Best Colorado Celebrity 2012 | John Elway | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

In the very first Best of Denver, published in 1984, John Elway was a rookie quarterback who looked like he might, just might, have a promising career in Denver. But no one could have predicted that Elway's career — and his status as the state's number-one celebrity — would get new life once Number 7 had left the field. After dabbling in car dealerships, vodka deals, arena football and restaurants, last year Elway returned to the Broncos as an executive, hiring a new coach and dealing with a quarterback controversy. But he really came into his own when he acquired Peyton Manning for the team...and jettisoned Tim Tebow. But then, Elway has always been known for last-second saves.

With as many hit songs as he's written for his own band, OneRepublic, as well as a slew of other pop stars, including Beyoncé, Kelly Clarkson, Jordan Sparks, Leona Lewis and Gym Class Heroes, it's surprising that Ryan Tedder didn't already have a mantel full of Grammys. But while he's been nominated before, Tedder couldn't claim a Grammy until now, when he won for his contribution to Adele's breakthrough album, 21, which all but owned the Grammys this year. Something tells us this is just the first of many to come for the Colorado musician.

You don't have to live in Hollywood to walk the red carpet. Back in 1997, Donna Dewey took the prize for Best Documentary, Short Subject, with A Story of Healing. And this year, Colorado-based filmmaker Daniel Junge, who focuses on stories of social justice, repeated that feat, winning an Oscar for Saving Face, his documentary about a doctor devoted to helping women scarred by acid attacks in Pakistan. In a surreal moment, the actresses from Bridesmaids presented the award to Junge and his co-director, Pakistani Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. Long story short, it was a big win for social justice, for Junge — and for the Colorado film community.

Comic strips might be an endangered species, but "Spinadoodles," Sam Spina's incredibly endearing cartoon, makes the form seem very vibrant. The Xeric Foundation award-winning Denver cartoonist has been dutifully drawing his comic strip every day since April 2009, publishing it on his website as well as in the Colorado Daily. Spina has a knack for turning everyday happenings into sweet comic renderings; his artistic diary often chronicles things that his cat does, conversations with his girlfriend and happenings at his pizza-shop job. Draw, partner!

Denver International Airport has inspired many fine conspiracy theories — that it's a creation of the New World Order, that there are Martians living underground — but none as uplifting as the one exposed on The Colbert Report this fall. According to William Tapley, who calls himself both "Third Eagle of the Apocalypse" and "Co-Prophet of the End Times," DIA is full of phallic symbols — not surprising, since it's designed to look like a giant penis. We don't even want to think what role the new South Terminal will play in that scenario....

It's stripey! It's spiky! Her locks show as much spunk as Amy Stephens has as the House Majority Leader. The El Paso Republican may tout her conservative values, but there's nothing conservative about this 'do.

Best Hair on a TV Personality — Female

Nina Sparano

Nina Sparano, the technology reporter for Fox 31 and KWGN, has clearly figured out the mechanics of a perfect hairdo. Those brunette locks are downright luxurious, girl. 

Readers' Choice: Adele Arakawa

Best Hair on a TV Personality — Male

Ron Zappolo

Ron Zappolo may have his own People on his Sunday-night talk show, but the Fox 31 anchor's mustache belongs to all of us. From beneath that lip sweater comes the most important news of the day, and that 'stache/silver tousle combo gives big stories the appropriate level of gravity. Zappolo has been a fixture on local TV for decades, delivering the news with hair that demands your attention. And respect.

Readers' Choice: Ron Zappolo

Noel Cunningham had the biggest heart in Denver...a heart so big that he didn't just worry about people in need here in town — where he hosted an annual Mother's Day brunch and numerous fundraisers at Strings, the restaurant he'd founded more than two decades ago — but people around the world. Many of Cunningham's good works were based in Ethiopia, which he and his wife, Tammy, had made the heart of their charitable efforts for close to a decade. But for all the help Cunningham gave to others, he could not ask his friends for help. That was the sad reality that former governor Bill Ritter, fresh from emergency surgery himself, shared in the heartfelt eulogy he delivered for Cunningham after the restaurateur committed suicide last fall. Cunningham may be gone, but his do-good spirit lives on.

Readers' Choice: Tim Tebow

From its start 25 years ago in the Evergreen garage of James Jackson, a real-estate developer turned philanthropist, Project C.U.R.E. has grown into the world's largest distributor of donated medical supplies and equipment, distributing roughly $50 million of relief every year. Today the organization is run by Douglas Jackson and operates out of a 60,000-square-foot warehouse in Centennial. But C.U.R.E. doesn't just send supplies around the globe; it also sends volunteers, who quickly recognize that the cure for many of the world's ills starts right here in Colorado.

Readers' Choice: New Era Colorado

Best Of Denver®

Best Of