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He hammered Bill Rojas and his overpriced posse of headquarters bureaucrats, then came up with what could be the scoop of the summer: sleazy back-scratching judges down at the civil courthouse. What's cool about Shipp is that he's so nice while he's capping those knees. Rather than huff and puff himself up as a crusading investigator, like so many others in this market, he delivers the goods in an almost self-effacing tone. Good and humble. It's a surprise he's made it in TV news.

What? James Fantroy the best city council member? A man who was seemingly handpicked by the felonious Al "Big Daddy" Lipscomb to fill his seat? A man whose first business was operating a liquor store? A man who operated a security company without a license for years? Well, he's new, and he hasn't had a chance to screw up yet. That fact differentiates the 62-year-old Fantroy from his peers on the council. He remains a blank slate, unlike bumbling jester John Loza, sanctimonious vigilante Laura Miller, and clueless Alan Walne. Their preenings and snide broadsides fired around the horseshoe leave little choice but to give the new guy a pass and a pat on the back. Give him time--we're pretty sure he'll put his foot in it soon enough.

Many, many people are going to think this one definitely has to go to our recently departed short-timer school superintendent, Waldemar Rojas, if not for the unforgettable "tin-cup" episode, then for some other installment in his Bosnian-style public relations career in Dallas. But we get into a technical area. Strictly speaking, good gaffes can't be done by major-league wackoids. Those aren't gaffes; they're symptoms. A really good political gaffe has to be a case of pure-D, wrong-way, dumb-head, boy-oh-boy stepping-in-it by people who really shoulda known better. For that, the big Year 2001 Ark of the Holy-Moley Best Political Gaffe of the Year Award definitely goes to Dallas Mayor Ron (Pothole) Kirk and fellow city councilonians Maxine (Doctor-Doctor) Thornton-Reese, Don (Down) Hill, Lois (What a) Finkelman, Barbara (I hate Laura) Mallory-Caraway, Herb (Who?) Walne, and Mary (Very) Poss for voting not to use a $50,000 gift from ExxonMobil Corp. to repair a wading pool in an impoverished neighborhood. Later, of course, they all ate big-time crow (ummm, yummy!) and voted to fix the pools, but only after having waltzed themselves deep into some shoe-staining-type political shit. Note to selves: "Supposed to kiss babies, not kiss them off."

There are other better-known and better-funded theater companies offering classes to children, but dollar-for-dollar the Richardson group offers the best value. The six-week sessions end with your children in professional and actually enjoyable productions. Most of the kids on stage appear to have learned how to act. The adult repertory actors perform the major roles, making the theatrical occasion a satisfying (as opposed to merely a pride-filled) moment.

The entire 20th century was brought under microscopic scrutiny in this North American premiere courtesy of the Dallas Theater Center and director Preston Lane, who made a revelatory debut as a main-season captain after he had previously worked at the perennial task of resweetening DTC's hard-candy fave A Christmas Carol. We've grown so accustomed to the computer-created special effects provided by weather-driven disaster flicks like A Perfect Storm that we forget their major dramatic thrust is entrapment, forced intimacy, unlikely alliances, major decisions made in stressfully minor allotments of time--in other words, the mtier of theatrical tension. Inexpressible Island was the fictionalized true account of a group of British explorers in 1912 sailing to the South Pole. They didn't reach their goal, but were instead sequestered for months inside a carved-out ice cave, bickering over raisins and seal fat and the English proprieties that were a clumsy fit inside this icy hell. The ruling officers attempted to keep order through various disciplinary mind games and the academic lectures of a comrade too learned on contemporary art and history and literature for everyone's good. The men are driven almost to mutiny by the impudent disordering of faith and logic and traditional narrative of which he earnestly speaks. With screeching winds, a slick and steep stage level, and a backdrop of crazily kaleidoscopic night stars, Inexpressible Island kept everyone--actors and audience--unsteady and unsettled. Sadly, after making such a strong mainstage directorial impression, Lane is heading to North Carolina in 2001 to open his own theater.

Are the guys in Section 8 the funniest? Depends on the show. A good audience can make the show come together as surely as a bad one can ruin it. The point is this: These guys are fast and ready to take what they're handed. They're crass; they have a crazy following. They have two weekly shows--Wednesdays at the Improv in Addison and Thursdays at Ozona on Greenville Avenue. But they do something that troupes can rarely do--pull young adults away from the TV screen or Deep Ellum bars and into a comedy club. Perhaps it's because Section 8 is primed for that target--kids who love gross-out humor, understand pop culture references, and like to hear parodies of popular songs.

OK, sure, they get a tad obsessive (that works better if you replace "a tad" with "extremely"). Yet you won't find any more dedicated fans than the group of people mouthing the words and awkwardly dancing at the foot of the stage during Chomsky shows. It doesn't matter if the shows are in Denton, Dallas, Fort Worth, or even Austin, they'll be there. They've been known to spread their affections to other bands that are somewhat Chomsky-related (such as The Deathray Davies), but Chomsky is still their main focus, the topic of countless Internet message board discussions and illicitly taped bootlegs. They're here, they're dorky--get used to it.

There are plenty of bands with dumb names floating around Deep Ellum, most of which only get dumber once someone explains what they mean. For instance, Alligator Dave & the Couch Band, Rubix Groove, Elm Fooy, Spoonfed Tribe, Plastic Tongue, Edgewater, Dolly Braid, Red Trucks & Chickens, and on and on and on. The Lucky Pierres' handle, at first, seems only marginally better. But consider this for a moment: "Lucky Pierre" is a term describing the central figure in what we believe the French call a mnage à trois. Maybe it's the 13-year-old boy in us talking, but that's pretty cool.

The crafty Deep Ellum developer stands accused in civil court of bleeding several savings-and-loans in the '80s, ratting out a few bank presidents, doing some very short time in the federal slam, and returning a rich man, flush with zillions stashed in offshore banks. Why is Lou the best? Well, anyone can make a killing in Big D when times are good. Hanging onto it in tough times is the tricky part. In this regard, Reese is a Hall of Famer.

In January, a University Park man decided to do what no computer geek had done before: For one year, he would live his life online, his every movement--sleeping, eating, goofing off mostly--would be Webcast to a global audience 24-7. He would abstain from sex and travel (traveling was the hard part), never leaving his home, which was quickly labeled the dotcompound, and only venturing into his backyard for an occasional breath of fresh air. The Internet would satisfy all his needs. He would order food, furniture, and frivolity online in an attempt to prove that man can live by e-commerce alone. What seemed like an interesting social experiment quickly revealed itself as little more than a publicity stunt. Hordes of media types hungry for some millennial meaning stormed the dotcompound, interviewing the cyberbore 10 to 15 times a day. The mass exposure became its own phenomenon, driving hundreds of thousands to his Web site and turning him into one of the first global cyber-personalities, famous for nothing save a good gimmick. Which actually proves something after all: The virtual world isn't much different from the physical world.

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