Local Color - Staff Picks
Published: July 18, 2012
Disney's Orange Bird
The adorably primitive Orange Bird, originally conceived by the Florida Citrus Growers association as part of their sponsorship of the newly opened Walt Disney World, was last seen in 1981 – just another victim of the park's constant re-Imagineering. In its original incarnation, a "life-sized" Orange Bird character bobbled its awkward way through a musical revue and walked about greeting visitors; now it's merely the overpriced (and adorable) pebbly-skinned plastic receptacle of artificial citrus drink. There's just something about that face, though, that made the Orange Bird the sweetest and most-tweeted WDW trophy of 2012.
Best political gay catfight that wasn't
Randy Ross and Chase Smith both lose Orange County Commission race
The local gay gossip machine was anticipating some heavy scratching when it came to light that not one but two local gay men would be trying out for the City of Orlando District 1 commission seat. Also, what would first gay commissioner Patty Sheehan think? Well, she barely muttered a word in support of her former assistant Chase Smith, himself relatively mum until the final qualifying day, probably because he dumped her for a job with the county. Newcomer Randy Ross – he of the gay reality-show ambitions, pop-up flashmobs and Linda Stewart sidekickery – exhibited admirable effort, but in the end, it wouldn't matter. Ross received just 11 percent of the vote and Smith 28 percent; non-gay Jim Gray got 54 percent, meaning there wouldn't even be a run-off. Oh, well. No gay takeover … for now!
Best mayor that wasn't
We have to admit that we were rooting for our favorite City Council squinter when he announced last spring that he intended to go after Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer for his diamond-encrusted civic crown, but those diamonds would eventually (and inevitably) elude this soft-spoken Diamond in the rough. Why? Because being a shy person who errs on the logical side of bloated development and fiscal issues does not a dynamic campaign make, and drowned out by the glitz and cocktail parties fueling Buddy's love parade, most people hardly took a chance to look at the guy, much less get to know him. Still, Diamond has an admirable three terms as commissioner to look back on and a political career in which he was, more often than not, the only guy who knew how to say the word "no."
Best turncoat journalist
The Orlando Sentinel's resident Grumbly McGrumblepants, columnist Mike Thomas, caused quite a stir late last year when he jumped from the paper of record into the world of civic flackery. First, he took a gig with the school board (while keeping his writing toes wet in the your living room is awesome world of Orlando Home & Leisure). Then in April came the big surprise. Thomas, an outspoken critic of just about everything involving the county, was hired on in a "top policy adviser" capacity by none other than Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. When pressured for comment on how it felt to ditch scrutiny in favor of becoming the agenda, Thomas emailed that he wanted to shrink into obscurity. Ironically, shrinking into obscurity pays better than screaming from the top of a mountain. He now makes $87,500 a year. Smart move, Mike!