Entertainment and Media 

The Best of Richmond 2000

Best local band

No, Pantera's too far south and the defunct Smashing Pumpkins are a bit northwest, so we can't consider them local. But those with some geography sense chose the rock/ska sextet Fighting Gravity as the best band in Richmond.

In year 14, Fighting Gravity still keeps it local. The band supports and helps cultivate the Richmond scene. The band plans to record an album here later in the year with buddy David Lowery of Cracker, singer Schiavone McGee says. McGee, who's "just blown away" by the news of this Major Award, manages local band The Second Floor, when he's not writing, rehearsing or gigging.

Of course, being the ever-gracious Richmond music supporter, McGee wanted to give major props to the other artists in Richmond. You know, bands like Bio Ritmo, who finished a close second, and The Pat McGee Band and Janet Martin, who tied for third.

Best place to hear live music

Dank and swank, old and new, Alley Katz and The Canal Club have the top spot split in two.

It's no surprise these two venues tied; this category is up for grabs every year. The now-defunct Flood Zone won in 1998, and last year Friday Cheers took the top spot. This year the summer music series traded places with Alley Katz, which finished third last year.

Alley Katz, the nearly five-year-old venue is probably the best place in Richmond to see a rising (or falling) national act. Booking is sometimes sketchy, but Joan Osborne, Ween and Fastball all have taken the stage. Of course if you stand in front of the stage to watch, beware. You run the risk of being doused with God knows what from above.

The Canal Club would be the antithesis. It opened in March and is a brand spanking new space, but it's not quite established enough to attract big national acts just yet. Most musical acts are local, which is good for developing talent in Richmond. But to keep up with or surpass Alley Katz the Canal Club will need to work on booking. They've got a year.

Best dance club, best place to dance, best gay club

When you want to crank it up a notch and really feel the music in the house, for the second year in a row it's Cafine's that gets the mercury rising. Bottom dwellers Have A Nice Day Café and Fahrenheit also came in near the top.

It's easy to see why. From its funky '60s- and '70s-style lamps to disco balls to retro furniture — the kind that you'd see on the set of "Three's Company" - everything about Cafine's makes you feel like dancing. What's more, the club has just the right mix of freaks and geeks that makes you feel, well, not so goofy. Thursdays through Saturdays from 10 p.m. until the wee hours, dancing is what the night's about, whether it's deep rhythm, deep house or New York house music that brings the place down. So leave your perch as a wallflower and sashay it up on the floor.

Cafine's also is your choice for the best place to dance. We know, it's a fine line. But really, would you rather polka to Lawrence Welk over the linoleum floor of some community recreation center, or worse, a downtown ladies' club, or do the Saturday night hustle at Cafine's on BOOM night? Obviously, it's no contest for our readers. "We're constantly trying to reinvent ourselves," says co-owner Doug Heller. "My favorite part is throwing parties, and this is such a great venue. And, it's such a great-looking crowd."

Although it's Thursday and Friday night crowds are mostly straight, BOOM's Saturday night reputation has earned it your choice for the best gay bar in town, beating out other stellar faves like Babe's, Casablanca and, of course, Fieldens. That makes Cafine's one of the winningest places in our annual contest.

Best bar for the buck

It may take you a few minutes to wedge yourself to the front of the bar at Buddy's Place, but at least you'll be jockeying for position among a crowd of friendly locals. Buddy's is largely supported by its loyal Fan patrons, general manager Jeff Sullivan says, but it's also a popular stop for West Enders looking to score a cheap brew or two before heading downtown.

While Buddy's offers happy hour specials 5 to 9 p.m. daily and stays open until 2 a.m. every night, it's not just what's on tap that keeps these thrifty customers coming back, it's the food. The Sunday brunch and Meatloaf Mondays nicely complement Buddy's reputation as a fine watering hole, while at the same time putting your mother's cooking to shame … and Mom never let you wash down her runny eggs with a nice, cold brewski. Sidewalk Cafe took second, with the Galaxy Diner finishing a strong third.

Best free event

Richmonders are united in their vote for Friday Cheers as Richmond's Best Free Event. The after-work summer music series has been packing them in since 1985, attracting an average of 5,000 people per performance. And this year, with Friday Cheers' move to the newly refurbished Brown's Island, attendance is up about 20 percent.

So what's the appeal? Christina Risatti, Downtown Presents director, says simply, "I think free has a lot to do with it." Sure, sometimes it's hard to hear the music over the din of the crowd, but that's part of the appeal. It's a great place to meet with friends after a long work week. Fresh air, live music and cold beer — who can argue with that?

Runners up in this category include Downtown Presents' Big Gig and Easter on Parade, and Arts in the Park.

Best summer music series

Not only was Friday Cheers named Richmond's best free event by Style readers, but it takes honors for Best Summer Music Series.

"We try to book bands that are more or less on the cutting edge of popularity in Richmond," Risatti says. That means for Cheers' remaining run Richmonders will be jamming to the sounds of Carbon Leaf, The Waking Hours, Fighting Gravity and A.A.E.

Coming in a very close second (with just one vote less than the winner) is the Virginia Museum's funky Jumpin' series, which each Thursday night fills the museum's sculpture garden to capacity with fans of interesting and sometimes offbeat music.

Innsbrook After Hours gets third-place honors from fans of the weekly West End Wednesday night concert series.

Best place to see a movie

In an era when movie-going at multiplexes is increasingly like passing through a third-world airport, with long, poorly marked corridors leading in various directions, the Byrd Theater is a bona-fide treat. People-watching while standing in line is where the fun begins. And you can't argue about the price — $1.99 (but at that rate don't expect the ticket seller to lift a finger to make change: The parsimonious can retrieve a penny themselves from a little coin box).

The youngish ticket-takers and popcorn sellers are done up in 1920s garb, attempting to reflect the vintage of the theater. But somehow, their flapper hairbands or retro dinner jackets can't conceal their contemporary body piercings, uneven hairstyles or tattoos. The staff looks more Addams Family than Great Gatsby. And while the seats aren't particularly comfortable, when the lights lower, the spectacular chandelier shimmers like a rainbow, and the organ rises from beneath the auditorium floor. It's total magic. And the brief, anti-litter film, which precedes most screenings, is a local camp classic. Its lines are now as familiar as those of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

Best morning drive-time show

This category might be better described as the battle of the laughs. It came down to a race between the Jeffs' chuckling, Jackie's giggling and John Boy's and Billy's all-out yelping. In the end, Richmond chose the WKLR 96.5 The Planet's syndicated John Boy and Billy Big Show.

Last year, the national news program on WCVE 88.9 won and again this year our winner is another import. (What's that they say about Richmond radio these days?) John Boy and Billy do their shtick from Charlotte, N.C., and use of the grand old Southern word "y'all" is frequent. John Boy, the guy who howls in the Hardee's commercials, uses it, by far, the most. B103's married morning duo Jackie and Bender fell short by a single vote, while XL102's Jeff and Jeff finished third. NPR's "Morning Edition" finished a close fourth.

Best TV news personality

If Sabrina Squire and Gene Cox had to arm wrestle for this one, (and face it, that's an image that screams November sweeps) well, sorry, old guy - the woman's got strength and staying power, and wins this one yet again. Not that the sly, irascible Cox needs to worry. He comes in second and there's virtually no competition, just the way they like it over at 12. What is it about Sabrina that captures Style's readers so? Sure, she's warm and appealing. Sure, she offers a classically yin-yang foil to her colleague, effervescent and sincere against Gene's avuncular deadpans. And yes, she's a hometown girl who knows her way around Midlothian Pike and the better charity events in town. But what's really so great about Sabrina? That she's not afraid to show up at Ukrop's in sweat pants and no makeup the next morning.

Best weather forecaster

Channel 12's laid-back meteorologist, Jim Duncan, stormed the competition.

"Terrific, I think it's great obviously," Duncan says about the award. Duncan, who's been in Richmond for almost 19 years, says he's glad folks are still watching him after so many forecasts. He's not sure, but he thinks his win is reflective of the Channel 12 Weather Team, and he just happened to get it because he's the familiar face. He gives super props to the rest of the team.

The life of a weather forecaster is somewhat mild, Duncan says. His work hours are different than most, starting at 3 and ending around midnight. He likes forecasting because it's a daily challenge and there's something different every day.

Duncan doesn't spend his free time looking at weather maps, though. He dabbles in real estate, rides around on his Yamaha motorcycle and spends time with his wife, Barbara and daughter, Mary Alyce.

Chesley McNeil, Channel 8 meteorologist, finished a far second and most of the weather forecasters in the area received votes. Not all vote recipients were human. Channel 6 Doppler Radar got a few and one person answered Professor Frink of "The Simpsons."

Best place to meet Ms./Mr. Right

In Richmond, the party doesn't end on Sunday morning; it's only just beginning.

Yes, the list of Richmond's top "meet markets" to find Mr. or Mrs. Right may not include Have a Nice Day Café, the Canal Club or Fahrenheit. According to you, the faithful readers, the ideal place to meet that special soulmate is actually in church, or temple, etc.

From youth group retreats to heated games of Bingo, Richmonders are now looking for love at the very place they may be exchanging the sacred vow. So put away your khakis and club wear, and suit up in your Sunday best, 'cause you never who you may meet at your given place of worship.

Cabo's didn't have a prayer, coming in a distant second, and apparently "paper or plastic" is a popular pickup line, as Hannaford's and Ukrop's tied for third.

Best place to meet Mr./Mrs. Right Now

From the lengthy and varied list of opinions we received on this one, the answer is certain: there are many, many places in Richmond where you can slink up to that next piece of nookie.

If you're like the one poor shmuck who wrote "haven't found it," here's the short list of the surprising and not-so-surprising places our readers say are the local hotbeds of lusty action: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Plan 9, Buddy's (most votes of any bar) and, God help us, church


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