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BOO 2012

Local Color - Staff Picks

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Best Sport

Jose Melendez, Orlando's Mr. Gold

Gracing the cover of Orlando Weekly's 2012 Best of Orlando issue is no sweat, when you're Jose Melendez. Better known as Orlando's Mr. Gold, Melendez is the man in the gold lamé Elvis suit, dancing at the corner of Colonial Drive and Maguire Boulevard. His job is to get your attention, and then to get you inside the Diamond Exchange, where they trade (what else?) cash for gold.

As thermostats inch higher, and another cruel July makes us rethink why we live in Central Florida, Melendez will still be working outside, top hat and gold mask glinting in the sunlight. So how much is he hating his job right now? Not at all, it turns out.

 "I don't like it, I love it," Melendez says. "One hundred percent."

In fact, he says he works better in the hot air. Melendez, 35, was a "house dad" for a couple of years before taking on the gig two years ago. An Orlando resident of 25 years, Melendez attended Oak Ridge High School before getting into trouble with the law.

"Being an ex-con, cause I am, I'm an ex-felon, it was hard for a while, yeah," he says, recalling a less gilded chapter in his life. "But I was given a chance to work."

That chance came from Jim and Virginia Ann Rodriguez, the owners of Diamond Exchange, who were already trying out a Mr. Gold character. But the role called for a more dazzling personality.

"They had one, but not one like me," Melendez says. "They used to have someone out there just waving."

Melendez, a single dad, knew he could do it better – and he does. He tips his gold top hat with a distinctive flick of his wrist, he engages people driving along Colonial, dancing nonstop the whole time he's out there. Maybe he's so good at his job because he's inspired by faith. He listens to gospel music while he's working, and he describes his job as a religious experience.

"It's more like praise and worship all day long," he says. "I don't call it routine ... it's worship."

When Melendez isn't working for the Diamond Exchange, he likes to spend time with his 7-year-old son, Elliott, who already exhibits his father's confidence and charm. When asked if he's currently single, Melendez responds carefully, "I got my eyes on this special woman. ...

She's a very special, godly woman. And she know who she is."

In a steaming, sweltering city full of sign twirlers who look like they're one step up from rock-bottom, Melendez has made a bona fide career out of what is arguably one of the worst jobs in town. But Melendez doesn't see it that way – as unemployment continues to crush the spirits of thousands of Floridians, Melendez considers himself lucky.

"I said, 'I'm gonna turn this job into a career,' and I did." he says.

That's why we chose him to represent us in this issue – he embodies the spirit of the Best of Orlando.

Best of Orlando 2012
  • Local Color - Reader' Picks This year's Best of Orlando issue was written, edited, tallied, combined and compiled with the blood, sweat and tears of Marcus Griggs, Holly V. Kapherr, Faiyaz Kara... | 7/18/2012
  • Local Color - Staff Picks Gracing the cover of Orlando Weekly's 2012 Best of Orlando issue is no sweat, when you're Jose Melendez. Better known as Orlando's Mr. Gold, Melendez is the... | 7/18/2012
  • Goods & Services - Reader' Picks Best adult entertainment store 1st Fairvilla Megastore, 1740 N. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-425-6005; 7631 | 7/18/2012
  • Goods & Services - Staff Picks Nameplates! Doorknockers! Gucci bamboo hoops! Cuban links, herringbones, dookie ropes! Medallions! Dog tags! Caps and grills! On strictly utilitarian... | 7/18/2012
  • Food & Drink - Reader' Picks Best Caribbean 1st Bahama Breeze, multiple locations, bahamabreeze.com 2nd Mama Millie's, 12273 University Blvd., 407-382-3570, mamamillies.com | 7/18/2012
  • Food & Drink - Staff Picks Best attention-grabber beverage Beet & green apple juice from Café 118 | 7/18/2012
  • Music & Nightlife - Staff Picks If you're afraid of heights, stay away: Aptly named after its striking 180-degree view of downtown Orlando, this chic sanctuary sits at the top of Amway Center's... | 7/18/2012
  • Music & Nightlife - Reader' Picks Best Club DJ 1ST Baby Lac, @djbabylac 2ND Lemy Currey, facebook.com/lemycurrey 3rd Jimmy Joslin, facebook.com/JimmyJoslin | 7/18/2012
  • Arts & Culture - Reader' Picks Best Arts Event/Festival 1st The Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival, orlandofringe.org 2nd Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, wpsaf.org 3rd Nude Nite Art Exposé, nudenite.com | 7/18/2012
  • Arts & Culture - Staff Picks Best public art that doubles as a weapon "Symphony," 1989, by Paul Marco Mennello Museum of American Art 900 East Princeton Street 407-246-4278 mennellomuseum.com If you've ever thought of an "ice knife" as the perfect murder weapon (it melts! No finger | 7/18/2012
  • Sports & Recreation - Reader' Picks Best billiards hall 1st Sportstown Billiards, 2414 E. Robinson St., 407-894-6258, sportstownbilliards.com 2nd Cue-Phoria Billiards and Café, 2050 Semoran Blvd., Winter Park, 321-972-1867, cuephoria.com 3rd Trick Shots Billiards, multiple locations | 7/18/2012
  • Sports & Recreation - Staff Picks First word we received about this Gaelic jumble of a sport was when Orlando Hurling Club hosted their Clash of the Ash tournament last September. | 7/18/2012
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