This is the time of year when many among the City Weekly staff duck for cover. No matter who receives a Best of Utah award, whether it be by readers’ votes or editorial staff pick, someone we like a lot will become aggrieved and tell us to stick our heads into cavernous anatomical places where the sun seldom shines. I say seldom because I cannot speak for everybody, and I do happen to believe that certain among our Utah Legislature (recently dismissed, thank God) actually do have allowances for internal sunshine into their cavernous places—not that it does any good.
Equally, some merchants and businesses complain to us no matter what. Even when they win. Even as we give them free listings week in and week out. Even when something nice is written about them. They make threats and break contracts and harrumph. I could name some of those, but what’s the point? So, I just privately avoid their businesses. No harm, no foul.
But, in both cases, people who gripe because they were not named and those who gripe at anything comprise a small percentage of the local business community. I have found over those same 24 years of Best of Utahs (and nearly 29 years in publishing) that the great majority of Utah businesses are owned and managed by persons whom I am proud to call my good friends. There are so many. Too many to name. I’m flat-out lucky to have met the lion’s share of good folks who do their level best every day to conduct business in Utah and who have lived to tell about it.
That’s especially true of the men and women who comprise the ownership of the nightlife, restaurant and events categories of local businesses—I met my first of those (Nick Nikols) on my 21st birthday when I began tending bar at the old Club 39 at 3900 South and 1100 East. Now, there was a nightclub! If it were around today, it might win four or five categories, all deserved. But it isn’t. Show bands (think B-grade Wendover lounge acts) just don’t draw like they used to, and bands performing dinner sets (when bands took the stage at 7 p.m. and played five sets) are a very distant memory in these parts. So are liquor cabinets. Times change.
And if it’s not the business owners who want to cut into the throats of anyone associated with City Weekly, it’s some of our more volatile readers. I believe that this year, someone here has set up an office pool, the winner being the first to correctly predict the date and time of our first reader or merchant complaint. As usual, that complaint will be some variance of “you have to buy an ad to win.” A few years ago, I invited the complainers to come in here and help count the ballots and otherwise give us a Price-Waterhouse evaluation of our process (which really does mean editorial and sales folks don’t do a Vulcan mind meld to determine picks). I got no takers. This year, as always, the sales and editorial departments see each other’s work the same time you do—when the paper hits the street.
Indeed, it was only yesterday that I saw the page proofs for the edition you now hold in your hands or view online. I’ve seen them all for more than 20 years, and I do believe this is one of our best-ever Best of Utah editions, no pun intended. The selections are diverse, the copy is well-written, the layout is supreme—my hat’s off to my good friends editor Jerre Wroble and art director Susan Kruithof for their ever-dedicated efforts. Along with them are all the editorial and art-department staffers who collectively built this issue.
Plus the sales staff who will fund it, the business department who will account for it and the distribution department who will lug it all over town. And Jackie Briggs and her marketing folks who made it possible from the start and who will end it with one of the best parties of the year, celebrating this year’s winners at The Leonardo in a week.
This isn’t just any issue, either. It’s our largest in several years, at 192 pages. This issue closes out the month of March and four consecutive months of incremental revenue growth compared to the same four months of a year prior. To say we’re happy about that outcome is an understatement—we are more so. Especially given the news that a sister paper of ours, the venerable Boston Phoenix, which once printed brick-thick newspapers weekly since 1966, published for the very last time one week ago.
The Phoenix did lots right during its lifetime, winning numerous big-time awards and employing a good friend of mine, Clif Garboden, as editor. Clif died before the paper did. Too many cigarettes, I guess, and sadly, too many shared with me. He wouldn’t have wanted to see this anyway. The Phoenix also spawned the personal ads where you dialed a 1-900 number, all the rage in the ’90s. The ads channeled tons of money to newspaper publishers—money that publishers thought would last forever but was an economic building block made of sand. Publisher’s cocaine, we called it.
An equally good friend of mine was once a driving force at the Phoenix and a creator of the voice personal platform itself, Andy Sutcliffe. Andy is now the general manager here at City Weekly, and we owe no small favor to him for our recent successes. Thanks, Andy. Thanks to everyone associated with City Weekly. Thanks to all of you for reading. My best to you all.