Best Local Artist 2008 | Clifton Childree | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

The self-taught experimental filmmaker and artist creates throwback black-and-white slapstick horror movies reflecting an upbringing one could call Southern Gothic. As a tyke, Childree spent his summers with his grandparents in Mobile, Alabama, where his budding imagination romped wild. His granny, Doris Wall, had been a Vaudeville performer as a young girl. Grandpap J.F. Walls regaled the impressionable Childree with lurid tales of his adventures as a sea salt. Childree recollects that Doris once lost her glass eye through the wooden slats of a pier and he helped fish for it. His mother, Barbara Doetsch, who had once been a Catholic nun but gave up the church to raise a family, was a creative influence as well. She spooled Super8 horror reels for the young Childree at their Plantation home, infecting him with the celluloid bug. The 37-year-old auteur went on to helm The Flew, rated one of the top 50 midnight movies of the past decade. His quirky shorts earned him in recent years the South Florida Consortium and Native Seeds grants. It Gets Worse, Childree's latest opus, unfolds the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-like account of a seafarer whose scrotum blows up to monstrous proportions when his deadly alter ego possesses him. The filmmaker says he was inspired by a story his grandpa once told him about a visit to Brazil, where he encountered a man suffering from elephantiasis, which caused his balls to grow so large he had to cart them around in a wheelbarrow when out on the town. The amazing thing about Childree's irreverent, hallucinatory productions is that he writes, directs, produces, and stars in them.

Don't tell Christina you liked Million Dollar Baby. She's heard it before, and if that's your only reference for women's boxing, she knows you don't know anything. The number one amateur female boxer in the United States trains at the South Florida Boxing gym, where she sometimes spars with men, including her boyfriend, though she says they can't forget she is a girl; they just don't hit hard enough. Not a problem when she's fighting other women. In 2007, she was the National Golden Gloves Champion, and she's hungry for more titles. Christina dreamed of going to the Olympics when she was a girl, and she thought swimming might take her there. But during her senior year on the Hurricanes swim team, she suffered a shoulder injury. That was four years ago. After college, she craved the competition of her life in the pool, and she found boxing. As a leader in the sport, she might have made it to the Olympics in 2008, but a motion to add women's boxing to the games was denied. She was disappointed, but she's already looking forward to the next national championship. Don't feel bad for her: She's tough.

For a while, having Scott Storch as a friend was pretty cool. After all, who doesn't want a pal who owns a 10-bedroom, $10-million waterfront palace on Palm Island with a Ferrari 612 Scaglietti and a Bugatti Veyron 16.4 in the driveway? This is a guy who makes beats for Lil Wayne, Fat Joe, and 50 Cent. But it turns out the multimillionaire music producer isn't so cool. This past January, his baby's mama, Dalene Jennifer Daniel, accused Storch of being a deadbeat dad. In Miami-Dade court documents, Daniel claims Storch is habitually late with his $7,500-a-month child support payments for their two-year-old son, Jalen. In addition, Storch's check to enroll his kid in the Florida Prepaid College Plan bounced. Storch's son is not the only one getting the shaft. The music mogul owes $445,916 in property taxes since 2006 and, this past December, paid the IRS $79,259 in back taxes. The guy is so broke he listed his $20-million, 117-foot yacht, Tiffany, for auction on eBay. Reserve bid: $600,000.

Perhaps Jim Hampton was a victim of that old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." Maybe he was just lucky, but Hampton's years as a journalist led him to some of the most talked-about news stories of the past 40 years. He was in Chicago for the 1968 Democratic National Convention and at Kent State only a couple of years later. It would be at the Miami Herald, though, where he and his editorial board deservedly won a Pulitzer Prize in connection with their work on freeing 2,000 Haitians trapped at the Krome Detention Center. Hampton was a beloved editor whose troops spoke about him with adoration — and who spoke about the newspaper's reporters in a kind way that was never the norm at the Magic City's largest daily. Once long ago, when a Herald scribe who happens to be editor of New Times now, was at dinner with the kindly gent in Tallahassee after an arduous legislative session, Hampton turned and said, "You know, you guys kicked ass this session. It's too bad we can't get more of [those damn legislators] indicted." Hampton was a brilliant, hard-working, hard-drinking Heraldite who toiled for the paper from 1978 to 1998 through some of the most interesting years Miami has ever seen. It was also he who supervised cartoonist Jim Morin when he won a Pulitzer. And it was he who died — far too soon — in early February at age 73. We'll miss you, Jim.

Five years ago, on a cool September evening, Miami Police stopped Sisser while he was driving in Coconut Grove with a known drug dealer in the passenger's seat. The cops found four bags of crack cocaine and a homemade glass pipe used to smoke the drug. Sisser was charged with third-degree felony coke possession and possession of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor. At the time, he was the most powerful lobbyist at the Miami-Dade School Board. Following his arrest, he entered a 30-day detoxification program in Tucson. It wasn't easy after his return. During a court appearance in January 2004, Sisser admitted he would not pass a drug test because he had used cocaine. But he overcame his addiction and dedicated part of his life to helping other people like him. In 2006, he hosted a luncheon to benefit Miami-Dade's "Friends of Drug Court." The invitation described him as a "Proud Graduate of Drug Court." With then-Gov. Jeb Bush, Sisser raised tens of thousands of dollars for the program. He's also bounced back in the political landscape, recently holding fundraisers to re-elect Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle and Democratic U.S. Rep. Ron Klein.

As the world seems to be fast tumbling toward apocalypse (global warming, World War III, economic meltdown), we see signs of hope in the most unlikely places. Take for instance local charity Miracles in Action. It was started by a middle-age American Airlines flight attendant, Penny Rambacher, who was on a layover in Quito, Ecuador, in 1999 when she came face to face with a "dumpster child" in the city's outskirts. Witnessing such extreme poverty immediately made her take action. Thus Miracles in Action was born. With only $20,000, Miracles has helped build in rural, impoverished areas of Guatemala approximately 20 schools serving about 300 to 350 students, most of indigenous Mayan descent. The organization's motto is "Help Poor People Help Themselves." The results: increased literacy rates, higher life expectancy, better hygiene, and, most important, happier and safer communities. So while $20,000 will get you a modest Honda Civic, it could also save lives.

With a name equal parts Greek god and New Jersey Mafioso, Nektar De Stagni stands out. You can spot her pretty much anywhere worth being spotted, wearing a pimp fedora that screams, "I grew up in Miami in the Eighties!" and the clothes she designs have a similar homegrown pedigree. The opening shot on her website — of a blond model in a tight black skirt and Corey Hart Ray-Bans — looks like either the B-side cover for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City or a Michelle Pfeiffer still from Scarface. Either way, this is the kind of clothing that chicks from Boca Raton just don't understand. Oh, and did we mention she rocks a weekly DJ gig at The Standard? As Mugatu would say, "Nektar. So hot right now."

Miami Beach, the city with a history only as long as a coke line at its latest trendy nightclub. Or is it? Some of those club kids vaguely remember Miami Vice was a TV show before it was a movie, but few remember the vibrant Yiddish community that was the centerpiece of the town's cultural identity for six decades. Vaudeville theaters, literary groups, radio shows, artists, and entertainers supported a thriving community of tens of thousands of year-round residents (and even more snowbirds and tourists) that was also suffering from segregation. Filmmaker David Weintraub painstakingly pieced together the fading memories of the era using vintage footage, contemporary interviews, photographs, and other bits of memorabilia to portray what Miami Beach was like before Crockett and Tubbs resuscitated the neon.

After the notorious suicide of former District 5 City Commissioner Art Teele in 2005, Michelle Spence-Jones's election might have seemed like a breath of fresh air. But it wasn't long before all of that oxygen turned stale. In the past year, Spence-Jones has shown Miami she can play rough too. A former aide to Mayor Manny Diaz, she leaned on powerful friends in the runup to the election — Billy and Barbara Hardemon, a well-connected couple, in particular. Their hard-line campaign tactics on her behalf ultimately earned her a slap from the Florida Elections Commission, which fined her $8,000 for violations of campaign law, among them passing out tens of thousands of dollars to campaign workers on Election Day. This past December, news broke that the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office had launched a criminal probe into Spence-Jones's finances, an investigation that two months later nabbed the commissioner's pastor, Rev. Gaston Smith, on charges of misspending a county grant. So far, that investigation has yielded no charges against Spence-Jones herself. Finally, in January, there was the "secret memo," filed as a memory aid, apparently, by District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff. The memo recalled a conversation in which he says he was told by former City Manager Joe Arriola that Spence-Jones was withholding a vote on a proposed Coconut Grove condo unless two of her friends received a combined $150,000. No doubt about it, this has been a rough year for Spence-Jones. But while the commissioner might be embattled, she ain't licked: Spence-Jones has remained defiant, denying each and every allegation, repeatedly hurling the stuff back at her attackers. Will she be vindicated? Only time — or possibly a lengthy court case — will tell.

These two Krop Senior High girls decided one night in 2007 to videotape themselves singing a parody of Fergie's "Fergalicious." They threw the video up on YouTube for fun (against their mothers' wishes) and almost overnight became superfamous. Maybe it was because the parody skewered a certain kind of Miami girl — a chonga — or maybe it was because the pair was simply campy, funny, and zany in a sweetly innocent way. Somehow, in that Weird Al-type of spoof, Mimi and Laura captured the spirit of an entire generation of South Florida kids. The song spread from the Internet to Power 96 FM to ringtones on tweens' cell phones. And the girls still get recognized when they hang out at the mall. Adults love them too: They were the grand marshals of this year's King Mango Strut. Now the young ladies have their own Wikipedia entry, videos of several performances around Miami-Dade to send to college recruiters, and 2.2 million hits on YouTube. When these two appear on television or in movies in a few years, no one in Miami will be surprised.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®