Feb 16 • Arts & Entertainment 2011, BEST OF WILMINGTONNo Comments on BEST OF WILMINGTON 2011

//Arts & Entertainment//

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
We thought we had a pretty badass website ourselves over at That we garner close to a million page views a month is no joke! And we’re constantly evolving our website to serve our readers better. From an extremely detailed music calendar and cultural calendar of events, as well as videos of the week and trailers for movies, including detailed movie listings, and every single article from print posted online, has something for everyone to read.

The website also offers tons of blogs updated weekly, because, face it: Way too much happens in our town to cover in a weekly publication. Catch up with us at the “encore cafe,” and find out more about the cultural diversity and enlightenment that southeastern NC has to offer. We have your seat waiting.

Other websites readers log onto reguarly include and—Shea Carver

As someone who’s lived in Wilmington for 15 years, I can confirm that the Ghost Walk is by far the best in the area. Last Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend and I took the eerily romantic tour and were told stories of the town we thought we knew. All were spooky, and some were heart-wrenching, but they revealed to us a history we’d never learned in school.
The guides of the Ghost Tour paint images of Wilmington from centuries past. Their knowledge is astounding, but it’s more than a lesson. “We actually love the entertainment side more than anything,” owner John Hirchak explains. “The art of storytelling is often overlooked until someone experiences it and then realizes what a great form of entertainment it is. Our main emphasis has always been to entertain people, whether they believe in ghosts or not.”

In 1978, Hirchak’s wife, Kim, began researching the Port City’s paranormal activity. The idea for a tour was brewing and came to life in 1999. “Between my wife and I, and all our guides, we spend countless hours interviewing, researching and experiencing the haunted history at each of the 30 possible stops on our Ghost Walk,” Hirchak says. “The families that live in many of these homes, and the people who work in the public/private locations are always feeding us the latest occurrences.”

Today, the tour boasts Wilmington on all sides, where people can “learn a little bit of the weird and unusual history” along with realizing the beauty of an historic downtown. Tickets can be ordered online at

The Hirchaks’ Haunted Pub Crawl claims second place and Springbrook Farms’ Horsedrawn Tour receives third.

L Shape Lot fits in with the laid-back nature of the Carolina coast. Comprising four members, they sometimes break into an acoustic duo to perform in smaller, more intimate venues. They play a blend of originals and covers.

Vocalist and acoustic guitarist Eric Miller really pinpoints the band’s subconscious mantra: “If it’s fun and feels good, we will give it a shot.”

Playing across all genres of sound, including folk, rock, bluegrass, country, jam—“which really just means Americana,” Miller shares—L Shape Lot has become a staple on Wilmington’s scene.

“We have three CDs of original music available, but we also do covers,” Miller says, “such as traditional bluegrass tunes, classic country and some jam band stuff. We try not to limit ourselves to anything particular.”

Miller is joined by Alex Lanier (electric and acoustic guitar, vocals), Rick Williams (six-string electric bass, upright bass, vocals) and John Kovalski (drums, vocals). “We have excellent string work in our music, as well as three- [and] four-part harmonies,” Miller adds.

The foursome tours to South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia these days, but loyal fans from the Port City can still catch them playing live. Their next show is at Soapbox Laundro Lounge on Saturday, April 9th.

Other sonic enjoyment can be found in the tunes of musician Bibis Ellison and the band D&D Sluggers.

William Hubbard’s paintings feature a surreal, whimsical beauty. There are no limits to the subjects in his artwork, as his collection contains landscapes, people, animals and even abstract combinations of objects.

“The subject matter is diverse, but I always try to allow some of the medium to appear in its natural state,” Hubbard says. “My work is kind of a loose, freestyle expressionism. I like to create visual movement and energy in my [art].”

Painting mostly with acrylics, Hubbard has learned to work with a variety of materials through his studies at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and the University of Akron. Although he claims painting is both fun and frustrating, he encourages others to give it a try.

“Painting is about self-discovery,” he shares. “You will find out who you are, and you will have to decide how much of yourself you want to expose to the rest of us.”

The exposure of self is precisely what attracts him to his craft. “It is a way for me to understand what I see in my world and how I feel about it,” Hubbard explains. “Making art is like creating a stream of consciousness for myself. It reflects how I feel, it demonstrates my ability to solve problems, and it connects me to something deeper.”

Ivey Hayes and Michael Connolly top the reader’s poll in 2011.

Wilmingtonians may have caught a glimpse of Joe Gallison in one of his more than 2,500 live and filmed performances, covering a plethora of roles. He is recognized most as Dr. Neil Curtis on “Days of Our Lives,” in which the local thespian received an Emmy nomination. “I got to play it for 17 years, and together with a bevy of writers, I believe I explored every facet of his persona,” he says.

Today, he is thrilled to be a part of our area’s thriving theatre community. “What I enjoy most about Wilmington’s rich theatre and film scene is the fabulously talented and generous people that energize it,” Gallison shares. “I believe that theatre is vital to the culture of the community, and I am proud to be part of the effort to keep it alive. Nothing has the impact of live theatre!”

Although Gallison has no specific plans for the future, he is hoping to work more with local theatre companies and in the many amazing venues around town. “I’m drawn to acting by the challenge of creating a character and being a part of the common effort to bring a great play to life,” he says.

Also delighting audiences are Zack Simcoe (an encore award presenter at the 2011 Best Of Awards Party) and Linda Lavin.

Opera House Theatre Company spent 2010 celebrating their 25th anniversary, continuing to provide Wilmington with wonderful theatre. Their shows for the year ranged from the musical revue “Five Guys Named Moe” to “The Secret Garden,” based on the beloved novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. When Opera House opened in 1985, the season included classics like “Fiddler on the Roof” and “A Christmas Carol,” which they’ve reprised over the years to much applause.

Having just finished “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” the folks at Opera House are continuing their 26th year with “Amadeus.” The fictional story, combining the history of Mozart, will run April 27th through May 8th on weekends. Actors who wish to pursue he show can audition on Saturday, March 12th at 11 a.m in the Lucille Shuffler Center at 2011 Carolina Beach Road. Women and men in a variety of ages are needed, and the audition consists of cold readings from the script.

Other shows to look out for from Opera House in 2011 are June’s “The King and I,” July’s “Annie,” along with “Hairspray” in August and “Man of La Mancha” in September.

Thalian Association takes second place for Theatre Company and City Stage gets third.

As a building that hosts a rich and beautiful history as a political and cultural center for Wilmington since the late 1850s, it is a natural choice for Thalian Hall to yet again take the Best Theatre Venue crown in 2011’s Best Of. In the 19th century, it was originally a place for the town government, library and opera house. Flash forward several decades later to the present day, and Thalian Hall now brings world-renowned talent to its stages.

Recently, it hosted folk songwriter Susan Werner as a part of the Rainbow Room series. Boasting a more intimate setting than the main stage, audience members enjoy their own candlelit tables and an offering of fine wines. Self-taught ventriloquist Lynn Trefzger is the next act in the lineup, and she’ll grace the stage on April 29th through May 1st.
Thalian Hall routinely features great films as part of their Cinematique series, like the food-lovers’ dream documentary, “Kings of Pastry,” appearing on March 14th through the 18th. The astounding architectural details of the Main Stage, where most of the great theatrical and musical performances occur, always prove breathtaking and engaging.
Private tours of Thalian Hall are offered Tuesday through Friday by appointment, and can be arranged by calling 632-2241. To see the venue’s full schedule, check out

Other venues deserving a standing ovation are City Stage and Brown Coat Pub.

Recent UNCW graduate Devin DiMattia is the driving force behind this year’s best local independent film, “Firewall of Sound.” Originally, DiMattia produced it as a short for the UNCW Honors Department.

“It is about how the Internet has completely changed the way the indie music business operates,” DiMattia tells encore. The Worldwide Web is a blessing for up-and-coming musicians, because they have the opportunity to spread their art like never before. However, with the increased ease in leaking new music and the ongoing battles of illegal downloading, it’s becoming hard for the industry to make any profit. “Firewall of Sound” dives in to discover the innerworkings of this fight. With the help of Neil Blackman and Daniel Rogers, also recent UNCW graduates, DiMattia raised over $1,200 on to convert “Firewall of Sound” into a feature-length film. The team visited Georgia, Boston, New York City and Chicago and talked to lots of industry experts, including Bertis Downs, the manager of R.E.M. “We also filmed a lot at Gravity Records, and we were there to document CD Alley’s last day of business,” DiMattia says.

Trailers and other information about “Firewall of Sound” is available at DiMattia is working on a screening in Wilmington, and that information will be on the website as soon as it is finalized.

“Pieces of Talent” from director Joseph Stauffer receives second place honors, while “The Last Gift,” directed by Marcus Mizelle, gets third.—Bethany Turner

This author adds yet another Best Of win to her list of achievements: Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Nonfiction Book of the Year, Best Title of 2006 by “Entertainment Weekly,” and a handful of nominations for nationally renowned prizes. Not to mention, she has her own weekly column and five published books to boot. But we really just like Celia Rivenbark because she’s funny and from the South.

“What I hope attracts [readers] to my writing is the need for a laugh,” Rivenbark says. “I want people to pick up a book or read the column (or just read my Tweets) because they’re thinking, ‘I’m sick of worrying about everything; I need a laugh and I need it now.’”

Rivenbark won’t claim that her writing is literature, despite her national recognition. Yet, she understands the draw readers have to her writing. “I write in the only voice that is authentic to me so, yes, it often comes out with a Southern sound,” she explains. “I do think that people in other parts of the country are alternately charmed and confused by the Southern voice. Southerners dominate nearly every genre there is, and I think it’s because we are natural-born observers and recorders. We love to tell stories, and we don’t mind taking our time about doing it.”

Rivenbark’s sixth book, “For a Fat Girl, You Don’t Sweat Much” will be available on August 15, and a seventh book is already in the works. “Oh, and the column rages on,” she adds.

Other great local writers include encore’s own columnist Gwenyfar Rohler and StarNews writer John Staton.

It may take the help of a friend to locate this hole-in-the-wall entrance, but once inside, Blue Post offers anything but hole-in-the-wall entertainment. Entering the dark, cozy environment, patrons will find quite a few pool tables (including a few regulation tables), a comfortable seating area and a bar stocked with experienced bartenders and a lot of booze. Beer, liquor, sake, wine—they have it all.

The jukebox by the door offers up a great selection of tunes, making the perfect soundtrack to any ol’ night. Folks can kick back in the hallway lounge area and people-watch through it’s one window. This romantic hideout is far different from Blue Post’s arcade room, located on the other side, where Pacman, Donkey Kong, Golden Tee, Ping Pong, Skeeball and Air Hockey await its players.

To put it best, most other bars downtown are one-dimensional in comparison. But no matter the pick, each room in Blue Post is always laid back. When it’s time to chill out with a drink in hand, isn’t that the best sort of place to go?

Second and third for Best Pool Hall are Break Time Billiards and Orton’s Pool Room. Rounding out Best Arcade are Junction Pub & Billiards and Ten Pin Alley. Finally, second place in Best Bar Overall goes to Cape Fear Wine and Beer, while third goes to Duck & Dive Pub.

Each week, DJ Battle plays to an array of audiences. On Thursdays and Sundays he’s entertaining the college crowd at Fibber McGee’s, while young professionals will find him spinning at The Dirty Martini on Fridays and Saturdays. And every weekday at 5 p.m., anyone who turns the radio dial to Coast 97.3 FM will hear him on the drive home from work.

DJ Battle says because he plays to all races and ages, it gives him access to more people—not to mention he’s working every day and weekend to provide Wilmington with the best hip-hop, reggae and R&B. Such a wide range in listeners means he’s got to keep up with the new trends in music mixes, too.

“Now, to stay current, I have opened up to a lot of dance music,” he shares. “I’m not trying to teach anything at the club. I really follow the people.”

The dedication DJ Battle has to his large audience, always keeping up with what they want to hear, earns him the title of Best DJ for another year in a row. “I’m very excited to win this award,” he says. “It’s an honor.”

Port City clubbers also dance to the beats of DJ Time and DJ Lord Walrus.—Bethany Turner

A world without art is a world without creativity or inspiration. encore readers recognize this clearly, crowning the 2011 Best Museum award to Cameron Art Museum for their ongoing art education and ever-changing exhibits that roll through town.

Located on the corner of Independence Boulevard and 17th Street Extension, CAM does so much more than hang pretty pictures on its walls. CAM welcomes a plethora of mediums, from exquisite paintings to larger-than-life sculptures to installations and photographs. Currently, it showcases “From Heart to Hand—African-American Quilts from the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts,” on display through April 10th, or “Remembering BIG,” the work of Allen D. Carter, a.k.a. Big Al, on display through the end of April.

Their outreach education program is something to boast about as well, as the staff dedicates itself to reaching out into the community thanks to Connections, which facilitates tours for Alzheimer’s patients, as well as Kids at CAM, which hosts family activities that allow children a proper introduction to art. Their new ONE41 series allows community members a one-hour lecture on current exhibition topics for only a buck (see calendar for dates).

The museum also acts as a breathtaking venue for live music, often hosting jazz, nationally touring bands, such as last year’s brilliant Entropy Ensemble, and even local acts, like the ambient beauty of My Wondeful Machine.
Other museums taking votes include Cape Fear Museum and The Children’s Museum.

“Let’s do the Time Warp again!”

The fall of 2010 was a brilliant time to watch live theatre in Wilmington. Thanks to the return of Dean Jones as the sexy, sweet transvestite from Transylvania, Dr. Frank-n-Furter, City Stage’s “Rocky Horror Show” stole the Best Production vote to no avail. But Jones didn’t do it all on his own—oh, no! A cast of sweepingly funny and inviting characters rounded out the likability of this show.

Thanks to the help of Brad and Janet, Zack Simcoe and Morganna Bridgers, as well as Jeremiah Williams as Riff Raff, Caitlin Becka as Magenta and Jes Dugger as Columbia, they all pulled off spot-on singing and dancing, all the while producing a romp of a good time. The audience played along, too, giving them all a run for their money in the ol’ callbacks arena (some which still remain questionable; I’m looking at you, “Yankee Doodle Dandy!”).

We liked Brad and Janet so much, we asked them to help out our fave comedy troupe, Changing Channels, in hosting the annual encore Best Of Awards Party, held at City Stage on February 15th. Though they left their “shock treatments” at home, a good time was still had by all!

Other theatre productions in the limelight include “Hair” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Soapbox Laundro-Lounge is one of those places that everyone wants to be all the time. It could be because the staff is freakin’ awesome, always serving cold brew with a smile and a wink. It could be because the live bands they bring to town are awesome, a la Pack i.d., The Love Language, David Dondero, Jessy Carolina and the Hot Mess. It could be because when we have dirty clothes and would rather drink and do them than read magazines or homework … well, again, our local sudsy haven is simply awesome!

Celebrating 10 years in 2011—happy birthday, guys!—the Laundro-Lounge is located downtown in the Elk’s Temple Building at 255 N. Front Street. They have a ground-level entrance, with a bar, laundromat, small stage, foosball table and a few arcade games, as well as artwork displayed on the walls. They also do open-mic nights with Sean Thomas Gerard every Wednesday, showcasing a lot of Wilmington’s most talented folks. Their third floor is where all of the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll stories take place. Aside from hosting many local favorites like D&D Sluggers on the 11th or Rio Bravo on the 12th, they’ll also be hosting Selah Dubb on the 13th, Ron Pope and Ari Herstand on the 28th. Folks can keep up with their weekly schedule on encore’s Soundboard or on the Soapbox website at

Votes for Best Live Music Venue also go to Greenfield Lake and The Whiskey; while King’s and Ace Laundromat also score a few under Best Laundromat.—Shea Carver
“Your bartenders can really dance!” It’s only one of many compliments Sandy Perotto has received this year for her staff at Bottega Gallery and Art Bar. Though they are the glue behind running this creatively spunky gallery, the extensive wine and beer list from the bar, as well as its plethora of art, keep the coolest kids patronizing again and again.

“[Everyone] gets a chance to be a part of something at Bottega,” Perotto promises, “unless you’re a jerk. We don’t give jerks a chance.”

Sticking to their guns about steering clear of art snobbery and continuing to house fresh music, always-rotating art and an electric vibe of enthusiasm, Bottega remains a haven for creative types, young and old. They also draw in wordsmiths thanks to poetry readings held every fourth Thursday of the month. College students love them, too, as Bottega hosts UNCW’s Atlantis open-mic night. And live music always fills their bill any given night of the week.

Bottega partakes in downtown Wilmington’s Fourth Friday Gallery Walk, often having new art shows open the fourth Friday every month. The next event takes place this week on the 25th, featuring the surrealist “Exquisite Corpses Exhibition.”

Cameron Art Museum and Projekte round out the category.


“My endless loooovvvveeee…”

“Oh, baby, you… You got what I neeeddd…”

“I hear the train a’coming, it’s rollin’ ‘round the bend…”

The choices are endless, styles unlimited. The hosts are always upbeat and ready to serve a singing audience. In Wilmington, Katy’s Bar and Grill churns out and the most “American Idol”-wannabes, as their karaoke nights continue topping the best on encore’s poll. Hosted on Tuesdays with Julian and Fridays with DJ Valerie, and on select Wednesdays, too. Open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily, Katy’s not only packs in patrons for a quick round of duets but also for unbeatable drink and food specials.

PBR goes for only a buck-fifty on Mondays, and they have $4.99 lunch specials daily, along with wings served 12 different ways and for 39¢ daily when dining in from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. With over 40 microbrews, beer fans will have a hayday here, and they’ll never run out of fun, either, thanks to pool, ping pong and foosball tables housed in the bar. Have a drink, a bite and song or two all under one roof.

Other karaoke bars hitting the right notes with our readers are Fox and Hound and Brown Coat Pub.—Shea Carver
Wilmington native Frances Weller seems perfect for her job. For 28 years at WECT, she has kept citizens informed and established a connection with her viewers. Residents have grown to trust and depend on her as a newscaster. Her love for news began early in life.


“I have always been a news hound,” Weller shares. “As a young girl, I would read newspaper articles to my family at the dinner table. I also started watching the news at an early age. I believe I was born to do the news.”

Not just reporting to fulfill her destiny, Weller also claims that her job is always interesting and challenging. “I never know when I get up in the mornings what our news is going to be for the day,” she says. “I do know that I will learn something in the course of the day and will look forward to sharing that knowledge with our viewers.”

Growing up in this community was monumental in Weller’s ability to make a mark in the local scene. She remains in the Port City now so she can broadcast the facts on the place she loves most. “Many of the people, places and events that we report on are names, locations and organizations that I’ve known about for decades,” Weller explains. “[This is] home. We have the best beaches, restaurants and fun places to shop. The real estate here is beautiful. I simply can’t think of another place in the world that’s better than Wilmington. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

Weller also feels that in addition to her mother and twin sister, so many of the people here are like family to her. Plus, she hears so often that she is like family to her viewers! “That means to me that people don’t only see me as a newscaster, but someone they have grown to trust enough to make me a part of their daily routine,” she shares. “As one woman said to me the other day, ‘I’d be lost if you weren’t there.’ She has no idea how much those words mean to me.”

Voters have proven that the news station truly is, “Where news comes first,” as WECT receives the honors of Best Newscast. The station’s success is partially due to its ability to keep up with improving technologies.

“We now have an obligation to report on three screens: TV, cell phones and personal computers,” Weller says. “We are challenged daily to keep up in those areas and to find innovative ways to communicate the news.” With the hard work WECT puts in to bring locals the best news, we’d say first is well deserved!

Second place for Best Newscast is awarded to WWAY while News 14 Carolina receives third. Wilmington’s other favorite newscasters are Jon Evans and Colin Hackman, both of WECT.

All hip 20- and 30-somethings alike know that Pravda consistently pumps out the best beats for booty-shakin’. The bar emits a red glow onto Front Street, and through the thick fog of smoke machines one can just barely make out the dance floor. It helps that the floor is always packed with a crowd of women and men moving together as one rhythmic beast. With the haze, the energy and the Russian artwork and decor, it topped the Port City’s fave dance spot.

It makes sense that the music of this nightclub lures downtown patrons inside. Owner Dustin Cook is an audio engineer and DJ—and therefore expert on great tunes. He encourages Pravda’s DJs, lighting technicians, bartenders and design team to create the most desirable party atmosphere.

“We are constantly changing and improving. We stay current and work hard every day,” Cook says. “Make what you enjoy your work, then you will enjoy working.”
Pravda’s hard work seems to be paying off. Customers rave about the bar, citing it a “world class nightclub.” It offers vodka galore, of course, and a plethora of high-end whiskeys. Plus, between the 40 or so draught and bottle beers, guests can surely find something they will enjoy.

The best thing about this Best-Of winner, though, is the owner’s outlook on downtown’s future. It is important to Cook that he promotes professionalism and a positive environment while adding to the nightlife appeal of the area.

“[We want] to ensure that downtown Wilmington continues to prosper and be a fun, safe and exciting place for tourists, students and residents to enjoy,” Cook says.

Cook embodies the saying “there’s always room for improvement.” So while he and his team continue the best-foot-forward attitude, Wilmington will continue to love Pravda.

Second place for dance club was Level 5, followed by Ibiza.—Bethany Turner

When it comes to sounds that drive Wilmington’s listenership, the Penguin 98.3 “has the music down cold,” as they like to say. The station recently switched dials from 106.7 to 98.3FM on January 1st, welcoming even more followers from Myrtle Beach to Topsail Island.

Program director Beau Gunn notes the station’s “breath of fresh air from other formats” as the most captivating aspect for encore voters. From Tom Waits to Sonny Boy Williamson, Radiohead to Wilco, the Beatles to the Decemberists, Widespread Panic to Phish, truly, they have all sonic addictions covered. Their focus on the AAA format has Gunn and crew, Nikki, Kim and Glenn, always on the hunt for the best artists and sounds.

“We believe if we offer our listeners a product that isn’t anywhere else, and in a non-abrasive way, they will appreciate what we do,” Gunn says.

Apparently, they have—for eight years running! The Penguin continues topping our Best Of poll thanks to the staff’s constant attention toward community and the local arts. Aside from promoting our music scene, they also offer listener feedback during the weekly Tuesday-night program Rate-A-Record, and they’re constantly working with charities, like the New Hanover County Humane Society and Big Buddy Program.

The Penguin keeps community ties strong, too, by pairing up with local businesses. Gravity Records’ Eric Keen goes onair on for Street Date Tuesday to put new releases out into the ether, and encore’s editor Shea Carver stops by the igloo on Wednesday to inform listeners on new things happening around town each week.

Other stations keeping Wilmington alert and listening: Z107.5 and 91.3 WHQR.

Family fun is the name of the game at the Battleship NC. Don’t believe us? Just take a look at our favorite tourists on the cover this week, soaking in everything the WWII ship has to offer! Changing Channels’ very own Jef, Val and Cullen can attest to the ship’s awe-inspiring metal and steel, as well as its many guns, from 16-inch/45 caliber to 20mm/70 caliber. Thankfully, they didn’t try to reignite them.

“We could actually shoot the NC Aquarium from here,” Heather Loftin, promotions director, notes about the ship’s magnitude of power. “Naturally, we wouldn’t. They’re our friends.”

Captain Terry Bragg, a NC native who also spent 30 years in the Navy, leads the ship’s crew by making sure their services stay at the highest level of excellence. Living in a “unique, ever-expanding beautiful location,” as Bragg notes, ensures constant visitation.
“The Battleship experience is structured so children, young adults and adults, all encounter something different,” he explains. “In former days, the Battleship only focused on senior veterans. Today, we focus on all age groups.”

Now celebrating 50 years in Wilmington, events lined up for 2011 will consist of a Beach Music Festival (June 11), Need for Speed (August 6) and a Battle of the Schools (September 10).

Ongoing events that keep the local community supporting Wilmington’s Best Tourist Attraction include: Lifelong Learning Programs, Battleship Alive, Battleship 101, Memorial Day ceremony, 4th of July Fireworks, Ghost Ship (October 14-15, 21-22, 28-29), Batty Battleship’s Halloween Bash (October 25), and Easter Egg Carnival (April 22).

Be sure to visit the ship on its anniversary day, October 2, when entry fees will revert back to their 1961 prices, 25¢ for kids and 50¢ for adults. Full information and specs of the ship can be found at

Other attractions on the Best Of bill are Airlie Gardens and the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

Calling all Dudes (White Russians and Pomeranians optional)! The hottest joint in Wilmington to have any nihilist interactions or acid flashbacks (thank you, Coen Bros.) can be found at Ten Pin Alley. Open seven days a week, Ten Pin will fill any bowling need, from group and party options to league bowling and tournaments, all at maximum quality and minimum price.

“We are a 35,000 square-foot entertainment complex, but we still give our customers a small, local neighborhood-bar feel,” Omar Washington, marketing director of Breaktime and Ten Pin Alley, says.

The bowling alley houses more than lanes; it has a pool hall, bar and grille. Their bowling rates—$2 before 5 p.m. and $3.75 a game after—remain competitive and reasonable for folks to enjoy a safe and entertaining day or night out.

“Customer service is key, so a compliment as simple as, ‘I had a great time’ or ‘I’ll definitely be coming back’ goes a long way,” Washington says. And return customers don’t seem to be a problem here either—especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays when buy-one-get-one-free games go into effect after 6 p.m. It can only be matched by Wednesday’s “All You Can Bowl” for $8, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. or Cosmic Bowling on Saturday at 10:30 p.m. Sundays won’t be lazy any longer either, thanks to ‘Everything’s a Dollar”—games, shoes, nachos, hot dogs and sodas.

Fun and inexpensive—yes, Dude would be proud.

Other bowling alleys striking our readers are Cardinal Lanes and Thunder Alley.

“Being a comedian is easy if you look at it this way: We hear smiling is so much easier than frowning,” Sandy Vaughan of Changing Channels tells us. “In all seriousness, just don’t take life too seriously.”

That’s the motto of the comedy troupe that, though they aren’t performing together regularly, will always be bound to one another through humor, camaraderie and, in Sam Robison’s famous words, “copious amounts of alcohol.”

“When something comes along in your life that is so aligned and meaningful, it can’t help but live on forever,” troupe member and encore cover model Jef Pollock notes.

They’ve put on skits for more than a decade, writing, performing, singing, dancing and shimmey-ing their funny bones all over Wilmington. It’s no easy task being funny, either—no matter how funny-looking one is.

“It’s totally hard!” Vaughan admits, before recounting. “Not really. We think comedians are uniquely odd. You are kinda born with a lack of embarrassment or interest in social backlash. Also, you don’t care how you look or come off to an audience of hundreds. It may occur to you afterward that you acted a fool and probably shouldn’t have drank that fifth of whatever that brown liquor was, but all in all you don’t care. People laughed. They had a good time.”

And that’s precisely the recap of encore’s 2011 Best Of Awards Ceremony held at City Stage Tuesday night: laughter, alcohol, celebration and electric good times. Changing Channels has been hosting our awards ceremony since we started it almost a decade ago.

“It’s refreshing not having any lines to remember and whatever goes, goes,” Val Watkins says of the event.

“I have loved the encore since … forever!” Vaughan adds. “It’s a no-brainer to host. We have so much (drunk) fun. It’s so (drunk) great! I will continue to do it (drunk) every year!”

Bribery pictures from the party will be printed next week, in our second Best Of edition. Just wait ‘til you see how these hosts made out…

Other funny people topping our polls are Nutt Street Improv and Comically Impaired.

Blogs are the new diaries. They’re the new “news” and they’re the new “marketing tool” for many companies. And with good cause. WordPress, Blogspot, Blogger and others offer free programs for people to reach across the Web to strangers, friends and family who wish to indulge on the daily thoughts, encounters, challenges and greetings that others post. In Wilmington the people have spoken: Bo Dean’s keeps them logging in daily for a dose of inspiration.

Only a blogger for a year now, Bo decided in January 2010 he would undergo the task of transforming his life. He’d already accomplished so much in the community through his devoted activism within local politics and humanities­.

“I started the blog to pay forward the gift of training and nutrition that I was given by Adam Freeman [personal trainer at O2 Fitness], through his meeting of [my friend] Ashley Miller of the Heart Association,” Bo explains. “They concocted an idea to help a public figure in the community [lose weight, as long as] that person would do the changing publicly, the changes would then help others.”

Once weighing in at 348 pounds, Bo had always struggled with his weight. No matter how active he was in the community, he simply neglected his own health, depending on drive-through lunches and dinners and little-to-no activity. Suffering from diabetes, and realizing his shortness of breath increased every few steps, he accepted the help. After attempting diets and fitness regimes, Miller presented him with the trainer challenge, thanks to Adam Freeman’s willingness to donate his services.

“[My blog] has turned into accountability for me,” Bo says, now 100 pounds lighter, “and a way to help others who are struggling with these issues learn good, sustainable ways to get healthy and stay that way!”

People are interested, too. Every time Bo posts a new blog, 100 unique visitors read it. With his inclusion of video, pictures, personable voice and stories, folks need not read from the beginning to catch up. In fact, they’ll warm up to Bo like a long lost friend.
Other blogs hailed on our poll include Port City Foodies, and a tie for Appalachian Ridgeback and—Shea Carver

I always catch snippets of radio morning shows on my way to encore in the morning. No, I’m never up at 6 a.m., but I still get my fair share of laughs and entertainment from the wonderful people who are, somehow, ridiculously perky at the wee hours of the morn. Foz is one of those people.

He and his cohort, Jocelyn, have distinct personalities. Jocelyn’s laugh is highly contagious, so those who are far too grumpy to crack a smile after waking up should probably steer clear of Z107.5 FM. And Foz never stops hitting on any woman who calls in, so those cougars who haven’t been feeling so ferocious lately might want to give the morning show a call.

But it’s not merely fun and games for Foz or Jocelyn. These two are busy supporting lots of local organizations as well as large causes. Recently, the team promoted a charity softball game benefiting the American Heart Association. “[We help] the Food Bank to Red Cross, big and small and everything in between,” Foz shares.

Foz and Jocelyn’s priority each morning is to “do it big!” And it seems that Wilmington agrees, voting them number one for another year in a row. “Nobody plays better than us,” Foz says.

The Port City also enjoys waking up with second place morning show, The Craig and Sheila Show, on Sunny 104.5, and third place winners are Charlotte boys John Boy and Billy, on The Big Show on 94.5 The Hawk. Second place radio personality is Beau Gunn of 98.3 The Penguin, and third goes to Craig Thomas of Sunny 104.5.—Bethany Turner

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