In the end, Fred saved our sanity.
The Best of Denver 2001 ballots had arrived by e-mail, over the Web, under the front door and via the U.S. Postal Service. We'd wept our way through hundreds of votes for McDonald's as Best French Fries, chewed on Tums through hundreds more for Taco Bell as Best Taco, and tossed out a big stack of bloody ballots stuffed with votes for Best Tattoo Artist -- a category that didn't even appear on our Best of Denver 2001 Readers' Poll.
And then we found Fred.
Fred is the shop dog at Miss Talulah's. Technically, our poll hadn't requested nominations for the town's Best Shop Dog, either, but that didn't stop 69 of Fred's fans from signing a pro-Fred petition -- complete with photo of Fred, tongue lolling and wearing what could be a whistle or maybe a chile pepper around his neck: "As the fuzzy, furry greeter of Miss Talulah's, Fred knows what it takes to make each customer feel important. A dedicated employee, rain or shine, Fred remains focused on the customer. Always making sure that no one enters the shop unnoticed nor leaves without first receiving some love. Support Fred in his quest for greatness!"
We were moved, even tempted, to so anoint Fred, but his quest faced an insurmountable hurdle: We'd previously determined that Miss Talulah's, his home turf, was a truly great addition to Denver's shopping scene and had already tapped it for a Best of Denver award. To also stroke Fred would be a bit excessive, we decided. Still, we appreciated the efforts of Fred's supporters, our readers, who were willing to go the extra distance for a dog.
Like all of the people, places and pooches mentioned in this year's Best of Denver, our readers are something to celebrate.
Thanks to the recently released Census Bureau statistics, we know what Denver looks like at the start of the millennium. How many of us there are, and what ethnic backgrounds we claim. Who lives in the city, who lives in the suburbs. We even know how many of us own our own homes. But these statistics don't capture the Denver we see every day, the one our readers share when they fill out their Readers' Poll ballots.
Through those readers, we discovered:
The Best Place to Find a Famed Photo of Tom Jones in a Pair of Speedos and Boxing Gloves is Eccentricals, which just happens to be the spot we'd already picked for the Best Store Anywhere on Colfax Avenue. The Best Way to Spend a Rainy Saturday Afternoon is looking up your house's history in the Western History Department of the Denver Public Library, an institution that's a frequent high-flyer in our Best of Denver issues. The Best Place to Go When There's Nothing Else to Do at Night is Dave & Busters, where you can always watch a bar fight.
We also discovered that, in addition to being wise, our readers are a funny bunch. They have no more patience with the fabricated "Convergence Corridor" nickname than we do, and suggested that the best replacement might be Mess Trap, Denvoid, Malfunction Junction or Blow Hole. For Wellington Webb's next job, they suggested concessions manager at Invesco Field, chauffeur for Wilma, baggage handler at DIA or superintendent at DPS. Readers got even more creative with the Best Next Job for Wilma Webb, suggesting she consider being a fine-arts dealer in Africa or an Avon lady.
Clearly, Denverites have a healthy disrespect for the trappings of power, which they made clear with their second-place pick for Best Power Lunch. Jamba Juice, anyone?