Writer's Choices

Writer's Choices

Best Waitress: Paula Ropp at Pancake Pantry

She’ll bring you coffee, juice, and pancakes with remarkable promptness and unusual precision. Paula never, and we mean never, mistakes (or makes a mistake on) an order. But if you expect that order to come with a smile, you’ll go home hungry. You have to earn Paula’s love, and it’s a tough love to earn. You better make sure you look her in the eye on all occasions. And if you ask for something twice, she’ll tersely inform you that she heard you the first time. But if you do work your way into her good graces, she’ll be your biggest fan. She keeps up with what’s going on in your life and keeps you up to date on hers. She hugs you when you’ve been away and asks about your friends. If you keep it real with Paula, she greets you each morning with the warmest smile east of Julia Roberts. Of course, if you’re on anything less than your best behavior, she’ll kick your behind.


Best Priestly Waiter: Ben Albert at Sasso

He brings the bread; he pours the wine; he creates the setting not just for a meal, but for communion’s sacred space. In the priestly hands of Sasso waiter Ben Albert, dinner is a downright sacramental experience. Don’t worry, he won’t preach to you, but he’ll interpret the menu with homiletic eloquence. And if you ask him to, he’ll even marry your wine.


Best Server Serving the Best Beer: Jeanine Baker at Blackstone Brewery

Jeanine Baker is a wife, a gardener, a great human being, and a damn hard worker. And it just so happens that she has ready access to arguably the best beer in town. (We’re particularly partial to Blackstone’s Red Springs Ale.) Jeanine never lets her customers reach empty before asking if they want another round. Everyone lucky enough to be sitting at one of her tables should give Jeanine a salute—and a big tip. When she finishes her shift, she likes to sit at the bar and unwind. Buy her a beer, and light her cigarette. You might learn a little something about cauliflower.


Best Dishwasher: Carl P. Hall at Provence Breads & Cafe

It’s been 28 years since Carl P. Hall first put his teenage hands into dishwater at the old Soundtrack Lounge on Division Street. Now his résumé reads like a history of Nashville eateries. Sunset Grill, Mario’s, Tony Roma’s, London Fishery, Sportsman’s Grille (formerly Spats), TGIFriday’s, Applebee’s, the old Nine Point Mesa on Music Row—all have benefited from his tireless professionalism and incredible positive attitude. He’s plying his trade at Provence Breads & Cafe these days, but to call Carl just a dishwasher is sort of like saying Michael Jordan was just a basketball player. Like “His Airness,” Carl does it all—helps prep food, stocks the walk-in, deals with vendors, deep-cleans the kitchen, assists with deliveries—just about anything that’ll keep things running smoothly. And oh yes, he washes dishes too. Hundreds of ’em. Flawlessly. Spotlessly. And when you hear that distinctive baritone voice say, “Tighten it up!” that means Carl’s coming through with his broom, and you’d best be on your toes. He’s truly a Nashville original.


Best Initiative From Mayor Bill Purcell: Affordable Housing

The mayor’s impact on the current shortage of affordable housing in Nashville has yet to be felt in any large way. But it may yet. And in any case, give him credit for identifying such a people-friendly initiative off the bat.


Best Mayoral Personality Trait: A Sense of Humor

It’s no wonder that during his younger days Bill Purcell was a wisecracking columnist for his college newspaper. Say what you want—we certainly will—about the mayor’s acutely political and sometimes downright mean-spirited nature, but Purcell can tell a joke or weave a tale to make even the grumpiest curmudgeon crack a smile. That storytelling talent is often used at the expense of some poor schlub, but still...he could have answered another calling in radio or talk-TV as a sort of Garrison Keillor-meets-Dennis Miller personality.


Best Mayoral Intimate: Deputy Mayor Bill Phillips

Talk about having to put out some fires. Maybe Bill Phillips—the first so-called deputy mayor in Nashville history—ought to become the next fire chief. A former journalist and loyal Republican, Phillips has to know a little bit about a lot of things and to play bad cop for a mayor who’s difficult to please. He’s charming at the same time that he’s caustic, and funny at the same time that he’s serious. And, not least importantly, he gives good quote. L.M.G.

Best At-Large Council Member: David Briley

In 1999’s Metro elections, Briley relied on his family name and little else to win an at-large Council seat. He ran a dull campaign, and he seemed arrogant and even uninterested in basic municipal issues. Worst of all, the youthful Briley offered little hope that he’d be better than the rest of the fresh and biographically unimpressive characters we sent up to the courthouse in the wake of our initiation with city-wide term limits. But a strange thing happened on the way to obscurity: Briley actually became a leader and not just a boy wonder. Today he’s unafraid to spar with Mayor Purcell on issues ranging from the fate of the downtown Thermal Plant to the necessity of a real-estate transfer tax. He attacks politically correct referendums, like a recent one urging a congressional study into reparations for descendants of slaves. He’s a fierce, independent thinker, who along with colleague Leo Waters is one of the few Council members Purcell can’t manipulate.


Best District Council Member: Melvin Black

When the vitality of a North Nashville neighborhood was threatened by a topsoil company, Black took it upon himself to enlist the help of Metro to clean up its act, literally. On the Council floor, he has enabled the passage of questionable resolutions, but overall he’s that rare progressive voice who understands that public money comes from the public and therefore should be spent judiciously. The Council’s African American and white members occasionally clash, but Black manages to get along with everyone. His colleagues trust him, even when they don’t agree with him. In politics, there’s no higher praise.


Best Middle Manager in Metro Government: Lisa Pote

In her work at the Nashville Career Advancement Center, Lisa Pote routinely transforms bureaucratic quagmires into smoothly flowing service delivery systems. Always the first to ask which hoops and hurdles might trip up welfare mothers trying to get ahead, she makes sure that a hand up is just that—a chance to make a new start. The goal may be a job, but Pote also addresses issues of addiction, domestic violence, mental health, and learning disabilities along the way. Most of all, she gives parents in Tennessee’s Families First Program hope.


Best Next Recruit for Mayor: Richard Fulton

What would make a better plot twist than the son of a former mayor—whose attempt to resurrect a political career was shot down by the current mayor—running against his father’s former nemesis? It’s a little early to be prognosticating about just who might challenge Mayor Bill Purcell when he’s up for reelection in 2003, but at this point anyway, it’s fair to say the mayor has not earned many friends within the business community. One man who has challenged Purcell’s decisions, particularly on issues of import to downtown, is Richard Fulton, the son of former Mayor Dick Fulton, who lost the 1999 mayor’s race to Purcell. The younger Fulton, principal partner with Grubb Ellis Centennial Inc., is well-liked and well-regarded among his peers. Will the business community recruit him to run against Purcell? Stay tuned.


Best Political Second Option for Chris Ferrell: Run Against Fred Thompson

Erstwhile Metro Council wonder boy Chris Ferrell has been straining at his leash for some months now to go after the congressional seat that Rep. Bob Clement is expected to vacate when he makes a run for governor. The trouble is that Clement may realize he just can’t get there in the face of stronger Democratic candidates, and he may instead decide to stay where he is. That will leave Ferrell all dressed up with no place to go. So why not take a gamble on the Senate race, which will give him a bit of statewide exposure, save his party from protracted embarrassment, and give Ferrell the chance to tell us all what really matters to him.


Best Democratic Casting Move: A Recurring Role for Fred Thompson on Law and Order

Of course, even if Chris Ferrell does run against Thompson, he’d face an uphill task. Thompson, meanwhile, flirted with a gubernatorial bid before deciding to stay put, and it doesn’t look now like the Democrats have a way to nudge him out. Maybe the best bet for them to get rid of the state’s most popular politician is to use their Hollywood connections to get old Fred back on the thespian track.


Best (West Tennessee) Republican for Governor: Brad Martin

Right now, the Republican front-runner in the gubernatorial stakes is the pipsqueak congressman Van Hilleary. Given the possibility that the Republicans might actually win, we should all hope that they at least field a candidate with more foundation than just ambition and venom. One of the forgotten faces of the state’s Republican Party is Brad Martin, former boy legislator from Memphis and state party chairman. Martin lost interest in politics round about the normal time for a mid-life crisis and went off to build a fortune as a department store magnate. (He’s now the CEO of Saks.) It would be a great thing if the Republicans could find a candidate who has shown the ability to succeed both in politics and in real-world endeavors, and who doesn’t need the pol job—pre-bonus, Martin made $918,000 last year at Saks.


Best (East Tennessee) Republican for Governor: Victor Ashe

The other Republican in the state who’s shown an astute blending of political skill and personal decency is Victor Ashe, now the longtime mayor of Knoxville and a Yale classmate of George W. Bush. Ashe is another boy legislator who has grown into the statesman’s role with the passage of time. In the General Assembly, he had a reputation as a yappy attention seeker. But after a crushing loss to Al Gore Jr. in the 1984 Senate race and some time leading the staff of the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors, Ashe has come back and shown himself to be a good solid leader. The state could do much worse.


Best Therapist on Wheels: Diane Alexander

Most people assume that therapy happens only in the diploma-lined offices of certified counselors, but with Diane Alexander, the rubber hits the road long before patients hit the couch. Alexander, a van driver for Renewal House, a recovery community for addicted moms and their kids, doesn’t just transport her passengers; she ensures that the care they receive on the way to and from their appointments is as healing as the sessions themselves. Whether it’s a 3-year-old with an ear infection or a young mother coming back from an M-Team meeting at school, Diane lends an attentive ear and serene presence to dozens of families going through hard times each week—and at considerably less than $110 an hour.


Best Activist Working for a Worthy Local Cause: Laurie Green and the Planned East Nashville Spay/Neuter Clinic

Local animal-welfare activist Green has been working tirelessly to create a low-cost spay/neuter clinic—a desperately needed tool to help curb the epidemic of unwanted animal populations in Nashville. Now the president and founder of the Southern Alliance for Animal Welfare has finally found a building to house such a place. That’s thanks in part to Leslie Latimer, owner of Green Resources on the corner of 17th and Fatherland streets in Lockeland Springs, who has agreed to offer her building rent-free for a while and eventually lease it to the clinic. Green’s particular interest is providing a place where low-income families can have their pets fixed. (It will also be a basic wellness veterinary clinic where pet owners can get vaccinations, deworming, and other services.) She needs to raise about $200,000 to staff and outfit the clinic, so give generously to this worthy cause by sending checks to Southern Alliance for Animal Welfare, P.O. Box 23535, Nashville 37202. The organization is a 501(c)(3), so donations are tax-deductible. For more information, call Green at 333-6174 or go to


Best Heroic Career Choice: Metro Police Sgt. Kyle Anderson

In 1995, Kyle Anderson was 26 and about to hit the job market. He was just finishing up two graduate degrees from Vanderbilt—his MBA from the Owen School and a law degree. He’d made law review. Investment banking firms and white-shoe law firms showed up, dangling hefty salaries. He had the world at his feet. But Anderson did something unusual: He opted for the police academy. Starting salary as a Metro employee: $22,000 a year. “It wasn’t about making money,” he says. “I had worked in law firms over the summers and knew that wasn’t what I wanted.” Anderson eventually landed in the homicide unit. While his Vandy buddies were donning Brooks Brothers suits and toiling away toward partner at Bass Berry & Sims, Anderson spent his days on Dickerson Road, working a dead prostitute case. “I just plain like what I do,” he says. He’s now back on patrol, driving his blue police car on the graveyard shift, and still happy. “I don’t have to do what my client says,” he explains. “I wanted to work a job where I could come home every night and feel like I had done some good.”


Best Titans Fan: Ed Gifford

Ed can certify his claim with one unimpeachable reference: He’s been inducted into a special “Hall of Fans” at the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Even when the Titans play at home, this truck driver who lives near Houston is on the road to see them. Each week during football season, he arranges to deliver a load somewhere in the geographical neighborhood of the game—whether it’s in Kansas City, Baltimore, Philly, or at Adelphia. Before games in Nashville, you’ll find Ed at the truck stop just down from the stadium, manning the grill in front of his 18-wheeler.


Best New Targets for Hatred by Nashvillians: The Baltimore Ravens’ Brian Billick and Ray Lewis

Jacksonville who? It’s hard to remember that barely a year ago the Jaguars were the focus of attention by Titans fans. But since the Baltimore Ravens mugged Tennessee on the road to the Super Bowl, all that has changed. Fans here won’t soon forget how Billick, the Ravens’ coach, screamed “[Bleep] you!” at the Titans bench and how the cocksure Lewis drove a dagger (figuratively speaking, of course) into their comeback attempt in the playoffs. When the Ravens return to Nashville this fall, the atmosphere will be only slightly less hostile than Venus.


Best Hockey Taunters: The Denizens of Section 303 at Nashville Predators Games

The Predators’ resident lunatics may be most audible when they yell that opposing goaltenders suck, but the rest of their taunts are so many and varied that they require an index on the fan group’s Web site. Our favorite is directed at slow-of-skate former Predator Andrew Brunette, now with the Atlanta Thrashers: “Hey, Brunette, how did you ever beat 10,000 other sperm?”


Best Chance at Playing for a Championship Next Year: Vanderbilt Women’s Basketball

The Titans won’t be the only (or perhaps even the most likely) local team to reach a national title game in 2002. That distinction belongs to the Vandy women. By the end of the SEC Tournament, the Commodores were the league’s best team, and the entire cast is back for an encore. In fact, two of the team’s best three players are mere sophomores. Stay tuned. The next two sequels should be better than the original.


Best Cashier: Rose Arnold

What’s the best thing about going to eat at Arnold’s? Is it the fried shrimp? The chicken livers? The corn bread? The pecan pie? Is it Mr. Arnold manning the roast? Sure, it’s all of these things. But for many customers—all male, it would seem—the best thing about eating at Arnold’s is the anticipation, as they wait in the slow-moving line, of saying hello to Rose Arnold. Tending the cash register with a smile, she puts the sugar in the chess pie and the sweet in the sweet tea.


Best Yoga Instructor Who Used to Be a Belly-Dancer: Hilary Lindsay

Sure, there are a lot of good yoga instructors out there. Their backgrounds might even be as diverse and interesting as Hilary Lindsay’s. But Hilary—subject of a profile in the Nashville Scene last year—is one of the city’s leading yoga teachers and she used to be a belly-dancer. You’d be hard-pressed to find that combination anywhere, especially since Hilary has proved to be a real inspiration to hundreds of yoga practitioners. Her following is a dedicated legion of movers and shakers (pun intended). Heck, she can hardly finish an avocado sandwich at the Corner Market without being asked to conduct a private yoga session. And Eddie George calls her on her cell phone, for crying out loud! (But when do we get to see the belly-dancing?)



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