Change was in the air for the state and the country during City Weekly's 25th year. But then, as the poet Orson Whitney once wrote, life's history has always been one of ever-constant change: "How rife with new-born mystery, as fickle-lived as strange!"
Change was the theme of that year's presidential election, ushering in the administration of Barack Obama. The outgoing Bush administration, meanwhile, rushed to formulate land management plans, going so far as to set up lease auctions that skirted federal law. Activist Tim DeChristopher frustrated these proceedings by bidding on oil leases that he never intended to buy, getting prison time for his efforts.
Environmental change carried on as the Great Salt Lake shrank and farmers continued groundwater pumping upstream. And the Kennecott company battled Salt Lake County for use of 1,700 acres of preserved land at Rose Canyon. But the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout was making a comeback after years of conservation efforts.
Some opportunities were squandered, like ethics reforms in the wake of bribery allegations involving lawmakers. The reforms that made it out of committee were ultimately as toothless as a newborn, surprising few and disappointing all.
More successful was the long-overdue push by Gov. Jon Huntsman to scrap Utah's antiquated private club system, and legalizing home brewing to boot.
The Downtown Rising project was changing the face of Salt Lake City, for better and worse, with cash infusions from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Less benign was the political mobilization by the church to support California's same-sex-marriage ban, Proposition 8. The subsequent evisceration by the Utah Legislature of Common Ground initiatives to advance rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization, medical care, housing and employment lent further sting to the fiasco.
City Weekly was also changing, most notably in the succession of Jerre Wroble as editor after the departure of Holly Mullen.
A redesign was overseen by art director Susan Kruithof. With a cleaner layout and typeface, it introduced features like the "Get Out" outdoors column; "Rant Control" to respond to reader comments; and "Citizen Revolt" for local community events. Some readers disliked the aesthetics, others loved them. Much like the responses to our stories, you can't please 'em all.
Stephen Dark's story on Taylorsville police conduct in the case of a missing dog likely had the most dramatic reaction: 1,000 copies of the paper suddenly "disappeared" from racks across West Valley, Kearns and Taylorsville. Eric Peterson's reports on Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's campaign donations and conflicts of interest were another highlight of the year.
Change, of course, is at its most acute when someone or something has left us, as in the respective passings of labor organizer/folk singer Bruce "Utah" Phillips (1935-2008) and educator Parry D. Sorensen (1916-2008), or in the closure of the Port O'Call, a downtown nightclub and unofficial second home for the City Weekly team.
With all such changes, however, we have this assurance, again courtesy of Orson Whitney: "Each fleeting day has its tomorrow, / Each pleasure has a sister sorrow, / And hours of future peace remain / To heal the wounded heart again."
Remembering Vol. 25: In the blogs
The City Weekly team built up their digital capacities this year with new features online. On cityweekly.net, separate portals were running for news, arts and entertainment, food and drink, music, movies and television and a short-lived users' blog. Unique online spaces launched, such as Brandon Burt's "Big Gay Blog" and, later, Colin Wolf's "The Secret Handshake" and "Shop Girl" by Christa Zaro and Lindsay Larkin.
Most prolific was Gavin Sheehan of "Gavin's Underground." Writing on overlooked events and people, "Gavin's Underground" was designed, Sheehan said in a recent interview, to "grab all the stuff that nobody else has time for or that nobody else has considered."
Sheehan covered such sundry subjects as a Halo 3 tournament at the Gateway Megaplex, a local art gallery stroll with artists Jason Metcalf and Cara Despain, a tour of the venerable downtown practice space Positively 4th Street, a chat with roller derby captain Red Suzy (Suzanne Frost) of the Salt Lake City Derby Girls and a conversation with local radio fixture Portia Early.
"I'm not so egotistical to believe [the blog] will ever be an all-encompassing historical record of the Utah entertainment scene," Sheehan wrote in a 2011 post, "but it's got a good chunk of it on record."
Originally begun at KUTV, Sheehan's series moved over to City Weekly and posted every other day for almost 10 years (and is still archived online) until its premature end in 2017.
"I can't take full credit for any of this," Sheehan said. Now an editor with Bleeding Cool News, he points out that all of the unique blogs at City Weekly had been integral to showing users that there was "more to our website than just what we posted into the paper."
In the mouth
Having written restaurant reviews for the paper since early 1994, Ted Scheffler officially joined the staff in 2008 as its first-ever dining editor. "After a 15-year interview," he joked on Sept. 25, "I finally landed the job!"
Scheffler wasted no time making the new role his own. In the Oct. 16 Dining Guide, he revealed his 100 favorite Utah restaurants—which, he pointed out, were not to be understood that they were the best in all of Utah. "These are simply the places I come back to again and again, when I'm off-duty and on my own dime," he wrote.
From Bambara and Blue Plate Diner to Franck's Restaurant in Holladay, Scheffler demonstrated an eclectic passion for fine dining, disdaining snobbery and pretense, and fully subscribing to the imperative, as he wrote in his 1994 debut—"to have some fun in the process." He reviewed a varied assortment of places this year, like Baxter's American, Park City's Glitretind Restaurant, Market Street Grill, The Mayan and Bruges Belgian Bistro. "I get paid to eat and drink," he explained in the March 19 issue. "What could be more fun than that? The only way it could be any more fun is if somehow I could work sex into the equation."
In the memories
"When City Weekly editor Jerre Wroble interviewed me for the Five Spot column about publishing 20 years' worth of Best of Utah," John Saltas began in the April 2 issue of 2009, "I sighed and gave a short thank you to Zeus. I figured it would be a breeze. However, as I thought about it, lots of emotions around Best of Utah that I hadn't really considered surfaced."
Saltas thought back to the ups and downs he experienced working on 20 Best of Utah editions, and about former production artists like Rocky Lindgren, Diane Rutter and JR Ruppel; staff members like Bien Hoang (1938-2019), Jan Dabling, Sandra Poole, Patti Stith and Kim Gregory, and so many others. The memories made him "misty-eyed," however off-putting to readers he feared the exercise may be.
A hit from its first issue, Saltas had gotten the Best of Utah idea from Utah Holiday magazine's old Best and Worst editions, with the added twist of using a readers' poll to select the winners. Since the initial 32-page edition, the Best of Utah had only grown in scope and reach, with reader and staff categories covering the expanse of media and politics, active life, goods and services, night life, and food and drink.
X96's Radio From Hell won Best Radio Show, Gov. Jon Huntsman won Best Elected Official, state Sen. Chris Buttars (1942-2018) won Best Local Scandal and a razed section of Sugar House won Best Gate to Hell. Tanner Park was lauded for Best Dog-Walking and Best Whiskey Bar went to A Bar Named Sue.
To the winners named in this issue as well as to those who came before and after, Saltas had this to say by way of a toast: "Past: You were all great. Present: You are great. Future: Pour me a rye on wry, and we can talk about it later. To all: Even if you didn't win, you're still great."