When City Weekly editor Jerre Wroble interviewed me for the Five Spot column (see p. 8) about publishing 20 years’ worth of Best of Utah, I sighed and gave a short thank you to Zeus. I figured it would be a breeze. However, as I thought about it, lots of emotions around Best of Utah that I hadn’t really considered surfaced. Twenty years’ worth of emotions that give gravitas to what is now a local institution but that a mere Q&A nor the space on this page can do justice: The ups and downs. The late-night hilarity. The hijinks. The pizza and beer. The near disasters. The complete and unabridged disasters. Importantly, the many people who helped build Best of Utah.
I miss most of them, particularly those who toiled at City Weekly in our first decade. Like Rocky Lindgren, Diane Rutter, JR Ruppel and a pile of other production artists who made it all possible when we had nearly no tools to pull it off. I absolutely miss Bien Hoang, my great friend, the most humble person I ever met. I miss Jan Dabling, Sandra Poole, Christa Zaro, Patti Stith, Kim Gregory and all the other olden-days salespeople who somehow sold ads into a paper that was much harder to sell into. I miss Tom Walsh and Chris Smart, our two editors from the early era. I totally miss our first copy editor, J.P. Gabellini, better known to you as John Paul Brophy.
I usually save my feminine side for times when there’s less company around. The thought of going misty-eyed before our more than 100,000 weekly readers is offputting, actually, so I’m going to leave it at that. Besides, there’s no way to compile a list of thank-yous without leaving someone out.
Our first Best of Utah was published in the old Private Eye Newspaper in 1990, despite the typo on the front cover claiming a publication date of Jan. 16, 1989. Typos have always been our friend. It had just 32 pages, and 22 of them were the Best of sections, including Best awards in music and arts. Today, music and arts are wrapped into their own separate, special issue. The only articles in the paper not associated with Best of were a feature on the Sundance U.S. Film Festival (Roger & Me was a notable premier that year—how prescient!), NewsQuirks, a column about the decadent ’80s by Steve Lewis (we could run it again with a few name and event changes), a Life In Hell comic, an Ernie Pook comic and Ron Yengich tackling the savings & loan scandal while illuminating former Utah Sen. Jake Garn’s role in that debacle (which was an omen for today’s financial mess).
There’s “the J Spot,” the former name of this column. It summarized what took place in the months prior to our first Best of (moving into our new office in an old tavern), getting by with just one ruler, no copier and no lights, admitting the paper was four days late getting to the printer (“Rome wasn’t built in a day. Now consider Rome under nuclear siege. You may then have a picture of our last 30 days.”). I mentioned my oldest son being born in there somewhere. I praised my family and staff, reiterated our commitment to this community, and of course, took the time to honor a long-standing tradition of this paper by telling certain competitors where to stick it.
When I turn the pages, lots of things hit me. I quickly see Jerry Holman of General Distributing who bought a full-page Budweiser ad—with spot color! Jerry saved my chicken more than once over time, among them by sticking with us when we went weekly and introducing me to potassium pills (for my nerves), which I have taken daily since about 1992. Good thing, because if I’d known so many places that we did business with in 1990 were already being told not to buy green bananas—because they wouldn’t live long enough to see them ripen—I would’ve had a case of the jitters like no other.
So many advertisers from that issue are no longer around: Golden Eagles Hockey, Insight Cablevision, Nino’s Restaurant, Giuseppe’s Italian, Viva La Pasta, Cajun Kitchen, L’Hermitage, Shenanigan’s, Café Grunts, Woody’s Wharf, Robert’s Deli & Market, Le Parisien, Lupo’s, Mainstay Vodka, Le Bistro, Beer Garden, Broadway Deli & Bandaloops, Cover Agency, Old Salt City Jail, Big Lou’s Chicago Dogs, The Zephyr, Sage Supper Club, Bar & Grill, Z Place in Park City, Sandy’s Station, Sound Off Music, Get In Here Records, Junction City Music, Raunch Records, R&R Enterprises, Warehouse 1, West Ridge Club, Dead Goat Saloon, Scoundrel’s, Mad Platter Records, Theo’s, Club Nadir, Raskals, Club DV8, Aggies & Bogarts, Wackey’s Tavern, Gray Moose Pub, Club Sojourner, Sportsbar and Ruby’s Catering. In all, more than half of the advertisers from that issue are history—and that list doesn’t count T.G.I. Friday’s which ran an ad despite having only barely arrived in Salt Lake City. Its original Cottonwood Mall location in Holladay closed last week.
Charlie Chow won best Chinese, Kyoto Best Japanese and Café Trang, Best Vietnamese. Siegfried’s won Best German, Red Iguana got Best Traditional Mexican, Cedars of Lebanon won Best Middle Eastern and Market Street was named Best Seafood. Rio Grande won Best Enchilada, Squatters got Cold Beer, Best Business Lunch went to Green Street, Best Nachos went to Leprechaun Inn, and Crown Burger won Best Burger. Salt Lake Roasting Co. won Best Coffee, Soup Kitchen got Best Soup, and Dodo was named Best Meal Over $8. Mercifully, they’ve all survived—and are still among the very best in my book. I wish there were more of them.
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