Toadies and second bananas are a dime a dozen, but if it's a walking, talking talisman of nightlife benevolence you're after, look no further than the one-man welcome wagon that is "Cocktail Boy" Jarred Sharar. Wind up this elfin goodwill ambassador and watch him go: He's utterly at ease pouring his bony frame into suggestive sportswear to deliver trays full of shots to the audience at the Peacock Room's monthly Cocktail Hour (and effortlessly cracking the blasé facade of hostess Tammy Kopko in the process). Teabagging the occasional onstage guest — OK, every guest — is an occupational hazard, but regular users know there's nothing malicious about this new-model pleasure unit's operation. (Yes, we said "unit.") He's programmed to serve — so committed to smooth social interaction that he's even been known to offer up his own kid sister to favored patrons with the friendly invitation, "Tongue her!" Operator's warning: May be gay.
(The Cocktail Hour; typically 10:30 p.m. on third Friday of the month but can change at the whim of the cast; the Peacock Room, 1321 N. Mills Ave., Orlando; $5; 407-228-0048; www.peacockroom.com)(The Cocktail Hour; typically 10:30 p.m. on third Friday of the month but can change at the whim of the cast; the Peacock Room, 1321 N. Mills Ave., Orlando; $5; 407-228-0048; www.peacockroom.com)
Don't resist — the drinking, the smoking, the wretchedly out-of-tune voices. It's karaoke, baby, and there's no better way to cap an evening. For hot and bothering karaoke action, Big Daddy's Roadhouse is the best place in town, every night except Sunday. Why? Because it is, that's why. Big Daddy's meets beer and wine needs with a superior selection, and when karaoke is in session (DJ Di, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; Jack, Monday and Friday; Gene, Wednesday), drink up, because you're gonna need booze to wash away the screeching sounds coming from the stage.
(Karaoke at Big Daddy's Roadhouse; 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 3001 Corrine Drive, Orlando; 407-644-2844; www.djdi. com/bigdadsweb.htm)
Best movie theater
1st — Enzian Theater
(1300 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland; 407-629-0054; www.enzian.org)
2nd — Regal Winter Park Village Stadium 20
(510 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park; 407-628-0035; www.regalcinemas.com)
3rd — Loews Universal Cineplex 20
(6000 Universal Blvd., Orlando; 407-354-5998; www.amctheatres.com)
Best theater troupe
1st — SAK Comedy Lab
(380 W. Amelia St., Orlando; 407-648-0001; www.sak.com)
2nd — The Feldman Dynamic
3rd — Mad Cow Theatre Company
(105 S. Magnolia Ave., Orlando; 407-297-8788; www.madcowtheatre.com)
Best art gallery
1st — DMAC
(39 S. Magnolia Ave., Orlando; 407-992-1200; dmacorlando.blogspot.com
2nd — Orlando Museum of Art
(2416 N. Mills Ave., Orlando; 407-896-4231; www.omart.org)
3rd — Inspirational Living Fine Art Gallery
(4669 Millenia Plaza Way, Orlando; 407-248-8848)
1st — Big Daddy’s Roadhouse
(3001 Corrine Drive, Orlando; 407-644-2844; www.djdi.com/bigdadsweb.htm)
2nd — O’Shucks Pub & Billiards
(7467 International Drive, Orlando; 407-352-7892; www.oshuckspub.com)
3rd — Devaney’s Sports Pub
(7660 University Blvd., Winter Park; 407-679-6600; devaneyssportspub.com)
Best strip club
1st — Dancers Royale
(5221 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando; 407-281-0120)
2nd — Rachel’s
(Orlando North, 401 E. Semoran Blvd., Casselberry, 407-767-2977; Orlando South, 8701 S. Orange Ave., 407-858-9800; www.rachels.com)
3rd — Club Juana
(out of business)
Best dance club
1st — Independent Bar
(70 N. Orange Ave., Orlando; 407-839-0457; www.independentbar.net)
2nd — The Parliament House
(410 N. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando; 407-425-7571; www.parliamenthouse.com)
3rd — Antigua
(41 W. Church St., Orlando; 407-649-4270; www.churchstreetbars.com)
Best live music club
1st — The Social
(54 N. Orange Ave., Orlando; 407-246-1419; www.thesocial.org)
2nd — Back Booth
(37 W. Pine St., Orlando; 407-999-2570; www.backbooth.com)
3rd — Will’s Pub
(1850 N. Mills Ave., Orlando; 407-898-5070; www.willspub.com)
Best club DJ
1st — DJ Huggy
2nd — DJ Kittybat
3rd — DJ Trypsin
Best rock/pop act
1st — The Heathens
2nd — The Rules
3rd — Gasoline Heart
Best punk act
1st — The Punching Contest
2nd — Our Given Day
3rd — The Country Slashers
Best metal act
1st — The Punching Contest
2nd — Gargamel!
3rd — Asphalt
Best R&B act
1st — The Legendary J.C.’s
2nd — Motown Express
3rd — BiGG Phatty
Best hip-hop act
1st — Sol.illaquists of Sound
2nd — Future Funk Collective
3rd — Fidel Cashflow
Best electronic act
1st — Yip-Yip
2nd — A Scissors
3rd — Machinedrum
Best jazz act
1st — Sam Rivers
2nd — The Cook Trio
3rd — D-Train
Best Latin act
1st — Rico Monaco & Sol Sons
2nd — Latin Express
3rd — C Note
Best reggae act
1st — The Caribbean Crew
2nd — Rising Lion
3rd — Mystik NRG
Best acoustic act
1st — Mumpsy
2nd — Tommy Treadway
3rd — Marc With a “C”
Hang your head no more, when it comes to the subject of "art" in Orlando. These parts swell with artistic talent. And one place to consistently find it is the humble COMMA Gallery. The crew behind this stellar satellite zeroes in on locals you want to see and collect. The show openings have turned into must-be-there affairs. Only last season, there was an unheard-of showing of paintings by Grady Kimsey. Considering that it's Kimsey's tribal sculptures that earned him his national reputation, it was like striking gold to uncover these still lifes, landscapes and other assorted oil paintings created by the octogenarian at his home in Winter Park and brought to us by the crew at COMMA. The just-released 2006-2007 schedule promises a follow-up, Allegorical Grady Kimsey, Sept. 1-Oct. 31, with paintings, mixed media, collage and his sculpture (which typically can only be seen at a gallery in Atlanta). Make this a year to express appreciation to local artists and their supporters.
(COMMA Gallery, 813 Virginia Drive, Orlando; 407-894-4505)
Read for free!
Books are easier to read if they have pictures. And what has more pictures than comic books? What? You don't have any money? Cheer up, there's a place for you. Any bookstore allows browsers to read for free, but for comfy chairs and colorful comics, head for Borders. The added bonus of fun is in tricking the bluehairs into getting up to make room for you. Be the king or queen you know you are, with a stack of free cartoons and a comfortable throne.
(Borders, multiple locations; www.borders.com)
Woodstock on a budget
No need to crawl over a fence (or endure the inane patter of a latter-day Wavy Gravy) to enjoy a free outdoor festival every month in downtown Orlando. Fun Fridays at LYNX Central Station (on the third Friday of the month) promise all the community-oriented entertainment the Vietnam generation fought, bled and dropped bad acid for — a chance to whoop and dance it up in the company of a new breed of the great unwashed. Celebrate the socialist miracle that is public transportation — and the environmentally responsible lifestyle it fosters — while listening to music that resonates in ways both genuine (past participants Hindu Cowboys) and ironic (white guys playing "Buffalo Soldier" out of tune). But not even Monterey Pop could boast such a casino atmosphere, with commuters invited to step right up and spin a wheel of fortune that rewards the lucky with free trips on LYNX buses. Thus does the riding class ensure its longevity. Or as somebody once blathered, "We're feedin' ourselves, man!"
(Fun Fridays; 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at LYNX Central Station, 455 N. Garland Ave., Orlando; free; 407-841-5969)
Costumer to the stars
As John Waters once said, "Beauty is looks you can never forget," and that creative philosophy courses through every seam sewn by Marcy Singhaus, the theater fashionista responsible for the costume designs you'll see at the Parliament House's Footlight Theater and other bastions of dramatic draggery. Fabulous? Frightful? Why choose? Singhaus' wardrobe creations for visually unsubtle undertakings like Michael Wanzie's Ladies of Eola Heights franchise represent an exaggerated reality in which color and couture intersect in all sorts of cornea-bending ways. Hideous housedresses inhabit the same aesthetic universe as more glamorous constructions like the superwoman stylings sported by David Lee's Hedwig. On other fronts, Singhaus designed the fashion-forward ballroom dance costumes donned by the Orlando duo of Stuart Nichols and Richard Lamberty at the recent Gay Games VII competition in Chicago.
Play Bingo with gay people
Peter Pan, Alexander the Great, the adoption ban, Anderson Cooper — all valid arguments for the case that gay people never get old. But something about The Parliament House — heavy on the Sodom, light on the Gomorrah — renders it the ideal destination for those who are both gay and old. Every Tuesday evening, early-bird style, hosts Michael Wanzie and Sam Singhaus dish out the comic Viagra that can only accompany a spirited game of Beach Blanket Bingo. You don't have to be self-conscious about your senior crossing-over, either; underdeveloped, overage hecklers are encouraged. Next stop: shuffleboard.
(Beach Blanket Bingo; 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Parliament House, 410 N. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando; 407-425-7571; www. parliamenthouse.com)
Visit Arthur's World soon
Ever wonder who's in charge of all that extraordinary, irreplaceable, exorbitantly expensive artwork at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum? Why, it's Arthur Blumenthal, just an ordinary man who takes his garbage out twice a week (or tells his wife to), like the rest of us ordinary people do. Never mind the super-intellect of this highly educated museologist and his superior knowledge of Italian Renaissance thingamajigs and Baroque whatchamacallits. He'll explain anything to you, if you ask. And that's because Blumenthal, the museum's director — who's been in his position at the Cornell for 18 years and just seen the renowned institution through an exasperating but inspired renovation — is an educator at heart. He's a tree-hugging, spiritual teacher who lives for and loves art and wants you to develop your own passion.
(Arthur Blumenthal, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College, 1000 Holt Ave., Winter Park; $5; 407-646-2526; www.rollins.edu/cfam)
You've thrilled to the Michael Douglas movie. You've rocked out to the Queen album. Now play "The Game" for yourself — whichever one strikes your fancy. Two underground pastimes are available to Orlando-area thrill-seekers, both titled "The Game" but otherwise as different as night and day. The first comes to us courtesy of the University of Central Florida's Interactive Performance Lab, which periodically puts a willing guinea pig through a partially scripted, largely improvised quest that covers multiple locations and allows for all sorts of off-the-cuff drama. In time for its incorporation into various 2006 Florida Film Festival events, UCF's "Game" was rechristened "The Voice" — the better not to be confused with "The Game," a creation of activist/filmmaker Brian Quain that most folks learned about during the latter's MoveOn house parties of 2004. The rules of Quain's Game in a nutshell: Two contestants sit with their back to a TV while he scrolls through the cable-music channels; the winner is the player who can name more of the featured artists quicker. There's no telling when either of these widely talked-about diversions will next rear its habit-forming head — but that aura of mystery and anticipation is all part of The Game.
(UCF Interactive Performance Lab; www.cas.ucf.edu/iplay)
No messy cassette tapes
Robots vacuum! Portable computer gadgetry rules every home! We are living in THE FUTURE! And we are free from the tyranny of the watering-hole jukebox. Thanks to TECHNOLOGY, fear not the musical tastes of your local barkeep. We now have the FREEDOM to bring our OWN melodies to town in a portable music device known as the MP3 player. Capable of carrying dozens — nay, scores — of songs, these "iPods" are the entertainment on MiPod Mondays, as designated by the folks who run the downtown bar The Matador. Just bring your own music to share while drinking away the pressures of this MAD MAD WORLD. Granted, it's only one night a week, and you're limited to three songs, but LIBERTY must be doled out sparingly, yes?
(MiPod Monday; 9 p.m. at the Matador, 56 E. Pine St., Orlando; 407-872-0844; www.myspace.com/orlandomatador)
Anything pure and traditional is bound to be corrupted, and that'll happen sooner or later to the Orlando Folk Festival held in March at Mennello Museum of Art. For five years running, "mellow" has captured the mood, and "music" is what's heard until dusk, performed by local and regional folk groups, from bluegrass to zydeco. The art media range from environmental sculpture to handmade frocks, and painterly styles run the gamut from down-home to off-the-wall. No corporate sponsors have taken over and killed the spell cast by activities the likes of storytelling by the big oak tree. Plans are underway for the sixth annual festival, and please don't anybody ruin it.
(Orlando Folk Festival, The Mennello Museum of American Art, 900 E. Princeton St., Orlando; 407-246-4278; www.mennellomuseum.org)
Looking to add a dollop of instant, unbridled joy to your dance recital or all-ages musicale? Turn the stage over to Tyler Gadson, a 9-year-old wunderkind whose restless legs end in feet of absolute magic. You'll swear you've hired an adult (but pint-sized) ringer as you watch this Sanford whiz kid captivate the audience with his amazingly mature presence, which at its slinkiest and most feline recalls Ben Vereen's but can bust out in more modern, aggressive gyromotions at a seeming thought. Some of the credit for Tyler G.'s abundant professionalism must go to Casselberry's Center Stage Academy, where he's been a student since January 2002, honing his penchant for everything from hip-hop to tumbling to ballet to tap. But even a quick peek into his repertoire of steps makes it clear that he owes his heaps of raw talent to those other two "G"s: genetics and God.Looking to add a dollop of instant, unbridled joy to your dance recital or all-ages musicale? Turn the stage over to Tyler Gadson, a 9-year-old wunderkind whose restless legs end in feet of absolute magic. You'll swear you've hired an adult (but pint-sized) ringer as you watch this Sanford whiz kid captivate the audience with his amazingly mature presence, which at its slinkiest and most feline recalls Ben Vereen's but can bust out in more modern, aggressive gyromotions at a seeming thought. Some of the credit for Tyler G.'s abundant professionalism must go to Casselberry's Center Stage Academy, where he's been a student since January 2002, honing his penchant for everything from hip-hop to tumbling to ballet to tap. But even a quick peek into his repertoire of steps makes it clear that he owes his heaps of raw talent to those other two "G"s: genetics and God.
Whomp on your friends without
going to jail
Girlfriend getting you down? An incompetent co-worker get the promotion that was yours? Invite them out to "have some fun" playing video games at Beat the Box, an innovative gaming center and café in Winter Park. The plasma rifle doesn't cause any real harm, but it feels so good to shut them up. The wide variety of beer and wine supplied by cute servers doesn't hurt either. Plus there are tons of other techno diversions. Rent the whole place for a private party, if you want to fill it with such "friends."
(Beat the Box, 6812 Aloma Ave., Winter Park; 407-265-2699; www.beatthe box.com)
There's one surefire way for a local to spice up the attraction-going experience, and it has nothing to do with resident discounts or Mardi Gras beads: Go often, and keep those eyes peeled. From the drastic shake-ups at Islands of Adventure features like Poseidon's Fury to the Johnny Depp-alike that can now be seen skulking around the Magic Kingdom's Pirates of the Caribbean, a theme park is anything but predictable. In fact, it sometimes seems you can't tell the quasi-human players without a scorecard. (Say a prayer in a moonlit graveyard at midnight that the next high-tech immigrant is the upgraded Attic Bride recently added to the Disneyland Haunted Mansion but not yet announced for Florida.) Revisionist fever has even broken out in the halls of local government, where the waxwork figure of Mayor Buddy Dyer — excuse us, the waxwork figure that is Mayor Buddy Dyer — was replaced for a mysterious few months in 2005 by an animatron of City Council member Ernest Page. This was one revamp that didn't show much staying power, though, as the Dyer figure was reinstalled in what now seems like the wink of an eye. Guess somebody complained or something.
Rediscover the outlaw thrill of independent film thanks to the fearless booking policies of Touchstar Cinemas, which devotes screens at Sand Lake 7 and Altamonte 8 to movies more timid chains wouldn't touch. Friends who pursue an "alternative lifestyle" will give you two snaps up for turning them on to Sand Lake, an outwardly butch strip-mall theater that's recently hosted exclusive showings of Garçon Stupide, Adam and Steve and other indies that revel in images of young men with their shirts off. Meanwhile, up in Altamonte, taste foreign fare like Paradise Now, the Oscar-nominated suicide-bomber study that only Touchstar had the stones to pick up. As a value-added service, the atmosphere of underground allure starts before you reach the lobby: According to some field reports, there's no telling if the box-office staff will show up on time. You wanted danger — you got it.
(Touchstar Cinemas Altamonte 8, 303 E. Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs; 407-888-2228; Touchstar Cinemas Sand Lake 7, 835 Sand Lake Road, Orlando; 407-888-9956; touchstarcinemas.com)
Prudes have been warned about the theater experiments presented at the Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival since way back when the 10-day spectacle was held downtown and it was called the Orlando International Fringe Festival. Actually, the addition of "Theater" in the title did not reflect the true changes in this year's festival (which is now comfortably headquartered in the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival's lovely air-conditioned complex). The biggest change in the nature of Fringe was most evident to the dramatic-subject-matter-should-be-as-free-as-you-and-me types wandering the facility when they caught frequent sight of handsome (and not-so) young men wearing only bath towels. Ah, promotion for Bathhouse the Musical!, it turns out. Add this to the naked go-go "cub" in The Lion Queens whose proud private parts danced around the stage and other similar homoerotic displays that abounded, and it must be said that the Fringe is the best gay theater fest in town.
(Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival; 407-648-0077; www.orlandofringe.org)