People and Politics

3
Posted September 20, 2006 by Weekly Staff in Best Of
TV News Reporter
Readers’ choice: Jane McGarry, NBC 5
Staff choice: Robert Riggs, CBS 11
Riggs has done it all – covering the White House, the Pentagon, wars, and corruption – and he just keeps plowing ahead. He’s sustained his share of wounds in the journalism wars, but they haven’t stopped him from fighting for truth, justice, little kids, and getting the bastards – or from winning some of the highest awards bestowed on broadcast reporters. Rock on, Robert.

Weathercaster
Readers’ choice: Troy Dungan, Channel 8
Staff choice: Pete Delkus, Channel 8
Earlier this year, weathercaster Pete Delkus was brought in at WFAA to be the Golden Child of Meteorology. A fomer minor league pitcher in the Minnesota Twins system, Delkus is taking over for longtime weather guy Troy Dungan, whose contract is up at the end of this year. We choose Delkus not because he can point out how it will be 95 with no rain for the next few weeks, but because of the looks Dungan gets on his face when he is forced to stand next to Delkus some nights. Delkus is tall and muscular with spiky hair, Troy a little guy with a combover. And Troy sees the Golden Boy moving him out to retirement. We like that tension. One night, and we swear this happened, there was smoke shooting out of Troy’s ears and his bow tie was spinning. OK, it was late on a Friday night, and we were watching the replay. But we still think the bow tie moved.
Sportscaster
Readers’ choice: Dale Hanson, Channel 8
Staff choice: Mike Doocy, Fox 4
Fox 4′s Mike Doocy has moved ahead of the sports tv gang. Dale is always mad at the Cowboys, Newy lobs too many softballs at the jocks he worships, and Babe wants us to think he is so important because he used to be a quarterback. Doocy seems to be just a regular guy who figures he’s lucky to be getting paid to report from the playland of sports. And he likes to have fun with it all. When Doocy appears on Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket, the hosts always ask if he wears a toupee and has a cocaine addiction problem. Doocy always pauses a bit before answering. (No on both, in case you’re scoring at home.)
Hottest Local Celebrity (Male)
Readers’ choice: Brandin Lea
Staff choice: (tie) Weatherman Steve MacLaughlin, Channel 5; newscaster Brad Hawkins, Channel 8
We’re blurring distinctions here a bit, because these two tasty pieces of man candy aren’t “hot” in that chiseled, aloof, supermodel kind of way. The sentiments they inspire aren’t so much “I’d tap that” as “I’d snuggle with that.” The sweetly jock-ish MacLaughlin, with those adorably devilish eyebrows, is like the older high school dude who was cute and nice to everybody: You almost wish he’d be more of a jerk so you didn’t have to pine for him. With Hawkins, it’s all about the double-punch of those bottomless brown eyes and that sly, “I-know-something-you-don’t-know” smile. We get a lot less news and weather when these two appear, ‘cuz we’re busy looking, not listening.
Hottest Local Celebrity (Female)
Readers’ choice: Kelly Clarkson
Staff choice: Sybil Summers, Live 105.3
Guys are tentative about dating anyone named Sybil. After all, there’s always a chance she’ll have 16 different personalities. Worse, she might turn out to be as creepy as Cybil Shepard. However, most guys would roll the dice for a shot at this local beauty, a producer and newscaster who defies the old saying about having a “face for radio.” She’s hot and, based on her web site, funny too. Check her out at http://sybilsummers.com/.
Print Journalist
Readers’ choice: Randy Galloway, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Staff choice: (tie) Jay Root and R.A. Dyer, Fort Worth Star-Telegram Austin Bureau
Whether they are writing about the complex school financing issues, the deteriorating state of the Texas park system, the trials and tribulations of poor old Tom DeLay or the “let them eat cake” spending spree of the Texas Speaker of the House’s wife, these two Austin-based reporters write with clarity and understanding of the political issues they cover and with a deep respect for the public’s right to know. Root’s and Dyer’s solid, tell-it-like-it-is journalism gives the S-T’s readers a reason to suppress those urges to cancel each time they open the front page to another “breaking” story about flirting from your car or a movie-star birthing her baby in a third-world clinic.
Radio Voice
Reader’s choice: Kidd Kraddick
Staff choice: Amy B, 99.5-FM The Wolf
Nobody on radio does a country drawl like Amy B of The Wolf, though many have tried. Amy is on from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, talking with callers and introducing songs with her signature (probably affected) hick voice and mannerisms. She out-hicks most of the songs she introduces, and brings a bit of legitimacy to a station known for its mainstream nu-country sound. And while it’s a bit over the top at times, her voice is always entertaining and definitely endearing.
Music Station
Reader’s choice: Jack-FM
Staff choice: 102.1-FM The Edge
The Edge wins almost in spite of itself this year, as the station has the worst morning show on the airwaves since David Lee Roth got fired; besides, they’re part of the evil Clear Channel conglomerate and got rid of Jagger. But they redeem themselves by being the only local station to play modern rock and alternative music and by having a bunch of fun and unique shows. Jesse in the afternoon’s a treat every day, Josh in the evenings exposes everyone to new music, and on Saturdays they have the eclectic mix jam-fest show Scratch ‘N Sniff. Add to that The Adventure Club on Sunday nights, and The Edge has a diverse line-up, some entertaining DJ’s, and its mainstream appeal to fall back on. While it’s cool to bash the corporate radio, you know you listen to it anyway.
News Station
Readers’ choice: KERA/90.1-FM
Staff choice: KERA/90.1-FM
Except for on the internet, where else but on KERA/90.1 and the BBC World News are most Cowtonians going to learn how out of step American news media is with the rest of the world? Where else ya gonna find fascinating facts about comets and moon phases except on Earth and Sky? Or hear thoughtful interviews, commentary, features, and analyses? Thoughtful radio – gee, what a concept. For that, we’ll even put up with Diane Rehm.
Servant of the People
Readers’ choice: Mike Moncrief
Staff choice: Kyev Tatum, minister, Servant House Baptist Church, Mansfield
Tatum’s work with the poor at the small Baptist church in an impoverished minority area of this generally middle-class ‘burb would qualify him for this recognition if that was all he was known for. But this preacher son of a single mother, who raised her nine kids in public housing here, made a name for himself in San Marcos as the founder of one of Texas’ first successful charter schools for disadvantaged kids. He came home two years ago to take part in Donavan Wheatfall’s successful campaign for city council and has become known for much more. Since then, he’s been trying to get Fort Worth’s black and brown communities to sit down at the same table and start tackling the multiple problems facing both groups: grinding poverty, poor housing, bad schools, soaring infant mortality rates, and despair. He’s called town meetings, publicly chided the city’s leaders for ignoring the problems of the poor, brought in reps from the civil rights division of the Justice Department to teach the citizens about their rights, and registered voters. Currently he’s trying to raise the money to start a charter school in Mansfield. He mentors teenage boys at weekly counseling sessions at area churches, and he’s just been appointed to Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks’ group aimed at helping just-out-of-prison folks to fit successfully back into society. And he’s a Republican. This is compassionate conservatism as it’s really meant to be.
Candidate for Alien Abduction
Readers’ choice: George W. Bush
Staff choice: Jim Norwood, former mayor, Kennedale
It wasn’t porn but publicity that turned Norwood on. The self-styled moralist claimed to be photographing the license plates of visitors to the local porn shops and sending postcards to the drivers’ houses. National media outlets lapped up the story – too bad it proved to be essentially untrue. The citizens of Kennedale tired of Norwood’s comedy act and voted him out last May, hoping for city government that’s actually useful.
Politician Most Likely to Sell Grandma to the Highest Bidder
Readers’ choice: Rick Perry
Staff choice: Tom Wilder, Tarrant County District Clerk
You gotta hand it to Tom. No one in local government today (even our rich-kid mayor) practices with such skill his style of old-time, ward-style politics, in which jobs are created for loyalists and favored treatment awaits those who dig deep and fill up his campaign coffers. For those who won’t kiss his ring or, Tom forbid, actually try to unseat him, well, their bloodied bodies litter the political landscape, victims of either Wilder’s axe or one of his masterful whisper campaigns that drop hints of nefarious behavior in a few select ears, all with the classic disclaimer, “You didn’t hear this from me.”
Subject for Cryogenic Preservation
Staff choice: Lance Armstrong, private citizen, Plano
With more athletes getting busted for steroids each week, especially in the world of cycling, the seven-time Tour de France winner clearly needs to be frozen for posterity. Whether he did a first-class con job under heavy scrutiny or beat everybody with kidneys as clean as a Mormon’s, his achievement only gains luster each time a new cheat is exposed.
Candidate for Makeover
Staff choice: U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison
Forget making over her politics – we all know that’s not going to happen. But the senator could use a new look, especially considering that, at least according to numbers quoted by her Democratic opponent, Hutchison is slipping in the polls. What better time for a new ‘do and some chic duds than on the campaign trail? Her hairstyle still looks like ’60s sorority girl. In a skirt suit. Maybe some city shorts and one of those little bitty sweaters? A slicked-back ponytail? A pixie cut? She could probably win some votes by being photographed checking out the sales racks at Target. You know, the common touch.
Old Guy
Readers’ choice: Tom Vandergriff
Staff choice: Don Woodard Sr.
Don Woodard, Sr. turned 80 this year, but he is far from retired from his primary battle. The insurance executive, published author, and longtime Democrat has spent the past few years expressing his ultimate dismay at how a $10 million taxpayer-funded flood control project on the Trinity River turned into a $435 million taxpayer funded economic development project. Woodard is old-fashioned in some respects, so his protests of the Trinity River Vision madness take the form of letters to the editors of all the city’s papers, including this one. He compares eminent domain to the Bible’s King Ahab (who stole his neighbors’ vineyard), uses poetic license (“By the rivers of the Trinity, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered the confluence”), and even throws out a little Shakespeare (“O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts/And men have lost their reason.”). Keep it up, Don – you obviously have not lost your reason.
Old Gal
Readers’ choice: Ann Richards
Staff choice: Wanda Conlin, publisher, Greater Meadowbrook News
This writer’s not about to guess Conlin’s age. Suffice to say she’s been around long enough to have planted her little shoe in some mighty pompous Fort Worth asses – including some who aren’t kicking any more, while she still is. If the East Side of Fort Worth is ever gonna “bust out” of its reputation (rightly or wrongly) as the dumping ground for the city’s garbage, clear-cutting developers, and crime, it had better hope for more Conlins. The long-time publisher of the Meadowbrook weekly, who has served on a long list of city committees and volunteer organizations, is best known as a give-’em-hell advocate. In recent years she and her paper have led winning battles that include keeping a garbage drop-off station out of a fast-developing commercial corridor, stopping an upscale retirement compound from being built with city funds designated for housing for the poor, and demolition of the long-abandoned, rat-, crime-, and asbestos-infested Cowtown Inn. She helped change her old nemesis Becky Haskin’s political address to Nowhereville when the Eastside councilwoman retired and made an unsuccessful run for a justice of the peace post. Conlin was also instrumental in the upset election of Donavan Wheatfall over longtime city council incumbent Frank Moss. Want to mess with Wanda? She buys her ink by the barrel.
Whippersnapper
Readers’ choice: Terrell Owens
Staff choice: Daniel Baxter
Corporate video editor by day and filmmaker by night, this 28-year-old puts YouTube to shame with HowItShouldHaveEnded.com. On that blog, this Bedford native uses animated cartoons to re-work the endings of blockbuster movies as he sees fit, HISHE averages 20,000 unique visits per month. One of his best pieces is on Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. Two words: vengeful cyborg.
Free Spirit
Readers’ choice: Allan Saxe
Staff choice: James Michael Taylor
The local folk scene’s most inventive songwriter – a strong statement but it’s true – is a liberated cuss who’s played the clubs since the 1970s, sometimes solo, sometimes with Texas Water, a trio that consists of himself, his wife, and his ex-wife (told you he’s a free spirit). He’s a handyman who can put up Sheetrock, yank a water heater, or frame a window. He drives an old van to the Kerrville Folk Festival and stays the entire three weeks, immersing himself in late-night campfire singalongs, yet doesn’t drink, smoke, or use drugs. As an actor, he most recently landed a bit part on Fox’s Prison Break – but he also works behind the scenes as a union stage rigger at places like Bass Hall. Skills listed on his online resumé include yoyo champ, iron sculptor, backhoe operator, and juggler. He spends hours in his home studio writing and recording some of the most biting but thoughtful lyrics you’ll ever hear. The Weekly stopped by his house unannounced on a recent afternoon and the gaunt 62-year-old jack-of-all-trades answered his doorbell wearing a robe and looking like a prison camp inmate – he had shaved off his long silver hair for a tv audition.
Non-Traditional Cowboy
Readers’ choice: Kinky Friedman
Staff choice: Lindy Burch, Weatherford
All in all, Lindy, one of the giants of the cutting horse industry, probably ain’t that non-traditional. Except, of course, in a few minor ways – like the way she has helped women become a dominating force in this high-dollar horse business and became the first woman to win a National Cutting Horse Association Futurity, the first female president of the NCHA, a winner of multiple world championships, and one of the leading all-time money-winners in the sport. Along the way, she was the first to figure out how to syndicate a promising cutting horse even before its career began, a horse named Bet On Me that’s now one of the top cutting horse sires in the country. Bet on Lindy to make more “non-traditional” headlines as she continues as a top competitor and breeder in this former masculine preserve.
Underrated Pro Athlete
Readers’ choice: Mike Young
Staff choice: Ramón Núñez, midfielder, FC Dallas
Actually, this award could be for the whole club, which doesn’t get nearly the coverage from America’s soccer press enjoyed by L.A., D.C., New England, or even the eternally struggling MetroStars. The tiny 20-year-old Honduran winger and playmaker (who grew up in Dallas) has emerged as an offensive force alongside seasoned strikers Kenny Cooper and fellow Honduran Carlos “El Pescadito” Ruiz, turning the once-pathetic Hoops into a first-place team.
Athlete Almost Worth
His/Her Salary
Readers’ choice: Dirk Nowitzki
Staff choice: Gary Matthews Jr.
In seven major league seasons before this one, Texas Rangers centerfielder Gary Matthews Jr. had played for seven teams, never hitting more than .276, always the fourth or fifth outfielder. In spring training this year, Matthews was once again pegged as a sub, a guy who might play every third game. But injuries put Matthews in the starting lineup, and he hasn’t let up since. He made the all-star team, and has career highs in batting average (.307), home runs (16), and RBIs (70). He’ll probably win a gold glove, as many baseball experts rate his home-run-robbing catch against the Astros in July, like Spiderman on the centerfield fence, as one of the greatest of all time. Despite his below-average past, Mattews made $2.3 million this year. But, alas, Rangers fans, he’s a free agent following this season. And unless Rangers owner Tom Hicks loosens his death grip on the checkbook, GMJ will likely be gone.
Waste Of Taxpayer Money
Readers’ choice: Trinity River Project
Staff choice: John Peter Smith Hospital’s denial of non-emergency healthcare to undocumented immigrants
Before you say, hey, this is saving the taxpayers money, go check out the JPS emergency room (where the wait is eight hours on a slow day) as well as those at Cook Children’s, Harris Hospital Downtown, and all the other ERs around town. Undocumented moms and pops and their kids, who have been denied access to the county’s preventive care clinics, are taking the only route left them: They are turning to the emergency rooms for their medical needs and raising the cost of medicine for all. The enormous costs of caring for folks who have been forced to wait until their illnesses are critical are being passed on to every taxpayer in the county, directly or indirectly. Someone has to pay for the JPS board’s cold-blooded decision of two years ago to deny basic healthcare to the undocumented among us, making this the only major metropolitan area in Texas with such a draconian policy. “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” someone once said. In Tarrant County that now means only if you are a “documented” child.
Use of Taxpayer Money
Staff choice: Bicycle Routes
This award needs an asterisk. It should say, best plan to use taxpayer bucks – in this case, for 300 miles of bicycle routes. What a great idea, if the city would just get around to actually building them. The routes were a wonderful brainchild in ’99 when they were funded with our hard-earned taxpayer dollars. Now, if somebody would get around to slapping paint on pavement and posting signs so Cowtown cyclists can do their thing with at least a bit more safety, we’d be much obliged.
Media Overkill
Readers’ choice: Terrell Owens
Staff choice: The rise of blogs
Is it our imagination, or did the MSM behave itself pretty well in the last 12 months? (Some credit to Brad and Angelina, who effectively defused any hysteria about their baby’s pictures by making them widely available.) Anyway, the most overblown idea lately is the widespread belief that Daily Kos, Instapundit, Wonkette, Gawker, etc. will radically remake our nation’s political landscape. We like the blogs, but we’ll believe the hype when we see evidence of seismic change.


Political Moment
Readers’ choice: Hispanic march
Staff choice: Becky Haskin relinquishing her city council seat to run for justice of the peace – and losing
Haskin gave a dozen years of impassioned but flawed leadership on the Fort Worth City Council, proving without a doubt that she was AD – an Argumentative Diva. The elitist politician looked down her nose on poor slobs who had the nerve to live in inexpensive quarters and drive beat-up cars, especially if they lived or drove anywhere near her splendiferous digs near Woodhaven Country Club. She gave up her council seat to run for the higher-paying job of justice of the peace, a position that could have put a gavel in her hand and possibly propelled her further up the political ladder. Instead, she lost the election and hasn’t been heard from since. That’s justice and peace.
Example of Political Forward Thinking
Staff choice: Hiring of Fernando Costas
Sure, sure, Costas didn’t get hired as Fort Worth city planning director within the last year – that happened about eight years ago, thank the Goddess. But the past year has proven once again what a huge and beneficial influence he has been on this city – helping make livable, walkable inner-city neighborhoods into a reality, supporting the idea of mass transit, and generally educating the leadership in this burg about ways to redevelop the inner city into vibrant, people-oriented spaces where families and singles, from working class on up the income scale, want to live and enjoy life as well as work.
Most Improved Open Government Agency
Staff choice: Fort Worth Independent School District
This is not to say that under new superintendent Melody Johnson, the Fort Worth schools have suddenly thrown open the doors and let all the sunshine in. But compared to the darkness of the Tom Tocco regime, Johnson’s attitude toward the public’s right to public information is the equivalent of a 250-watt lightbulb being switched on. Open government is a concept the departed-but-unlamented Tocco never understood. Interim super Joe Ross began to change that, even blowing the whistle on an administrator who failed to turn over all the documents she should have in response to an open-records request from this paper and the daily. Now Johnson is continuing that trend: She cleaned out the open records office and moved the bad-attitude staffer. But the best thing Johnson did was to hire communications director Barbara Griffith, a former journalist who understands the frustrations reporters face in trying to get information that is clearly in the public domain. Griffith is accessible and gets questions answered quickly. It’s not a sea change yet, but it’s better.
Example of Gumption or Grit
Readers’ choice: Louis McBee
Staff choice: Louis McBee
This Eastside activist and former Army grunt challenged one of Fort Worth’s most entrenched city council members, Becky Haskin, in 2005 and narrowly lost. Then he took on Danny Scarth in the election to fill Haskin’s vacated seat in 2006 and narrowly lost again, in part because the Fort Worth Star-Telegram outed him as gay prior to the election, and in part because the downtown establishment crowd, trembling at the thought of this independent maverick running loose in city hall, heartily backed his opponent. Discouraged but still enthusiastic, McBee remains involved in public meetings and events, trying to shape policy and opinion and looking ahead to his next shot at elective public service – at being a little spoke in a political scene dominated by big wheels.
Watchdog
Readers’ choice: Fort Worth Citizens for Responsible Government
Staff choice: Dave Lieber, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
A top editor at The Dallas Morning News once groused that he didn’t like columnists because all they did was cause controversy. That’s like hating firefighters because they come home so sooty. Causing controversy – i.e., raising tough questions that need to be raised – is one of the columnist’s highest callings and the reason this award goes to Dave Lieber. True, it’s not a big leap to give the watchdog award to the guy with the watchdog column. But there’s no question that turning Lieber into the Star-T’s official ankle-biter is one of the best things that paper’s ever done. He works hard, he tells stories that need to be told, he gets an occasional wrong righted, and he’s funny and fearless. We gotta stop giving him awards or they’re probably going to fire him.
Rabblerouser
Staff choice: Don Young, FWCanDo founder
The slight but fearless Young became an activist several years ago when he got hot about city neglect of the Tandy Hills Nature Area in East Fort Worth. But the gas drilling inside Fort Worth city limits launched him into the uncomfortable job of taking on the gazillion-dollar oil industry and our own oil-friendly mayor and city council. Sure, he goes overboard in his zealousness, disrupts meetings, and gets his feelings hurt too easily, but thank god for guys and gals like Young, who spend much of their own time and money to fight causes based on sheer principle.
Blog
Reader’s choice: (tie) Mark Cuban, www.blogmaverick.com; Panther City Bicycles, www.panthercitybicycles.blogspot.com/
Staff choice: www.blogmaverick.com
Say what you will about Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban – from his Moe Howard haircut to his whining about the refs – but this guy can sure crank out the copy. One might expect Cuban to harp on the cliché of pro sports, but his blog strays from this safe haven almost daily. Cuban has lent us his opinions on business journalism, stock options, and how to market movies better. Oh, and he rips tv sports commentators Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith from time to time. Cuban can be boring (his defense of his investigative business web site Sharesleuth goes on far too long) and full of himself. But this guy does know about new media, has odd views of the business world, and never withholds his opinions. It can be fun to find out what is really on the billionaire’s mind.
Reincarnation of the ’60s
Readers’ choice: Panther City Coffee, 2918 W Berry St, FW
Staff choice: 1919 Hemphill, 1919 Hemphill St, FW
Make all the fun you want of flower power and free love, but the ’60s represented the last time when an unselfish, not-for-profit progressivism was taken seriously in this country, and the principles and programs developed then changed our world profoundly – and maybe saved it, for a while. Now it’s time to save it again, and groups like 1919 Hemphill are springing up. The folks at this progressive music/art/film/politics-oriented organization are playing an active part in local political discussions, while also providing a place and support for musicians, artists, running the Fa$ci$t Watch film series, and making a space in this town where people can talk about ideas like peace, equality, diversity, freedom of thought, and how to salvage the environment, civil liberties, and humankind’s raggedy ass.
Preserver of History
Readers’ choice: Fairmount Neighborhood Association
Staff choice: Jim Jenkins, Fort Worth Screen Printing, 200 Carroll St, FW
After the downtown Tandy Building gave way to condominiums, the Leonard’s Museum, preserver of history of the Leonard’s Department Store and the subway that served it, found itself without a home. Marty Leonard relocated it to a suite adjoining Jenkins’ t-shirt shop, in part because of his devotion to nostalgia. His lobby resembles a typical American home circa 1950s, with vintage furniture, a black-and-white Philco tv set, an original 1950 calendar hanging on the wall, and an old window frame decorated with fake rainfall. You’d swear you were sitting in the Cleaver household waiting for Wally and the Beav to get home from school. Also scattered around the sto re are an old phone booth from Casino Beach at Lake Worth, a concession stand from Six Flags Over Texas, and a Sinclair gas pump that was dispensing gas at 24.9 cents a gallon when it was retired.
Sign of Unexpected Life
Staff choice: Kelly Clarkson’s career
Because we’re an alt-weekly rag prone to taking potshots, it’s only natural that we would draw a bead on the bubbly cutie-pie from Burleson who won American Idol’s debut season in 2002. But the fact is, we dig this chick. Her first album, Thankful, was good enough to please her teeny-bopper fan base and stretch her 15 minutes of fame, while the strength of her sophomore effort, Breakaway, earned her a whole new slew of fans and perched her atop pop radio. A recent magazine cover depicted her in a ripped outfit consisting mostly of black lace and leather, making her look like a cuter and less-scary version of Courtney Love, and the article revealed that she got loopy at a Los Angeles club during the course of the interview. That’s our girl!
Place to Pretend You’re Somebody Important
Readers’ choice: Michael’s Ancho Chile Bar, 3413 W 7th St, FW
Staff choice: The Tower, 500 Throckmorton St, FW
You can’t have pets that weigh more than 30 pounds, and you can’t use the hot tub after 10 p.m. Some tenants have complained, but they should be grateful to The Tower for keeping tabs on their pets’ diets and making sure everybody gets a good eight hours sleep.
Place to Meet Someone of the Opposite Sex
Readers’ choice: City Streets, 425 Commerce St, FW
Staff choice: Bally Total Fitness, 1201 Oakland Blvd, FW
Most unisex gyms might do as well, but we happen to know that at this Eastside fitness center on the north side of I-30, the clientele is extremely diverse, in age, race, income, and percentage of body fat, and the vibe is one that allows both the chat-it-up types and the silent perspirers to feel comfortable. Sweating next to one another while wearing more-or-less revealing clothing does tend to break down a few barriers. (Hey – that’s no license to make yourself obnoxious. Observe all the verbal and nonverbal cues.) If they’d just spend a little more on maintaining this place, it could become an Eastside mecca. Some of the nicest people in the place also have the most beautiful bods – which probably means they’re taken, but you never know. Potential opening line, based on overheard conversations: “So, you getting any of that Barnett Shale money?”
Place To Meet Someone of the Same Sex
Readers’ choice: Best Friends, 2620 E Lancaster Av, FW
Staff choice: Coffee House Gallery, 609 S Jennings Av, FW
Located across the street from that perennial gay fave Crossroads Lounge, the artsy-but-rough-hewn Coffee House Gallery has transformed over the past four years from a late-night coffeehouse with a menu to a place that closes at 4 p.m. on weekends. But like all Americans, gays and lesbians love choice – and the Gallery’s sunlit-hour, non-alcoholic vibe makes it an excellent alternative to queer nightcrawling. What a concept – being able to see and hear potential paramours clearly on a bright Saturday afternoon. What happens when the sun goes down is up to the gods of romance, however.
Place to Break Up
Readers’ choice: Lawn of the Kimbell Art Museum
Staff choice: MySpace.com
Don’t even worry about talking to them face-to-face ever again. With the advent of MySpace, the whole relationship can take place without talking in public. It’s like junior high all over again, just with online messages instead of notes stuffed in lockers.
Place to Take Someone from Dallas
Readers’ choice: (tie) Sundance Square; The Stockyards
Staff choice: Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington
Nothing should make a Dallas resident feel better than taking a gander at the $650 million stadium being built in Arlington. After all, Dallas gets national name recognition as home to America’s Team, while Arlington and Tarrant County taxpayers fork over hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize it all.
Place to Take First Date
Readers’ choice: Sundance Square
Staff choice: Central Market, 4651 W Fwy, FW
First of all, you’ll look like a sophisticated foodie. There are also bargains there if you know where to look for them, so you won’t have to shell out much. The place offers cookouts and live music on Thursday through Saturday evenings (full disclosure: this paper sponsors the Thursday night series). Your date will be impressed by this supermarket, a claim that can’t be made by even the hippest Tom Thumb.
Place to Eavesdrop
Readers’ choice: Duce, 6333 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW
Staff choice: Jubilee Theatre lobby, 506 Main St, FW, during intermission
The lobby’s cramped, the crowd is diverse and fascinating, people are usually in a good mood because the production they’ve been watching is high quality and almost always entertaining, and everybody feels like they know (or will get to know) everyone else because they’ve just spent time together in an intimate, emotion-packed space. Plus, there’s wine. Only thing better are the occasions when the cast joins in the fun.
Place to Watch the Sunset
Readers’ choice: Eagle Mountain Lake
Staff choice: City Center parking garage, 3rd and Calhoun sts, FW
Don’t knock it ’till you try it, folks. From the top-floor perch, the sun sets behind Cowtown’s skyline, creating an amazing view. Plus, when Mother Nature’s show ends, there’s an elevator to take to the street for shopping, bands, drinks, and other Sundance Square mischief. Or just stay up there and people-watch for a while, because that’s fun too.
Place to Hide While Pretending to Work
Reader’s choice: Starbuck’s, several locations
Staff choice: Jamba Juice, 400 Main St, FW
The trick with pretending to work really depends on what you do when you’re actually working. But for a lot of us, staring at a laptop at a nice place, preferably one with great drinks and a close proximity to an excuse, is enough to pass. Just remember to keep a spreadsheet open and your hands near Alt+Tab while you update your MySpace profile or search eBay. And at Jamba Juice, you’ll blend right into the landscape of other people goofing off just like you. If your job can’t be faked with a laptop, just wear a hat and glasses and hide behind a newspaper while you enjoy your smoothie.
Place to Nurse a Hangover
Readers’ choice: The Pour House, 209 W 5th St, FW
Staff choice: Bikram Yoga College of India, 921 Foch St, FW
Nothing says “Goodbye, headache” and “Hello, health!” like bending over backward in a steam room for 90 minutes. One mean session of Bikram’s hatha and raga yoga, stretching and sweating ’til near death, will clear your bod of any toxins, including booze, smoke, and other assorted drugs.
Background for Warped Family Christmas Card
Staff choice: Tarrant County Justice Center
Photo opportunities abound at the Tarrant County Justice Center, starting with the mugshot board in front of the Records Office, then moving on to the family courts on child support day. Some of these families only meet on court days, so what better time to take family photos?
Day Trip
Readers’ choice: Fort Worth Zoo, 1989 Colonial Pkwy, FW
Staff choice: Denton
Believe it or not, there is fun stuff for all in Little D. Take a short drive up north and check out Denton’s antique shopping on the square, art galleries, restaurants, gift shops, spas, salons, movie theatres, and bed & breakfasts. Since there are two major universities in town, the food’s usually cheaper. For lunch, try The Chestnut Tree at 107 W. Hickory St. – it’s a gift shop with a wonderful little café inside. At dinnertime, Rudy’s BBQ on I-35E, Mi Casita at 110 N. Carroll St., or Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant at 821 N. Locust St. are good options. If there’s room for dessert, head to Beth Marie’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream at 117 W. Hickory St. and choose from the 73 homemade flavors. The best time to go is at night, when downtown is lit up and you can grab a waffle cone and wander around for a while. If you’re looking for live music and drinks, head to Fry Street, which really picks up around 11 p.m. – unless the bulldozers have beaten you to it.


Green Space
Readers’ choice: Botanic Garden, 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd, FW
Staff choice: Japanese Garden, in the Botanic Garden
Some of the best divorces in town started as weddings in the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, an oasis of green in the Cultural District. And perhaps the most sparkling jewel in that oasis is the Japanese Garden. Its seven-plus acres are another world, a blend of stone, plants, buildings, water, and traditional Japanese sculptures so tranquil they’d make even a meth freak calm down. You can spend hours by the lush pools watching the imperial koi – specially bred carp – or sitting in the Karesansui, a gravel and stone garden surrounded by a meditation hall. Or just catch a nap on a bench beneath the trees.
Coffeehouse
Readers’ choice: Eurotazza,
6323 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW
Staff choice: Four Star Coffee Bar, 3324 W Seventh St, FW
Now that the “old” Four Star is back – rescued last year from a short-lived take-over by aliens whose taste in art ranged from ugly garden gnomes to dreadful reproductions of the Last Supper – it is time to once again crown this good brew place as the best in town. Today’s FS is the one that this rag’s caffeine-dependents have known and loved since it first opened a decade ago across the street from the Weekly’s birthplace on pre-redevelopment West Seventh. It’s great to have ya’ back, old girl, as good as ever, with the best dark-roast in town, great teas, rich hot chocolate, and all the other drink concoctions, as well as yummy sandwiches, soups, veggie pizzas, and bagels with cream cheese and lox, all made in its kitchen. It’s once again a welcoming neighborhood gathering place, where on any given day you’re likely to see students hunched over laptops at the whimsically painted tables, local politicos pontificating, old geezers swapping lies, or someone curled on a couch reading a novel. Even better news – there’s a second Four Star now open downtown, at 815 Houston St.
Urban Digs
Reader’s choice: The Tower,
500 Throckmorton St, FW
Staff choice: Texas & Pacific Lofts, 221 W Lancaster Av, FW
The Texas & Pacific Lofts opened officially in July, featuring 136 apartments in the 12-story historic rail terminal building built in the 1930s, plus another 92 units in a new adjacent building. On the southern edge of downtown, the lofts are next to the westernmost stop on the Trinity Railway Express and within walking distance of most of downtown. Prices are $160,000 to $300,000 – fairly reasonable compared to what else is out there. With urban redevelopment sprawling across downtown, the Texas & Pacific Lofts are only the latest entry into the hip urban living landscape, but they earn the mark this year for their style, location, and amenities.
Urban Redevelopment/Smart Growth
Readers’ choice: Fort Worth South
Staff choice: Sierra Vista housing development, Riverside Drive and Berry Street, FW
If ever the word “blight” could be applied to a Fort Worth neighborhood, it would be the one fanning out in all directions from the corner of Riverside and Berry on the city’s far East Side. For more than a decade, the corner has been defined by the thousand or so empty and rotting apartments that tenants deserted in droves after one of the city’s most brutal multiple murders occurred there. Across the street, a one-time bustling shopping center, long shuttered, has fallen in on itself, its only “shoppers” the customers of drug dealers who hang out in its shadows. Now, thanks to a private-public partnership effort led by the area’s former city councilman, Ralph McCloud; its present rep, Kathleen Hicks; and real estate developer Mike Mallick, the apartments are dust, streets are laid out and soon 232 single family homes, priced for working-class folks, will rise from the rubble. Mallick has bought the crumbling shopping center and, with help from the city planning department, will turn it into the anchor for an “urban village” of shops and offices within walking distance of the homes, creating neighborhood jobs and easy access to grocery stores and restaurants. Taxpayers’ investment has been $3.5 million for infrastructure – a small price to pay to give some of our fellow citizens a decent neighborhood in which to live and raise their kids.
Example of Suburban Sprawl
Readers’ choice: Arlington
Staff choice: Eagle Mountain Lake
Northwest of Fort Worth is an idyllic place of quiet lakes and sprawling fields, where cattle graze peacefully and the roads truly are wide and open … oh, sorry, that was a flashback. Within the past five years, the cattle have been herded off so that cookie-cutter houses can go up, fast-food joints can stay open late, and new shopping strips can house clothing chains, tanning salons, and optometrists. Eagle Mountain Lake is full of jet skis, power boats, sailboats, and ever-increasing loads of pollution from development run-off. Somewhere west of Fort Worth is an idyllic place of quiet lakes and sprawling fields, but it’s no longer nearby.
Example of New Architecture
Readers’ choice: Pier 1 Building, 100 Pier 1 Place, FW
Staff choice: Heather’s House, Parker County
Aesthetically, this Parker County private home is merely generic-hip. It’s asymmetrical and, at its highest point, no taller than a couple of stories. The pinnacle is a small, curved metal roof – has there been a more annoying architectural tic in the past 30 years? But considering that Heather’s House may be the most energy-efficient abode in North Texas, looks aren’t that important. Built by Don Ferrier of Ferrier Custom Homes, the single-family unit employs rather simple – and inexpensive – design techniques and materials to achieve maximum efficiency. The occupants are Ferrier’s 25-year-old daughter and house namesake, her sister Lacey, and a mutual friend. As if having a custom home handed to her isn’t enough, Heather’s heating and cooling bill will likely be under $15 … every month.
Example of New Public Architecture
Staff choice: Shady Oaks Country Club, 320 Roaring Springs Rd, FW
It’s a private golf club, but it’s open to architecture enthusiasts and well worth the trip. Designed by Gideon Toal, Shady Oaks is exceptionally streamlined. Even though the squat structure has more 90-degree angles than a geometry textbook, the shadows cast during the day, soft lighting at night, and huge windows soften the edges. Makes you wish you had the moolah to join.
Rebirth/Relocation/Re-opening
Readers’ choice: Fred’s Texas Café, 915 Currie St, FW
Staff choice: La Familia Restaurant, 841 Foch St, FW
Our hearts were in our mouths there for a while: Would months of the city’s bureaucratic foot-dragging kill off our lunchtime home away from home? Could we survive without Al Cavazos’ friendly handshake and his excellent salsa, enchiladas, soup, and guacamole? Never fear. The family Cavazos made it through the municipal maelstrom and came out the other side with a gorgeous new restaurant, lovingly decorated with memorabilia and blowups of family photos. And even though it’s more than twice the size of the original spot, Al still fills the place up. The uber-friendly and efficient staff made the move, augmented by some new help that seems equally nice. As a former speaker of the Texas House once said, “Let’s give ‘em a rising handshake.” You know – a standing ovation.
Sign of the Apocalypse
Readers’ choice: Terrell Owens
Staff choice: The prevalence of tasers
Tasers for beat cops! Tasers for school security guards! Tasers for you and me! We’d say this local trend was an opportunity for overzealous, undertrained law enforcement to torture people they don’t like. Honestly, though, we’re looking forward to getting our own 10,000-volt fun zapper and shocking the man who takes our parking space or the woman who answers her cell phone in the movie theater.
Volunteer Organization
Readers’ choice: Fort Worth Junior League
Staff choice: Mission Arlington/Mission Metroplex,
210 W South St, Arlington
Led by the inimitable Tillie Burgin, this nonprofit organization delivers food, clothes, and healthy portions of the holy spirit to hundreds of families that have come seeking help each day for the past 20 years. Founder and executive director Burgin is big-hearted and sweet, but being eager to help doesn’t mean she’s a pushover. Anybody who takes advantage of her generosity or breaks the rules will come face to face with Tillie the Tough-Love Tigress, fangs and all.
Outdoor Advertising
Readers’ choice: Cutting Edge Haunted House
Staff choice: “Downtown,” right here
The sign reads “Downtown,” with a large arrow pointing south. It’s extremely helpful, since downtown is only a few yards away from the end of the arrow. At that point, with one block to go and no other exits to take, you’re going to end up in downtown whether you like it or not.
Unused P.R. Slogan
Staff choice: “I-35 – the I stands for Impossible”
If you live, work, play, or do anything in and around Fort Worth, chances are you spend a lot of time on I-35. A lot of time, because the darned thing is deadlocked daily from I-20 on the south to Loop 820 on the north. It’s not the Los Angeles Freeway or New York City’s Holland Tunnel yet, but it might be in the next couple of years if the suburban housing boom continues. The brain trust at the state highway department has good news, however: There are plans to widen the interstate all through Cowtown. The bad news: it’s just a plan – “there is no timeline for that however, as there is no funding available.” That’ll make for a different kind of road rage.
Hype
Readers’ choice: Terrell Owens
Staff choice: Arrival of Cabela’s megastore
Other than the taxpayers who are getting screwed by the multi-million-dollar tax break this “blighted” area got, who cares?
Bike route
Readers’ choice: Trinity Trails
Staff choice: Dutch Branch Park, Benbrook
This is definitely no secret among serious cyclists, but Dutch Branch Park in Benbrook (exit Winscott Road from I-20) is one of the best rides around Fort Worth. A road winds through rolling hills around Benbrook Lake and is a nice change from the too-tame Trinity Trails. There are cacti and roadrunners, sailboats and model airplanes, swimmers and plenty of other cyclists to see. Plus, it’s easy to lift your machine over the road barrier at the end of the bike trail and keep going or leave Dutch Branch and head toward the parks at Clear Fork and back onto the Trinity Trails. The wind can be formidable, and there’s hardly any shade, but you’ll feel refreshed by getting away from heavy traffic and kids on training wheels.
Place to Skateboard
Readers’ choice: Downtown Fort Worth
Staff choice: Havik Skate Park of Texas, 609 N Great Southwest Pkwy, Arlington
Skateboarding around these parts has been tough in the past year or so. Fort Worth police have been harassing the dudes downtown, and the GPX Skate Park in Grand Prarie closed because of financial problems and then re-opened. But a new kid on the block has made a big impression. Havik Skate Park of Texas has decided to get kids off the street by putting them on the streets. They offer replicated “street skating,” with curbs and banisters and the rest, but indoors. They also have the half-pipe and a bowl like a big empty swimming pool. And because the adults need babysitting, Havik has a parents’ lounge complete with satellite tv and wireless internet.
Bargain Sporting Event
Readers’ choice: Fort Worth Cats
Staff choice: Fort Worth Flyers
The NBA developmental league team started operations in Fort Worth last year and got off to, uh, a flying start. The designated farm team for the Dallas Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers, and Charlotte Bobcats showcased the talents of Luke Schenscher (now of the Chicago Bulls), Marcus Fizer (late of the New Orleans Hornets), and Ime Udoka, who drew raves at the FIBA World Championships this past summer as the best player on Nigeria’s team. With ticket prices starting at $10, who knows what future NBA talent might be on display here on the cheap?
Place to Find a Paid Escort
Readers’ choice: Fort Worth Weekly
Staff choice: 1800 block of Hemphill Street, just north of the Hospital District, FW
Cops typically have better things to do than crack down on afternoon delight, which is why the best time to hit this sweet spot is during lunch. The selection leaves much to be desired, but the price is right.
Freebie
Staff choice: Bass parking garages on nights and weekends
We really wanted to give this award to the Weekly’s kick-ass music awards showcase this year, but that would have been self-serving. We thought of Dumpster diving, and the “freegan” movement, vegans who get their food free from Dumpsters. Then we thought of honoring the Trinity Railway Express because, between non-functioning ticket machines and, on game nights, lines so long you can’t get to the ticket machines, the train ride often ends up being free by default. But then we remembered how much those parking garages mean to downtown Fort Worth, week in and week out. Until Cowtown gets a functioning public transportation system, those garages are going to be like oxygen for Sundance Square.
Cow
Readers’ choice: Chik Fil-A billboards, several locations
Staff choice: The Fort Worth Herd
Twice a day, the tradition of a cattle drive returns to Fort Worth, if only as a tourist attraction. The small herd marches through the Stockyards at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., led by real cowboys, to the delight of people on their way to eat a steak or burger at one of the neighboring steakhouses – “Hey kids, wave to lunch.” But still, they’re our favorite cows in Cowville, if only because they are a constant reminder of our roots, heritage, and where dinner’s coming from.
Web Site
Staff choice: www.Brit.org
The Botanical Research Institute of Texas’ web site is just about the most interesting we’ve found around here. Whether you’re a backyard gardener or someone with a serious interest in the flora of Tarrant County, this easily navigable site has something to offer, from photo essays on Brit’s “Amazon to the Andes” botanical project to information on their Distinguished Lecture Series, children’s courses, and adult continuing education programs. You won’t click away without having learned something – and that’s a heck of testament to a web site.
Best-Kept Secret
Readers’ choice: Put a Cork in It, 2972 Park Hill Dr, FW
Staff choice: 10-hour parking meters downtown
Surely this is not a secret to courthouse workers and other permanent day-time denizens of the southwest quadrant of downtown. But for those of us who just need to go in and transact some bidness with the judicial system or spend a few hours doing research in the library or just watch a parade, it’s a godsend. You’ll find ‘em, for the most part, on the north-south streets between Weatherford and Third. And somewhere in the ranks of municipal parking apparatchiks, there’s a classy human being. He or she made it possible for you to load up the meter before 8 a.m. – giving you time to make that court appearance – and not have it start counting down until 8. Can we get a Nobel Prize over here?

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