Best of Houston®

Best Of 2008

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Best Of :: People & Places

Best Demolition

A nice little urban legend was born during a few days in November. The Crowne Plaza Hotel, a 1970s relic near the Medical Center, was rigged with explosives and brought down. The trouble started when a video of the demolition showed a shadowy figure that resembled a person running through the hotel's eighth floor moments before the explosion. Creepier still, an open door mysteriously shut just before the building was blasted. Then, search-and-rescue dogs hit on a spot in the debris. The Houston Police Department started an investigation and the mystery grew. A suicide theory popped up: "Remember," someone commented on a Web site, "that this is a medical center and many of the patients that go to these hospitals...are terminal patients." Police squashed the rumors a couple weeks later, issuing a press release that said the extensive investigation revealed no evidence of human remains, and the dogs had hit on a spot where a worker had been cut and bled weeks before the demolition. Believe what you want, but the hotel was 13 stories high.

Best 15 Minutes of Fame

This one is just waiting to be turned into a movie: In May, a Houston police officer pulled over Roland Carnaby for speeding. Carnaby presented some sort of ID with "Central ­Intelligence Agency" stamped on it, plus a concealed handgun permit. The officer also reported that Carnaby was acting nervously. After some talk about who at the CIA could vouch for Carnaby, the man sped away, ­resulting in yet another Houston chase. When he finally stopped, officers ordered him out, but he refused. ­Unfortunately, this one ended in tragedy — police shot Carnaby to death. Over the next few days, details of Carnaby's ­bizarre claims emerged, presenting a portrait of a man who apparently led a very weird — yet often convincing — fantasy life.

Best Abandoned Building

We have no idea when, or why, the big "Fear Factory" sign came to rest on the side of the abandoned house at Travis and Rosalie near the big HCC high-rise in Midtown, but it's hard to imagine a more appropriate sign or a spookier-looking building. A Google search for "Fear Factory Houston" offered no clues on why the sign wound up there or how the house came to be abandoned — it's one of those gigantic Midtown/Montrose houses that was probably split up into several different dwellings, the kind that line West Gray around Cecil's and Barnaby's — but filmmakers looking for a low-budget horror location could do a lot worse, especially since the overgrown courtyard looks straight out of Apocalypse Now. Since this is an election year, the house is also being used as a convenient — and presumably free — billboard for campaign signs, which, come to think of it, might be the scariest thing of all.

Best Act of Larceny

It was like a scene out of Grand Theft Auto IV: While vice cops were sorting out the detritus of a predawn raid on downtown's Pink Monkey nightclub, still more hell broke loose. A stolen ambulance with an (allegedly) intoxicated driver behind the wheel came careening down Franklin Street and smashed through the police roadblock. Before it came to rest, its windshield shattered and its hood ripped off, the ambulance had sideswiped or smashed into a trailer, another ambulance, a private car and a police car. The driver, who went unnamed in all the coverage of the chaos, was cut out of the wreckage with the jaws of life and headed to the hospital, before eventually joining the 140 other people headed to jail on that most dramatic of Saturday nights. Authorities later learned that the miscreant had absconded with the meatwagon from a Galleria-area 24-hour Starbucks.

Best Architect

Houston architect Brett Zamore was featured in Best of Houston® 2002, after he rehabbed a house as an architecture student at Rice University. The house won "Best Shotgun Shack." Zamore now runs his own company, and his designs are creating a buzz. Perhaps most notable are Zamore's "kit houses." The kits aren't preassembled, but all the materials are shipped to the build site. The houses take a builder about 20 weeks to complete. Zamore has seven designs for his kit house, and a couple are being built in the Heights. In 2006, Zamore won the Architecture for Humanity's Biloxi Home Competition for his post-Katrina work.

Best Benefit to Living Downtown

Let's face it, in a day and age when paying five bucks or possibly more for a gallon of gas has become a reality, not driving is more than just nice. It's great. Think of it: No hour-plus commutes each way with ridiculous amounts of traffic. Downtown, you can do this strange activity many Houstonians previously thought to be long extinct called walking. If you want, you can also ride that thing in the back of your garage you haven't used since you got your driver's license. It's called a bicycle.

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Best Demolition: Crowne Plaza Hotel

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