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August 9th, 2006 WW Editorial Staff | Special Section Stories
 

Best of Portland: PEOPLE

     
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Jonny Schultz with q6 model
IMAGE: JENNA BIGGS
Best Hot House

A stroll around Space Design, Martie Accuardi's lush 1904 Lair Hill Queen Anne design studio (3729 SW Kelly Ave., 274-8800) and sunny surroundings makes you want her life. You can get a bit of it by subscribing to her stunning "Orchid of the Month Club" or stopping by her "botanical bar" to craft your own custom arrangement. Accuardi's design merges the indoors with the outdoors in her design, and she's beautified everything from commercial parking lots to Alameda homes, with her floral arrangements adorning dining establishments like Nostrana. It doesn't hurt that in a movie of her career she'd totally be played by Michelle Pfeiffer. Hot. Hot. Haute.

Best Reason to Get Well(s)

Let's face it: Running a nonprofit takes dough, which is in short supply when dozens of other do-gooders compete for the loyalty of the same deep-pocketed Portlanders. Enter the incredibly entertaining (and ever so pretty) auctioneer Johnna Wells, who's done auctions for over 20 years (she started helping her auctioneer dad as a kid) and says she raises a total of about $1 million annually for organizations like p:ear and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. "An auction is definitely like a performance," the fast-talking Wells says. "If the guests aren't entertained, they won't come back next year." With over 35 auctions planned in the coming year, Wells keeps them coming back.

Best Ally for Early-Achievers

The accepted wisdom says that kids today have little social conscience beyond networking their MySpace pages. Most schoolteachers want to change that, but one Portland educator is doing more. Michael Becker created and runs the eighth-grade internship program at Gilkey Middle School that has placed more than 400 kids in environmental and social-service organizations as diverse as Friends of Trees and Nike's Footwear Sustainability program over the past seven years. Changing perceptions isn't easy—along with teaching history and English, Becker makes about 2,000 calls a year for the program—but he says it's worth it. "The earlier kids get involved in the community, the more likely they are to be active later."

Best Visually Impaired Gear-Head

The proprietor of Free Wheel Bikes (5969 SE 18th Ave., 235-6290, freewheelbikes.net), Sellwood's smallest bike shop, would love to fix your bike, and he's confident he can do it well. And he's not about to let the fact that he can't see your bike stop him. Although Steve Long is completely blind (the result of genetic retinal deterioration diagnosed 10 years ago), what he lacks in vision he makes up for in tactile skills: The man operates by feel. After his worsening vision forced him out of other jobs, he found himself at an old hobby, repairing and rebuilding bikes of all types. His philosophy is simple. "I'm here to help the neighborhood, not make big profits," he said on a recent afternoon outside his garage/shop, attached to his house just off Southeast 17th Avenue. Although he might take a little while to do the work (and dropping small pieces is an even bigger problem than usual), Long will get to know any bike to an almost uncanny extent. Combined with his colorful personality and encyclopedic knowledge of ocular diseases, he has made Free Wheel Bikes one of the most extraordinary bike shops around.

Best Heaven-Sent Billboard

You may think you're hallucinating the first time you see 45-year-old Brian Thompson on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Killingsworth Street. He looks out of place—stoic, usually overdressed, in sunglasses, holding a sign that reads "Jesus loves you," or some similar slogan. Thompson, whose greatest victory to date is the conversion of a prostitute who initially told him to get a job, stands on the corner for 30 to 40 hours a week, doing his service to the Lord. He claims "The Boss" miraculously pays his rent and bills for him, though he told WW he couldn't remember the earthly avenues the Lord uses for these expenses.

Best NightLighting Bandit

Like throwing rocks at beehives, biking is fun until somebody gets hurt—or worse. Bike lights and helmets greatly diminish cyclists' chances of serious bike-related injuries, but for some, safety equipment is simply unaffordable. That's where Jeff Bernards comes in. With a startup grant from the state Department of Transportation, Bernards founded Get Lit, a bare-bones nonprofit that's distributed 1,300 bike lights and 500 helmets since '03. Why does he do it? Because it's just stupid to bike without these things. "Whether it's money or ignorance," he says, "I'm thinking, 'how much medical bills can we save?'" Bernards doesn't want to give this stuff to just anybody—he believes those who can afford the equipment on their own should support local bike shops instead. He uses a self-styled "ninja" strategy: stopping people at night and offering lights to them on the street. Get Lit has no office, no fancy website and virtually no publicity. Bernards' targets have been grateful: Their small donations provide a third of Get Lit's budget.

Best Jonny-on-the-Spot-light

Is there something that 28-year-old Jonny Shultz isn't good at? The lanky indie boy is a modeling agent at Q6 Talent (q6talent.com). He designs and produces his own Lucky-approved ready-to-wear line, Jonny Shultz Designs—his latest collection of slimming, low-cut minidresses feature flirty crochet detailing. Speaking of crochet, he's been a whiz with the needle since age 5. Oh, and he also works as a freelance event producer...and he cooks...and volunteers...and, ah never mind. Bottom line? Jonny is Portland's answer to a modern Renaissance man. (We did unearth one thing he isn't good at: He doesn't drive. Which is, of course, all the more reason to love him, for being eco-friendly.) Cool.

Portland's Best Advertisement for Milk

On the summer's first 100-degree day, when the rest of us were scurrying for air con, Richard Vetsch, 83, put in another hard day's work on his family's Sauvie Island dairy farm, the last of more than three dozen dairies that used to dot the island. Vetsch says he no longer milks but still chases down wayward heifers, feeds calves and drives a pretty mean tractor. The best part of spending more than 60 years dairying? "Watching the sun come up over Mount St. Helens every morning." The secret of his longevity? "I drink about a half-quart of milk a day [unpasteurized and fresh from the cow] and eat all the ice cream and cheese I can get ahold of," Vetsch says.

Best Globe-Trotting Cowboy Clown-Roper

Transcending the boundaries of his Lithuanian and Jewish heritage, Leapin' Louie Lichtenstein has created a one-man spectacle with his high-energy and high-falutin' tricks. Dressed as a cowboy, Leapin' Louie (real name: David Lichtenstein) likes to twirl a lasso while astride his unicycle. Known as the clown from the red-nosed state of Oregon, Leapin' Louie raises money to travel for Clowns Without Borders, a group of funsters whose mission involves bringing laughter to people in countries that have suffered from wars and natural disasters. In January, Leapin' Louie (comedytricks.com) and an entourage of clowns entertained kids in Guatemala. No joke, cowpoke.Best String SergeantAmy Schwartz Moretti's antennae seem to be on alert whenever she walks onstage at the Schnitz. As concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony, Schwartz Moretti has an uncanny ability to listen to the first violin section, play the complex music in front of her, and watch Carlos Kalmar's magic wand as it slashes the air a few feet in front of her. Putting as much English on her violin as Venus Williams does on a tennis ball, Schwartz Moretti performs and leads with an intensity that has markedly improved the sound in the strings and inspired audiences as well. OK, she has drop-dead looks, too.

Best Imported Author

Portland's growing rep as a haven for young writers got another boost last fall when 34-year-old scribbler Justin Tussing moved to town for a teaching gig at Lewis & Clark College. Tussing, whose sublimely written first novel, The Best People in the World, was published by HarperCollins this spring, told WW he'll be sticking around the city for at least another year and would like to teach here long-term. Let's hope we can hold on to him.

Best Little Twins That Could

On June 19, 1959, an oversize truck delivered the (then) Portland Zoo Railway's steam locomotive, "Number One" (32 feet, 6 inches and 18,000 pounds) to the Oregon Centennial Faigrounds. The train made its noisy debut the next day. That same morning, future Metro Councilor David Lincoln Bragdon (20.5 inches and 6 pounds, 8 ounces) was delivered to the world. Number One is still pulling trains at Washington Park's Oregon Zoo, and Bragdon is now president of the Metro Council—which oversees the zoo. The twins celebrated their 47th birthday together last month by chugging from the zoo to the Washington Park Rose Garden and back. Choo, choo!

Best Reason to Hate da Mann

If you are in your early 20s and want to feel bad about how not cool you are, visit Zach Mann at his MySpace (myspace.com/izacmann) page. One of WW's very own interns (Josh Silverman) knew da Mann when he was a lowly sports contributor to Lewis & Clark College's newspaper, Pioneer Log. Little did anyone know he'd go on to become the school's most famous alumnus since "that intern with the blue dress" (a.k.a. Monica Lewinsky) by playing the "Friendly Jew" on MTV's Key West, Fla., version of The Real World. And now, when Silverman—a fellow descendant of Abraham—attempts to hook up with Mann via MySpace, it tells Silverman he has to be Mann's "friend" to see his profile. "Jeez, I thought we were friends, man!" says Silverman. Yeah, maybe on the reunion show.

Best Guy Who Walks the Walk

Steve Randolph is a good guy. He works for the Oregon Food Bank; he was in the Peace Corps; you can bet he recycles and flosses. He's the kind of guy who makes you feel selfish and irresponsible. Get ready to feel even guiltier: Last Saturday Randolph started hoofin' it through Kenya's arid, lion-infested Ewaso Nyiro Valley. That 180-mile hike might make you feel better, if you're not a great person—at least you're smart enough to avoid deserts and man-eaters. But wait until you hear the purpose of the 10-day trek: to benefit Kenyan children orphaned by AIDS. You are totally going to hell. A Proper Walk for Makindu (properwalk.com) benefits the Brownsville, Ore.-based Makindu Children's Program (makindu.org). Since 1998, the MCP, named for the village where it operates, has placed orphans in local foster homes, provided them with food and medical care, and taught them agricultural skills and AIDS awareness. Twenty-eight years ago, Randolph, along with walk organizer Mike Farley, was stationed at Makindu with the Peace Corps. A Proper Walk maintains the lasting connection he feels with the village. Walks in 2002 and 2004 raised a combined $90,000 (the cost of caring for each of the 120 orphans MCP helps is $300 per year). This year, the goal is $60,000. So enjoy your trip to the mall this weekend. Hopefully that Gap V-neck is consolation for your total moral deficiency.

Best Piercer to Get Punched By

Jon Guac at Robot Piercing (128 NW 23rd Ave., 224-9916) is probably not just one of the best piercers in Portland, but also one of its most generous. Confronted with a coiled multiple industrial piercing that was so complicated and tricky that two piercers turned it down as being beyond their skill, Guac proceeded to do it for a song, just because he enjoyed the creative challenge. Guac, despite his many years as a piercer, still gets excited about piercing as an art, and that sometimes makes him set aside the commerce aspect, to a degree. He has also started designing and making his own jewelry. Some of the more stunning pieces in Robot's unusually diverse and beautiful selection are made by Guac himself, who will work with you to custom-design the piece of your dreams.

Friendliest Gun-Savvy, Constitutionally Literate, Libertarian Bartender (With a Famous Name)

Tugboat Brewing Co. (711 SW Ankeny St., 226-2508) bartender John McEnroe (no, not that one) is one of those affable individuals who's just as measured, comfortable and chatty behind the bully pulpit of his bar counter as he is on a firing range with 12 shotgun novices. McEnroe has been many things, an NRA gun-safety instructor; Libertarian candidate for state representative, District 14 in '00; professional photographer; and father. Whether he's talking about the moral sclerosis of the Dems, tyranny by the majority, political correctness run amok or procedures for handling a stray handgun, a couple of things are clear: The genial McEnroe embraces true cracker-barrel conviviality, and he's nobody's fool.

Best Italian Barber

"The Barber" is a big slice of Americana—like streamlined chrome, jazz and skyscrapers. And (PC-ness aside) all the good barbers used to be Italian. Updating the venerable archetype from singing Neapolitans to tattooed stand-up guys from San Diego is 32-year-old Vinnie Baglioni of Rudy's Barbershop (3015 SE Division St., 232-3850). Outspoken yet cool, in the Lee Marvin sense, he'll give the elderly lady-next-door a dye job or deliver the most precise, classic high-and-tight cut you've ever seen. From talk of family (he loves his kids and isn't adverse to "cut up and put in my trunk" a misbehaving, disrespectful prom date) to arcane poetry like the history of Craftsman tools, the flathead six/fluid drive of a Dodge Coronet or other Mopar-aphernalia—Baglioni reinvigorates the man-to-man mutual agreement that makes the barbershop such a singular oasis.

Best Transgender, All-Vegan Bike Shop Owner

Transgender bike racer and Veloshop (211 SW 9th Ave., 335-8356, veloshop.org) owner Molly Cameron weeds out potential mechanic hires with the following job requirement: "Every woman that walks through the door of the shop must not feel intimidated or talked down to." Alrighty. A vegan since the year she got into racing (1999), Cameron opened the shop in '01, and started riding pro three years later (sponsored by Portland's badass frame builders Vanilla Bicycles). Now, the three-time Oregon State Racing Championship winner makes sure to stock the best equipment and strives to carry only goods that contain no leather or animal products of any kind. That means seats are made out of space-agey materials like "microtex." And you can bet there's a tofu-powered contingent of the Veloshop racing team, which currently boasts around 150 members.


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