The Most 

Readers vote for the extremes of life in Richmond.

Most beautiful view(s) of Richmond: Church Hill and Hollywood Cemetery

If you delight in the vistas from Church Hill (left), you aren’t alone. In the 1730s, the southward view down the James inspired Richmond’s founder, William Byrd II, to name his town for Richmond-Upon-Thames. That London suburb had a similar river view.

Today, at night, the sweeping vista from Libby Hill Park is akin to that of Los Angeles from Mulholland Drive. (Well, not quite.) But the bona-fide million-dollar view is from the overlook at the eastern tip of East Grace Street just before the street grid plummets some 60 feet into Shockoe Bottom.

The space is framed by two dissimilar but remarkable landmarks, the Italianate Richmond Hill (the former Monte Maria Convent) and the modernistic Philip Johnson-designed Memorial Child Guidance Clinic (the former WRVA/WRVQ radio station ). One can survey downtown’s evolving skyline, trace I-95 as far as the eye can see and spot an occasional train passing through Main Street Station.

The visual pleasures from Hollywood Cemetery (above), are more natural. From ridges above the river, waters from the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Piedmont rush over granite boulders, teasing bathers and rock-hoppers on Belle Isle. The sweeping sight, sometimes with herons and other fauna in the mix, is awesome in all seasons.

Eastward, the skyline looks best in the setting sun, as the towering, metallic Federal Reserve Bank gives a shimmering performance.

Most filling restaurant: Joe’s Inn

Beloved Fan spot Joe’s Inn has been sending regulars home stuffed and toting leftovers for 52 years. And it’s no surprise the Italian/American/Greek spot has been voted Most Filling for the second year in a row.

Joe’s no longer around — he sold the business in the late ’70s to his employee Nick, who was straight off the boat from Greece. After taking over, Nick added the popular Spaghetti a la Greek to the menu but touched little else, including the hefty portions. Nick has since retired, and now his three children run the business. But Joe’s touch is still present — his daughter Diana still comes in twice a week to make the meat sauce in a 50-gallon pasta pot.

And both past owners’ signature dishes are still the most popular: The Spaghetti a la Joe has one full pound of pasta topped with red sauce, provolone and Romano cheeses. It weighs in at a total of 1.5 pounds (without the plate). The Spaghetti a la Greek adds feta and garlic to the baked mound. Both dishes come with home-baked bread and a side salad.

“Hopefully we’re not going to be sued for anyone being obese,” says Nick’s daughter Maria Jasinkiewicz, who playfully adds, “One of the most frequently ordered things at Joe’s is the Greek salad. It’s a salad, that’s good. It does have a lot of feta on it ... at least it’s not processed food, it’s all homemade.”

For the record, Joe’s goes through three 100-pound wooden kegs of feta cheese a week. And on weekends they crack through five or six cases of eggs each day. At 36 dozen eggs in each case, that works out to more than 2,500 eggs.

Most regrettable loss to Richmond: 6th Street Marketplace

With the constant blathering about reviving the former retail core “to give conventioneers something to do,” what was the point of removing a centrally located mall whose time had, quite possibly, come?

It was foolish to demolish 6th Street Marketplace, that green metal dinosaur that until recently straddled East Broad Street and plugged two blocks of Sixth Street. Sure, it would have taken some hustle by an aggressive merchandising-minded guru with an ear to the ground about what retail mix would work. But it could have been done.

Sixth Street always lacked a critical mass of interesting shops and imaginative and aggressive marketing. Other Virginia cities — like Norfolk and Charlottesville — can make retail work in the town center. Why can’t Richmond? It might mean not subsidizing shopping malls in the suburbs.

Most overrated restaurant: The Tobacco Company

Welcome to the shooting fish in a barrel department. It’s easy to pile on the Tobacco Company because it’s so big and so familiar. It is frozen in time — a Bicentennial vintage high-volume restaurant with quirky antiques, a rain forest of ferns and servers in suspenders. And the menu is crowd-pleasingly bland.

We suspect the restaurant is smack-talked largely because of the, shall we say, friendliness of the club downstairs, in which patrons who have just met are busy making arrangements for breakfast, if you get our drift.

Just remember — for all the talk of downtown revitalization, there’s something to be said for more than a quarter-century of feeding people, entertaining tourists and employing musicians on the main floor stage. Richmond sometimes loves its classics and runs them down at the same time, and the Tobacco Company is nothing if not a classic.

Most promising place for a first date: Maymont

At least for one couple, Maymont proved to be just that. Richard and Jennifer Page met at the Dooley Noted Society’s Backyard BBQ in 2001, and two years after that fateful day they got married in the park’s Italian Gardens.

Ed Noonan, president of Maymont’s young person’s group, agrees that the 100-acre park is a romantic spot. “You have the Italian gardens which are pretty, overlooking the river, and you can take a walk, you can always pack a picnic too, so depending on how much you go out, you could make it a pretty romantic lunch.” Style readers seem to agree — last year they voted Maymont the “most exciting place to have sex.”

Maymont’s most famous couple, the otters that live in the nature center, are celebrated each Valentine’s Day with another Dooley Noted event: “With Love from your Significant Otter.” This year’s Backyard BBQ is coming up on June 19 at the children’s farm. Bring a date, celebrate the Pages’ third anniversary – and maybe get ready for your first anniversary a year from now.

Most hopeful thing to happen in Richmond: Mayor-at-large

OK, we’re holding our breath. But former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder running for mayor of Richmond is akin to Joe Gibbs announcing his return to the Redskins. Even if the first year gets messy, how much fun would it be to watch Wilder roam the sidelines?

It’s the perfect segue. Richmonders pass the mayoral referendum nearly 4-to-1, and immediately one of the city’s most famous political figures reemerges to take the helm. At the risk of getting all gushy, we’ll gladly trade the platitudes emanating from today’s City Hall with bare-knuckles, in-your-face Wilderisms.

Wilder could drop out of the race — he’s unpredictable like that. But his return to the campaign trail signals a new era for Richmond, a city that always seems on the verge of becoming important again. Style readers know we’ll be better at choosing our mayor than the circus act at City Hall.

The second most hopeful thing to hit Richmond? Readers cast their ballots for the Bottom ballpark, or at least the discussion surrounding it. Whether you’re for or against, the very public debate that has emerged has spurred a healthy discussion about funding priorities, economic development and history. Somebody cares, after all.

Most inexplicable radio programming: WCVE

This is public radio without “Whad’Ya Know,” “Wait Wait . . .Don’t Tell Me,” “Talk of the Nation,” “As It Happens,” “From the Top,” “American Routes” or “World Café.” WCVE interrupts news broadcasts for irrelevant art and history lessons, and also airs one program able to attract younger listeners — the brilliant “This American Life” — on Sunday morning at 10. But Garrison and the car guys are each on twice weekly.

Most important issue facing Richmond: Crime

There’s been ample proof in recent months to validate your concern. At press time the Richmond Police Department had reported 45 murders, which compares to 39 last year at the same time, and even the VCU police are investigating an additional homicide. Robberies are up with a 5 percent increase. Motor vehicle thefts are up 8 percent. (Breaking-and-entering crimes are down 10 percent.) So far this year, Richmond Police have seized 630 weapons, which compares to 546 through the end of June last year — an increase of 15 percent.

Meanwhile, Richmond Police Chief André Parker (below) continues to push initiatives, if not the envelope, for what he believes is possible: a safer city. Next month a gang unit will begin to target gangs and their activity. This summer police will launch “Operation Streetlight,” an effort to make the streets safe for kids, especially by enforcing curfew laws.

Other recent initiatives include: an undercover robbery unit; community policing programs with Hispanic and Asian neighborhoods; the Developed Chaplains Program and Faith Leader Summit; an expansion of the Fugitive Task Force; a relaunched Project Exile campaign; and a switch for officers to permanent shifts instead of rotating days and nights.

Parker says he will push for people, neighborhoods and churches to help yank what he calls the common threads in Richmond’s crime: drugs and guns. “There is almost a guarantee of serious injury of death when you or someone you know is involved with guns or illegal drugs,” he says. “It’s a never-ending source of dismay to me that there are some people in this community who have so little regard for human life and safety. It is played out repeatedly on the streets day in and day out.”

Most comfortable bar: The Bamboo Café

From the outside, it looks like a dozen other Fan hangouts. But step inside the Bamboo Café and its aura calms you. It’s the perfect size — homey but not cramped. A single server can help everybody at the 13 tables. The booze flows freely — It takes two bartenders to keep the tables and the 10 or so patrons at the bar lubricated.

Its dark wood soothes, but there’s enough light to prevent all sorts of disasters, both in the bar and afterwards. The huge photograph of Canada’s Lake Louise and the big clock over the door have remained for more than a generation.

Besides the inventive fare from the specials board, two pastimes mix well with the strong drink. One is watching who’s hitting on whom. The best two seats for this are in the back of the bar, at table No. 7, a half-booth otherwise known as the penalty box. Here, a step above the rest of the room, you can see people’s hands in the booths below. The other is sitting with a Saturday-night crowd at table No. 13 in the front window and watching people drive the wrong way down Mulberry Street — then making a right turn to drive the wrong way down Main.

Go west, young man.

Most important thing Richmond should do by 2007: Revitalize Downtown

It’s a tough order. No one can wave a wand and presto — downtown is revitalized. But in many ways Richmond’s core has never looked better.

Infrastructure is in place. The flood wall has brought spectacular development in Shockoe Bottom. The canal has been partially rebuilt and awaits activity along its banks. Brown’s Island is a hit as a concert venue and Belle Isle has become a wildly popular recreation spot.

The James River itself is cleaner then ever. In old retail and warehouse buildings on almost every street downtown, apartments are being built on upper floors. The financial district, especially Main Street, looks especially smart with the restoration of the Heritage Building at 11th and Main. Surrounding residential neighborhoods — Oregon Hill, Jackson Ward, Church Hill and Carver — are rocking with rehabilitation.

Alas, the late 20th century projects — the James Center, Riverfront Plaza and the new Convention Center — are architecturally underwhelming. The lesson is starkly clear: Where an old building has been left standing, historic preservation and adaptive reuse allows for a Richmond that looks like Richmond. Almost everything else looks grim. That’s why current demolition on Broad and Grace streets is distressing. Our track record is pathetic at replacing old buildings with anything as good, much less better.

The destruction of older, human-scaled buildings for megastructures makes it extremely hard for small businesspeople to get a foothold. They need modestly sized spaces and reasonable rents. Losing entire blocks of old fabric to a “trust us” approach — that theaters, courthouses, hotels and parking decks are going to solve what ails downtown — is a high-wire act. Good old commerce is the anchor that makes downtowns click. Always has, always will. Are we making room for businesses?

Most fun band to see live: The English Channel

Is it the music? The dancing? The boots? Is it the massive wave of Baby Boomer nostalgia that has propelled this British invasion cover band to the top of the Most charts?

The English Channel has built up quite a following since they got together in 2000. It plays only British music from the ’60s and ’70s, and it manages to cover a lot of ground, from The Beatles and The Who to Jerry and the Pacemakers and Cream.

“Psychedelic stuff, bluesy stuff, we play it all,” says Julie Quarles, singer and mistress of the band’s trademark white go-go boots. Bob Quarles, Julie’s husband and the keyboardist, noticed that no one was playing that kind of music locally. “It was sort of a neglected genre,” Julie says. So the Quarleses, along with Greg Marrs on guitar, Richard Cowles on bass and Mike Edwards on drums, got together and immediately reminded the Boomers why they used to scream and cry at rock shows. See them at Friday Cheers July 23.

Richmonder most deserving of next Monument Avenue statue: Edgar Allan Poe

While some devotees of the Lost Cause say “nevermore” to adding Monument Avenue statuary, Style’s readers believe Poe needs a place on our most famous street. Though Poe lived in Boston, New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia in his short life, he considered himself a Virginian.

His mother died here just before his second birthday, and Poe was adopted by the family of a tobacconist who worshipped at Monumental Episcopal Church. He attended the University of Virginia for a short time. Even after he left the commonwealth, he kept ties. He married a Richmond girl and edited a Richmond-based literary journal from afar. Two of his last public appearances before his death were lectures in Norfolk and Richmond.

The runner-up? America’s first elected black governor, L. Douglas Wilder, who may soon have a job that allows him to order up any monument he pleases.

Most kid-friendly restaurant: Chuck E. Cheese’s

The self-proclaimed “Birthday Capital of the Universe,” Chuck E. Cheese’s earns your seal of approval for catering to kids. This pizzapalooza features a big, cheesy mouse — or, if you’re lucky, a local soccer star.

Rob Ukrop, a forward for the Richmond Kickers, held his 34th birthday party at the restaurant April 5, attracting some 2,500 people, he estimates, who ate cake, scarfed down 198 pizzas and plunked 58,000 tokens into game machines.

“It’s pretty much ultimate chaos,” Ukrop says. “At the end of the night, at 10, when they kick me out, I can’t wait to get home.”

But until then, the preternaturally sunny Ukrop says, he partied as hard as any 10-year-old present, and helped raise $350 for the Police Athletic League. He also opened the doors to some kids who typically may not have the chance to attend such a party.

“To have any kind of positive impact on people — that’s the point of the party,” he says. “I’ve been blessed, and I’ve got a wonderful family, and it’s a chance to give back to others as well.”

Ukrop started his Chuck E. Cheese’s parties eight years ago, as he turned 27. He invites anyone and everyone, like students at local schools who hear his motivational speeches, or fans of his Web site, www.happydork.com.

And next year? You’re invited, he says. Just watch his Web site around March 2005 for details.

“As long as you have good manners,” he says, “and you can say please and thank-you — and your parents don’t drop you off and leave — you’re welcome at the party.” (For more on his parent, see Bobby Ukrop under Most Powerful Richmonder.)

Chuck E. Cheese’s has two locations in the Richmond area, at 9030 W. Broad St., and in Pocono Crossing at 10430 Midlothian Turnpike.

Most romantic restaurant: Davis and Main

Not Lemaire, not the dining room at the Berkeley, not Mama ‘Zu, not any of the fu-fu steakhouses — but Davis and Main?

Style readers chose this Fan landmark, probably out of a mix of comfort and nostalgia. It is romantic to sit in candlelight, listen to Billie Holiday and sip martinis. The food is billed as “American Grilled Cuisine,” and the simple menu includes what one Style critic says is the best burger in town.

Richmonder most likely to be voted off the island, Richmond

politician most likely to be be fired by the Donald, Most out-

rageous scandal: Hedgepeth, Hedgepeth and Hedgepeth’s bribery

It bears repeating that what may be most unbelievable about former 9th District City Councilwoman Gwen C. Hedgepeth’s woes isn’t that she was set up to go down, but that she jeopardized it all for what can only be called precious little.

C’mon — $2,500?

Hedgepeth resigned April 5 from her fourth term on City Council. It was a day after a federal jury convicted her of bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, attempting to commit bribery and lying to the FBI. What’s more, there’s audio and video proof that Hedgepeth repeatedly dished on city politicos with a notorious felon in the course of her plottings. Is there no honor among thieves anymore?

Hedgepeth admitted what she did was wrong but said she didn’t know it was illegal. Sure.

Now Hedgepeth loyalists are calling for supporters to turn out July 2 in U. S. District Court for her sentencing, hoping to urge Judge Henry Hudson toward leniency.

If you can’t be there you can still help, says the Committee to Support Hedgepeth. Write a letter to the judge, collect signatures for a petition or send a financial donation, for starters. In a letter sent to “family and friends,” the group offers the caveat: “If you choose to write a letter, please include the number of years that you have known Gwen along with your personal experiences with her. However, the attorney would prefer that you not address the specifics of the case.”

Most overpromoted yet underwhelming radio transformation: The morning show on Q-94

In a dramatic cliffhanger that even merited an article in the T-D, WRVQ 94.5-FM ran promos saying it was going to be “dead.” For answers, a deep voice intoned, we should tune in at 5 p.m. on Friday. The announcement? Listen Monday. And what happened? Basically, Billy Surf was replaced. But co-host Melissa Chase: still there. Skip the Prize Guy: still there. And the show’s now called a “Morning Zoo.” A zoo? That idea’s about as new as Don Imus.

Most overhyped event of the year: Strawberry Hill Races

For 72 years the Strawberry Hill Races have been on Richmonders’ calendars as the spring day you get dressed — and liquored — up. Although it’s still a popular event, readers seem to feel it’s not living up to its reputation of late.

Could it be that compared to the races’ previous spot on Strawberry Hill at the state fairgrounds, the new Colonial Downs site is a) far away, b) ugly and c) a muddy disaster in the rain? Or could it be that what started off as a bit of sophisticated frivolity has turned into a rowdy drunkfest of monster-truck-rally proportions where nary a horse is seen? Maybe it’s just that Stawberry Hill’s main competitor, the Foxfield Races outside Charlottesville, is at least an hour farther away but about a million times more picturesque.

Most hideous Richmond landmark: Arthur Ashe memorial

For all its natural and man-made beauty, from the James River to breathtaking residential architecture, Richmond has its share of stinkers. For The Most voters, one continues to stand head, shoulders, book and tennis racket above the rest: sculptor Paul DiPasquale’s Arthur Ashe memorial on Monument Ave.

Like a drunk driver careening into an intersection, bad taste collides with good intentions in this inexplicable artifact of civic celebration and repentance. In an attempt to salute Ashe, an athlete and scholar of significant gifts, he’s — in a searing example of tortured obviousness — shown holding two tools of his trade in a pose that fits no imaginable circumstance. It’s as if he’s playing an eternal game of keep-away with the children at his feet.

The base gives a possible explanation for this crazed behavior. It reads, in part, “This Monument was placed at Monument Avenue and Roseneath Road on July 10 1996, to inspire children and people of all nationalities.” Aha! Children aren’t people! That’s why they must not have books or sporting gear!

Most trendy bar crowd: Tonic

Just when you thought the only trend native to Shockoe Bottom was bar closings, Style readers vote one of its nightspots most trendy in town.

Perhaps Tonic is a more fitting name than was even hoped by the proprietors of this quaint corner of the cocktail couture. Outfitted with mod design, it is a remedy and relief from the surrounding habitat, far from the madding crowd of torn jeans and tennis shoes.

Tonic, if you’ve never been, has a dress code. Perhaps the reason for winning this category, it’s a fact that sent some shock waves through a scene that felt dressing up meant showering. In fact, one of the more wicked thrills of the place is to perch in a window seat and bet on who gets turned away and who doesn’t – but choose wisely, because the standards are not consistent.

Even if the place does overdo it with loud techno music and Miami disco lighting, it is, at least, as many have undoubtedly said, somewhere different, a sanctuary built of high heels and stemware. And, again, it’s in Shockoe Bottom. That’s one trend worth following.

Most interesting art gallery: The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Richmond’s museums aren’t necessarily large, but they’re sweet. Visitors to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts marvel at the Faberge jewels and the extraordinary art nouveau and art deco collections.

The palace of art on the Boulevard has been hitting an exciting stride of late with such shows as “Stories of Passion and Art,” a brilliantly conceived exhibit that packs as many Van Goghs and Gauguins into a room as one is likely ever to see here.

A few months ago, Robert Lazzarini’s distorted, sculptural vision of the world was a crowd-pleaser. As the museum embarks in the coming months on an ambitious physical expansion, its recent offerings have been proof positive just how vital, hip and life-enhancing art can be.

According to Style readers, what was once a stable behind the home of tobacco magnate Lewis Ginter comes in second.

The Anderson Gallery at VCU, located at 907« W. Franklin St. (One half? How funky is that?) has been jury-rigged and expanded over the years into a labyrinth of art space. It has no elevator, so it’s a nightmare for curators and mostly off-limits to those who use wheelchairs. But the staff continues to present challenging contemporary shows. The juried student shows present opportunities to follow the students at this nationally recognized art school and buy art on the cheap.

Richmonder most watchable on a

24-hour webcam: Chuck Richardson

You may want to track former City Councilman Chuck Richardson all day, but one reader says he’s tired of all that. Haven’t we had enough “Cops”-style programming, police raids and undercover footage of our public figures? And what about reality shows? How much reality are you really getting?

Enter John Stanwix Jr. The 26-year-old redhead from Rochester, N.Y., says Richmond needs a good dose of normalcy. That’s why he voted for himself as the Richmonder most watchable on a 24-hour Webcam.

“I’m not high-profile,” Stanwix says. “I go to work, like most everyone. I fight traffic, like most everyone.” You know, a nine-to-five life, with bills and chores, an attractive wife he met in law school and a house in the suburbs near Short Pump.

“I just try to live a good, civil life,” he says. “This would be the average guy’s webcam.”

We decided to see for ourselves.

After a day of working for the state, the 6-foot-1 Stanwix had returned home, barefooted, relaxing on a navy blue sofa. He grabbed a glass of water. If we weren’t there, he might have been watching TV. He sported a gray T-shirt and khaki shorts. His wife would be home soon.

Normal? Check.

But Stanwix says normal doesn’t have to be boring. Like tomorrow at 5 a.m., webcam watchers would see him at SEAL-style training for the first time. Now we’re talking. It could be extra entertaining, he suggests, considering he’s never really worked out before. He offers a few other stories of mini-adventures, promising to keep his Internet audience from growing listless.

“There’ll be days when I just watch TV,” he says. “But eventually, something will happen to catch their interest.”

There’s only one problem: His wife, Amber, isn’t signing a release to be on a webcam anytime soon. This was his idea. She comes home, and we say good night.



Most important company: Philip Morris

Spare us the death talk. We already know sucking down smoldering ashes isn’t good for you. But Richmond was built on tobacco — specifically the cigarette trade — and Philip Morris’ return to Richmond last year did much to offset a decade of corporate runoff in the capital city.

True, Philip Morris’ cigarettes may contribute to hundreds of thousands of deaths every year, but the company employs 6,500 people in Richmond. And these jobs aren’t the telemarketing variety. As is PM’s wont, the famously well-managed company treats its employees well. The average job at the new headquarters on West Broad Street, at the old Reynolds Metals campus, pays more than $100,000. (Reynolds, by the way, got its start making the aluminum wrapper for Philip Morris cigarette boxes.)

After all, tobacco is Richmond history. We’re living it in restored Tobacco Row warehouses. And today’s Philip Morris has much in common with a southerly city steeped in the past, holding onto old ideas and heroes. It is a wonder that Philip Morris has mastered the art of survival in one of the world’s most reviled industries – today, still, it owns 50 percent of the cigarette market.

Second most important, say Style readers, is Capital One Financial Corp., which employs nearly 10,000 in the metro region. A spinoff of the old Signet Bank, Capital One mastered the art of data mining — selectively issuing debt to more financially stable customers — and spreading its risk along smaller credit lines.

Cap One is reportedly slashing staff as we speak, but it’s more of a preventive measure than desperation. The move should help the company stabilize for the future. And in the long run, that’s good for Richmond.

Most annoying infrastructure issue: Potholes

Kudos to Richmond City officials who have begun preparing for the Jamestown

quadricentennial by allowing our streets to resemble English country roads circa 1607.

Most overpaid workers in Richmond: City officials

We’re not sure whether readers are referring to City Manager Calvin Jamison, who makes $170,148 a year, or department heads, like Economic Development Director John Woodward, who just received an 11.2 percent pay raise from $93,933 to $104,500.

Whoever is the target, you seem to be wondering whether you’re getting a return on your investment. Are city officials worth it? In the end, that’s for you to judge. It’s public money, after all.

One thing is certain: Salaries are not on the way down. From the 2002 to 2003 fiscal years (which end in June), raises were the norm for City Hall’s top managers. Performance reviews to determine the full round of raises will be complete by June 30.

The next debate: how much to pay an elected mayor? The city manager recently recommended a range of $120,000 to $130,000 (less than his own), after conducting a salary survey in other cities. Now the decision is in the hands of City Council members, who make $25,000 each.

Most studly and/or sultry TV news personality: Juan Conde and Chesley McNeil (tie)

Oh, Sabrina. Your Maybelline has lost its luster.

As quickly as a tease for a school-bus accident, readers have switched their sexiness sensibilities from Channel 12 to Channel 8.

Bye-bye, Gene Cox, winner of last year’s “Most studly male news anchor” award. So long, Ms. Squire, who captured “Most sultry female news anchor” in 2003. (We didn’t offer gender-separated categories this year.) Your titles have been swiped.

Anchor Juan Conde (top) and meteorologist Chesley McNeil — in a head-shot to head-shot tie — are the boys that light up your screen.

Conde, suave Conde, catches us with a steely — some say caught-in-the-headlights — gaze. His piercing blue eyes make their way through the TelePrompTer and into our most private of places — home. And so what if we only see him from the waist up? He’s pulling us in with a solid build and ready grin.

But if Conde is the Antonio Banderas of the newsroom, Chesley McNeil is the George Lopez. The comic relief. He is svelte, sweet and a touch goofy. And don’t women love a sense of humor? Don’t we all want to smile when the weather turns gray and Chesley purrs, “Cool?”

The camera does you proud, guys. Thought about the movies?

Most appropriate location for a new ballpark: Leave it where it is

By the time it’s over, the Richmond Braves may wind up playing baseball in, say, Jacksonville, Fla., but it’s sure fun to banter and speculate about new baseball stadiums. Style readers picked The Diamond, on the Boulevard, over the Shockoe Bottom proposal (just north of the 17th Street Farmers’ Market). After the polling closed another plan emerged — a local developer is now pushing to move the Braves to Mayo Island, where Richmond baseball began in the late 1800s.

Style readers embody that general frustration over moving the Braves. It’s hard to argue that a new stadium wouldn’t be nice — the smallish ballpark, only 7,500 seats, would be cozier and offer a grassy berm for kids along the outfield wall. And you’d probably be able to see the game from the Havana ’59 roof. One can only imagine the city skyline and cool river breeze on Mayo.

But the question seems to be: “What’s wrong with The Diamond?” It’s not the best stadium in minor-league baseball, but it’s certainly not crumbling to the ground, and there were plans and money for improvements in place. There was that chunk of concrete that nearly crushed a few fans last fall, but could it be any worse than dodging bullets in the Bottom?

Most effective elected official: Gov. Mark R. Warner

In Virginia politics, one can only marvel at the sanity: Gov. Mark R. Warner ushers a $1 billion tax increase through a Republican-controlled legislature to balance the state budget. And in an election year, no less. Through it all, he managed to place the blame for the fiscal problems squarely on the Republicans — specifically, former Gov. Jim Gilmore and his car tax cut.

How could Warner not be the city’s most effective politician? Go ahead and disagree with this tax-and-spend Democrat, but the feat itself proves him worthy of the title. Not since former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder has Virginia seen this kind of savvy back-door maneuvering in the name of fiscal responsibility.

That Style readers selected Lt. Gov. Timothy Kaine as runner-up for the award is a bit puzzling. The lieutenant governorship is traditionally a safe-haven for gubernatorial hopefuls — primarily because of the high profile nature of presiding over the Senate and the fact that, well, lieutenant governors really don’t do anything. They vote only when there’s a tie. But that does leave plenty of time to drum up cool press releases — think “Timo Memo” — and disassociate themselves with former jobs as mayors of cities that are now filled with corruption – think “Paygo.”

This isn’t all Kaine’s fault. And to his credit, he did return $16,000 in discretionary office funds in September of 2002 to show his commitment to the people — and to reduce the state budget deficit.

Most support for a school principal by beleaguered teachers and students: George Wythe High School, for Earl Pappy

Most disturbing (inanimate) thing in Richmond: the Café DI Pagliacci mural

Most unfortunate fashion trend re-emerging from the 1980s: Turned-up collars

Letters to the editor may be sent to: letters@styleweekly.com




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