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Best Of 2000

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Best Of :: People & Places

Best Local TV News Anchor

By now, any TV buff knows this show. Diverse characters come together under demanding conditions and fend for themselves on a remote island. Darwinism depletes their numbers as the weak-willed get culled -- voted off the island -- while others thrive on the primal challenges for their tribes. Survivor scored big in the summer season on Channel 11. But by the time it aired, the station was already painfully aware of its own Survivor scenario. Veteran anchors vanished, voluntarily or otherwise. Sage Steve Smith shipped out, Sylvan Rodriguez succumbed to cancer, and Marlene McClinton made her exit in a surprise on-the-air resignation. Also gone were Charles Hadlock and Clare Casademont. Rival stations were certain that viewer ratings would be the vote that cast this beleaguered station off its island. However, they didn't think a relative unknown would step forward to rally the KHOU troops. Lisa Foronda arrived in '97 after weekend-anchor stints in minor markets. Foronda was destined, it seemed, to be little more than an attractive accessory to what KHOU saw as its savior: Greg Hurst, a reputed network news heavyweight brought in from New York. Over the course of the next year, Hurst wowed nobody. But Foronda carried him, and lifted the rest of the news operation even more. How? For one, she's smart, in a rare common sense sort of way. She's serious about the news, and that's something that viewers don't see much of these days. But she also doesn't take herself too seriously, a fresh and welcome trait in the pompous world of TV news. Working your way up from places like West Texas can instill humility. And being matched with a hollow hair-head like Hurst shows that distinction so clearly. Some of the rival newsrooms, in trying to explain how Channel 11's ratings remained respectable, speak in awe about the "Foronda factor" at work. This leader of the survivors is every insider's choice for leader on an anchor desk -- or a remote island, for that matter.

Best Bar Manager

Tucked in the armpit of West U, Bellaire and the railroad tracks, Little Woodrow's seems out of place and time. Few of the mostly working-class regulars who frequent the area's only neighborhood bar live in the monstrosities that have sprouted in the adjoining neighborhoods, displacing the modest middle-class ranch-styles. But those regulars are fiercely loyal, thanks in no small part to Betty Campbell, bar manager since forever. Betty knows her customers so well that she recognizes many of their cars; by the time they enter the place and belly up, their brand of choice is already waiting on the bar. The crowd likes to drink, but disturbances are almost nonexistent, also in no small part because any transgressors would have to deal with Betty (as a few permanently banned customers have discovered). And if you need to vent about life's dirty deals, Betty (who has heard enough whining to board-certify in clinical psychology) fits the bill.

Best 15 Minutes of Fame

On June 16, the New Black Panthers had every right to be pissed. They'd dressed all in eye-catching black. They arrived at the state GOP convention in Houston in a rare Hummer limousine. And most of them came to the protest party armed with all manner of menacing weapons: rifles, shotguns and an AK-47 or two. They were hunting, all right -- hunting for attention. And that kind of preparation ought to attract ample publicity. Instead, it was A.J. McClure, a 71-year-old nobody Republican delegate from Kaufman County, who grabbed the limelight. What started as a verbal confrontation with the Panthers ended when he either fell or was pushed by a member of the militant entourage. For the next few days, the battles sifted to state legislators and city councilmembers and police and a mayor all arguing over the charge and actions -- or inactivity -- of the police. Meanwhile, McClure's tumble took him, or at least the footage of him going to the mat, onto the national network stage. Stories that touched on the incident totaled more than 2,000 words in the Houston Chronicle and on the Associated Press wire. Yep. It was a prime-time dive. Lots of old-timers may go headlong -- A.J. went headline.

Best Car-Commercial Jingle

Just another example of how overrated pop music songcraft is. Since a catchy five- or ten-second hook is usually described as genius, the little bit of pop profundity known as the Mossy Nissan commercial jingle also deserves as glowing a description. Over a snappy beat, a male voice sings the name of the dealership over and over. "Mos-sey Neeee-sahhhhn / Mos-sey Neeee-sahhhn / Whoooooooo!" Okay, so the lyrics aren't as deep as, say, "Oh, baby, baby," but they do roll easily off the tongue. The jingle is the brainchild of L.A.-based A&M Advertising.

Best Bar Bathroom

Europeans may build great cathedrals, but Americans have a genius for bathrooms. At Prague, the WC marries old-world elegance with Yankee utilitarianism. When nature's irrepressible call rises above the club's techno beat, you can drift down to this swank unisex chamber of flickering candles, period furniture and a full-service bar to answer. The style might be described as bathroom baroque. A dripping chandelier throws just enough light to reveal the glinting accessories of nubile fashionistas and their well-groomed mates. The music keeps a respectful distance, allowing one to clear one's mind and bladder in one of 12 stalls set tastefully behind black doors. Roughly the size of a confessional, these immaculate stalls seem designed for a religious experience of one sort or another.

Best Motorcycle Parking Lot
Wortham Theater Center

Maybe these are just the moments that downtown finally arrives. Party on the Plaza is in full swing. So is its dynamic corner of the central city, with Bayou Place beckoning the masses across the street. And there, on the magnificent grounds that serve as the front entrance to the Wortham Theater Center, are scores of motorcycles at rest in neatly lined rows. The bikers rumble in to party at the plaza, and what better place to park 'em than on off-nights at the Wortham. All the nightlife available isn't going to be enough if downtown can't loosen up a little. On these evenings, it shows off its finest colors: Electra Glides in blue.

500 Texas, Houston, 77002
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Best Local TV News Anchor: Lisa Foronda, KHOU-TV Channel 11

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