NEWS- Top secret: Madam Hook reveals secrets of 2007

It's been a year since Madame Hook last visited the Hook's offices on the Downtown Mall, and this year our editorial staff eagerly awaited her early December arrival, anticipating her uncanny ability to peer months into the future. Needless to say, she did not disappoint.

Breezing through the door, royal blue velvet cape flapping behind her, satin turbin rakish atop her wild gray hair, Madame Hook didn't take long to tell us what we might have already guessed. "The year 2007," she whispered dramatically, gazing into her famed balls of crystal, "will be a year like no other." 

And once we heard what she had to say, we had to agree. 

But before we reveal all, let's take a look back at the sage's predictions for 2006– how did she do?

Republican City Councilor Rob Schilling and the NAACP would continue to push for a ward system of electing the school board. "Heated Council meetings will ensue," she said.

Well, Rob Schilling might still like to see a ward system for the school board, but the Republican incumbent's resounding defeat in May to a Democratic challenger means he won't have any official say in the matter. While Schilling has taken to the airwaves as a morning personality for WINA, City Council is restored to its usual all-Dem composition, and meetings sans Schilling have been considerably less heated.

But come to think of it, there was that one September meeting where a local man unexpectedly played a recording of a truck to illustrate his complaint about traffic outside his Market Street home. It so upset Mayor David Brown that he called a 10-minute recess. That must have been what Madam Hook was seeing...

A new developer will step forth to develop the former Wachovia  building and put a national retailer on the ground floor.

Wow. How could she have known that? Absolutely amazing! In May, bad-boy developer Oliver Kuttner changed his mind about never developing in the city of Charlottesville again, and bought the Wachovia building for $3.7 million. He's busy at work on plans to fill the 18,000-square-feet with retail. No word yet on whether any prospective tenants are national retailers, so let's give Madam the benefit of the doubt on that one.

New UVA hoops coach Dave Leitao justifies his million-dollar salary by taking the Cavs to the "Sweet Sixteen."

Ahhh, if only.

Despite high hopes and an even higher million-dollar salary, new UVA hoops head coach Dave Leitao didn't quite live up to Madam Hook's expectations. Though he beat predecessor Pete Gillen's 2004-05 ACC record of 4-12, winning 7 ACC games while losing 9 in 2005-06, Leitao failed to shepherd his Cavs to the ACC tournament, never mind the "Sweet Sixteen." 

Confronted with this error, Madam Hook would only say, "My balls of crystal work in mysterious ways. Sometimes it takes years before we can understand the true meaning of their messages." 

"So maybe this is the year for the Sweet Sixteen?" we hinted. 

"Patience, patience," she tsk-tsked.

Maybe that's what Leitao's telling the team....

A pretty good year for Madame Hook, eh? We call that batting 66 percent for 2006, and she's Promised (with a capital "P") that she's going to beat that score with her 2007 prognostications. We hope she does, 'cause some of these visions have us fanning ourselves in expectation.

•"I smell... diesel," says Madam Hook, who reports that olfactory premonitions are very rare and unusually auspicious. She believes the ghostly scent can mean only one thing: After numerous delays, the oft-maligned transit center at the east end of the Downtown Mall will wrap in late January. And while it may not actually increase the number of people who ride city buses, it will provide a much nicer experience for those waiting. Oh, and Madam Hook says the city will get mention for its "public transit-friendly approach" in  a national magazine, though she claims the title is too hazy to discern.

•"I see young people in houses," muses the Madam, who explains: The once red-hot housing market will stay cool, with median home prices remaining stable for the first time in years. That's bad news for sellers, who until recently could make fat profits by flipping houses they'd bought mere months earlier. Realtors will flock to new jobs in record numbers, as the cash flow slows to a trickle. But it's good news for buyers– perhaps young buyers, who'll have more to choose from and more negotiating power.

•"Ouch! My ears!" Madam Hook raises bejeweled fingers to her head and looks around for the source of the "ungodly racket." Realizing no one else hears what she hears, she takes her hands away and sighs. Could this perhaps hint that the Pavilion and the John Paul Jones Arena will be filled this year with bigger– and louder– acts than ever before? 

"I'm hearing something about 'Born in the USA'" she mumbles, apparently perplexed. "And I hear someone saying 'you two,' or 'you, too.' I don't know what to make of it."

Well, after all, Madame is a seer, not a hearer!

As in years past, Madam Hook's initial reading of Charlottesville's future came to an abrupt end (calls from Beyond, perhaps), but as she prepared to depart, her balls of crystal began to pulse and glow with an otherworldly blue light. 

"I believe there's more," she said, pressing her nose against the swirling orbs. "These messages come from elusive sources and are far more difficult to read. I shall do my best."

•Convicted cat shooter George Seymour, sincerely remorseful after the death of his neighbor's cat, Carmen, converts his Bentivar subdivision property into a kitty ranch. "The look in their yellow eyes as I herd them in for dinner– I mean, to give them dinner– is simply touching," remarks Seymour.

•After 30 years, the City decides to rebrick the Downtown Mall. To boost the investment value, City fathers nix standard red and go straight for gold brick. A sudden surge in crime soon has the police department working 'round the clock.  

•Coran Capshaw's restaurant empire balloons, as he buys the remaining 100 eateries downtown, and "for consistency's sake," demands that his chefs include a "Coran Burger" on every menu.

•After passing a unanimous resolution protesting Virginia's gay marriage-banning amendment, Charlottesville's Dem mayor David Brown  follows in the steps of San Francisco mayor and fills one June with dozens of same-sex weddings– much to the delight of the 80 percent of Charlottesville who also voted against the amendment.

•Move over, Sissy! Despite periodic rumors of some famous person's imminent arrival, it's been a while since a new celebrity actually nested in the Charlottesville area. In 2007, that'll change, as– uh, oh– Britney Spears settles onto a 1,000-acre horse farm in Albemarle in July. K-Fed makes regular stops to visit the boys, and even gives an impromptu performance to the stroller set in McGuffey Park. The Blue Ridge doesn't charm the Brit, though, and– in a flash– she heads back to L.A.