The Year in Review, the best, the worst, and more

Remember the heady, irrational exuberance of New Year's 2000, when Y2K computer snafus were our biggest fear?

Yeah, baby, those were the days. And how quickly that little party ended, as 2002 ushered in a whole new era: life after September 11.

The year began in a subdued fashion as the nation continued to mourn the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and adjusted to life in the age of fear and the "war on terror."

Anthrax scares, confiscated nail clippers at airports, and suspects held for months without being charged are examples of the terrorism hangover that introduced 2002.

Over the year, other kinds of terror took shape. From Utah to Roanoke, little girls were snatched from their beds, and the D.C.-area snipers paralyzed the region for a month. As if that weren't grim enough, war with Iraq seems to be the President's New Year's resolution, and many Americans seem happy to eviscerate the Bill of Rights in the name of safety.

The already sluggish economy continued to tank, and 9/11 became a convenient excuse for companies already on the skids. The Enron debacle, far from being the exception, was the tip of the iceberg, with other seemingly solid Fortune 500 companies like WorldCom, Global Crossing, and Adelphia joining in the carnage.

With thousands unemployed and their retirement stocks worthless, the government started demanding accountability from corporate heads who'd used public companies as their personal piggybanks, and the executive perp walk became the new business look. Even Martha Stewart's hands got dirty.

Okay, so the year wasn't all bad. And locally, The Hook joined the Charlottesville publishing scene. Each week, in Dickensian fashion, we've weighed in on the best of times and the worst of times.

Here then are the best of the year's stories and the worst.

Worst racial turmoil: The city gains national notoriety in January when 10 "good kids" from Charlottesville High, all black except one, beat up nine UVA students and one PVCC student "because they looked white." It doesn't help when former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke's European-American Unity and Rights Organization EURO argues that the assaults should be charged as hate crimes. The community rallies around the kids gone violent. Committees form to look at racial issues and help the assailants, and then people belatedly realize it might be a good idea to raise money for the victims, too.

Worst loss of a Dave Matthews landmark: UVA buys and begins razing Trax, further reducing the number of places to hear live music in town.

Best Academy Award nomination for an Albemarle resident: Sissy Spacek goes to the Oscars for In the Bedroom.

Worst loss of a Chinese restaurant: The Chiang House burns to the ground in March. As if that isn't bad enough, weeks later neighbors complain about the smell of rotting fish wafting out of the charred freezers.

Worst UVA trend: Bomb threats, eight of which are called in during the spring semester, lead to a change in university policy: Classes are no longer canceled but relocated.

Best reappearance of a former Dukes of Hazzard  character: Ben "Cooter" Jones runs for Congress in the Seventh District and loses to Republican incumbent Eric Cantor.

Best re-emergence of Charlottesville Republicans: For the first time in 16 years, the all-Democrat City Council is history when longhaired Rob Schilling wins a seat in May, along with incumbent and former mayor Blake Caravati.

Worst excuse for the Dems' loss: Some blame the Daily Progress for an Election Day article on "single-shot" voting.

Best altruism by a local publisher: In February, The Observer's Jeffrey Peyton reduces ad rates by 20 percent to rescue recession-strapped businesses. Alas, for Peyton watchers, by November, the Don Hodel-backed publisher has moved on to pursue "other publishing ventures."

Worst break-up: The men who revitalized the Downtown Mall Lee Danielson and Colin Rolph spend much of 2002 splitting their D&R Development in an acrimonious ending that leaves an accountant in tears. Rolph retains ownership of the money-losing Ice Park– which he vows to keep open– as well as the Regal Cinema, the Exchange Building, and four boarded-up buildings in the 100 block of East Main Street.

Best indication that Albemarle County can produce high-end wines: Patricia Kluge appears on CNBC in late winter to announce that wines from the Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard will start at $80 a bottle. By fall, she unveils a $495 limited edition, walnut-cased offering.

Worst surprise for UVA neighbors, part 1: In March, they're horrified to learn that the university's antiquated coal-burning heat plant is spewing over a ton of sulfur dioxide a day and that UVA wants to increase that amount. Since then, the university has pledged to reduce emissions, despite its reduced budget.

Worst surprise for UVA neighbors, part 2: The announcement the university is building a parking garage at the corner of Emmet Street and Ivy Road has the Lewis Mountain neighborhood organizing to "Stop the 1,200 car monster" to no avail.

Worst state budget news: Newly elected Governor Mark Warner grapples with a $3.8 billion deficit that leads to mid-year tuition increases at UVA, reduced hours at the popular state agencies like DMV and ABC, and layoffs of state workers.

Worst news for Bodo's addicts: The Corner bagel site, first leased in 1995, goes yet another year without opening.

Best overdue apology: At the May dedication of the historical marker on Preston Avenue noting the Supreme Court decision allowing the sterilization of 8,000 Virginians deemed "genetically inferior," Del. Mitch Van Yahres reads Governor Mark Warner's formal apology for the "shameful effort." Charlottesville resident Carrie Buck was the first victim of that law in 1927.

Best new foundation: Oak Hill Fund, an offshoot of the now-defunct W. Alton Jones Foundation, announces it will spend $1.5 million for environment friendly, affordable housing.

Best domination of the local airwaves: Clear Channel controls six of the nine for-profit radio stations in town.

Worst consequences of firefighter boredom: Eight Stony Point Volunteer Firefighters are charged with setting wildfires. County assistant chief Mark Spicer is fired after erasing a videotape that shows him hugging one of the accused because the boys were teasing him about it.

Best 15 minutes of radio fame: Kathleen Willey, Bill Clinton grope survivor, hosts a show on Richmond's WRVA for all of a month.

Best break in the 1996 unsolved slayings of two women in Shenandoah National Park: Convicted park stalker Darrell Rice is indicted in April for the murders of Julie Williams and Lollie Winans.

Worst casualty from a Shriner's go-cart run amok: In April, a five-year-old boy's ankle is broken when a Shriner plows into him at the Dogwood Parade.

Best reason not to name a publication after an interstate: Four-year-old Shenandoah Valley monthly tabloid Eightyone draws its last breath in March. In July, glossy arts-and-culture mag 64 folds after two and a half years.

Best Photophile shot of the year: A Frank Stoner and David Toscano photo is invaded by a grip-and-grin anarchist.

Frank Stoner, David Toscano, and friend.

Worst playground: A Hook exclusive discovers that paint samples from Meade Park contain nearly 10 times the amount of lead allowed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Worst fugitive pedophiles: Former Yogaville adherent and ship captain Frederick Stiles Wannamaker disappears in 1999 before he can be charged with felony molestation of five boys. Gregory A. Moyer, the Fork Union Military Academy spanker, takes off in May 2001 after being sentenced to three-and-a-half years for his conviction on 14 counts of taking indecent liberties with cadets.

Best small-town police antics: In June the Town of Louisa hires a new police chief, John Cetrulo, who immediately suspends an officer for wearing the wrong type of undershirt. Within two months of being hired, Cetrulo is himself suspended. His replacement is suspended two weeks later. The town clerk resigns. Cetrulo is fired in October, and two days later, the town manager resigns.

Best idealistic, yet doomed project: The Yellow Bike program. Eighty bikes hit the streets in March to promote bike use and only rare sightings are reported since.

Best new episodes of The Waltons 2002 : Jim-Bob Jim Hamner– is fired as treasurer of the Walton's Mountain Museum in March, splitting tiny Schuyler. Big brother and Waltons' series creator Earl Hamner backs plans for a new museum in Nelson County. Jim-Bob is charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor when a neighbor kid gets drunk. Charges are dropped, but Jim-Bob has had enough and plans to leave the town where he was born. Former Schuyler benefactor Earl Hamner considers the epitaph, "I put my hometown on the map. Now I wish I could take it off."

Worst omission in the Rivanna Trail plans: Permission from some of the owners to use their land. One erects a barricade and "no trespassing" signs on the trail in June.

Best overuse of a pretentious word: The Hook's June 27 issue contains the word "limn" in every story, resulting in several readers threatening to tear us limn from limn.

Best reason to shop locally for blow-up dolls: Ultimate Bliss opens behind KFC in the old Reines Jewelers building on Angus Road in July, offering a clean, well-lighted place to buy sex toys.

Worst regulation for a problem that doesn't really exist: The city's revised zoning ordinance includes a section on adult entertainment, prohibiting strip clubs, porn movie houses, and adult shops within 1,000 feet of almost everything, and making it virtually impossible to get a lap dance in this town... not that any such thing was available pre-ordinance!

Worst unsolved crime: A serial rapist is believed responsible for 11 assaults going back to 1997. The most recent occurs November 11, and police say the violence of the attacks is escalating.

Best family perp walk: Adelphia founder John Rigas and his two sons are arrested and accused of using the company as a "personal piggy bank" after taking over $2.3 billion of company funds for projects such as a private golf course. In September all three are indicted on charges of conspiracy and securities and wire fraud.

Best national perp walk: WorldCom's former chief financial officer Scott "Beachfront Mansion" Sullivan and controller David Myers are handcuffed and arrested in New York and charged with seven counts of securities fraud.

Best perp walk by an Albemarle County property owner: Tyco chief financial officer Mark Schwartz, owner of historic Enniscorthy, and his boss, Dennis Kozlowski, are indicted for looting $600 million of company holdings. Schwartz's 2001 purchase of Enniscorthy for an alleged $17 million made it the county's highest priced residential transfer ever.

Worst UVA party theme, part 1: A "Medallion Party" tossed by a school of architecture student invites "all playaz and chickenheadz" to his hip-hop theme party. Not surprisingly, a group of black students who attend and videotape the event find it flagrantly racist.

Worst UVA party theme, part 2: Students arrive dressed in blackface at a Kappa Alpha and Zeta Psi Halloween party. Online pictures of partygoers dressed as Uncle Sambo and Venus and Serena Williams rekindle a discussion about racism at the university.

Best indication that the First Amendment still protects bad taste: See above.

Worst prep-school felony: Three recent St. Anne's-Belfield grads leave their legacy on the football field an image of male genitals seared into the grass with weed-killer before taking off for college in August. The three are charged with felony destruction of private property.

Worst fraternity felony: UVA student Jamie Hodges and two of his Pi Kappa Alpha brothers face felony charges after planting a soda-bottle bomb called a MacGyver in the Bruce Street mailbox of UVA math professor Thann Ward in May.

Worst fraternity courtship: Former UVA student Scott Douglas is accused of holding his ex-girlfriend captive at his Chi Phi fraternity, putting a knife and sword to her throat, wrenching her toe with pliers, and threatening to tear off her ear and cauterize the wound with blazing WD-40.

Worst death of a swami: Yogaville's Swami Sachidananda, the "Woodstock Guru," suffers an aneurysm while attending a world peace conference in India in August. Despite sexual assault allegations in the early '90s, most followers remember the peace-promoting swami for authoring books on yoga and espousing the belief that "Truth is one; paths are many."

Best local scoop on a national story The Hook reports on Mary Chapin Carpenter's wedding June 6, weeks before the story hits the AP wire on June 21.

Best botched weblink Web surfers discover that up until September, typing wvir.com doesn't take them to WVIR Channel 29's webpage, but leads instead to supersluts.com.

Best celebrity visitors: Nicolas Cage and Lisa Marie Presley make appearances at the Virginia Film Festival in October, shortly before calling their three-month marriage quits. The screening of Sonny, Cage's directorial debut, is sold out.

Best sign the war isn't over: Concord Avenue residents find themselves in discord over the Confederate flag flying at Quality Welding. Owner Lewis Dickerson insists the flag reflects his heritage, but black residents across the street call it an "eyesore."

Worst new phobia: Fear of filling gas tanks, which strikes as far away as Charlottesville after the sniper attacks in the Maryland/D.C. area. Police monitor schools and highway exits, and locals alter their gas-filling habits to avoid becoming the next victim.

Best show of Jeffersonian pride: Congressman Eric Cantor sponsors a House bill to keep Monticello on the nickel, but can't prevent a temporary switch to commemorate the Lewis and Clark bicentennial between 2003 to 2006.

Best congressional seat contest: Longshot City Councilor Meredith Richards challenges incumbent Virgil Goode for the Fifth District.

Best unseen films: Mickey, a collaborative effort between Charlottesville director Hugh Wilson and writer John Grisham, is unable to secure a distributor after the real-life Danny Almonte scandal coincidentally mirrors the film's fictitious plot. At the same time, Dave Matthews' adaptation of Where the Red Fern Grows remains incomplete amid financial troubles and a still-growing lead character.

Worst reaction to a charity event: Scottsville citizens shoot down the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation's plans for a fundraiser there because the Sunday morning motorcycle rally expected to bring 200-300 bikers would disturb church services. The Brain Tumor organization finds somewhere else to park their hogs.

Worst flashback to The Grapes of Wrath : Drought is the year's big weather story. The lack of rain and plummeting reservoir levels force water restrictions August 23 that stay in effect until October 30, when carwashes are allowed to use public water again.

Best sign the drought is over for now: After two months of plastic cups and disposable plates, as demonstrated by Mike Decanio of Toliver House, local restaurants return to offering tap water and china.

Worst drought back-up plan: If water levels had fallen to zero, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority prepares to use effluent, or treated toilet water. Luckily, timely rainfall eliminates the need for such extreme measures.