churches that were helping migrant families relocate. (Classy!) They protested the churches and posted videos of people with children coming and going, speculating that these houses of worship were hubs of human trafficking. The Southern Poverty Law Center sued them in federal court, and Harrison, Antone and others settled, agreeing to cease harassing churches. According to The Arizona Republic, Harrison and Antone’s egos eventually clashed, with each going their separate ways. In 2019, Harrison was arrested for felony identity theft, in part for mocking up an ID to gain access to a Trump event. In December 2020, she cut a deal with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which will defer prosecution as long as she behaves herself and attends a counseling session. Even if Harrison’s nefarious deeds are past tense, nativism is like a bad rash that never seems to completely fade.
Dario Dizdar’s portrait may one day hang prominently in the Hall of Douchebag Dates. Dizdar is the Phoenix cop whose first date with a Massachusetts woman, Angela Tramonte, turned deadly when they went hiking on Camelback Mountain in the 105-degree heat with no water. At some point, according to news accounts, Tramonte turned back while Dizdar continued his climb to the top. But Tramonte never made it back to the parking lot below. She ended up way off the path and died of heat exhaustion in the desert sun. Dizdar called 911 after not finding her, but rescuers didn’t discover her body till hours later. Naturally, Tramonte’s friends back home are furious and demanding action, while the PPD is investigating the incident. (Tramonte and Dizdar apparently had been communicating via Instagram for months before meeting.) Is Dizdar the new Duke of D-baggery, or is there more to the story? We’ll see, but in the meantime, I don’t think Dizdar will be finding many women willing to hit the trails with him any time soon. Unless he goes as one of those stripper cops for bachelorette parties?
With those sinister eyebrows and a my-way-or-the-highway philosophy that has ticked off many in academia, ASU President Michael Crow has Bond-supervillain-level cool. The dude practically oozes Machiavellian cunning. Since taking office in 2002, Crow has transformed ASU into an economic powerhouse, with a budget of more than $3 billion and an endowment of nearly $1 trillion. Enrollment has increased almost 80 percent since he took over, though ASU has never really shed its party-school rep, despite its economic expansion into Downtown Phoenix, helping to transform the area from a moribund city center to an adult playground with vibrant cultural amenities. Under Crow, ASU has also craftily catered to Arizona’s political elite, putting prominent politicos like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, former Rep. Matt Salmon, and former Sen. Jon Kyl on the payroll, in one way or another. Nor can the Cronkite School be overlooked, as it pumps out young journos like paper clips, and makes sure that many hard-up, out-of-work reporters and editors in the state score teaching gigs. (No wonder the coverage of Crow tends to be unfailingly positive in-state.) And then there’s the CIA connection. Crow has for many years served as chairman of the board for the agency’s venture capital nonprofit, In-Q-Tel. Which makes me wonder: Does “A” mountain lift its lid at night to allow Crow room to land his personal Black Hawk helicopter therein? Is that where he dons the silver Mao jacket and commands an Olympic-sized pool filled with sharks with laser beams on their heads? Wouldn’t surprise me one iota.
You know what’s really terrifying? Social media influencers. Take Maddie Thompson, the Gilbert woman behind the beauty line Madluvv and the “inventor of the patent pending Brow Stamp,” which makes eyebrow darkening a cinch, supposedly. According to USA Today, in the midst of the 2020 pandemic, Maddie and her husband Justin, along with many others across the country, pushed a creepy, totally bogus conspiracy theory on Instagram that the online furniture store Wayfair Inc. was somehow engaged in child sex-trafficking by selling overpriced desks and cabinets that were actually ads for child sex slaves. Apparently, the rumor spread faster than the Delta variant in a college dorm. Thompson, who has thousands of followers, was convinced – and subsequently posted videos of herself and her husband discussing the troubling allegations. In one livestream, she stated, credulously of this online insanity, “This cannot be stated as false until it is proved false.” Those familiar with fallacies will notice the difficulty of “proving a negative,” sometimes known as “an appeal to ignorance.” Thankfully, Snopes, Reuters and several other outlets whacked this mole into its hole, tout de suite, only to await the next bit of digital madness promoted by “influencers” and other nudniks of the 21st century.
Yes, I know, Arizona Senator Wendy Rogers is waaaay out there on the outer edge of full-on woo. The retired Air Force colonel has always been squirrely, but as a perennial Republican candidate she would sometimes take aim at people that I considered more troublesome – mainly because they threatened to be more influential, like Sheriff Paul Babeu and former Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen, whom I like to think of as a female Russell Pearce and whom Rogers defeated in the Legislative District 6 GOP primary of 2020. But in Arizona politics, you cannot just drink a wee bit of the Kool-Aid. You ultimately have to chug the whole gallon. And though Rogers seemed to lose more than Eisenhower-era serial candidate Harold Stassen back in his day, she finally got elected to office with Allen’s defeat, and she’s since blossomed into a veritable font of bull-goose looniness. Not only has she embraced elements of the militia movement – like the Oath Keepers, of which she’s claimed to be a charter member – she’s also engaged in much extremist rhetoric, like calling Robert E. Lee “a great patriot” and regurgitating the white nationalist, anti-Semitic “great replacement” theory, which claims there’s a plot to replace whites through immigration and intermarriage, though in Rogers’ version on Twitter she used the phrase “Americans who love their country” instead of referring directly to whites. She’s now become as bad as Babeu was, rhetoric-wise. Can she rise to higher office? Seems unlikely. But then, whoever thought we’d one day be saying the words “Congressman Paul Gosar”?