WNY: it's the people

WNY: it's the people

Queen City Roller Girls photo by Fritzenfrat Photography.

Best non-mainstream sports team
Queen City Roller Girls
The past Spree cover stars have become a hot WNY ticket—people are turning out to see them in droves.

Most valuable patron of the arts
Annette Cravens
The past few years have been busy ones for one of WNY’s most giving people, as Cravens donated a huge pottery collection to BPAC and over 1200 antiquities to UB.

Best curator
Sandra Firmin
As curator of UB’s Art Gallery, Firmin has a quirky sensibility, alive to traditional forms of expression as well as political themes and cutting-edge concepts.

Biggest Bout of Writer’s Block
Every time a new band breaks onto the scene with a killer debut album, the term “sophomore curse” gets bandied about, along with concerns about the onslaught of success dulling the group’s edginess. And although it’s been several years since car salesman Billy Fuccillo began saturating WNY with screamy, low-budget advertising, I’m going to put his last three or four campaigns under the sophomore curse umbrella. How else could you explain the difference between his very first TV spots, which included him scarfing down chicken wings, talking about his angina, and standing next to a puddle of his own urine, and the most recent ones, in which he talks at a relatively low volume about cars? Those initial spots were very successful—Fuccillo has since added Hyundai and Toyota dealerships to his Grand Island empire. And they’ve clearly lulled their star into playing it safe, busting out his biggest hit (“HUUUGE-A”) and calling it a day. Here’s hoping Billy gets out of this Razorblade Suitcase rut, and gets back to what matters: yelling about bodily functions, saying stuff like “dinky donky,” and convincing us that he’d do anything for our business.

—Joe Sweeney; photo courtesy of Fuccillo Automotive Group

Best actor
Phil Knoerzer
One of WNY’s most eclectic veterans is described by a local theater maven thusly: “I remember the first time I saw him, I thought, ‘This guy is good.’”

Best actress
Kelly Meg Brennan
Brennan’s recent performance in Some Explicit Polaroids at Torn Space was called “transformative”—yet another success for the acclaimed singer and actor.

Geoff Kelly photo by Jim Bush.
Best local playwright
Neil Wechsler
Wexler deservedly won the Yale Drama Desk Award in 2008 for Grenadine, which RLTP performed in 2009. It was hand-selected by theater legend Edward Albee.

Best writer, print
Geoff Kelly
The editor of Artvoice is an avid, astute observer of City Hall and reports on it with humor and keen insight.

Best sports blogger
Mark Gaughan
The Buffalo News sportswriter breaks stories on the “BILLBOARD” all the time—he was the first to report that Chan Gailey was the Bills’ top coaching candidate—and he’s a strong, succinct writer.

Favorite Media Personality
Chris “Bulldog” Parker / WGR55
In a town where sports reign supreme, the Bulldog keeps the sports talk from getting too intense, accomplishing the difficult on-air balancing act of being a knowledgable, hardcore fan who nonetheless does more than pay lip-service to the notion that there’s more to life than sports. Listeners sense that if you sat down to have a beer with him, the conversation might just as well revolve around the merits of various Who or Wilco albums or what your kids are up to as the Bills draft picks or the Sabres swoon. And that’s what makes the sports chatter go down easy through all the seasons.

—Bruce Eaton; photo by kc kratt

Favorite media personality
Chris “The Bulldog” Parker
Co-host of WGR550’s afternoon talk show, Parker doesn’t drink the Kool-Aid. He keeps things in perspective, and can reasonably be called the fans’ voice.

Most controversial WNYer (2009–10)
Carl Paladino
That was easy.

Best volunteer group
271 Grant St.
People United for Sustainable Housing helped make something extraordinary happen this year—Extreme Makeover would never have been such an amazing Buffalo triumph without them.

Best amateur athlete, male
Steve Mesler
The Olympic gold medalist and City Honors grad has represented Buffalo with class in Vancouver, at the White House, and beyond.

Best Female Amateur Athlete
Melissa Kurzdorfer
Having recently broken the twenty-six-year-old New York State high school record for the girls’ shot-put in outdoor track and field—earning her the number two national ranking in the event—the Kent State-bound Kurzdorfer could very well be a future Olympian.

—Bruce Eaton; photo courtesy of Bill Wende /

Best amateur athlete, female
Melissa Kurzdorfer (shot-putter)
The Lancaster High School shot-putter is a potential Olympian, and she’s already set the state record.

Favorite college sports team
UB Bulls
Mike Andrzejewski photo by kc kratt.
Paul Jenkins photo by Jim Bush.
UB football has turned into a legitimate alternative to the Bills, and as the hiring of Turner Gill at Kansas and subsequent hiring of Jeff Quinn at UB have shown, the program is being taken seriously on a national level.

Favorite high school sports team
Grover Cleveland Presidents (soccer)
The team has an amazing international mix, and they’re all talented, winning the Section VI Class B title, making for the biggest high school sports story of the year.

Most innovative chef
Mike Andrzejewski at Seabar
475 Ellicott St., 332-2928,
The Seabar star came up with beef-on-weck sushi! Conversation over.

Favorite chef
Paul Jenkins at Tempo
581 Delaware Ave. 885-1594
Without question, Jenkins is the reason Tempo is one of Buffalo’s top five restaurants.

Best band
As one music industry vet says of the Buffalo metal-rockers, “They are the band from Buffalo at the moment that can really do something on a national level.”

Best Twitter feed
Buffalo Geek
Geek’s tweets are succinct and clever; with so many inane tweeters out there, less is more.

Best Imitation of a Fictitious Military Officer
After an FBI raid on his Tally-Ho strip club on March 2, owner Rick Snowden professed to be surprised that a year-long investigation had uncovered unsavory (not to mention illegal) activities taking place in the club’s curtained-off “fox dens,” resulting in the club losing its liquor license. Like Captain Louis Renault in Casablanca, he was shocked—shocked! Like Sargeant Schultz in Hogan’s Heroes, he knew nothing! Which all may be true unless proven otherwise in a court of law, but one can’t quite shake the feeling that a man with five ex-wives and eight strip clubs might be a bit more streetsmart. And rather than complain that his reputation has been besmirched, Snowden ought to be thankful that he hasn’t been prosecuted for a bigger crime: claiming that the club is “the jewel of WNY” when we all know that Salvatore’s is right down the block.

—Bruce Eaton

Best local or WNY-related Facebook page
Elmer Ploetz’s Bflo Pnk 1.0
A former Buffalo News reporter and current Fredonia professor has taken it upon himself to document the Buffalo punk scene with eccentric precision.

Best weekly band gig
Danny Hull Tuesday at McGee’s
3500 Main St., 837-8338,
Hull, a respected drummer, brings together a different band with nationally known performers every week, and following a move to Amherst continues to go strong.

Favorite BPO musician
Amy Glidden
Glidden has been the BPO’s associate concertmaster since 2000, and she’s done it with style.

Best Inappropriate Movie Reference
With all that Carl Paladino has given us to focus on over the last year, it’s not surprising that a pop culture reference on his campaign materials didn’t get much ink. But the first time I saw the slogan “I’m mad as hell too, Carl!” screaming from an orange-and-black yard sign on a neighbor’s lawn, I wondered if Paladino had ever seen the movie he was quoting—the 1976 media satire supreme, Network. The film tells the story of Howard Beale, a national news anchor who completely loses it after getting fired for low ratings. First, he tells the viewing audience that he’s going to commit suicide. Then, he urges them to open their windows and yell into the night, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” Maybe Paladino only watched the movie up to this point, seeing Beale as the kind of maverick prophet that would have conservative voters frothing at the mouth. If he kept watching, he would have seen how the network exploited Beale’s outburst to get a ratings winner, giving him his own show with creepy religious overtones and a studio audience that chants his “mad as hell” line in unison. By the end of Network, Beale is a mentally unstable man unable to defend himself, adrift in a sea of cue cards and Nielsen ratings. Paladino has co-opted Beale’s infectious rallying cry, casting himself as a Pied Piper of righteous outrage. But in doing so, he’s associated himself with one of the most famous psychotic breakdowns of the last fifty years.

—Joe Sweeney; photo by Jim Bush

Favorite local scandal
Collins lapdance/Hitler comments
The Erie County Executive thought of himself as a serious candidate for governor, and then his comments brought it all crashing down. How delightfully Shakespearian.

WNY: it's the people


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