Rare natural wonders

Peter Chang: The Incredible Disappearing Chef
Now you see him, now you don’t!

Foodies far and wide followed the elusive Peter Chang to our little hamlet earlier this year, hoping to taste just one delicious morsel of the chef’s scallion bubble pancakes. Or, at the very least, stand in the long line squished into the lobby of his Albemarle Square restaurant, Taste of China. Even more than the fiery taste of his vegetable stir-fry hot pot, nothing could draw the crowds like the reputation of Chang himself.

A former chef at the Chinese Embassy, Chang’s made a name for himself by cooking in a slew of strip mall restaurants and then leaving once the spotlight gets too bright. Last March, Charlottesville became just another in his string of culinary casualties. Privately, we blame the writers from Oxford American and The New Yorker, who outed his then-current post and encouraged everyone and their uncle to travel Route 29 to sample Chang’s famous flavors. Publicly, we brag because we got our own taste of China just before he vanished.




Cuccinelli: The Man with the Peanut-sized Brain
Don’t make the Cooch angry. You won’t like him when he’s angry

Eight months into his stint as Virginia’s Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli seems less like an attorney or general and more like the classmate who yells at you for not drawing inside the lines of your coloring book. Much like the breast of Roman goddess Virtus—exposed on the Virginia state seal, covered up on the pins distributed to the AG’s staff—our state’s legal border collie seems sent here to remind us that if we so much as cross that line, he’s telling on us.

To be fair, by “us,” we only mean academics who might be put off by The Cooch’s civil investigative demand for information on the grants of a former UVA climate scientist. And the civil rights enthusiasts who expressed their dismay when the AG told public universities they lacked authority to include sexual orientation in non-discrimination policies. And anyone who feels the affordable healthcare bill is constitutional. What do the next three years of his term hold for the Old Dominion? Color us curious. Just stay inside the lines when you do.




Gene Osborn: The Wizard of Osborn
Charlottesville’s star child is the city’s happiest band leader

Watching Gene Osborn perform, you might think the man fell to earth sometime between Ziggy Stardust and the Flaming Lips. The frontman of local pow-pow-power pop act We Are Star Children is, appropriately, radiant; his grin could be measured in watts, and it powers his fellow Star Children to feats of melodic heroism during each show. He’s the happiest man at any party. And chances are, he’s also the only one carrying his very own flute.

Woodwinds aside, Charlottesville has never seen or heard a bandleader quite like the Wizard of Osborn—and, if ever a wiz there was, Osborn is one because of the wonderful things he does. For the duration of each Star Children set, Osborn occupies some alternate universe where the melodies are fruitful and multiply, and the love is most definitely free. If you haven’t already, we urge you: Let the Gene shine in.




Tina Fey: World’s Funniest Wahoo
Creator of “30 Rock,” a Cavalier at heart…and a woman who won’t return our calls

We call her “Liz Lemon” and, you betcha, we call her “Sarah Palin.” But we also call her a Wahoo, even if the closest Tina Fey has come to the UVA Grounds since her 1992 graduation was thanking drama professors Betsy Tucker and Richard Warner at the Screen Actors Guild awards in January. And we’d call her direct, if we could.

We’d call and thank her for her years as head writer on “Saturday Night Live,” and praise her tolerance of Jimmy Fallon. Tell her we saw Date Night in the theater—twice—so we could watch her imitate a lip-smacking stripper. (“I’m not chewing gum!” she exclaims before dancing the “sexy robot” with Steve Carell.) Let her know she deserved better from Maureen Dowd’s profile in Vanity Fair, and from the Golden Globes in 2009. That she’s the female Judd Apatow. Or, that he’s the male Tina Fey. No, he isn’t. Not even close.

We’d call her just to say we miss her. Or, if you’re reading this, our Cavalier comedienne, you can call us. Anytime. (434) 817-2749, extension 40. Ask for Brendan.






Halsey Minor: The Man in the Million-dollar Suit
Many have taken him on in court, few have prevailed

Halsey Minor is Charlottesville’s answer to Pamela Anderson. And not just because they made headlines together: He hasn’t paid his California state taxes and neither has she. And similarities with the Canadian bombshell don’t end here. There’s their tenacity, too. She won’t give up her hold on fame, even if no one cares anymore, and he won’t give up on the Landmark Hotel, even if everyone else has.

This remarkable quality has led him to legal victories that were once deemed dubious. He won his lawsuit against Christie’s International auction house. But even more pertinent for locals, he won in the arbitration hearing against former Landmark developer Lee Danielson.

Which bring us to the math: Minor got close to $9 million from Christie’s and $6.4 million from the Landmark arbitration, totaling $15.4 million. If he repays the state of California the $13 million he owes in taxes, $2.4 million could be left over for the hotel. Doors and windows, maybe?




Duane Snow, Rodney Thomas, Ken Boyd: The Amazing Three-Headed Republican
Delivering crushing blows to Albemarle County since 2008

Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, was a 1964 tokusatsu kaiju film, fifth in the series involving Godzilla. As the story goes, Ghidorah comes to earth, spreads panic and is woefully defeated by a triad of menacing monsters: Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra.

In Albemarle County, a different kind of creature is afoot: the Three-Headed Republican. Duane Snow, Rodney Thomas and Ken Boyd set out to make Albemarle the hot spot for new businesses with Boyd’s six-point action plan, endorsed by his fellows. The plan calls for increased economic development, decreased regulation, and reduced government spending on things like schools.

But while they may have three heads, they apparently have only one mouth—Boyd’s—for Thomas has admitted, “we sort of give him the reigns to be the spokesperson.”

Think Godzilla with a microphone.




Matthew Steven Rooks: The Phlash
Outperforms famous bands, using only nature’s treasures

Just as superheroes tend to be christened in toxic waste, it was an unfortunate set of circumstances that earned the Phlash his moniker. At last December’s Phish concert at JPJ, Matthew Steven Rooks was so overcome with euphoria when the band broke into “Ya Mar” that he dropped trou—we’re talking bucky naked—leapt the gate, and danced alongside the band before being nearly torn apart by a team of livid security guards. Though unanimously condemned by the guards, the Phlash’s coming out proved controversial in an online Phish message board, eliciting responses that ran from positive (“Thought Naked Guy totally lightened the mood for the band and the audience and made for a great show!”) to competitive (“my naked experience 11/6/98 was better than yours”) to encouraging (“If it happens again I hope it’s a Phishette”).

But like many a superhero, the Phlash prevailed. “I asked Trey if I could kiss him,” he later said in an interview, posted on a Facebook page created in his honor. “Not in a sexual way,” Phlash told the guitar god, standing naked before a captive audience of 12,000. Mr. Anastasio consented.




Miljenko Matijevic: The Man with the Golden Throat
Mimics the greats with a throat of the most malleable metal

History has not looked kindly upon the generation of double bass drums, guitars that could kill, and, most of all, shrieking men with long, beautiful hair. Look no further than Sebastian Bach, Axl Rose and Bret Michaels, whose modern-day pursuits are tabloid fodder at best or the subject of reality TV shows at worst.

The Man With the Golden Throat—excuse us, Miljenko Matijevic—is a rare exception. The local studio owner has parlayed a career as a platinum-selling hard rocker in the band SteelHeart into a phenomenon whose ability to show up in strange places is rivaled only by lint. Two decades after grunge slapped the mascara off rock’s face, Matijevic took us on a joyride to the ’80s as Mark Wahlberg’s singing voice in 2001’s Rock Star. (If you’ve seen Boogie Nights, you know that Wahlberg’s pipes could use a little polish.) And this year, Matijevic made headlines again when he joined forces with the remaining members of The Doors to sing Jim Morrison’s parts during a month-long American tour.

With hair metal’s glory days fading fast, chances are the Man with the Golden Throat will turn up in someone else’s skin before long—and we’re not just talking about his leather pants.




The Charlottesville Derby Dames: Firebrands We Know as Helen Wheels
They’re cruisin’ for bruisins’

Stand back, folks. Those ain’t training wheels you’re seeing. It takes a special kind of woman to whip it good, but our local pack of jammers were born ready. Helmets firmly secured and knee pads in place, these mistresses of mayhem practice four times a week to prepare for their near-monthly matches where they push boost, throw down and give back. (By that we mean, a portion of the group’s proceeds often go to area nonprofits.) And they win, too. The Dames have a 5-1 record.

Sure, by day, these princesses of pain play the roles of librarians, dog walkers and school teachers. But, by night, they transform into Apple Clobber, Matilda Molish and Rex Nightly: your friendly neighborhood thrashers. When it comes time to check themselves (before they wreck themselves), these ladies of latent aggression are out to prove one thing: There’s nothing fair about this sex.




Monica Wright: The Human Dribbling Machine
Racking up accolades—and her career is just beginning!

And with the number 22 jersey, at 5’11", the guard from Forest Park High School in Woodbridge,Virginia, born July 15, 1988, in San Antonio, Texas, named ACC All-Freshman Team (2006-07), ACC Rookie of the Year (2006-07), ACC All-Tournament Team (2007-08), Second Team All-ACC (2007-08), First Team All-ACC (2008-09), named ACC Player of the Year only one day after she was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year, leading the league in scoring with a 23 points-per-game average and also leading the league in steals at 3.6 steals per game, becoming UVA’s all-time leading scorer with 2,540 points, and the Number 3 scorer in ACC history, she was second overall pick at the 2010 WNBA draft to the Minnesota Lynx, sports fans, here is Monicaaaaa Wrighttttttttttttttttttttt!










Gary O’Connell: The Inexhaustible Public Servant
His glass is half full

After 15 years of grueling four-hour City Council meetings, increasingly depressing budget work sessions, record-setting snowstorms, nasty-grams from irritated citizens and public confrontations, who would have blamed former Charlottesville City Manager Gary O’Connell for stepping out of the fray with his next career move. A quiet pre-retirement gig taking tickets at a movie theater, maybe? But defying all logic and expectations, O’Connell dove right into the deep end by taking a new job as Executive Director of the Albemarle County Service Authority. We are talking about water, people, and water in Charlottesville and Albemarle can mean only one thing: trouble. The water debate, complete with dredging studies and a proposed dam redo, has been a flashpoint for local governments and citizens for years. O’Connell either has a thirst for contention or an unquenchable desire to serve the public. Talk about Aquaman…!



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