Best Radio DJ 2008 | Paul Slavens | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

With his soothing voice, Paul Slavens sounds like your standard National Public Radio personality. But Slavens is so much more. He's a composer, an improv musical comedy genius (his Monday night residency onstage at Dan's Silverleaf in Denton is becoming legendary) and, best of all, a go-to source for locally produced songs and long-forgotten gems. He comes to his knowledge rightfully as the former frontman for the jazz-rock combo Ten Hand, an act that once graced the stages of Deep Ellum. But now that he's older and, um, balder, he remains entrenched in the local scene thanks to his calming, end-of-the-weekend, listen-and-let-the-world-slow-down-for-a-second radio show.

You go up and down the dial searching for something to listen to. A good song, maybe an interesting sports discussion or a breaking news item. And somehow you find yourself riveted to a discussion on infidelity or just a gaggle of dudes giggling away at one another for being stupid. You're listening to professionals paid to sound like amateurs. But. You. Can't. Stop. That's just how Live 105.3 seems to work. There's no music and no real platform behind the station's talk format (unless "guy talk" is a viable radio term). No real redeeming quality to any of it. And yet you listen, and you keep listening and before long, you've set the station as a preset on your car stereo. And now you don't listen to anything else. And you hate yourself for it, but you kind of enjoy it too.

Best Reason for Dallas to Own a Convention Center Hotel

Everyone Else Has One

Mayor Tom Leppert and the city council have spent much of 2008 moving forward with plans to build a $600 million, publicly funded convention center hotel. Most of the key decisions regarding the project, such as selecting the site, funding method and developer for the hotel, have taken place in executive session, with the taxpayers left in the dark. Leppert, along with the council and Dallas Visitors & Convention Bureau, have assured the public that this hotel will be a money maker for the city and is an essential tool to bring more convention business to Dallas, especially because everyone else has one. We think this is a great argument, as we used it often to get what we wanted when we were in third grade. If a referendum happens in the future, we can only hope the argument elevates to middle school level.

Best Reason to Buy a More Powerful Radio Antenna

Radio Salaam Namaste

If you're not much for sports talk or wingnut political commentary, your radio may have gathered dust recently. Well, the sounds of "Desi" await you on 2-year-old community station Radio Salaam Namaste. For variety, there's no other station offering anything like this—the best sounds and top news (in four languages) from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. We're not talking belly-dancing beats. It's a sound that's been copied by Shakira, Madonna and Missy Elliott. But this is the original stuff, straight from the sub-continental source. It's hard to pick up the station's signal outside of Irving, but you can listen live on the Intertubes.

It hasn't been easy for artist Brian Gibb to move his Art Prostitute gallery—now called The Public Trust—from comfy confines down to the nitty-gritty of Deep Ellum. But Gibb is as committed to saving the neighborhood as the next guy; that's part of the reason he's there. And thanks to his efforts, Deep Ellum is becoming a new Williamsburg (Brooklyn), a gathering place for up-and-coming artists who have formed a loose-knit collective dedicated to building the local scene and putting it in the national spotlight. The work Gibb displays at the Public Trust is street-smart, subversive and oddly accessible to even the most neophyte art lover. There's an art to starting a forward-thinking movement like this.

Criminal District Judge John Creuzot has been a political prize for both parties since Dallas County woke up during the Reagan revolution in the mid-1980s and realized the courthouse was rife with partisan politics. Creuzot was originally appointed to the bench as a Democrat but had the survival instincts to jump ship in the mid-'80s, as did many Democratic judges coaxed to switch by Republican organizers and demographics. Creuzot's Republican street cred served him well, enabling him to hold onto his bench for several elections while he became one of the most innovative jurists this county has. He's implemented programs such as DIVERT court that provides addicts with alternatives to incarceration. A national voice in the drug court movement, he has recently been the creative force behind a kind of "Hookers Court," which tries to break the cycle of habitual prostitution. With the Democratic demographic shift in 2006, he again saw the handwriting on the wall. Facing accusations of opportunism, he is running as a Democrat in November and his party bosses couldn't be happier, seeing his flip-flop as a sign of the times. Of course, if McCain runs well in Dallas County and takes the bottom of the ticket with him, the Republicans will exact their own form of cosmic justice.

The Video Association of Dallas knows a lot about teamwork. Sure, it's easy for some folks to say they work best on their own, but nothing incites team building than a crazy-awesome movie contest that allows people to not only be on the big screen (you know you live for it), but also to finish their own freakin' film (even if it is five minutes long). Oh, and there's some talk about winning, but we all know it's for the team experience, not winning, right? This year around 100 teams participated in the VAD's seventh annual 24-Hour Video Race. The rules state that equipment (cameras, mikes, etc.) must be provided by the teams themselves. VAD only offers one mini-DVD tape to each team. It's a challenge made no less difficult by a required theme, location, prop and one line of dialogue. Teams must complete their entire entry (editing, musical score, credits, zany graphics and all) in 24 hours. It's a trying event that somehow makes everyone want to try.

It's one of the last remaining bastions of the old heydays of Deep Ellum, but since new ownership took the storied club over in late June, Club Dada has been wowing music fans by hosting an impressive schedule of well-known touring acts within the confines of its not-so-huge space. Changes are still in store for the club, and yes, there have been bumps along the way as the club's new owners have aimed to change the public perception of the venue, but for the most part, the renewed energy is not only welcome, but infectious as crowds slowly trickle back down to the once-legendary neighborhood.

Honestly, the Palladium Ballroom is more akin to an airplane hangar than an actual ballroom—even the main room at the House of Blues has more personality. The Loft upstairs, however, is another animal entirely, with great sound, a classy hardwood-and-brick decor and that rare aesthetic touch that escapes most local clubs: windows. It's the balcony outside that may be the best feature, with gorgeous, panoramic views of downtown and plenty of seating in case the opening band is skippable. On a nice night with the right band playing, there's really no better hangout in the city.


He's a three-peat choice in this category, but Randel Wright has little local competition in the area of theatrical set design. Wright now works full-time as design director for Dallas Children's Theater, but his exquisitely rendered and beautifully constructed set pieces have adorned stages at Dallas Theater Center, WaterTower, Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, Circle Theatre and others. A midlife return to theater design was a big career risk for the architecturally trained designer, but he hasn't looked back since re-entering the theater world a few years ago. Dozens of productions later, he's at the top of his profession. Look closely at his sets. He doesn't just paint walls and pick out furniture. In his designs are visual interpretations of the playwright's work. For WaterTower's recent musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Wright's set wrote its own jokes. He incorporated dollar-store gewgaws all over the stage, edging the gauzy curtains with "fringe" made out of plastic spoons—a little dig perhaps at how much the actors were chewing the scenery with their performances.

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