Coming up with the Best of Dallas issue you hold in your hands is not an easy task. Using vigorous testing and complex statistical analysis, our highly paid team of expert critics combs the city, carefully computing myriad factors that determine which nominees deserve the coveted title "best."

OK, so we pull them out of our asses. Works just the same.

Or does it? As a special treat, we've culled through old "best of" issues throughout the Dallas Observer's noble 127-year history to find cases in which we might, just might, have been a bit too effusive in our praise. We're not saying that Best of Dallas has ever been wrong. We'll let you be the judge.

Best Place to Watch President Kennedy's Motorcade
Dealey Plaza

Kennedy and his lovely bride are due to visit the city in two months, and for Dallasites who want to give him a big friendly Texas "howdy," this is the spot. Our friend Lee, who works in the Texas Schoolbook Depository, told us he has an "amazing view" from this building, on Houston and Elm; the sixth floor, he insisted, "is your best shot" to see the president and Jackie Oh! when they come through town this weekend. But another colleague, whose husband works in the rail yards near the depository, suggests another vantage point slightly off the beaten path, meaning there will be fewer people getting in the way with their pesky movie cameras. It's just on the other side of a picket fence; our friend's husband calls it a "grassy knoll," whatever that means.

Best Bet to Win Dallas' Newspaper War
Dallas Times Herald

With two Pulitzer Prizes under its belt in the past four years, Dallas' No. 1 newspaper--in every way, by the way--continues to thrive; around our house, and probably yours, you can't wait till the afternoon rolls around and Your Friendly Neighborhood Delivery Boy drops by with your copy of this working-class paper, as thick with ads as it is stuffed with great writing. This 105-year-old daily has deep pockets that belong to courageous men, not the least of which is Dean Singleton, the paper's brilliant and gallant publisher; we're also big fans of Shelby Coffey III, the editor in chief and an all-around good guy who once told the Dallas Observer that "the only way The Dallas Morning News will still be around in 1994 is if Robert Decherd sells his soul to the devil or hires away Blackie Sherrod--who he can have, actually." And, face it, Dallas' Democratic-rich soil will never bury so proud a left-leaning publication, especially as long as the Herald's owned by the Times Mirror folks, who swear they will never siphon off the Herald's profits to prop up its other failing properties.

Best Rockin' Religion 100 Miles Away
The Branch Davidians

On our way back from the annual South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, we stopped just outside Waco to check out a guitar player who was a god, if not the God; isn't that what they said about Eric Clapton? Turns out Vernon Howell is blessed, all right; Jesus, this guy can play. Howell, whose nom de rock is David Koresh, has been accruing a cult following in Mount Carmel for years, and his guitar prowess is a real revelation--a whole book of 'em, matter of fact. Howell used to live in Hollywood, where he nursed his rock-and-roll fantasies before coming back to his home state to lay down some incendiary tracks on the acoustic goddess. Word has it his forthcoming CD release features some lengthy biblical oration--who does he think he is? Elvis?--but the two tracks we heard, "Book of Daniel" and "Sheshonahim" (which, we think, is Hebrew for "kicks effin' ass, dude"), make us true believers. Face it--the guy's on fire.

Best Place to Get Your Prayers Answered
Robert Tilton's Success-N-Life

Sure, some watch it for the kitsch, but we tune in to Pentecostal evangelist Robert Tilton's Success-N-Life television show for the hope. Is Tilton over-the-top? Who's to say, really? Hey, we dig the hair and dimples, but what really stirs our souls is the man's devotion to the thousands who send in prayer requests for Brother Bob's attention. It's a touch hokey, but you can't fake the sort of sincerity Tilton displays, and you have to respect that. We confess, even we cynical Observer types have been known to offer a prayer request or two.

Best Inexpensive Hire for Turning Around the Dallas Independent School District
Yvonne Gonzalez

"A new broom sweeps clean," the old saying goes, and that's certainly been true with DISD's "new broom" Gonzalez. (We're not saying she rode in on one.) No mere piece of furniture filling space at board meetings, Gonzalez has taken charge at the district in a way no other recent superintendent has. Keeping close tabs on school finances with the help of her trusted aide, financial officer Matthew Harden, Gonzalez promises to put an end to the sweetheart deals that plague DISD by treating the taxpayers' money like it was her own.

Best Reason to Get Excited About The Dallas Morning News
New city columnist Steve Blow

At long last, newshounds who like a little sizzle with their steak have a reason to pick up the Morning Snooze. While it's still a bit early to judge, all signs point to Blow being the Young Turk needed to shake up the Dallas establishment with hard-hitting, pointed commentary and hard-nosed investigations. Tremble, you establishment types, there's a new bloodhound on your trail. Will Dallas journalism ever be the same?

Best Chance to Give White Rappers a Good Rap
Robert Van Winkle

They're calling him "Vanilla Ice" down in the 'hood, but there's nothing bland about this bro; he's chocolatey all the way down to his creamy center, or so the ladies told us the night we were hanging around City Lights waitin' to catch this funky fresh rapper do his thing. Tommy Quon, Van Winkle's manager, has been all up in our jock about catching this kid, who says he comes from the mean streets of Miami, where he went to high school with Luther "2 Live Crew" Campbell; homeboy's even got the stab scars to prove what a badass he is. Something about this kid screams "Authentic!" but we're not sure what; maybe it's the haircut and the baggy pants, or maybe it's the brilliant way he uses other people's music to make his own. Word is (and word) that he's about to get signed to a major label, which is Dallas' loss; we worry whenever our best peeps get lured away, because they're no longer ours, and we want Ice all to ourselves before the spotlight melts him, and the ladies, into a little puddle. All we know is the dude's got cred, and that's no crap. Go, white boy, go--all the way to No. 1, if only!

Best Bet to Win NCAA Football Title This--and Every--Season
SMU Mustangs

So Eric Dickerson and Craig James are gone to the pros; so, too, has head coach Ron Meyer gone from the Hilltop to greener pastures. We still have faith enough in athletic director Bob Hitch and coach Bobby Collins--not to mention university prez Donald "Dress" Shields--to field yet another contender this year. After all, our Mustangs are perennial contenders, Top 20 faves even without a Pony Express to hitch their wagon to. Even with the NCAA breathing down the Mustangs' manes--and talk about your waste of time--word has it Bill Clements, a governor with a heart as big as Texas, is betting big on the Mustangs to put the "W" in SWC this season. "It's money in the bank," he told us one night in a parking lot beneath a gaslight, as he handed over this year's prediction before dashing off to Goff's for a hickory burger. Fact is, you can't buy a team this good! And if you don't believe us, we'll get the NCAA down here and prove it. Pony up the cash for your season tickets; it's Cotton Bowl or bust for the Ponies.

Best Spiritual Leader and Husband
Walker Railey

We're a pretty heathen bunch at the Observer, but even we know enough to appreciate a true man of God when we're lucky enough to come across one. Railey, minister at First United Methodist Church (where wife Peggy is an organist), is a skilled orator whose homilies on the importance of marriage, fidelity and honesty have moved more than one Observer staffer to tears. As Peggy told a staffer, "Many a night, I've choked up as Walker sent me off to a heavenly slumber with a choice Bible verse."

Best Arena for the Millennium
Reunion Arena

Public financing for a sports facility is the sort of deal we can get behind, especially when the result is as sweet as Reunion Arena. Great sound, comfy seats and a sort of proletarian feel--note the limited number of luxury boxes--will guarantee a long, successful life for Reunion and doubtless spur a new wave of growth downtown. It's not often we say the Dallas City Council got it right, but $25 million for a facility our children and grandchildren will enjoy for many decades to come is cheap at five times the price.

Best Reason for Kids to Love Plano
Cheap and abundant heroin

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