August 10th, 2005 WW Editorial Staff | Special Section Stories
 

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Charles Lewis and his Amphicar

Best Traveled Bus Driver

By definition, virtually all bus drivers cover thousands of miles each year. But traversing the likes of Burnside and Powell is what TriMet's William Johnson does to settle down. Previously a tour guide, the English-born Johnson, a 50-year-old with tattoos and a graying beard, has been to 96 countries on six continents. He's climbed Everest and Kilimanjaro, driven across the Sahara and kayaked down the Amazon. Frequently piloting the 75 and 33 lines, Johnson says his bus-driving gig isn't so different. "I get a kick out of seeing the world unfold on a daily basis," he explains. "It's fun, it's funny, it's sad.... There's never a dull day."

Best Beatles Brewer

John Lennon, CEO of Pyramid and Portland Breweries, hasn't always had a famous name. "My father's name was John Lennon and his father's name was John Lennon," Lennon says. "It's a pretty common name, actually." Born in 1954, Lennon enjoyed 10 years of solitary identification until a week before the Beatles made their famed appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on Feb. 9, 1964. That's when 15- and 16-year-old girls flooded his parents' telephone line looking for the foppish boy from Liverpool. He didn't mind the attention. Lennon has always kept a good sense of humor about sharing his name with a rock legend. "You know, when you have a famous name, your friends never call you 'John' or 'Lennon,' but 'John Lennon,'" he says.

"I was in a bar in New York City when I was in my early 20s and my friends were saying, 'John Lennon this' and 'John Lennon that.'" The bartender didn't seem to believe that was his real name and asked Lennon to prove it. "So I gave him my driver's license," Lennon recounts. "And the bartender said, 'That beer you're drinking is on me. And the next beer you drink is on me. And if you come back in here, it's on me.'" Lennon was surprised by the bartender's generosity. "Not that I didn't want the free beer, but I asked him why," Lennon said. "The bartender pulled out his driver's license and handed it to me. His name was Paul McCartney."

Most Photographed Punk Petitioner

Those kids. The ones who stand on street corners. The ones who, in a variety of rainbow-colored T-shirts, implore you to stop and "take a minute" for a variety of "good causes" (CARE, Children International, etc.). Yeah, those kids are super-annoying. But they're also super-cute and super-photogenic. These PYTs (pretty young things) have been hired by Dialogue Jobs (dialoguejobs.com) to pry 18 dollars out of your pocket on a monthly basis to "sponsor" everything from a far-off child to a water treatment center. One of the best, or at least most visible, is 19-year-old Chris Bar. He's only been here a few weeks, but this fresh-from-Sacramento fella has already signed up a ton of people-and he gets his photo taken at least 40 times a day. Maybe it's his smile. But we think tourists are more attracted to his tattoo-and-mohawked head and punked-up outfit. He sees his job, which he found on the Internet, "as a way to make a difference every day." And it sure beats getting your picture taken next to Pioneer Courthouse Square's umbrella dude.

Best Amphibious Achiever

With the music-education nonprofit he founded, Ethos Inc. (27 NE Killingsworth St., 283-8467, ethos-inc.com), growing by leaps and bassoons, one might think University of Portland/Harvard/Peace Corps alum Charles Lewis could walk on water. Not quite-but he can drive on it. Lewis plans to parlay a hobby that started when he bought an Amphicar on eBay (look for the high-finned, cherry-red number cruising down Willamette Boulevard and the Willamette River) into a land-and-sea tour service. Lewis saw Boston's Duck Tours in action during grad school, and he's adding an unsinkable 49-passenger Hydra-Terra to his fleet to start Portland Ducks (www.portlandducks.com). Tours will wind though downtown, to a boat launch off Southwest Macadam Avenue and up the river to Cathedral Park in St. Johns. In the meantime, driving straight into the river in his 1967 Amphicar is fun enough for Lewis-and a heck of a lot easier than messing with a boat trailer.

Best Named Rose Court Also-Ran

March of Dimes volunteer, multisport athlete, yearbook editor, pre-med pre-frosh at Portland State...Marshall High's Lily Bosombath sounded like a solid bet for 2005's Rose Festival Queen. And while Lily, whose family is from Laos, didn't end up winning (the crown went to someone from, uh, Vancouver), in the name game she left all the dime-a-dozen Watsons, Wus and Montoyas in the dust with a moniker that sounds like a character out of Strawberry Shortcake slash fiction, crossed with a luxe spa treatment and a flower-petaled act of love. Its actual meaning? "Treasure," says Lily. Awwww.

Best Tao of Tow

Tina Geldrich, 39, has a way with people. Which is a good thing, as the customer-service rep of Security Towing and Recovery (1625 NW Raleigh St. 274-2812) regularly sees people at their worst. Face it, the lowly tow-truck office is second only to the DMV in customer freak-outs. Luckily, Geldrich has the preternatural ability to turn her customers' irrational anger into Zen-like complacency-well, mostly, anyway. Besides, anyone threatening violence will find more than just their rig locked up. Just because someone has a heart of gold, that doesn't mean she'll take any crap.

Best Barbarian at the Gates

"So there is no confusion about the Orange Goatee," says Bruce Guenther, 57, the mastermind behind Portland Art Museum's new Center for Modern and Contemporary Art, "it was a specific performative action linked to the Gates and of the same duration as The Gates Project." This smart-and-arty fella was talking, of course, about dyeing his normally salt-and-peppery beard a certain shade of saffron when he joined a group of art-loving PAM supporters for a wintry jaunt through Christo and Jeanne-Claude's much-ballyhooed Orange Crush-colored Gates of New York. A constant work in progress, Guenther was recognized by BOP back in 2001 for his all-over body tattoo.

Best Big Box Ambassador

Greeter Anna Young works the main entrance of the Interstate Fred Meyer (7404 N Interstate Ave., 286-6751) like an experienced politician, cheerfully hailing regular shoppers, flirting with cranky kids and occasionally slipping a quarter or three to a mom who comes up short on the grocery bill. Young's bosses claim the five-year veteran serves as a secret weapon to attract regular shoppers. But Young has her own deal closer, a Julia Roberts-esque toothy smile that turns goofy when capped with a cross-eyed stare. "It makes people happy," says Young, a diminutive grandmother of three. "I usually look real serious, and people don't expect it." Smile check on aisle three!

Most Overexposed Unknown Talk-Show Host

Describing The Famous Mysterious Actor Show (thefmashow.com) is a bit like trying to describe a sleep-deprived, sugar-fueled hallucination. The bizarre talk show that started as live performance art can be seen on Comcast Channel 14 (Sunday nights at 10 pm, currently on summer hiatus). Hosted by Famous Mysterious Actor-a savantlike boogeyman in a Mexican wrestling mask-it has little to do with the guests, who include local celebrities usually left speechless. What makes it great is watching FMA down massive amounts of sugar, hearing him taunt everyone from his guests to his audience, and knowing that anything can-and may-happen.

Tastiest House Calls

Naturopathic physician Rebecca Akin (Everyday Wellness Clinic, 1033 SW Yamhill St., #300, 222-1315) holds to the wacky notion that the food you eat has everything to do with your health. Not only does she preach healthy eating, she makes housecalls to patients' kitchens to make sure they are following doctor's orders. Through a combination of private and public cooking lessons and personal-chef services (look for her classes at Whole Foods Market), Dr. Akin, unlike the dead Dr. Atkins, shows patients how delicious "healthy" can be.

Best Man to Lay Your Bricks

Pop quiz: What's the sound of one brick-laying hottie doing a remarkably good deed? No, this isn't one of those crazy Zen koans. As it turns out, the all-too-rare combo of bulging biceps and kindness has a name: Portlander Matthew King. Last year, King took part in a project through Global Volunteers (800-487-1074, www.globalvolunteers.org) and spent three weeks putting his construction skills to use in a shelter for homeless children outside Madras, India. "It's pretty unusual for people to spend their own money to go overseas and volunteer," remarked Barb DeGroot of Global Volunteers. Unusual? Yes. Necessary? But of course.

Best Soul Gardener

Melissa Bolund has a green thumb, and then some. As a therapeutic horticulture activity specialist and co-owner of SugarSnap LLC (melissabolund@hotmail.com, 971-998-8285), Bolund works with teens at the De Paul Center, Alzheimer's patients at St. Aidan's Assisted Living and trauma patients at Legacy Emanuel Hospital, showing people in need how to grow therapeutic landscapes and container gardens. With her leafy wisdom, Portland is a greener place to live.

Best Ass Pedaler

Boy-toy Casey Martell's female clients are his favorite. "I've never had my legs up in the air for so long," one of them exclaimed at her bachelorette party. "There were nine or 10 women," Martell recalls, "so she had to balance on my bicycle seat." What sort of wild sex-on-wheels spectacle is Martell operating? The city's best (and looks like only) pedi-cab service, Portland Rose Pedals (421-7433, rosepedals.com). Since 2002, Martell and his trailer-towing red bicycle have serviced a clientele that ranges from pampered (he once got a $100 tip from a someone purporting to be a real, live prince) to punk. He does most of his business on Friday and Saturday nights shuttling partygoers and working only for tips, but he's also available for hire for the hourly rate of $40. Martell's company motto? "Pedaling ass all around town."

Best Man to Get You Hot and Bothered

It might be the bald head, the laid-back style (courtesy of an education at Humboldt State) or the self-deprecating sense of humor. Whatever the secret sauce, personal trainer Jeremy Hyatt, 33, is so popular there is a waiting list for his time. And busy he is: In addition to working one on one with his clients at the RiverPlace Athletic Club (0150 SW Montgomery St., 221-1212) to build up their pecs and slim down their glutes, he teaches swimming, trains triathletes and has the best music for a spinning instructor this side of Detroit. TLC? Fatboy Slim? He's got it all.

Best Kanye West Impersonator

While Chicago's claim to hip-hop fame was West's Grammy for his single "Jesus Walks" earlier this year, Portland's own Chicago-bred freestyler was bleating Christianity via verse on Portland State University's stretch of the South Park Blocks. Cedric Jenkins can be found-or more likely heard-shouting rhythmic bursts of gospel any given day of the workweek. The bespectacled man in a hooded sweatshirt usually makes about $40-$60 a day on campus, but, during the lean months of summer and on the weekend, he takes his show north to the corner of Southwest Park Avenue and Alder Street.

Best Mini-Massage from Someone in Touch with His Senses

Forget those "magic" finger chairs. Next time you're at Lloyd Center Mall, check out Magical Mall Massages (2201 Lloyd Center, 274-9451). At a kiosk near the second-floor entrance to Meier & Frank, 10 bucks buys you a 10-minute massage from a real, live LMT. "All touch is beneficial," says masseur Dave Kingery. He should know. Though legally blind, Kingery's sense of touch is at least 20/20. And he'll even give you a free sample so that you can "see" for yourself.

Best Worst Writer

"You have to be so good to be so bad,"says Portlander Lester Guyse, 66, a retired fraud investigator who earned Dishonorable Mention for his bad writing in this year's national Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (www.bulwer-lytton.com). He shows with his winning piece that writing bad is harder than it looks: "The rising sun crawled over the ridge and slithered across the hot barren terrain into every nook and cranny like grease on a Denny's grill in the morning rush, but only until eleven o'clock when they switch to the lunch menu."

"I think that spoofing and satire are definitely under-appreciated," says Guyse of the genre. "I thought to myself, What if I just wrote, but did it badly?" But his intentions are more than simply satirical. He says, "We should all write with levity and fairness. We all need laughs in this world!" This Portlander is determined to stick around the bad-writing scene for a while. "I've already got two more submissions ready. I'm pushing for the pith next year."

Best Elvis Rocker Who Keeps on Rolling (#1)

"I'm all shook up," local Elvis impersonator Lester Small Jr. says with a laugh when asked how he was doing. Although the big-hearted Small lost his leg during a freak tree-climbing accident, he says the show must go on. Recently outfitted with a prosthetic leg, Small continues to wiggle his hips and love his audiences tender. "I'm eating lots of jelly doughnuts to keep my vocal chords in tune," says the longtime King of Rock 'n' Roll impressionist, who has been entertaining audiences for more than 20 years. If you can't make one of his sequin-ensconced personal appearances (listed at www.elvisnostalgia.com), just look for the St. Johns Safeway greeter with the "Elvis" nametag. He'll be the one who says as you leave, "Thankyouverymuch."

Best Elvis Rocker Who Keeps on Rolling (#2)

He lives! He breathes! He's the best student in the free Swahili class at Voodoo Doughnut! "You're obviously terrified, because you've never interviewed a celebrity of my caliber before. It's OK. I'm just a common man," says John Schroeder, the jumpsuited Lincoln High graduate who has performed in Portland as "Elvis" as long as the real King did during his life, 23 years to be exact. Old Town's ever-ready Elvis can currently be caught at Saturday Market and at Dante's "Karaoke from Hell" on Monday nights. Schroeder has recently expanded his résumé, appearing as baddie Master of Brutality in the Portland Organic Wrestling series. Do the bad guys always win? Says this Elvis, "Not always."

Best Guy to Get You Amped Up

North Portland's Leighton Audio (3624 N Mississippi Ave., 367-5725) is the spot to stop when your '67 Fender amp misses the beat. This one-stop amp shop is owned and operated by musician cum fix-it-man Jeff Brown, a Baltimore transplant who has been working with old-school amplifiers for 15 years. Although he swung open his doors this spring, Brown has yet to replace the Sharpie-on-paper sign in the window. He's way too busy playing with the Evolutionary Jass Band, covering Rolling Stones songs with the Miss U's, and toiling away in his shop, where glass tubes clutter the high-ceilinged room. "I fix amps, I build amps, I sell amps," Brown says. "It's pretty much all about amps."

Best Bike Re-Cycler

For the past year Robert Stapleton has been crafting some of the city's most unusual artwork. But you won't see it hangin' around a museum anytime soon. No, his pedal-operated bike creations can only be found chained to a street pole at Gretchen's Restaurant (940 SE Morrison St., 234-4086), where interested buyers can leave their inquiries. From tall bikes and choppers to crazy clown bikes and cruisers, Stapleton does it all with recycled parts from discarded bikes and other creative improvisations. And most days you can find him hard at work in front of Gretchen's building his latest beast, whether it be for a friend or an interested passerby. "He's a friggin' genius," says Gretchen.


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