The first 25
Twenty-five years ago George Herbert Walker Bush was inaugurated, the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound, and the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. Closer to home, Bill Chapman and Hawes Spencer made news of their own: On September 19, 1989 they launched the C-VILLE Review, which they described as “new and different and still a little rough around the edges.”
Among the articles in the pair’s inaugural issue was a profile of dancer and choreographer Miki Liszt; a review of Jonathan Coleman’s Exit the Rainmaker; and a heads-up that Aaron Sorkin’s A Few Good Men starring Tom Hulce had made its world premiere at the Culbreth Theatre.
As you’ll see in the following pages, a lot has changed in the past quarter century. (For one thing, C-VILLE Review is now C-VILLE Weekly—see 1994.) To celebrate the anniversary of our birth, we combed through our archives and came up with some of the best and worst moments from the thousands of stories we’ve covered over the past 25 years. A lot of what we found made us proud, a few items made us cringe, and more than one story made us laugh.
Chapman and Spencer closed their first letter by saying, “Feel free to flip through the pages and then ask numerous questions, offer countless suggestions, and utter quantities of insults. We can handle it; we’ve published before.” Seems some things haven’t changed.—Susan Sorensen
Poetry in motion. In one of our earliest issues we reported that Rita Dove had moved to Charlottesville to join the faculty of the University of Virginia, where, since 1993, she’s held the chair of Commonwealth Professor of English. According to our reporter, Dove’s “poems are not mere artifacts, they are glimpses of the inner universe. They are poems of wit, compassion, and truth.” Amen to all that.
Lights, camera, action. When writing about the second Virginia Festival of American Film, Brian Corcoran said, “O.K., so the film festival is still a relatively new event, and maybe people don’t look forward to it in the same way they await new episodes of ‘Hee Haw’ on Saturday afternoons; I for one feel it’s got potential.” It probably boded well for the fledgling fest that Gregory Peck and Jimmy Stewart came to town (and were each given a key to the city) for screenings of To Kill a Mockingbird and It’s a Wonderful Life, respectively.
1. Brother sister act. In the first of many appearances in our pages (see page 25), Dave Matthews (and his sister Jane) are pictured as part of a write-up for Catherine Emery-Bricker’s “Sisters and Brothers” photo exhibit at the McGuffey Art Center.
Tradition! “If there is one holiday tradition local folks look forward to, it’s going to see Charlottesville’s favorite sons, Indecision. Although their once-regular venue the Mineshaft is now deceased, Indecision will move across the street to Trax for a December 29th show.” And we have no doubt that it was a sell-out.
Bowl bound. There was a time when the University of Virginia had a respectable football team. Like 1989, when the Cavaliers’ 10-2 record was good enough to earn the ‘Hoos a trip to Orlando, where they met the University of Illinois in the Citrus Bowl. Alas, the Fighting Illini fought a bit harder on January 1, 1990 and beat UVA 31-21.
Lewis and Yuck. What’s the ugliest building in Charlottesville? We put it to a vote and the winner was: The Nightmare on Main Street, aka Lewis & Clark Square, which one reader called, “without question, the ugliest building in Charlottesville…[it] could aptly be described as the Hemorrhoid on the Hill or, more simply, Lewis and Yuck.”
Hot fun in the summer. Among the 25 hottest things to do in the summer of 1990 were Friday night Acid House dance parties in the Old Michie Company Building; hanging at the Holiday Inn North pool; and “viewing pricey apartments at Dunlora, Forest Lakes, or Lewis & Clark Square.” And then there was Echols Scholar-turned-killer Jens Soering’s murder trial, which was scheduled to begin on June 1.
2. Photo finish. An image of a young girl that accompanied our June 12 cover story on the right to party naked in Madison County at the Avalon Conservation Club—“where one can pitch clothing entirely and romp au naturel under the shadow of Old Rag Mountain between the ridges that rise to form the Shenandoah Mountains”—was the reason the C-VILLE Review was sued unsuccessfully for the first time a few weeks later.
We knew her back when. Long before she introduced the world to Queef Latina, Salvador Dali Parton, and Liz Lemon, Tina Fey honed her acting chops at the University of Virginia in a variety of productions at the Culbreth Theatre. The cost of admission? Seven bucks ($6 for senior citizens and $5 for students).
Soup to nuts. Our first cover of the year featured household hints from “harried house-husbands,” who offered up cooking tips (lots of Campbell’s soup as a base for stews and casseroles), decorating and cleaning advice (designer bedsheets for furniture throws), child care suggestions (a “wreck” room is essential), and good daytime habits (limit yourself to one TV show per afternoon).
Mild entertainment. A review of True Colors, which starred James Spader and John Cusack and was filmed in the city of Charlottesville and at the University of Virginia, points out that “watching the two stars come from classes in the Rotunda, or imagining law students living on the Lawn does provide some mild entertainment for those familiar with the area.”
3. Shoe shots. The second of what will become a months-long series of shoe photographs is called “Shoe over the Corner.” If you ask us, it looks more like a boot.
Deli delights. In a review of the Wayside Market Delicatessen, we said what “looks like a stereotypical deli, brings atypical people together,” including students, professors, and the blue collar workers around town. No mention of the fried chicken, but we did point out that the 20 or so subs and sandwiches all cost about $4 each.
Big Doug. Then there was the time we held a contest and asked our readers to describe “what will happen to Doug Wilder on his road to the White House.” The winner, with an entry called “The Ballad of Big Doug Wilder,” wrote a ditty, sung to the tune of “The Beverly Hillbillies” theme song, that included these lyrics: “Well, the Big Doug made the front page of the Post,/Saying, ‘As your President, why I’d be just the most/liberal and Conservative President you’d get’/He shifts so fast that in the rain, he didn’t even get wet,/Behind the ears, that is,/He’s got the moves,/ Down Pat,/Runnin’ Doug.”
Progress report. We were all over a story about Daily Progress editor Craig Nesbit’s resignation following the accidental publication of a draft story about banker and UVA Board of Visitors member Hovey Dabney. The piece, which was intended to portray Dabney in a negative light, “was immensely favorable to Hovey Dabney.”
The highest bidder. C-VILLE Review editor Hawes Spencer paid $310,000 for The Movie Palace (now the Jefferson Theater) at an auction on the city circuit courthouse steps. In 2006, he would sell the theater to local megadeveloper Coran Capshaw.
Mineshaft shift. The Bottom Line’s Ace Atkins is asked “What’s going on with the old Mineshaft building (which was once an old Ben Franklin store) on West Main Street?” His response, after letting the questioner know she sounds “like one of those long-time C-ville residents who consistently refer to former landmarks instead of present ones…What you call ‘the old Sears building’ has been called Stacey Hall for several years now”: The old Mineshaft building would soon open as a new restaurant/nightclub called West Main Station.
Cable wars. Adelphia Cable sued Charlottesville Quality Cable, claiming that the contracts it signed with several local apartment complexes to exclusively provide paid television violated city code.
Play it again. We were “drowning in theater” during the summer of ’92, with LiveArts, Offstage, the Heritage Repertory Theater, the Midsummer Players, and “those folks out at Barboursville,” among others.
Big box blow-up. “Nestled harmoniously in the rolling hills off 29 North, you caress the bull-dozed landscape like a clothespin.” Yep, we were talking about Walmart. And Sam’s Club too. And then we wondered what exactly they bring to our town, and, more importantly, “will things ever be the same again?”
And many more. Happy 250th birthday Thomas Jefferson!
4. Best laid plans. Is bicycling in Charlottesville an uphill battle? Jennifer Niesslein reported that it depends—on who you talk to, what your purpose is, and how experienced you are. In 1991, the city and county created a joint bicycling plan, while UVA came up with its own plan in 1993. Area cyclists, however, were still waiting for those plans to bear fruit.
Beat the band. The raucous half-time shows by the UVA Pep Band were absent from UVA football games this fall after a board of oversight pulled the plug on the controversial ensemble’s jokes, and decreed that its shows consist of music only. The band did, however, perform pre-game shows outside Scott Stadium.
Food for thought. An occasional new feature called Restaurantarama premiered as a gossip column that covered the goings-on at local eateries. Inaugural items included the sale of the then-beleaguered (and closed) Virginian to veteran restaurateur John Crafalk, who also owned Littlejohn’s, and lowering the asking price for Fellini’s from $255,000 to $235,000.
5. Bleak outlook. There is such a thing as a slow news week, as evidenced by what we’ve unofficially declared our lamest issue ever. “The Bleak Issue,” which ran on January 26, 1994, is exactly that. It doesn’t get much better inside: A photo feature involving a photographer and a barber switching jobs, winter survival tips, a 1,000-word column on skin-dwelling bacteria, and a gushing review of Schindler’s List so long it had to be continued on four pages. We’d like to say we’re sorry.
6. Giddy-up! We maintain that it would be awesome if Toscano did, in fact, don Revolutionary garb and gallop to Richmond.
Buying spree. “For several weeks, Charlottesville has been abuzz with talk of the mysterious person making offers on buildings on the western end of the downtown mall,” begins Hawes Spencer’s first look at Lee Danielson’s plans for a Downtown Mall makeover. Ice rink! Multiplex! Retail spaces with the sky-high rent of $18 per square foot! And look at that—it all happened, eventually.
More to love. C-VILLE goes weekly! “Now we offer more beef.”
7. Wishing in public. What did Charlottesville notables want for the new year at the end of 1994? David Toscano’s wish rings timeless: “Some concrete changes to downtown Charlottesville, including filling up the vacant space on the Mall.” Rita Dove was tired: “A little more sleep.” And the late Gabe Silverman sounded as Gabe as he ever did: “More awareness for the future in the little town of Charlottesville; it shouldn’t be a big town.”
Superman. In June of 1995, Charlottesville had the kind of celebrity visit nobody wishes for. Christopher Reeve was flown to UVA hospital after breaking his neck and damaging his spine in a riding accident in Culpeper. He required a wheelchair and breathing apparatus for the rest of his life.
Perk up. The first hint that downtown was getting an honest-to-goodness coffee shop came in a September 5 feature proclaiming John and Lynelle Lawrence’s plans to open Mudhouse the following month.
Late arrival. A promise in the Restaurantarama column on November 21, 1995 read “Bodo’s: coming soon to a Corner near you.” Oh, how naive. The actual opening day? June 15, 2005.
Ice ice baby. Downtown got a little cooler in May of 1996 with the opening of the Charlottesville Ice Park.
The great outdoors. Live Arts broke out of the black box and went al fresco with a performance of The Visit at the base of Charlottesville’s coal tower—site of tragic scenes in the years to come.
He’d only just begun. A feature on Mike Friend’s dream of a radio station broadcast at 91.9FM predicted WNRN would be “a pioneer in an age when the airwaves are increasingly homogenized and dominated by only a few corporate players with more computers than disc jockeys.”
8. Street crossing. Coy Barefoot photographed the controversial opening of Second Street across the Downtown Mall to cars in September 1996—and recalled a rowdy protest of said opening two years before.
Murder, she wrote. C-VILLE’s Barbara Nordin dug into the disappearance of UVA grad student Pat Collins—a mystery that wasn’t resolved until his remains were ID’d in New York in 2013.
Graduation tragedy. A 73-year-old grandmother died and several others were injured when a pavilion balcony collapsed during UVA graduation.
Behind bars. It was a murder case as sensational as they come: A former bodyguard of former billionairess Patricia Kluge was arrested for the murder of jeweler George Moody. Police swoopedin on Lester and his leopard-print-wearing accomplice, Valentina Djelebova, as they exited Snooky’s pawn shop on the Downtown Mall. Lester was later sentenced to life in prison.
9. Déjà vu. When President Bill Clinton paid a visit to Wintergreen in February of 1998, some local peace activists were on hand to greet him with signs that could easily be trotted out again tomorrow.
Fond farewell. When the Williams Corner Bookstore closed its doors in April, 1998 after 22 years on the Downtown Mall, writer Barbara Nordin talked to local authors about the shuttering of Mike Williams’ shop, where author Ann Beattie and husband, artist Lincoln Perry, kissed in the stacks in a photo published in People Magazine.
The Wright stuff. Before he was poet laureate, he was a Pulitzer winner. C-VILLE marked the occasion of Charles Wright’s prize for Black Zodiac in April, 1998, by printing “China Mail,” which recalls Charlottesville summers in all their humid glory.
Truth and consequences. Sometimes a story has impacts you never see coming. Barbara Nordin broke the news that Cherry Avenue martial arts studio The Inner Stairway was harboring a two-way-mirror peephole into a women’s changing room in June of 1998. Less than a week later, owner James Ennis committed suicide in Darden Towe Park. “No matter how many times I replayed our handling of the story, I never regretted the decision to go to press when we did,” Nordin wrote later.
Baby blues. UVA hospital was at the center of a sensational media story in the summer of 1998, when it was revealed that two babies had been switched at birth in 1995. The revelation came two weeks after both parents of one child were killed in a car accident.
10. Goths speak out. As the full horror of the Columbine High School shootings was revealed through constant national news coverage, Charlottesville Goths including Bella Morte frontman Andy Deane defended their culture as nonviolent in a C-VILLE cover story.
Shopping promise. You think the wait for a Wegmans on Fifth Street seems long? Back in 1999, we wrote that a new Fifth Street Shopping Center seemed to get the go ahead. Apparently, not quite.
Where’s Waldo? Years before he was working at the White House or building websites to make Virginia’s legislative sessions and code accessible, Waldo Jaquith was right here in Charlottesville and an outspoken proponent of open government. “It’s healthy for government computers to be hacked,” said the then-bleached blond 20-year-old wunderkind.
Honor on trial. The assault of UVA student Alexander Kory by a group of fellow students including Richard Smith, the son of FedEx CEO Fred Smith, led to protests over UVA’s decision to allow the assailants to remain at school.
11. Waiting for Bodo’s. Frustration mounted over the long wait for the Corner Bodo’s as bagel lovers threatened to boycott the other two locations.
Brews arrive. It’s hard to imagine a world without Jomo Lager or Northern Lights, but that’s the world we all lived in before Starr Hill Brewery launched in September 1999.
Dot-jobs! Failed online retailer Value America wasn’t yet cold in its corporate grave when ads for another online start-up began running in C-VILLE’s classifieds. (Those were heady days for employment!) Alas, that outfit, dubbed The Museum Company, also wasn’t long for this world.
Changing look. C-VILLE’s new logo prompted an angry outburst from a Charlottesville citizen who criticized its “garish, squat font.”
When Minor was major. Mention Halsey Minor’s name in Charlottesville these days, and you’ll most likely elicit sneers over the man who brought us the hulking shell of a hotel on the Downtown Mall and who has been mired in legal tangles for years. Back in the halcyon days of the dot-com craze, however, C-VILLE had nothing but praise for the man we dubbed “Charlottesville’s own dot-com success story.”
12. Painting Cabell. It’s certain that UVA wouldn’t have trusted just any artist to paint a massive mural on the interior walls of Old Cabell Hall. Lincoln Perry was tapped for the job, eventually earning himself a place in history and a C-VILLE Weekly cover story in the process. Nearly 15 years later, the mural is standing the test of time.
Pat Kluge finds love. When the billionairess Patricia Kluge married Bill Moses in August 2000, it was the Daily Mail in the UK that got the scoop but C-VILLE Weekly wasn’t far behind.
Pay more. Fifteen years ago, living wage activists were fighting to raise minimum wage from $6.75 to $8/hour at the area businesses and UVA. The debate still rages, and UVA students and faculty even went on a hunger strike in 2012 demanding higher wages for the lowest paid staff.
“Notorious” club closes. Popular among the country music loving set but plagued by violent incidents including at least one shooting and a fight in the parking lot involving as many as 50 people, Katie’s Country Club in the Shoppers’ World Shopping Center closed up shop in January.
13. Chief Longo arrives. Many predicted current Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding would be promoted to chief from captain when Buddy Rittenhouse retired from Charlottesville Police Department’s top job, but following a national search that drew 83 candidates, Charlottesville City Council picked a buff guy from Baltimore who leads the department to this day.
Dave back on stage. Texting language didn’t exist yet when Dave Matthews Band returned to Charlottesville to play consecutive shows at Scott Stadium, but if it had, you can bet our headline would have read OMG, DMB!
14. Coal tower horror. The shooting of 16-year-old Kate Johnson and 23-year-old Marcus Griffin at the coal tower downtown devastated Charlottesville, long after a manhunt led to the apprehension of the shooter, then 20-year-old Craig Nordenson. The August 28, 2001 C-VILLE edition offered comprehensive coverage of the tragedy, which made headlines again in 2014 with the mysterious prison death of Nordenson.
Remembering Emily. On August 22, throngs of Charlottesvillians and politicians flocked to the funeral of beloved State Senator Emily Couric, who died four days earlier of pancreatic cancer at age 54. Her legacy includes the Emily Couric Leadership Scholarship, awarded annually to young women in their senior year of high school, and the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center.
Winds of change. C-VILLE editor and co-founder Hawes Spencer departed in late January, leaving a slackjawed staff who never saw it coming. For a single week, Courteney Stuart stepped in as interim editor, before she, too, left to join Spencer at his new paper, The Hook. By February 5, former C-VILLE Deputy Editor Cathy Harding appeared on the masthead and a new era of local journalism in Charlottesville had begun (See Harding’s essay on page 33).
How dry was it? It was so dry you couldn’t even wash your car or water your lawn! Heck, even showers were on the chopping block. The drought of 2002 was so dry it even prompted C-VILLE to publish its own Drought Survival Guide.
Let it rain! The skies opened up and the earth drank it in as the drought ended with a December deluge.
15. Dumpling dynasty. Marco and Luca Dumplings are now among the best known cheap eats in town with three locations, but in 2003, the first store had just opened and the dumplings were served up hot and fresh from the pan out of a tiny window on Second Street NW.
Historic renovation. After years of fundraising, ground was broken on the massive, multi-million-dollar restoration of The Paramount Theater, which had sat empty and unused for years and is now, post renovation, one of the premier venues on the Downtown Mall.
High life. The first issue of C-VILLE’s now monthly Abode magazine premieres.
Not so peppy. The feisty UVA Pep Band took things a step too far when they mocked West Virginians during a show at the December 28, 2002 Continental Tire Bowl, prompting an apology from then UVA president John Casteen to West Virginia Governor Bob Wise. The band was kicked out of official events in 2003, but continued unofficially until 2011.
What not to name a magazine… A magazine for women called Flow? Really?
Not-a-stranger danger. It would be four more years before the Charlottesville serial rapist was caught in 2007, and C-VILLE weighed in on sexual assault with a cover story, “The long shadow of rape,” stressing that rapes are far more likely to be perpetrated by someone known to the victim than a stranger.
16. Venting finds a home. The Rant launched this year and for more than a decade, irritable Charlottesvillians voiced their sometimes funny, sometimes insightful, sometimes offensive discontent in the anonymous forum.
At home. Booming rent prices were creating a new class of homeless residents in Charlottesville, John Borgmeyer wrote in 2003. With the arrival of The Haven day shelter and The Crossings single resident occupancy building on Fourth Street and Preston Avenue, homelessness in Charlottesville is a topic that’s even more relevant today.
Best cuppa. Who had the best local coffee in 2003? According to a C-VILLE survey of the top java spots in town, C’ville Coffee in the McIntire Plaza took the caffeine crown.
17. A refugee’s story. Sixteen-year-old Afghan refugee Sahar Adish worked with fellow CHS students Luke Tilghman, Joseph Barbarsky, and Sanja Jovanovic at nonprofit media education program Light House to create a film about her life. The movie, which told the story of Adish’s mother homeschooling her daughter and other children despite the threat of imprisonment by the Taliban, won a Peabody Award in 2007.
Best of the best. Cities Ranked & Rated named Charlottesville “the No. 1 place to live in America.” After author Peter Sanger spent a single day touring the town, he said, “I see it having a dignity that other places don’t have.” Good to know that after a decade of development, microbrews, and on-point reportage, we can claim to be the happiest city, too.
18. Property rights. “It’s Capshaw’s World, We’re Just Living in It,” took a survey of developer Coran Capshaw’s 15 major properties and discovered a total property value of $20.7 million in the City, $20.2 in Albemarle, and $7.3 in Greene County. We got the man himself on the phone, though he was “not sure why I’d be singled out for discussion.” When pressed to speculate on his celebrity status, he offered that perhaps his “visible properties” and primary job as manager of DMB “tied it all together” in people’s minds.
A paramount evening. Tickets to the Paramount’s grand reopening fundraising gala went for $1,000 a head. Charlottesville’s glitterati, including Sissy Spacek, Howie Long, and Mary Chapin Carpenter turn out en masse. Tony Bennett croons and our editor swoons.
Singin’ the blues. After we nailed our fame forecast with DMB, we became overly fond of predictions. In January 2005 we had this to say in our Blue Merle cover story: “They’re radio-ready and getting plenty of support from Capshaw, including three weeks at Starr Hill. Could Blue Merle be the next big thing?” In a word, no. They broke up a year later. Over the next three years, we asked the same question about Sparky’s Flaw (hello, Parachute!) and Sarah White. And as we know, they’re both still drawing crowds.
Love life lessons. Virginia may be for lovers, but we here at C-VILLE don’t get our hopes up. Our Valentine’s Day issue featured “25 Tips to Improve Your Love Life,” with commentary from local experts. Among smart ideas like chocolatier Tim Gearhart’s “keep an open ear, an honest heart, and give good chocolate,” and Cavalier sex columnist Gretchen Zimmerman’s “get a cat,” our writers suggested we “dumb it down. Get real. Lower your expectations. Nobody’s perfect.” Of course we can’t argue with that.
Still waiting. In an article about the nascent Downtown Mall, Lee Danielson, developer of the newly envisioned Landmark Hotel, predicted that “construction of the nine-storey, 99-room hotel should begin July 1 and finish by October 2006.” Our wise reporter described Danielson as “ever-optimistic.”
Pav probs. It’s a bird, it’s a downed plane, it’s a…Sydney Opera House-esque, open-air music venue with the technical stability of a napkin? “The $1 million roof over the Charlottesville Pavilion was on its way up on Wednesday, only to suffer a major gash later that night. Despite the mishap, General Manager Kirby Hutto said, “No one has raised a red flag and said, ‘Here’s why we can’t open on July 27.’” A decade of future Fridays After Five attendees cheer.
19. Taking a powder. An anthrax scare swept Court Square when an envelope of mysterious white powder was delivered to the Clerk’s Office at Albemarle County General District Court. Six people were quarantined, firemen in Hazmat suits roamed the cobblestones—and fortunately for all involved, the powder proved to be “some type of food material.”
20. Free for the taking. We start off the year with smart suggestions for those readers resolved to live on the cheap. “Something for nothing” offered 12 (sometimes questionable) ways for you to beat the system: hop the bus, jump the pool at the Omni, schmooze at Darden for free catered meals. Libraries were the all-around stars—free yoga, books, and computer time—but we’re still congratulating ourselves on this particular tidbit: “When grocery stores—I’m not saying Harris Teeter, necessarily—have stuff they can’t sell (less-than-perfect produce, expired dairy and bakery products, and so on), guess what they do with it? Yep, they THROW IT AWAY. Guess what happens next? You, smartest of shoppers, pay a visit to their dumpster and HELP YOURSELF.”
Future perfect. In our now-extinct UVA section of News, we liked to explore the hidden side of life of University students with pics and one-question interviews. A C-VILLE reporter caught first year education Ph.D. student Matthew Shields on his bike and asked what was in his backpack. The list included a TI89 graphic calculator, a mix CD, an IPOD, a Snoopy key chain, a camping knife, and a copy of Teacher Man by Frank McCourt. Little did he/we know that Shields’ work in and outside the physics classroom would earn him the recognition of MIT and a 2014 Inspirational Teacher Award.
Smell you later. In proof that some things never change, several Woolen Mills residents protested smells emanating from the Moore’s Creek Wastewater Compost Facility. To show our support, we published this poem by J. Alfred Poopfrock: “Sadly, strolling to the east from Downtown / May induce a wee wrinkle-nosed frown / Scents unthinkable oft / In Woolen Mills do waft / Hate to say it, but it smells rather…brown.”
The other TJ. Charlottesville foodies organize a campaign (with balloons! And hand-lettered signs!) “to lure Trader Joe’s—a grocery store that stocks import and gourmet food—to the IX development south of Downtown.” TJs says no way. Specifically, “head flak Allison Mochizuki was apparently unaware of Project IX’s existence prior to speaking with C-VILLE,” and went on to say “The thing is, wooing is not part of the decision-making process in how we select a store.” Good thing this love story has a happy ending.
21. Words of wisdom. We respond to the state’s proposed ban on gay marriage with a cover that reads, “Virginia is for Losers.” We also sat down with A. E. Dick Howard, the father of Virginia’s modern constitution, who wisely noted, “Today’s views about marriage and same-sex marriage may not be tomorrow’s views. This is a Jeffersonian principle, that each generation should decide for itself what public policy should be.” Despite our best efforts, the amendment passed. But the times they are a-changin’.
Looking presidential. J. Tobias Beard, a.k.a. “Partycrasher,” headed to Richmond for an up-close-and-personal encounter with Senator Barack Obama. “Through the forest of arms and cameras, in that frozen moment, I look into his eyes and see someone who seems to occupy two places at once. He’s here, in the crowd, and also somewhere in the back of the hall watching this madness with the calm certainty that everything is happening according to plan.”
Faking it. Seven intrepid reporters went beyond the law in May with an investigation into Charlottesville’s black market. In 2007, $100 could get you two grams of cocaine, a sexual encounter, a couple hits of ecstasy, or two dozen illegal mix tapes. Students today might find Spotify a simpler fix for hit tunes, but the 2013 bust of Rugby Road’s $3 million fake ID ring probably raised the stakes—or at least the price tag—for all those barhopping 18-year-olds.
Food for thought. We examined the home-grown-and-slaughtered food scene after Double H Farm’s Richard Bean and Jean Rinaldi were arrested for selling uninspected pork they’d raised and butchered themselves. Between numerous meals of local barbeque chicken and crispy sausage, reporter Jayson Whitehead spoke to many passionate advocates for a change in Virginia legislation, including Polyface owner Joel Salatin, who suggested that his work and Bean’s represented a growing change. “What we represent to those lords and nobles ensconced in their castles—the Walmarts, Cargills, Monsantos —is gun powder,” he said. “They’re scared to death of our ability to make an end run and to start opting out in a large scale. We’re making enough stir and in-roads that the conventional paradigm is pushing back.”
All fall down. Reporter Scott Weaver sits down with author and playwright William James, Charlottesville’s answer to Ralph Elliot, for a behind-the-scenes look at the writer’s retelling of the razing of Vinegar Hill. James was a child when he watched Zion Union Church—one of the 20-acre tract’s last structures—be demolished in the name of Urban Renewal. “Then to watch those students come get their souvenirs…to get a brick from Zion Union. …That stayed with me. When that church was coming down, the noise that those boards made.”
Modern times. C-VILLE debuted a fresh new format featuring three distinct sections—News, Arts, and Living—and a new column called The Working Pour. The modern incarnation had arrived! We also waxed lyrical about our appreciation for a new typeface—Minion, natch—and the life-changing addition of staples.
22. Strong-arm. We examined the combination carnival and competition called Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers. Some of our favorite locals from the arts scene participate in the narrow stands of the Blue Moon Diner, and we weren’t surprised when the audience loved it. Still, could we have predicted an acronym shift, the premise’s national expansion, and the Jefferson Theater’s own SuperCLAW show featuring league stars from Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Durham, and Austin?
23. So long, farewell. We bid a tearful goodbye to the Satellite Ballroom, the last independent music venue on the Corner. Plan 9 employee and promoter Danny Shea cited the introduction of Sharon Jones to C’ville as his proudest accomplishment. He also paid homage to Tokyo Rose (the rock venue, not the sushi place), which closed its doors in 2004. Next time you’re waiting for your ExtraCare bucks to print from the CVS register on the Corner, close your eyes, imagine a Red Stripe in hand, and try to hear the music.
24. Ganging up. Reporter Scott Weaver asked: Does Charlottesville have a gang problem? A 2002 shootout and 2006 bust of Project Crud leader Louis Antonio Bryant and nearly 30 gang members gave police—and the public—reason to wonder, but as Weaver discovered, street cliques were fluid and gang-specific activity difficult to pinpoint. But in moments of high adrenaline, it didn’t seem to make a difference. “[Detective Todd] Lucas and his crew are about to run up into the South First Street public housing complex in unmarked cars, stomp on their breaks and jump the fuck out like some overproduced Michael Bay movie to see who runs.”
R.I.P. LeRoi. When Dave Matthews Band took the stage at Staples Center in Los Angeles on August 19, 2008 it did so without saxophonist LeRoi Moore, a member of DMB since its beginnings in Charlottesville in 1991. Moore died earlier that day at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center from complications related to his June all-terrain vehicle accident near his C’ville home.
Moving on. Shortly after the May 2009 final exercises, UVA President John Casteen announced that he would step down on August 1, 2010, at the end of his 20th year. One of the longest-serving university presidents in the U.S., the former English professor and admissions dean was 66 when he retired from his post.
Ongoing discussion. One of the seven priorities highlighted by the City Council that needed to be tackled in 2009 was improving race relations in Charlottesville. Thus, the Dialogue on Race, which C-VILLE has been covering since its inception, was born. The city-wide initiative to facilitate ongoing discussion about race and racism kicked off in December.
25. Harrington heartbreak. On October 17, 2009, Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, who was visiting Charlottesville for a Metallica concert, disappeared from the John Paul Jones Arena. The three-month search was one of the largest in Charlottesville’s history, ending when Harrington’s remains were found on Anchorage Farm in Albemarle County in late January.
Snowmageddon. Oh, the weather outside was frightful, but C-VILLE’s photo spread was so delightful. We’ll never forget the 20-plus inches of snow we saw at the end of 2009 (and again in the beginning of 2010).
No smoking. A statewide smoking ban fell flat in the General Assembly in 2007, but as of December 1, 2009, smoking is prohibited in Virginia restaurants that are open to the public. It seemed everyone had an opinion on the new legislation, and local restaurant owners reported that they gained about as much business as they lost.
26. Madam president. Right as students were returning to (snowy) Grounds following winter break, the UVA board of visitors voted unanimously to appoint Teresa Sullivan as the University’s eighth president, to replace John Casteen in August. Sullivan, UVA’s first female president, left her post as provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of Michigan to sign a five-year contract at UVA.
Noises off. Belmont restaurant, bar, and music venue Bel Rio sparked an ongoing debate in Charlottesville about appropriate noise complaints, which ultimately led the City Council to unanimously vote to ban amplified evening music over 65 decibels in the neighborhood. A few months later, a sign on the restaurant’s door announced that it would be closed for a couple weeks, but owner Jim Baldi was nowhere to be found.
27. Love lost. UVA lacrosse player Yeardley Love was found dead in her off-campus apartment around 2am on May 3, 2010. Police arrested fellow UVA student and men’s lacrosse player George Huguely hours later, charging him with first-degree murder and taking him to the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. Huguely admitted to kicking down Love’s bedroom door and shaking her, and said her head repeatedly hit the wall. Huguely, who was set to graduate with Love later that month, remained in jail while he awaited trial.
Bullied to death? On July 30, Virginia Quarterly Review’s managing editor Kevin Morrissey committed suicide, shocking his friends, family, and colleagues. Within days, anonymous critics began accusing VQR editor Ted Genoways of being a “workplace bully,” and contributing to Morrisey’s depression that ultimately led to his suicide. In September, Genoways broke his silence and addressed the questions, claiming that he was the same person in every area of his life, and wouldn’t have been able to hide it if he had indeed been a malicious bully.
Climate control. As reporters, we often make Freedom of Information Act requests to get the information we need in order to tell the full story. But in the spring of 2011, when UVA was hit with a FOIA request from the American Tradition Institution for documents tied to former climate scientist Michael Mann, President Teresa Sullivan said the school would “claim all available exemptions.” It became a long-running scandal and debate about climate change and academic freedom, which didn’t conclude for another few years. (January 18-24)
Read this first. In April 2011, long-time editor-in-chief Cathy Harding announced the end of her C-VILLE career. A native New Yorker who described herself as “highly skeptical of the south” when she arrived 17 years prior, Harding came to love Charlottesville, as so many of us do. After nearly a decade at C-VILLE, she said goodbye to her readership and headed back to New York.
New kid in town. A few months after Harding bowed out, Giles Morris stationed himself at the editor’s desk. A long-time writer who was raised by a journalist and a Congressional press secretary, being a journalist was in his blood. After bringing on an almost entirely new editorial team, he led the edit side of the paper for nearly three years.
No answer. Remember James Halfaday? To jog your memory, he was the Democratic City Council candidate who just couldn’t seem to keep himself out of trouble. Months after his bizarre claim to be part owner of Snap Fitness, he was served four charges of election fraud in October 2011. He came in last place in the seven-person race for the Democratic nomination, and in the fall his phone was disconnected, which reporters learned when they repeatedly tried to reach him.
Unoccupied? After months of camping out in Lee Park as part of the national Occupy movement, Charlottesville protesters met a similar fate to those in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. A small group of protesters sat on the ground on November 30, arms linked, ready for police to physically remove them. Eight men and 10 women were arrested. The day after the arrests, occupiers gathered at the Free Speech Wall to talk about the experience, and agreed to appear before City Council.
Media frenzy. Nearly two years after former UVA lacrosse player George Huguely was arrested following the death of Yeardley Love, reporters from all over the country arrived in Charlottesville for Huguely’s murder trial. He’d been held without bond at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, and on February 6, his trial for first degree murder, robbery of a residence, burglary, entering a house with an intent to commit a felony, and grand larceny began. Jury deliberations began on February 22, and Huguely was sentenced to 26 years in prison. C-VILLE freelancer J. Tobias Beard followed the trial closely, cranking out daily updates for the website and a long-form feature story.
Wage wars. Student members of the Living Wage Campaign told UVA President Teresa Sullivan on February 8 that if the University didn’t agree to raise the minimum wage for its employees from $10.65 to $13 an hour, they would “take action to publicize the unjust wages and unpleasant practice currently in place at our University.” True to their word, 12 students began fasting on February 18. The strike ended on March 1, after University officials refused to raise the minimum wage.
Waters works. Charlottesville’s food community buzzed with excitement in April 2012, when Alice Waters came to town for a dinner for big-ticket Monticello donors. While she was here, the famed chef and owner of Berkeley, California’s Chez Panisse restaurant made a stop at Buford Middle School’s City Schoolyard Garden to chat with students, teachers, and administrators about the importance of growing your own food.
Sullivan stays. It was a big summer for UVA. On June 10, an e-mail went out to the University community announcing that President Teresa Sullivan would step down from her position on August 15 of that year, after serving only two years of a five-year contract. After weeks of rallies, meetings, press conferences, faculty resignations, and extensive coverage by C-VILLE (two reporters spent the night in the Rotunda awaiting the results of a marathon Board of Visitors meeting), the Board unanimously voted to reinstate Sullivan on June 26.
28. Dumb and Dumler. ’Twas a year of scandal, indeed. On October 17, former Albemarle County Supervisor Chris Dumler, the 27-year-old Scottsville resident and youngest Supervisor in the county’s history, was arrested on charges of forcible sodomy. He spent two nights in jail and was released on a $50,000 bond, and so began a long process of petitions, rallies, court dates, and residents demanding him to resign. It wasn’t until January of 2013 that he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of sexual battery, and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, which he served on weekends.
29. Searching for Sage. Transgender teen Dashad “Sage” Smith was last seen along West Main Street two days before Thanksgiving 2012. According to police, the 19-year-old CHS grad had been in contact with 21-year-old Erik McFadden by phone soon before vanishing. After speaking with police once, McFadden, too, disappeared and is considered a person of interest in the case. Two years later, Smith has not been found.
School’s in session. With the new year came big changes at the old Jefferson School. On January 7, the Jefferson School City Center officially opened its doors to the public, kicking off a costly and hopeful experiment to preserve local history and provide services for the underserved communities close to downtown. The large, two-story brick building, which was built as the city’s first African American high school in 1926, was converted into a home for nonprofits including the YMCA Child Care Learning Center, the African American Heritage Center, and Common Ground Healing Arts.
Where’s the beef? It’s not every day that a Living section story about grub sparks an online debate and a whole slew of angry comments. But in January 2013, we published a story about burgers by local food writer Preston Long. He compared the burgers at The Lunchbox, newly opened Citizen Burger Bar, Mel’s Diner, Riverside Lunch, and Fox’s Cafe. Readers chastised him for overlooking other local spots like Positively Fourth Street and Boylan Heights, and for boldly claiming that the best burger he’d had all year was one he made in his own kitchen.
Creature comforts. When you think of UVA, what comes to mind? Thomas Jefferson? The nationally recognized business, law, and medical schools? Students and faculty on Grounds are doing a lot more than preparing for the corporate world, and the 2013 Stan Winston Arts Festival of the Moving Creature was the perfect example of what goes on behind the scenes at UVA. In honor of the late special effects master Stan Winston, a year-long creature-building workshop culminated in a free festival in April, which showcased the giant creepy crawly creatures they designed and built in the class.
Passing the torch. June 4 went down as an historic moment in the Charlottesville food scene. Long-time C&O Restaurant owner Dave Simpson bowed out, and handed the restaurant over to chef Dean Maupin. C&O has been a local staple for decades, and loyal guests and barflies were concerned that the spirit of the place would be lost without Simpson’s guidance. Seems Maupin has kept it the same in all the important ways.
On the road. We, along with every other news organization in the area, have been reporting on the Western Bypass for years. (And years and years and years.) The story just wouldn’t seem to end, and we decided to take a different approach to telling it. After weeks of extensive digging, reporting, writing, and collaborating with local tech company VibeThink, we published The Road, a multimedia online story about the three-decade debate over the Bypass. It garnered web traffic and national attention like we’ve never seen before, being a small local alt weekly, and it prompted our decision to begin publishing single-scroll multimedia stories on a regular basis.
A long-time editor looks back
“Say goodbye to your family.” That was Bill Chapman talking to me in January 2002. I was two, maybe three days into my new job as editor of C-VILLE Weekly. He was an owner of the paper, glad to be relieved of temporary editing duties. Chaos hovered in the South Street offices what with a skeleton editorial staff remaining, precious few stories in the line-up, and a din of intrigue in the greater world (meaning, Mudhouse) about a competing weekly set for imminent launch.
So began nine of the most professionally rewarding years of my life.
The nights were long, but within months the early churning clarified into everyday routines and then those gave rise to fresh challenges. The paper across the street made for healthy competition. The staff there had a taste for crime stories and civic nuisance, and they enjoyed the luxury (counter-intuitive as it sounds) of a small page count. C-VILLE was big and took the lead from a business angle, but how would we enhance our position editorially?
Enter the Era of Special Sections. In those early years, we launched Abode, C (first known as Sugar and before that briefly as Flow), Bites & Sights and Unions. These days C-VILLE Kids has been added to the mix, with an upscale food and drink magazine set to launch next year. Seems fair to say that C-VILLE upped the game of service journalism in Charlottesville. Hello, new readers. Hello, new dollars. And welcome to innovative stories and design that celebrated the city’s creative surge, be it locally sourced haute fusion cuisine, eco-sensitive housing blueprints, or romance of the rich and nuptialed.
Ramping up arts and culture reporting, too, was a no-brainer. From Day 1 in 1989, C-VILLE owned Charlottesville’s pop life, and I wanted to be sure it stayed that way. More cover stories about the burgeoning local arts scene. More column inches for arts updates and reviews. New contributing writers. Videos!
For better or worse, we were guided by an idea something like this: Capture Charlottesville’s beating heart beyond the red bricks and try to limit our complaints about life in a pretty sweet, if admittedly self-satisfied, town.
I signed off on my last issue three years ago. Of course I’m gratified that any of those innovations live on. If they endure, it’s because of a strong foundation. Three downtown locations, four publishers, and more than 480 regular issues and at least 125 special sections later, what am I talking about? The writers.
Anyone paying the slightest attention knows that the business of journalism has been in upheaval for the past decade. Ways to make money and ways to reach readers inspire constant debate. But few dispute the importance of a newsroom. It’s an incubator, classroom, and locker room combined. Occasionally, it feels like a courtroom. And, when I reflect on my nine-plus years leading the charge at C-VILLE, the work of coaching writers stays with me most. Readers can decide the merit of our experiments; I will state unreservedly I loved the lab work.
Well more than two-dozen staff writers and editors collaborated over the nine years. Some joined the staff as interns and made their way to staff writer and editor, and some were hired on the strength of their handshake. Others came to C-VILLE with experience and recognized the chance to go deep fast at a small, writer-focused paper. More than three were poets. One arrived trailing criminal activity (whoops!) and was replaced quickly. Another stopped in for an interview en route to Germany and stayed for seven years. Several converted their reporting and writing skills into academic research. Each of them left an indelible mark.
A few years ago, a prospective employer reached me looking for a reference for a former staff writer. This is what I said: “Give him a drop of water and a whole plant will bloom.” That’s how I felt about nearly all the staff I worked with in more than nine years. And the beautiful thing was that the writers provided a whole lot of that water—encouragement, laughs, ideas, and more—to each other. Many gardeners nourished the field. It was an incredible privilege to foster that experience and watch it up close. Looking back, I was so lucky I should have played the lottery.
I appreciated the warning, but Bill Chapman was only half right. Yes, life changed dramatically once I took the job. Rather than shrinking, however, it expanded. I have never felt this way before or since working there, but when I was in the newsroom at C-VILLE I truly felt I was with family. Thanks, everyone. Happy Anniversary, C-VILLE, and good luck.—Cathy Harding
Cathy Harding is Special Assistant to the Dean of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York City. She was C-VILLE’s editor in chief from 2002 until 2011.
The unlikeliest editor
From C-VILLE to The Hook and back again
“Fake it till you make it.” Sure, it’s a tired cliché, and avoiding them is one of the first lessons that was hammered into me when I arrived at C-VILLE Weekly in March 1998. Still, it’s hard to find a more efficient way to describe what I needed to do in the early years of my Charlottesville journalism career. I had virtually no experience—I’d been an unpaid intern and then a part-time assistant editor for less than a year at Style Weekly in Richmond, had never written a story longer than 500 words, and hadn’t even worked for my college newspaper. But I desperately wanted to be a journalist, and for some inexplicable reason that C-VILLE co-founder and former editor Hawes Spencer and I still laugh about, he’d given in to my begging and offered me a newly created position with the important sounding title “deputy editor.” Putting a cub reporter in the role of supervising experienced journalists seems insane to me now, and, as you might imagine, it didn’t go well—they had to teach me, not the other way around. Fortunately, we all had healthy senses of humor, and nearly 17 years later as I consider where I started and where I’ve ended up, I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity.
In addition to Spencer, the C-VILLE newsroom of the late 1990s featured a rotating cast of characters including current TV and radio host Coy Barefoot, who wrote a colorful and opinionated weekly news roundup called The Skinny, renowned wedding photographer Jen Fariello, who was just starting her career, and Barbara Nordin, an intrepid journalist who wrote The Fearless Consumer column and inspired me with her in-depth crime reporting. There was plenty for her and others to write about. The baby switch case at UVA was picked up by national media and Barefoot got an exclusive interview with a former UVA nurse who explained why it shouldn’t have been surprising. Spencer and Nordin investigated a peephole into the ladies’ dressing room at a local dojo. Days after the story was published, the owner of that dojo committed suicide, sparking controversy and bringing more national attention.
Poring over old editions for this 25th anniversary issue, I remembered all of these stories vividly, and was struck by the absence of my byline. What the heck was I doing with my time? Apparently, since I didn’t know how to write, I was filling in wherever I was needed, including strutting West Main dressed as a prostitute in a cheap blonde wig and feather boa for a photo to accompany a feature on recent stings. Maybe being game for anything is the real secret to my longevity?
The trip down memory lane turned surreal for me as I reached the issues published in January 2002 when Hawes Spencer’s name suddenly dropped off the masthead and mine appeared for a single week as “interim editor” before Cathy Harding took over.
A rift between C-VILLE’s owners had prompted Spencer’s sudden departure that month, and as longtime local newswatchers know, within weeks he’d launched a new paper, and I’d left C-VILLE to join him as The Hook’s first employee.
Harding relates in her essay on page 33 that the next few years were a wild ride, as the two papers duked it out in a town that some might have thought was too small to support one. Time passed, the rivalry continued, and each paper sought to find its own niche: As Cathy describes, C-VILLE built a publishing empire of sorts, adding a suite of special publications to cover nearly every lifestyle angle from homes to weddings to raising kids. The Hook stayed leaner and focused increasingly on investigative news, a move that taught me to dig deeper and, along with my talented colleagues there, to build a portfolio of stories I still use as a reporting resource.
The small market size and the struggles facing newspapers across the country caught up to all of us several years ago, and the owners of The Hook and C-VILLE put the past behind them, bringing the two papers under a single corporate entity. When Spencer left The Hook in December 2012, it seemed inevitable that Charlottesville would eventually be down to one weekly. If you’d told me I’d end up as C-VILLE Weekly’s editor, however, I would have laughed at the suggestion.
I walked back through the C-VILLE doors last October, a month after The Hook published its final issue. I’d been kept on as a senior reporter, and while this time around I had plenty of experience, I was nervous for another reason: These people had been my rivals, and I wondered if I’d ever feel at home.
I shouldn’t have worried. Just like my first stint at C-VILLE, I found myself surrounded by smart, supportive colleagues who have helped me learn the ropes and have become my friends. Journalists, it seems, are my kind of people. Here’s to the next 25 years!—Courteney Stuart
The year that is
It’s not yet in our rear-view mirror, but 2014 has provided plenty of stories that have piqued our interest.
The Cavalier basketball team played in the Sweet 16 for the first time in decades, while UVA’s baseball and women’s soccer teams came this-close to claiming national championships.
It was almost the summer of gay Virginia.
Nancy Tramontin, wife of House Minority Leader David Toscano, was allegedly attacked in her home by a former tutor of the couple’s son.
An “enhanced” Belmont Bridge received City Council approval.
Crozet-based music merchandising company Musictoday was snapped up by San Francisco e-commerce firm Delivery Agent.
Lockn’ locked horns with the Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.
“Dear Dominion Power: We, the people, don’t want your pipeline! Love, Nelson County”