The winners of Richmond magazine's Best & Worst 2015 survey, in the News, Media & Arts category.
Media Personality Who Is Always a Witty MC/Host: Andrew Freiden
When he’s not delivering five-day forecasts, the NBC 12 meteorologist is behind the lectern at community events — from LINC’s It’s in the Bag to St. Joseph Villa’s Bluegrass Ball. No matter what the event or the size of the crowd, Freiden says he prides himself on being able to take the temperature of a room.
2. (Tie) Bill Bevins; Jack Lauterback 3. Juan Conde
Best Print and/or Online Reporter: Graham Moomaw
Moomaw’s byline has been ubiquitous on A1 since he started at the Times-Dispatch in January 2013. The soft-spoken City Hall beat reporter (and most reliable #rvacouncil tweeter) has led the daily’s coverage of several controversial economic development deals, including the Stone Brewing saga and Mayor Dwight C. Jones’ failed Shockoe Bottom stadium plan.
2. Jeff Schapiro 3. (Tie) Bill Lohmann; Karri Peifer
Best Sports Radio Host: Wes McElroy
In the days leading up to Shaka Smart’s departure from VCU, the popular Fox Sports 910 morning host took his fair share of shots for citing anonymous sources in his reporting. But he’s used to the armchair critics — and the reports turned out to be solid. “I knew right from the get-go that this was different than previous Shaka watches,” he says.
2. Greg Burton
Best Sportscaster: Lane Casadonte
What does Richmond need to be a better sports town? Better facilities, says veteran WTVR-CBS 6 sportscaster Lane Casadonte, our top vote getter. Yes, that means a new baseball stadium for the Richmond Flying Squirrels … but not in Shockoe Bottom. Building it on the Boulevard would better serve the team’s regional fan-base, he says.
2. Marc Davis 3. (Tie) Chip Brierre; Gary Hess
Best Local Anchor: Juan Conde
Every embarrassing thing that could conceivably happen on TV has happened to WRIC Channel 8’s most recognizable anchor since the station hired him in 1999. Things like mangled copy and abhorrent sweating. Thankfully, viewers are forgiving. “I think after 16 years, most people know that I’m a human being and not some guy in a tower somewhere.” You’ve got to love Juan Conde.
2. Sabrina Squire 3. Curt Autry
Best Television Reporter: Sarah Bloom
The 30-year-old Iowa native handles NBC 12’s breaking news coverage on weekday mornings. Bloom, a new mother, has also spearheaded a segment of parent-centric coverage at the station, delivering tips to families and initiating debates on topics such as child vaccinations and the pros and cons of circumcision.
2. (Tie) Rachel DePompa; Diane Walker
3. (Tie) Curt Autry; Mark Holmberg
Best Local Radio Personality: Melissa Chase
“It’s just surreal,” blurted the 103.7 Play morning host when informed of her win. Chase, who has been on the air in Richmond for 12 years, says that when she got her start in radio, she aspired to the standard Bill Bevins set for broadcasting in the Richmond region and beyond. Aww ….
2. Bill Bevins 3. Kat Simons
Best Local Radio Voice to Wake Up To: Bill Bevins
To the delight of his faithful following, perennial Best & Worst winner Bill Bevins returned to the airwaves last August after a short hiatus. His new home with longtime broadcasting partner Shelly Perkins is Easy 100.9 FM. “We missed it more than we could have imagined,” Bevins told Richmond magazine last fall.
2. Melissa Chase
Bill Bevins sounds the morning call to RVA Troop 804 campers Melissa Chase and Jack Lauterback. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
Most Annoying Local Media Personality: Jack Lauterback
The blogger, Style Weekly columnist and radio voice (with Melissa Chase on 103.7 Play) responded to his “win” via email: “I’ve been annoying for longer than I can remember, and to finally see all of the goading and all of the provocations come to fruition in the form of an award in a local magazine? This is truly what dreams are made of. Look — I’m being annoying right now. I can’t help myself!”
2. (Tie) Bill Bevins; Brent Solomon
Best Local Radio Duo: Melissa & Jack
Score another win for Richmond’s radio queen and her armchair provocateur. The 103.7 Play pair has been on air together for four years, but they may be busiest when their mics are off, researching social-media trends and engaging their audience. “We have to be continually in touch with the listeners so we can talk about what listeners are in touch with,” Chase says, using a kind of circular logic that actually makes perfect sense.
2. Bill & Shelly 3. Catfish & Lori
Best Locally Produced Ad: (Tie) Geico ads; YMCA
The Martin Agency has represented Geico for almost 21 years and recently created a series of five-second online spots. “We were the first ones to create content specifically for that time when you’re waiting to skip the ad on YouTube,” says Dean Jarrett, communications officer. Meanwhile, Martin alum Rich Lunvall is the Richmond YMCA’s vice president of marketing and communications. Their “Start Moving Keep Moving” commercial features the feet of graphic designer Adrianne Jensen moving through the Y’s various activities.
Best Active Local Fashion Blogger: Sydney Page Lester (chicstripes.wordpress.com)
A social worker in her other life, Sydney Page Lester started her blog, Chic Stripes, by covering a runway show in 2009. This evolved into capturing street style and reporting on offerings at boutiques and stores. By 2013, she began shooting fashions in secondhand shops, and that has led her into wardrobe and personal shopping. “I’ve put work into building connections and relationships.” Lester says. “I’ve made some surprising connections through Twitter.”
Most Overused Local Hashtag: #RVA
With so many city restaurants opening additional locations in the West End, we could have sworn #Henricodine was going to win in a landslide. But we digress. How would you prefer #RVA’s robust (and at times, annoyingly self-important) tweeters tag their 140-characters-or-less quips, voters? Send in your suggestions. Better yet, tweet them using the hashtag #RVAreplacementhashtags.
2. #rvadine 3. #peoplesbeerofrichmond
Worst Local Fashion Trend: Tattoos
Love them or hate them, tattoos aren’t going anywhere — unless you get them removed. But that’s expensive, really expensive. And sometimes the cover-up looks worse than just keeping that ill-conceived imagery you spent way too much money on in order to “express yourself.”
2. Droopy/Too Low Pants 3. (Tie) High Waist Pants; Jorts (jean shorts); Men in Skinny Jeans
An Up-and-Coming Richmond Influencer: (Tie) Andreas Addison; Beau Cribbs; Trevor Dickerson
“There’s a lot of people in this town who take themselves way, way too seriously,” says Cribbs, host of RVA Tonight, a live late-night-style comedy show held at the Coalition Theater. Meanwhile, Addison, the city’s official Civic Innovation Team Manager, is that rare Richmond bureaucrat who gets high marks for obtaining results. Trevor Dickerson manages RVANews’ West of the Boulevard and West End community sites, and he’s the owner of Boulevard Creative, a marketing firm.
Best Name for a Richmond-centric Beer From Stone Brewing: (Variations on) the River or the James
While we like the idea of a James River-themed Stone brew, and there were some good suggestions offered — “Liquid Havoc,” “River Rocker,” “Fall Line” — we were expecting suggestions such as “EDA IPA.”
2. (Variations on) Monument 3. (Tie) RVAle; Stonewall
RVA’s Own Cookie Lyon (from TV’s Empire): (Tie) Kelli Lemon; Reva Trammell
Lemon, the general manager of Mama’s J’s Restaurant, as well as a sassy radio personality on KISS FM, calls herself “a social entrepreneur.” Her tell-it-like-it-is style reminds readers of Taraji P. Henson’s character on the Fox drama Empire. Also inviting Cookie comparisons is Reva Trammell, the city’s 8th district city councilwoman. A fervent Empire viewer, Trammell says, “I think [Cookie] speaks her mind. She tells you what she thinks. I don’t hold anything back.” Oh, really? We hadn’t noticed.
RVA’s own Leslie Knope (from TV’s Parks and Recreation): Charles Samuels
What do Charles Samuels and Leslie Knope, portrayed by Amy Poehler, have in common? They both believe in teamwork. They both, with every fiber of their being, believe in the power of local government. And when they’re asked to comment on a controversy, they are each capable of delivering a boilerplate answer quicker than an economic development deal can come together at City Hall. We’re not sure how Samuels feels about waffles, though.
Biggest Gripe About the City: Potholes/Poor Road Conditions
Voters, have you driven in the city in 2015? Many of the potholes are gone. Suddenly, the city opened the coffers to improve our roads and sidewalks. Sure, the closures, delays and detours were inconvenient, but those work crews got the job done. It’s almost as if they were up against a deadline or something …
2. Inadequate Parking 3. Not Enough Music/Social Events/Places to Dance
Richmonder Who Loves the Sound of His or Her voice: (Tie) Jack Lauterback; Joe Morrissey
Melissa Chase’s partner in crime on 103.7 Play’s morning show is an easy target, so we’ll save the cheap shots, even if our readers didn’t when they voted Jack Lauterback the winner of this dubious honor. Scandal-ridden former Virginia Delegate Joe Morrissey probably deserves no such courtesy.
2. Mayor Dwight Jones 3. Bill Bevins
Richmonder Who Makes the Most Noise for Good: (Tie) Curt Autry; Bill Bevins; Robin Starr
A series of live broadcasts led by NBC 12 anchor Curt Autry from an overcrowded Colonial Heights animal shelter resulted in four dogs that could have been euthanized finding owners, including one mutt named Woogie. Good work, Autry! SPCA President Starr’s latest crusade has been to stop the Norfolk-based PETA from euthanizing pets. Meanwhile, radio legend Bill Bevins — now on Easy 100.9 FM — is always lending his voice to good causes, like Alzheimer’s research or relief efforts for people with disabilities.
Best Testimony From a Local Court Case: McDonnells’ Trial
Guess we can’t count on the former first couple’s corruption convictions to fade from our collective memory anytime soon, especially since they’re appealing? But to be fair, some of the testimony was particularly, uh, lurid: “I just felt the EARTH MOVE AND I WASN’T HAVING SEX!” read a text message sent from former Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell to tobacco magnate Johnny Williams. We like to be informed and all, but sometimes it’s TMI.
2. Joe Morrissey case
Richmonder Who Is Our Best Export: (Tie) Tim Kaine; Shaka Smart
According to Gallup, the national approval rating for the U.S. Congress remains at an all-time low. So why does Richmond so adore Virginia’s junior senator, Tim Kaine? Is it his nuanced governing style, the fact that he was once a River City mayor or his formidable eyebrows? It’s probably the brows. Shaka Smart left VCU for the University of Texas this past spring, but we still claim him as our own.
2. (Tie) David Baldacci; Aaron Gilchrist; Justin Verlander
Best Candidate for Mayor in 2016: (Tie) Anyone but Dwight Jones; Jon Baliles
Baliles, first-term city councilman and the son of a former Virginia governor, eked out a 20-vote victory in the 1st district back in 2012. He now finds himself among a small group of interested mayoral hopefuls. Readers approve of the move, but really they would just rather that hizzoner be anyone other than the current officeholder.
2. Bill Bevins 3. Levar Stoney
Best Word to Replace “Havoc”: Keep Havoc
We’re not quite sold on “Chaos” as a replacement for “Havoc” — the branding tag for VCU’s men’s basketball team — but apparently we don’t have to be. The legal battle over the trademark rights to “Havoc” ended prematurely, when the University of Texas withdrew its request to use the moniker on its merchandise. Looks like the big bad Longhorns weren’t up to a war with the Rams after all.
Best Local Instagram Account: Ryan De Neff (@ryan_flowmotion)
The photographer is currently making limited-edition prints of eye-grabbing Richmond scenes originally presented online. “Richmond sometimes gets a bad rap. But it’s full of art, architecture and beauty, and my pictures may get people to stop and appreciate what we have,” Neff says.
2. (Tie) RVA News (@rvanews); Vintage RVA (@vintage_rva)
Worst Political Blunder: Joe Morrissey’s Shenanigans
No, voters. A 58-year-old politician impregnating an 18-year-old or, say, serving in the General Assembly by day and sleeping in jail at night is not a political blunder. It’s a moral abomination, kinda.
2. The McDonnells’ Scandal 3. The Mayor’s Stadium Plan
Next Band to Bring to Town Through a Kickstarter Campaign: Dave Matthews Band
During the Dave Matthews Band’s current tour, the closest they got to Richmond was Virginia Beach. Matthews, born in Johannesburg, South Africa, moved to Charlottesville, where in 1991 he formed the band that held a near-regular gig at the old Flood Zone venue in Shockoe Bottom. Now he’s a household name across the world. That’s all well and good, but now you want him back.
2. The Rolling Stones 3. (Tie) Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band; Red Hot Chili Peppers
Best Art-Focused Event: First Fridays (rvafirstfridays.com)
The First Fridays Art Walk began in 2000 under the umbrella of Curated Culture and was first organized by the dynamic Christina Newton. It started as a grass-roots effort to raise the public profile of four Broad Street galleries but within the decade grew to showcase 40 downtown venues. There’s no doubt that it’s been a major catalyst for returning restaurants and retail to Broad Street and its tributaries. The event is now overseen by the Downtown Neighborhood Association.
2. Arts in the Park 3. RVA Street Art Fest
Local Singer Who Should Be on Jimmy Fallon’s Classroom Instruments Segment: Susan Greenbaum
The Kansas-raised, Harvard-educated, Pollak Prize-recognized singer-songwriter says that she would enjoy appearing on the Tonight Show bit that puts big-time musicians in a band using tyke-sized instruments. “I’d love to get my hand on one of those little rainbow xylophones,” she says. “And of course, everything will look full-size next to me.”
2. Elliott Yamin 3. Steve Bassett
Best Locally Owned Live Music Venue: The Broadberry (thebroadberry.com)
The venue that spun out of the popular Camel is now its own stand-alone attraction run by musician and booker Lucas Fritz and business partner Matt MacDonald. This month, the Broadberry, cooperatively with The Camel, will inaugurate The Shackup, a two-day festival Aug. 7 and 8 that will feature some 20 groups playing inside and on the Broadberry’s deck, including Love Canon, The Big Payback and the Southern Belles.
2. (Tie) The Camel; Innsbrook After Hours; The Tin Pan
Best Music Series or Festival: Richmond Folk Festival (richmondfolkfestival.org)
Many expected failure when Richmond took over an annual folk-music gathering after the National Folk Festival left town following its planned three-year stint. But Richmond’s event is now the most popular and well-attended folk festival in the nation — in 2014, 150,000 people came to Brown’s Island. “Which wasn’t our biggest year,” says Lisa Sims of Venture Richmond. “We had 200,000 in 2012 on account of really spectacular weather — and Roseanne Cash.”
2. Friday Cheers 3. Innsbrook After Hours
Best Film Series or Festival: French Film Festival (frenchfilmfestival.us)
Professors Françoise Ravuax-Kilpatrick and her husband, Peter Kilpatrick (at the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University, respectively), watch a bevy of French films annually so you don’t have to. Then they pick the best and arrange to screen them here during the four-day French Film Festival. What began in the basement of VCU’s library has evolved over 24 years into the largest French-language cinema event outside France.
Local Festival or Event That Needs a Reboot: Watermelon Festival (carytownrva.com/events/watermelon-festival.php)
Back in 1983, Jo Anne Draucker and Dee Shelton teamed for a sidewalk sale. This proto-Watermelon Festival ran from Thursday night to Saturday and involved street performances (as it still does). Now the one-day event attracts an estimated 100,000 people. As a result of the crowd, some shops don’t even open, and residents either leave or don’t go anywhere for fear of losing parking. The fun begins again on Aug. 9.
2. Greek Festival 3. Earth Day
Best Dance Event or Performance: Richmond Ballet’s Nutcracker
Managing director Brett Bonda — emailing from the ballet’s China tour — said, “It’s wonderful to see how the Richmond Ballet Nutcracker has become a part of so many family holiday traditions here in town.” He adds that the company tweaks the production every Christmas season to keep it fresh for even the most faithful audience members “while preserving the integrity and spirit of the original version that we have all come to know and love.”
Best Theater Season Lineup: Altria Theater/JAM Theatricals
“Bringing the best of Broadway to Richmond with shows like The Lion King, Wicked, Motown and Newsies has been an amazing experience for our company,” says Steve Traxler, president of Chicago-based Jam Theatricals (which presents Broadway in Richmond). SMG Richmond’s regional general manager Dolly Vogt, who manages the Altria, adds, “Altria Theater is a gem, and we are so glad that our patrons are enjoying the programming our partner Jam Theatricals is presenting.”
2. Virginia Rep
Best Museum: Virginia Museum of Fine Art (vmfa.museum)
“Our slogan is, ‘It’s Your Art,’ ” says VMFA Director Alex Nyerges. “We live it every day with everything we do.” And the hits just keep on coming — November will see an exhibition of the work of the master sculptor Auguste Rodin (“The Thinker, The Kiss”). Renovations to the Musée Rodin have freed the work to travel. The show will be displayed in just two other museums and will include marbles, bronzes and plaster models that Rodin created.
2. (Tie) Science Museum of Virginia; The Valentine
Best Museum Exhibition in the Past Year: VMFA’s “Forbidden City”
Alex Nyerges, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ director, says that this recognition helps make a point: “It proves that popular exhibitions are not mutually exclusive from the scholarly and art-historical standpoint. This exhibition did both.” “Forbidden City” featured exquisite artwork never before seen in the United States and rarely exhibited even at China’s Beijing Palace Museum, one of the world’s most heavily visited cultural centers.
Most Thought-Provoking Art Exhibition in the Past Year: VMFA's’ “Forbidden City”
VMFA Director Alex Nyerges underscores the work of Li Jian, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Curator of East Asian Art at VMFA. “This points to her brilliance,” he says. When he spoke with us, Nyerges was preparing to leave within days to meet Jian in China. “We’re working on our next project. A clue is great art from China,” and he chuckled. “Let me just predict, people will be equally thrilled, if not more so.”
RVA Tonight is the most popular late-night talk show not on television. “We’ve built this universe that we’re being broadcast, and we have fake sponsors and a house band,” host Beau Cribbs says of the show. Lifelong friend and Richmond Comedy Coalition
co-founder Matt Newman is Cribbs’ second banana. Richmond Funny Bone brings high-profile comics such as Bruce Bruce and Tommy Davidson of In Living Color fame to Short Pump Town Center.
2. (Tie) Comedy Sportz Improv; RVA Comedy Night
Best Photographer: Ryan De Neff
When he was 10, Ryan De Neff started filming his friends doing skateboard tricks. At Lee-Davis High School in Mechanicsville, he began working with his first 35mm still camera, later graduating to snapping concerts and events before moving into street and urban environments. “Nothing quite equals getting that right shot at the right moment,” he adds. When he’s not snapping for DJs and promotional concerns, “I love exploring,” he says.
2. Michael Hostetler 3. (Tie) Dean Hoffmeyer; Dementi Studios; Kate Magee
Innovative Local Videographer: Brandon Montijo
After graduating from James Madison University, Brandon Montijo parlayed his video talents into work throughout the country as well as abroad. “I thought I was going the National Geographic route,” he says. But shooting for corporate clients meant not always seeing the final product. “That motivated me to form [Tijo Media], to give myself complete control.” He shot the recent Dominion Riverrock, and he will be recording the upcoming UCI Road World Championships, too.