You're the Best... of Charlotte

A shout out to the staff

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It was the Best of Charlotte, it was the worst of Charlotte.

But mainly just the former.

I couldn't be happier to be sending off Creative Loafing's 2018 Best of Charlotte issue, my first as editor-in-chief of the paper. That being said, we got through the process without anyone jumping from the roof of our Music Factory office, so I'd say it was a success.

This year, we took you into bat country with a Fear and Loafing theme — get it? — complete with a photo shoot starring yours truly as Johnny Depp as Raoul Duke, and my coworker Justin LaFrancois as Benicio Del Toro as Dr. Gonzo. It seems like such an obvious parody now that I'm surprised we hadn't done it in 31 years of existence. But here we are.

Best of Charlotte is all about shouting out the people doing amazing things in this city, so I'd like to take the opportunity in this column to shout out the folks behind the scenes who made this issue possible.

First and foremost, I have to show some love to my art director Dana Vindigni-Guedes. Not only did Dana put together this entire issue — from designing ads to laying out every winner, photo, caption and credit — but she got married right in the midst of the mess that is our Best of Charlotte issue.

Putting together the Best of Charlotte issue is already stressful enough, but to throw perhaps one of the most stressful days of your life right into the middle of that was nothing short of heroic. Dana handled it all like a pro and — among all the stuff that was happening at work — still hosted a beautiful wedding in downtown Gastonia on Oct. 7.

Perhaps my favorite part of this issue are Dana's drawings, in which she beautifully channeled Ralph Steadman, the old friend and cohort of Hunter S. Thompson. Dana's art has always been striking to me, but to watch her process as she pulled inspiration from her humongous book of Steadman art and made it her own was a beautiful thing.

I also have to give it up for my associate editor, Courtney Mihocik, who arrived in the CL offices in August and was quickly thrown into the Best of Charlotte mix. That can be tough for someone who hadn't lived in Charlotte since she interned for the paper in 2016, but Courtney dug right into the project from the jump.

Even beyond Best of Charlotte, Courtney has exceeded my expectations after moving here from Columbus, Ohio, on short notice and immediately knocking out story after story without blinking an eye.

I also feel that we would be lost without the hard work of full-time reporter and contributor Pat Moran. While doubling as CL's advertising coordinator, Pat doesn't actually sell any ads to clients, which leaves him open to write stories without any conflict of interest.

Pat's love for the arts shines through in his beautiful writing, and his recollections of many different exhibits and shows that he covered over the year were extremely helpful while compiling the list of this year's winners.

Sometimes the fact that Creative Loafing has been a presence in the local cultural scene for more than 30 years can make people think that we are some sort of huge gatekeeper of an organization with endless resources, but in the end, we're just four full-time employees trying to put together the best paper possible each week. It's when we're tasked with an issue like this — well over double the size of our normal paper — that our hunger as underdogs comes out and we work together the best.

And of course, we get a little help from our friends.

One huge helper this issue was our intern Veronica Cox, whose main focus over the last month has been to help choose winners and then dig into that list and write blurbs about each winner. She was brand new to the team when we told her that she'd be working on Best of Charlotte almost exclusively, and she had stepped up to the challenge in a way that I'm very thankful for.

Also, we wouldn't be anywhere without our contributing writers. From the time I sat down with contributor Erin Tracy-Blackwood more than two months ago and began working out winners to our critic's picks, I've been constantly reworking the list with help from Courtney, Pat and other contributing writers like Perry Tannenbaum, Shameika Rhymes, Aerin Spruill, Jeff Hahne, Erin Breeden and Grey Revell. Each one of the contributors has been a most valuable asset.

And of course, we wouldn't have a paper at all if it weren't for the hard-working sales stuff busting their asses behind the scenes. Account executives Christos Kakouras and my fellow cover model Justin LaFrancois, along with the sales manager who holds it all together, Aaron Stamey, worked tirelessly on this issue as they do on every one to make sure we can keep putting out content and you can keep picking it up for free.

So in an issue filled with some of Charlotte's brightest people doing their very best work, I felt it necessary to shine at least a small light on everyone that helped us send this thing to print and not let me look like a failure.

I can do that all on my own.

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