People & Places

  • Best Politician

    Gabriel Vasquez, Houston city councilmember, District H

    This professor-on-the-move replaced sleepy Felix Fraga just a year and a half ago and is already developing into the power player of Houston Hispanic politics. Raised in Corpus Christi and Austin, Vasquez came to town as a communications prof at the University of Houston, and quickly began laying the groundwork for a political career. He used his first term as… More >>
  • Best Graffiti Artist

    Next

    Just look up. On bridges, buildings, trains, the backs of freeway signs, the tag is everywhere. It's an inspirational call to the "next" generation, a macho throw-up that conveys the adrenaline, irreverence and illegality of its creation. Most of all, it's cool. But the Houston Police Department's antigang task force doesn't think so. Last March, officers raided a legal graffiti… More >>
  • Best Justice of the Peace

    The Honorable George E. Risner, Precinct 2, Place 2

    Most courts wouldn't take much time with an 11-year-old troublemaker. But J.P. George Risner did what the Houston school district had refused to do: have the imbalanced youngster checked out by mental health professionals. Now the youth is on medication -- and back on track in school. Risner, in his 14 years on the bench, has proved time and again… More >>
  • Best Restoration Project

    Houston region in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Allison

    Of course, the travesties continue: tearing down the old Gulf Publishing building on Allen Parkway, bulldozing bits and pieces of the precious past, flushing out Houston's final habitat hideaways for the sake of nothing more than the sameness of another new Rolling-Creek-Timber-Valley-Plantation-Estates subdivision. But the Bayou City shows more indications than ever that it just might be starting to appreciate… More >>
  • Best Smell

    Maxwell House Factory

    The best smell? Coffee, of course. And there's no bigger coffee smell in town than the odor steaming out of Kraft's Maxwell House factory, a few blocks (and miles of attitude) east of Enron Field. Most days the prevailing winds blow that smell, ooh that smell, in a northwesterly direction, toward the north end of downtown and away from most… More >>
  • Best 15 Minutes of Fame

    Dani Ferro, U.S. Representative Tom DeLay's daughter

    Sure, they love him out in Sugar Land, but to many people across this country, U.S. Representative Tom DeLay is a bombastic, moralistic, self-righteous -- you get the idea. So when his adult daughter, who works for him, hit the newspapers in a story about Las Vegas hot tubs, lobbyists, and champagne being tossed on people's heads, it brought a… More >>
  • Best Court Ruling

    U.S. District Judge Sam Kent

    Bradshaw v. Utility Marine Corporation, et al. is no one's idea of a landmark case, but the Galveston lawsuit has achieved the kind of instant immortality that's possible only now in the Internet age. Federal judge Sam Kent has long been known for his hair-trigger temper and utter lack of patience with attorneys whom he deems to be not up… More >>
  • Best Lost Monument

    Portland Cement Association Safety Trophy

    "Trophy" may be too strong a word for this apparently abandoned behemoth: a concrete block, presumably of Portland cement, standing near seven feet high and about five feet wide, featuring a high relief of some sort of Greco-Roman figures, and the inscription: "Awarded Trinity Portland Cement Company Houston Texas Plant for a Perfect Safety Record in 1929." The block was… More >>
  • Best Tree

    Live oak at Elizabeth Baldwin Park

    Four mammoth branches dangle to the ground like elephant trunks. They snake along the grass like knee-bound penitents scraping to a pilgrimage's end, only to rise again to the height of small trees to drink in the sun. The live oak at Elizabeth Baldwin Park is one twisted granddaddy of a tree. Despite relatively weak ordinances to protect local flora,… More >>
  • Best Community Newspaper

    USAfrica

    Chido Nwangwu decries mainstream news coverage of Africa that depicts "a continent of natives who are sentenced and cursed to face bestial cycles of ethnic wars, genocidal slaughters and more wars." The eloquent Nigeria native specializes in debunking stereotypes. From an office off the Southwest Freeway, USAfrica crusades against government corruption in Africa and touts economic development, while dutifully covering… More >>
  • Best Faxes

    The Mad Faxer

    We don't know who he (or she) is, but he's earned the moniker "Mad Faxer" around the Houston Press offices. Over the last two years, he has sent the editorial staff hand-drawn cartoons (a fish eating hippopotamus turds), possible tips ("Ask Ron J. Where is the cave?"), poems riddled with four-letter words and dictionary definitions of "heterosexual." The sly one… More >>
  • Best Place to Smoke a Hookah

    R&R Lounge & Grill

    For the uninitiated, hookah is not another rap artist term for ho. It is the "fragrant nargile" of Orientalist reveries, the hubble-bubble of General Allenby's Tommies. It is a device for smoking that passes the scented smoke -- a mixture of tobacco and dried fruit such as apples or apricots -- through a water bath, cooling it. A common sight… More >>
  • Best Museum for Sinologists

    Forbidden Gardens - CLOSED

    Like its namesake, the Forbidden Gardens is a well-kept secret. However, the spectacular 40-acre spread just off I-10 in Katy rewards those who chance the trip. The outdoor museum carefully reconstructs some of the great design feats of Imperial China, and on a breathtaking scale. The entire Forbidden City, the governmental center created by Ming emperors in the 15th century,… More >>
  • Best Whistle-Blower

    Lisa Rogers

    A year ago, historic Oyster Creek was on the verge of extinction. Today, it's got a chance, thanks to Lisa Rogers. On behalf of Brazoria County ranchers, including her husband, Rogers forced an investigation into the illegal diversion of the Oyster, which had watered her family's cattle for 175 years. The state put the blame on the Sienna Plantation Levee… More >>
  • Best Local Boy Gone Bad

    Judge Bob Burdette 176th District Court

    Judge Burdette was popped for DWI on Montrose after he tried to leave the scene. Burdette is a good ol' boy Democrat who managed to hang on as a visiting district judge in Harris County after getting dumped by voters twice. But his days of holding court at local bars may have been permanently ended when he slammed his Jaguar… More >>
  • Best Criminal Court Judge

    Mike Anderson

    Courthouse regulars were worried a few years ago when longtime judge Doug Shaver announced his retirement from the 262nd bench. He was one of the few Democrats left in any court in the county, and certainly one of the more independent-minded jurists of any affiliation. Concerns about keeping the proverbial level playing field only increased among defense attorneys when voters… More >>
  • Best Local Girl Gone Bad

    Darcy Sparks Mackey

    This former gatekeeper for Mayor Lee Brown lost her desk at City Hall after ducking a drug test. A former employee of Brown crony Danny Lawson, Mackey served the former drug czar as secretary and appointments coordinator since he returned to Houston in 1995 to establish credentials for his successful 1997 mayoral race. After she ousted several competitors for the… More >>
  • Best Loyal Houston Press Reader

    Unknown ambulance driver

    Here's to not letting work interfere with your priorities. On January 11 at the intersection of Milam and Congress, a man who had apparently been hit by an oncoming car and looked to be a minute from his death was being wheeled into the back of an ambulance by three paramedics. Before the driver sped away to the hospital, however,… More >>
  • Best Local Boy Made Good

    Rod Paige U.S. Secretary of Education

    This former education dean at Texas Southern University rode the Republican express from an HISD trustee post to district superintendent to George Bush's secretary of education. Paige, whose college doctoral thesis was on the response times of collegiate football linemen, embraced the TAAS testing mania to score glory and hype as top public educator in the United States. But the… More >>
  • Best Easter Bunny

    Rick Hurt, a.k.a. Rainbo de Klown

    From beginning to end, Rick Hurt spent a total of 15 days impersonating the Easter Bunny under a giant Fabergé-like egg at the Galleria this last spring. For a little over a fortnight, Rick gave up his other gigs -- impersonating Bette Midler, dressing up as a fairy, or a host of other costumed characters with Eastern Onion Singing Telegram… More >>
  • Best Local Girl Made Good

    Beyoncé Knowles

    The Diana Ross of Destiny's Child is the crossover queen of pop at the moment, with platinum albums and a starring role in MTV's sultry Hip Hopera, Carmen. It's a Knowles family affair, with father Mathew as Svengali manager, and mother Tina as group costume designer and beautician. Not only is the group a survivor, as its signature song declares,… More >>
  • Best Civil Court Judge

    Joseph "Tad" Halbach

    Sure, this jurist was plenty enthusiastic about assuming the bench. Tad Halbach came equipped with a solid sense of humor and a levelheaded nature that meant that the most voracious of attorneys weren't going to push him around. But other newcomers also have landed a judicial post with that kind of energy. The big difference is that Judge Halbach, six… More >>
  • Best Balcony

    Ernie's on Banks

    Do you remember the '80s dance song by Yello, the one that had the vocal line that stretched out in a deep bass? That's the feeling you get on a Friday evening in September when the flaming fist of Queen Bitch Summer has begun to loosen and you stroll out onto the second-floor balcony of Ernie's with a fresh cold… More >>
  • Best Sign War

    Khyber North Indian Grill, 2510 Richmond Ave., 713-942-9424 vs. Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, 2410 Richmond Ave., 713-527-9137

    A little friendly ribbing between competitors never hurt anybody. For more than seven years now, Khyber Grill's Mickey Kapoor has been using his marquee to taunt the neighboring Pappadeaux's. When the seafood restaurant wrote, "Hiring today 3 to 5," Kapoor replied, "My, You Do Start Them Young!" When Pappadeaux posted, "Happy Hour 4 to 6," Khyber responded, "DWI 8 to… More >>
  • Best Nonprofit

    Montrose Clinic

    Montrose Clinic started as a agency to treat sexually transmitted diseases including syphilis and gonorrhea in Houston's gay community 20 years ago, but the onset of the AIDS epidemic redefined its mission. Throughout the plague years, Montrose Clinic has served Houston's HIV-infected patients with compassion and competence, something not always seen in AIDS nonprofits. When the AVES Clinic that served… More >>
  • Best Name for a Beer Joint

    Stroker Club

    The beer joint or honky-tonk that really had the best name in Houston, Bugeyed Mary's, sadly went out of business this past year. The runner-up is the Stroker Club. A stroker in car salesman parlance is a customer who does not have the means or the intention to buy an automobile but who takes up the salesman's floor time with… More >>
  • Best Response to a Houston Press Story

    The Reverend Aubrey Vaughan

    Minister Aubrey Vaughan's literary diatribe against "sodomites," a response to his being quoted in The Insider advocating shipping gays to an island and leaving them there, appeared in the March 8 issue of the Houston Press. Vaughan took exception to the suggestion that he had been watching too many episodes of Survivor. "I have not watched one episode of Survivor,"… More >>
  • Best Local Television Commercial

    Fiesta Mart

    What with so many different local businesses from which to choose, we avoided the temptation to go with any guy holding up a wad of cash; a man wearing a bean bag chair; two dapper fellows who knock knuckles over clothing prices; a self-described "crazy" man with a double-billed baseball cap selling cars; a chef flailing his arms out of… More >>
  • Best Support Group

    Genesis Ballet, Bere'sheet Ballet

    Sure, the Clutterless Recovery Group has its merits, and a good many more of us should be visiting Anger Management, but when it comes to mutual support, the Genesis Ballet is tops in our book. Interestingly enough, the dance company didn't start out that way. According to the troupe's founder, Marie Plauché-Gustin, it was chance that all their members happened… More >>
  • Best Place to Glimpse Royalty

    Sweet Potato Queen Jill Connor Browne's book signing

    When the good women from Blue Willow Books on Memorial Drive discovered that Jill Connor Browne, author of The Sweet Potato Queen's Book of Love, didn't include Houston in her book tour of her most recent release, God Save the Sweet Potato Queens, they took matters into their own hands. Well, arms really. They challenged the tiara-wearin' writer to an… More >>
  • Best Place to See Houston's Cannibal Ducks

    Hermann Park

    It was a sunny spring day. We were killing time before an IMAX movie; we'd already bought a shiny rock from the Museum of Natural Science gift store and grabbed some McDonald's hot fudge sundaes and wandered outside. We walked along looking at the green, green grass, thinking about what a pretty day it was and talking about life and… More >>
  • Best Place to Meet Liberal-Minded Singles

    City of West U RecycleXpress drop-off center

    All day long, cars pull into the driveway of the RecycleXpress center; car doors fling open, and conscience-minded citizens separate their colored and clear glass, bimetal cans, paper, cardboard and plastics (nos. 1 and 2 only, please) through square slots into great mounds. Even though some of them drive SUVs and many of them don't read the instructions and forget… More >>
  • Best Radio Commercial

    Trailer, Wheel & Frame Co.

    We're not sure that radio guy John Granato is being completely honest with us when he says that, in addition to a great product line, there are cocktails and girls in bikinis on hand at Trailer, Wheel & Frame, but we like the idea. Where else can you get your hands on things like ritzy-rails, bug-guards, big wheel juniors, T-trailers… More >>
  • Best Fusion Building

    Heights Dental Clinic and Deli

    Oral satisfaction all in one location. Inside the industrial-looking building you can chow down on a sandwich or chili dog, and then step across the hallway and get your teeth cleaned or cavities filled. But for the dentist's sake, go easy on the onions. … More >>
  • Best Use of Taxpayer Dollars

    Buffalo Bayou revitalization

    Buffalo Bayou, the stream that spawned Houston in 1836, is well on its way back from city cesspool to civic asset thanks to a combined public-private $25 million effort. Landscaped hike-and-bike trails now run on both the north and south banks of the bayou from Shepherd on the west under the I-45 freeway interchange to the Wortham Theater Center and… More >>
  • Best Fusion Street

    Washington Avenue

    You can tell a lot about Houston, past and present, by driving along the in-transition thoroughfare. As in many parts of the city, new upscale condos and town homes are springing forth, even across the street from historic Glenwood Cemetery, where Howard Hughes Jr. and several Texas governors are taking their eternal rest. Several of our favorite eateries also are… More >>
  • Best Sign

    Texas state jails

    What exactly is meant by "No hostages beyond this point" is hard to discern. That message, posted on the inside of several doors in such fine establishments as Keagans State Jail in downtown Houston, greets anyone about to exit the jail and enter the lobby where visitors must turn in their IDs and be dressed in proper attire to walk… More >>
  • Best Gadfly

    Dr. Alkebu Motapa

    Performance artist Dr. Alkebu Motapa, legal name Carl Austin, is a dreadlocked dervish who paints, chants and talks up a storm at City Council and anywhere else people will listen. His rhetoric, a mixture of Rastafarian theology and civil rights-era jargon, is not always welcome. When Motapa took to calling a staffer at the Cultural Arts Council to complain about… More >>
  • Best Public Information Officer

    Fred King, Harris County district clerk's office

    Tropical Storm Allison annihilated the county's justice system, crippling the criminal courts building for months and mauling the Family Courts Center as well. In the ensuing mayhem, even judges sometimes didn't know where their temporary courts, salvaged files or trial settings would turn up. But the news media had to know. And that's where public information officer Fred King proved… More >>
  • Best Bureaucrat

    Jordy Tollett, Mayor's chief of staff

    Mayor Lee Brown chief of staff Jordy Tollett got his start under mayor Jim McConn and has been accumulating titles and turf ever since. He's head of the city convention center and entertainment facility complex, the president of the convention and visitors bureau, and currently the little drummer boy who sets the pace for Brown's staff. Tollett was once a… More >>
  • Best Democrat

    Eric Andell, Visiting judge

    This former First Court appellate justice and TV court-show host narrowly lost his post last November, but the defeat did nothing to dim Andell's luster as one of the most promising figures in the local party. He carried Harris County, did well in traditionally Republican precincts, and is primed to be a major party standard-bearer the next go-round. A bit… More >>
  • Best Lobbyists

    Dave and Sue Walden

    This preeminent Houston political power couple is in the middle of a slow-motion divorce proceeding, possibly because their business affairs are impossible to untangle. Between them they represent just about anything that could be considered establishment in Houston. Sue raised money for mayor Bob Lanier, handles incumbent Lee Brown's finances, and lobbies for energy giant Enron. Dave, a former chief… More >>
  • Best Republican

    Paul Bettencourt, Harris County tax assessor-collector

    This hyper-congenial county tax assessor-collector has burnished his image with consumer-oriented reforms, while at the same time utilizing the office as an attack arm of the local GOP. Bettencourt has churned out studies criticizing Mayor Lee Brown's tax policies, not so coincidentally the identical position as his political mentor, Harris County Republican Party chair Gary Polland. He's also become a… More >>
  • Best View

    The rearview mirror

    'Twas the endlessly quotable Townes Van Zandt who sang the line "No prettier sight than looking back on a town you left behind," and even if that judgment did arrive in a song called, paradoxically, "I'll Be Here in the Morning," the sentiment stands. Your life was waterlogged in the great backwash of '01, the temperature's 104 in your hat,… More >>
  • Best Activist

    Benito Juárez

    When tempers flared last summer over an ad hoc day-labor site near Kingwood, one man stepped in to help broker talks between the immigrant workers, aggrieved business owners upset about the massing of men on their property, and Montgomery County sheriff's officials. That man was Benito Juárez, then-coordinator for the Houston Immigration and Refugee Coalition. His efforts contributed toward changing… More >>
  • Best Sighting of a Retired Public Figure

    Johnny Holmes, Former Harris County district attorney

    Recently one morning while on our way to work, we were driving along Feagan Street in the West End when we saw what we first thought was a man with a metal detector in the ditch in front of what used to be Zocolo Theater, the alternative outdoor film and art center. As we got closer we saw that the… More >>
  • Best Place to Take Out-of-Towners

    Fred Hartmann Bridge

    The view from the Fred Hartmann Bridge is hauntingly beautiful, particularly at sunset. From this graceful perch unfolds a landscape straight out of science fiction, an expanse of petrochemical plants fanning out along the snaking Ship Channel as far as the eye can see. As darkness descends, flares lap at the sky, and little white lights outline the plants' towers,… More >>
  • Best Citizen

    Officer Phillip Rhule, Crime scene investigator, Pasadena Police Department

    Eight days before Christmas, Officer Rhule was driving down the Beltway when he saw two women on the side of the road trying to change their tire. Their jack didn't work, so he took his and changed it for them, but their spare was almost flat. He took them to a nearby Stop N Go and put air in the… More >>
  • Best Quote

    Anna Nicole Smith

    During the marathon trial to settle the estate of late Houston millionaire J. Howard Marshall II, Marshall's widow, former topless dancer Anna Nicole Smith, testified, "it's expensive to be me." While that may well be true, the judge in the case eventually ruled against Smith, but we're confident she'll do just fine.… More >>
  • Best Weathercaster

    Wayne Dolcefino

    Yes, we know. Wayne's not really a weathercaster. This investigative reporter would rather be chasing down unethical pothole fillers than tracking weather patterns. But when Tropical Storm Allison hit Houston hard, Wayne Dolcefino was there. Before it became virtually impossible not to be up to your waist in water, Wayne searched out the deep spots. Displaying no concern for his… More >>
  • Best Hole in the Roof

    Skyspace by James Turrell

    It looks like a painting, a 12-foot square field of blue, oddly placed on the ceiling of the simple Quaker meeting room. But this painting is alive, deepening in color and drawing you in as the sun sets outside. It's the sky, you realize. Light artist James Turrell has cut an opening in the roof and tapered its boundaries… More >>
  • Best Bathroom

    Boulevard Bistrot - CLOSED

    Judging by the interiors of most restaurants, restaurateurs usually don't care deeply about art. Monica Pope is the exception. Her Boulevard Bistrot has art on the plates, on the walls and even in the bathrooms. In fact, the atmosphere of the lavatory was so important to the owner that she commissioned artist Sharon Engelstein to pretty it up with rich… More >>
  • Best Pocket Park

    JP Morgan Chase Park

    Settle into the wrought-iron chairs. They are spread on the grounds at the base of the seven-story, girder-crossed mural painted by Suzanne Sellers on the adjacent Houston Club Building. And savor this new oasis of what used to be nothing more than an unsightly few asphalt parking spaces wedged between forgettable urban barriers. There's elegance to be had in the… More >>
  • Best New Downtown Bar

    Grasshopper/Red Lights

    When it comes to drinking, we prefer to imbibe free of industrial dance beats and blinding strobes. Of course, we don't mind the beautiful people who tend to gather at those high-tech nightclubs. That's the great thing about Grasshopper/Red Lights: Downstairs, you can sit at the Grasshopper's long, curved, glass-top bar, gulp down one of its funky cocktails and watch… More >>
  • Best New Construction

    Jones Plaza renovation, Bricker & Cannady Architects, project designer Mark Wamble

    Critic Ann Holmes once called Jones Plaza the single most hostile block in Houston. It was stark and forbidding, built so high off the street that passersby couldn't see its top. It sat essentially unused except for events like Party on the Plaza. That's all changing now. Architect Mark Wamble, formerly of Bricker & Cannady, and his team have created… More >>
  • Roger Cooper

    Oenophile, Bert Wheeler's Liquors, 6518 Westheimer

    Every now and then, without much hope, a wine drinker drifts into Bert Wheeler's. It's a liquor store, not a wine boutique, and you expect the guy behind the counter to make change, not steer you to a great little Pouilly-Fumé. And certainly Roger Cooper doesn't look or sound anything like Robert Parker. Cooper laughs about that: "I'm a black… More >>
  • Dominic Quijano

    Owner/operator of McDonald's, 6815 Harrisburg Boulevard, 713-928-5335

    Franchisee Dominic Quijano and wife Nelly invented that icon of America's Hispanicization, the McDonald's breakfast burrito, under the golden arches on Harrisburg Boulevard in the East End. Rolled up in a nine-inch flour tortilla, the burrito combines scrambled eggs, sausage, green peppers, jalapeŇos, tomatoes and cheese, most of which were already in the McDonald's pantry. Which is probably why the… More >>
  • Gene Green

    U.S. representative from the 29th Congressional District of Texas

    When Texas legislators used their redistricting clout in 1991 to draw a Houston congressional district that a Hispanic could win, a wily state senator named Gene Green helped in the design. He had ulterior motives. The final shape of the district resembled a praying mantis, with arms snaking out in search of identifiable Hispanic households that pushed the Latino percentage of… More >>
  • Rick Lee

    Blues guitarist

    As you approach the Big Easy's front door, you can hear from within the concertina-sharp sounds of a wailing guitar shredding the night air. You immediately imagine an old African-American man, or a middle-aged white guy in a fedora and shades, jamming on stage. You open the door. You look through the smoky haze, and unless you're as cool as… More >>
  • Janeth Arcain

    Houston Comets guard

    Although the Houston Comets did not win their fifth straight WNBA championship, there were still reasons to celebrate the team's season. One reason was the emergence of guard Janeth Arcain, who in the absence of marquee players like Cynthia Cooper (retired) and Sheryl Swoopes (injured) stepped up and became one of the premier players in the league. At the end… More >>
  • Larry Perdido

    Head chef and co-owner, Saba Blue Water Cafe

    "My mom, bless her heart, was an awful cook," drawls Larry Perdido. His parents emigrated from the Philippines to Houston in the '50s, and his mom, a nurse, soon learned to mangle American dishes as thoroughly as she wrecked those of the Southeast Asian islands. Out of self-defense, seven-year-old Larry taught himself to cook by following the directions on the… More >>
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