A Six Pack of Top 10s

David Bagwell's Top 10 Local Characters *

A “character” is hard to define, but like Justice Potter Stewart explained obscenity, we know it when we see it. Here, the term means a person who is — and more notably has the courage to be — a little different from the run of dull, boring, gray humanity. A man you might enjoy having around the fire at the hunting camp re-telling legends and singing Homeric song (NOT “homoerotic, ” damn you). A woman with whom you’d love to work alongside or have in the neighborhood park with babies next to yours. * In no particular order.

10. Milton Brown
The man who “discovered” Jimmy Buffett, Milton is an accomplished songwriter and real estate executive — and great fun to be around.

9. Jeff Deen
Cowboy Bob’s law partner, Deen has more personality than any attorney in Mobile except his partner Bob Clark. Their high-profile clients have included Steve Nodine and Herman Thomas.

8. “Cowboy Bob” Clark
He has more personality than any other lawyer in Mobile. He once told reporters outside the courthouse that “You can accuse a bishop in Boston of bastardy, but that don’t mean he did anything.”

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7. Mary Courtney Cane
A real estate agent with Courtney and Morris, Cane is warm and energetic.

6. Win Hallett
The genial head of the Mobile Chamber of Commerce is admired for his intelligence and hard work.

5. John Hardin
This local banker is almost as big a cutup as Robin Williams. His storytelling and “inside jokes” on the Port City make him one of the most entertaining men in Mobile.

4. Dr. Dick Otts
Dr. Otts is the funniest man in Mobile, except for possibly John Hardin. However, he cooks a lot better than Hardin. Felix’s Fish Camp uses his turtle soup recipe.

3. Brad Elliott
Brad is the husband of a physician and sells medical appurtenances. By dint of personality alone he was drafted into hunting with Mobile’s elite at camps in Clark County, and into secret Mobile Mystic Societies. He can regale a crowd with the best of them.

2. Robby McClure
An expert on all things Mobile —  especially Mardi Gras — Robby could write a book on the people and rumors in the Bay area. A lot of folks are hoping he doesn’t.

1. John Peebles
In five words or less: smart, amusing, stuffy, knowledgeable Anglophile. Peebles looks for any excuse to wear a kilt.

Stephen Potts' Top 10 Hidden Gems Around Town *

Looking for something new to do in the City? Check out one of these fabulous finds. * In no particular order.

10. Model Train Set
If you find yourself in downtown Mobile with 20 minutes or so to kill, go to the Masonic Temple on St. Francis Street, and check out the elaborate model train set on the second floor. The God’s-eye view of the detailed, electric city is pretty incredible.

9. Best-Kept Secret Parking Space
There is a certain parking spot that we’ve only seen occupied once in the last six years. It’s free, and within walking distance of everything in the downtown area. It’s perfect for Mardi Gras, BayFest and anything at Bienville Square. Unfortunately, we can’t divulge the location. Then it wouldn’t be a secret.

8. Cheryl’s Café
Technically not a “Mobile” hidden gem because it’s in Spanish Fort, this home-cooking lunch spot is a superior meat ’n’ three. The banana pudding is worth the trip across the Bay.

7. Good Eats
Some of these may not seem “hidden” to you, but are worth a reminder: a Rochelle’s hamburger; Flaming Oysters from the Bluegill; crabmeat omelet sandwich from the Dew Drop Inn Restaurant; a Blind Mule burger; Sunday brunch at Callaghan’s Irish Social Club; Clifton Morrissette’s grilled pimento and cheese on thin French bread.

6. Battle House Gym
Located in the historic hotel, the fitness room is seldom crowded, extremely clean and loaded with state-of-the-art cardio machines and free weights. The pool is heaven during the summer, and there are tennis courts and a driving range. There’s also an outside bar for a post-workout cocktail, because proper hydration is important.

5. Chickasabogue
A fun and sometimes forgotten place to spend a Saturday, this north Mobile County park offers canoeing, camping, swimming, fishing, hiking, cycling and picnicking. There is also a museum, which was once the oldest Methodist / Episcopal church in Alabama.

4. Osiris Ball
While every reveler has his or her favorite Mardi Gras gala, everyone should attend this eccentric alternative one once. This ain’t your daddy’s Mardi Gras. Or maybe it is. Either way, it’s a hell of a show.

2. and 3. Mobile Public Library Local History and Genealogy (inside the Ben May Main Library) and The Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library (on the ground floor of the USA Springhill Campus)
Anyone with interest in or curiosity about the city should visit these. The collection at Ben Main includes histories of the area, periodicals, genealogical materials and more. The Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library (formerly the USA Archives) takes you back in time as you thumb through old photos.

1. Mudflats
Local hunters and fisherman owe their successes to the biologically rich mudflats of the Bay. Furry, finned and feathered creatures alike inhabit the muck, making our watery area one of the most diverse ecological systems around.

Catt Sirten's Top 10 Places to Indulge in Live Music

The local radio personality gives his picks for where to hear Mobile’s best sounds.

10. The Crooked Martini
A place for West Mobile suburbanites to enjoy music and a libation without having to get on the interstate. 

9. Zebra Lounge
If there’s a DIP music scene, it’s core has to be the Zebra. The lounge is immortalized in The Ugli Stick’s tune DIP. According to writer and frontman for the band, Eric Erdman, “You can take me out of the Parkway, but you can’t take the Parkway out of me.”

8. The Shed
Lots of restaurants have music to go along with dinner or to extend their hours of operations past normal dining hours. But this joint, across from USA, has a serious stage that attracts lots of local and regional players, and patrons that know barbecue and blues go together like red beans and rice.

7. Blues Tavern
A blues bar right out of any Hollywood scene. It’s smoky, it’s hot, and the clients include everyone from bankers to bikers. It’s the real-deal blues bands that make this Government Boulevard  bar an attraction.

6. Dauphin Street / Downtown
There are so many places along Dauphin, or in the close vicinity, it would be prudent just to clump them all together instead of trying to point out each one. This list is far too short. With venues such as Soul Kitchen, Dahlia’s Piano Bar and The Brickyard, week in and week out, LoDa has the strongest heartbeat in the area’s music community.

5. Mojo (The Mystic Order of the Jazz Obsessed)
The organization’s Jazz Jambalaya convenes the fourth Monday of each month at the Gulf City Lodge. Monthly meetings focus on tributes to jazz and blues legends performed by local and regional artists.

4. BayFest
Much has been written about Mobile’s music festival, and Alabama’s biggest. That’s because it’s a surefire winner. 

3. Bienville Square
For 26 years the free Brown Bag Concerts have presented local musical artists of all genres. Catch lunchtime concerts on Wednesdays in April, May, September and October.

2. Callaghan’s Irish
Social Club There seems to be a dimensional portal at the corner of Charleston and Marine streets. You walk in the door and suddenly you’re in New Orleans’ Garden District. Take in local, regional and national acts, many on the cusp of fame.

1. “The House Next Door”
This is to say, “support local music where you find it.” The greatest guitar player I ever heard was playing on a couch in his living room. Sometimes great music is made by folks who aren’t doing it for a living, they play because they can’t NOT play. That’s where you’ll hear the magic.

Mallory Boykin's Top 10 Local Symbols

Trivial facts about Mobile classics

10. Umbrella
Proper gear is a must in the rainiest city in the U.S. Plus, during Carnival season, an inverted umbrella serves the dual purpose of a throw and bead catcher. 

9. Camellia
This state flower of Alabama grows best when planted in semi-shaded, slightly acidic spots.

8. MoonPie
A standard chocolate MoonPie contains 226 calories. When the city decided to drop an illuminated replica of the favorite Mardi Gras pastry in 2008, they also cooked up a world-record-breaking edible version that had 200 times that amount.

7. Oysters
The myth that it’s only safe to eat oysters in months that have an “r” stems from the olden days before there was refrigeration.

6. Brown Pelican
Frequently found on spots like Galliard Island, Pelecanus occidentalis, or the brown pelican, is the only species of the bird that dives in the water to capture prey.

5. The RSA Tower
The city’s tallest building takes up 97, 245 square feet — that’s roughly 2.23 acres, or two football fields.

4. Azalea Trail Maid
“A kid walks up to you at an event, with chocolate all over her hands, and asks to touch your dress. What do you do?” This simple question has given high school juniors many sleepless nights as they prepare for their all-important interviews to be ambassadors for the city.

3. Cannon
Orange. Blue. Pink. The Loop’s beloved artifact has had coats of many colors, but it always reverts to classic black. Last summer, the popular Civil War relic even sported a knit sweater courtesy of the Knitting Loon.

2. Battleship
While there have been six USS Alabamas — one that helped capture pirates, another that fought in the Civil War — there’s only one Lucky A, and she’s been holding port on the Causeway for the past 47 years.

1. Live Oak
Getting some of that classic Mobile foliage in your own backyard is as easy as harvesting and planting a crop of acorns, but you’ll have to wait a couple hundred years for a sapling to grow into a beauty like the ones that line Government Street, sturdy as the city.

Michael Thomason's Top 10 Highlights in Port City History

A breakdown of big moments in our past

10. April 1813
American troops take control of Mobile, and it becomes part of the United States and the gateway to Alabama.

9. 1702
Mobile is founded at 27-Mile Bluff near the Mauvila village for which we are named.

8. 1985
After a long fight, Mobile adopts a mayor-council form of government. The new system reflects the demographic realities and begins an era of political change and economic growth.

7. 1917 – 1918
World War I brings modern shipbuilding to the city, an essential element in our modern economy. In the decade to follow, a prosperous Mobile finally gets modern state docks and builds a Causeway across the Bay in 1927.

6. May 1963
Alabama legislature charters the University of South Alabama. Half a century later, it is the educational, medical and cultural powerhouse of Mobile, with 16, 000 students and more than 70, 000 graduates.

5. 1888
The first ship channel from the Gulf to the Mobile River is completed. The federal Corps of Engineers project, which allows large oceangoing ships to come to Mobile and its railroads for the first time, saves the city from commercial strangulation.

4. Jan. 1, 1832
Michael Krafft and friends parade on New Year’s Eve and begin what is now Mobile’s central cultural event, Mardi Gras. Joe Cain will restructure and revive Carnival after the Civil War. (See page 73.)

3. 1860 – 1865
The Clotilda arrives here in the summer of 1860 with African prisoners who will become slaves throughout the long, bloody Civil War. In the end, Mobile lies shattered and impoverished.

2. 1830 – 1860
Mobile is transformed by the mighty cotton trade and becomes one of the nation’s 10 largest cities.

1. 1941 – 1945 (World War II)
The influx of people, expansion on the waterfront and Brookley Field forever change Mobile. Arguably, this is the most important event in our history.

Robin Delaney's Top 10 Words to Describe Mobile *

If you looked Mobile up in the dictionary, you might find: * In no particular order.

10. Bumpy
Uneven sidewalks are ramps for skateboards and concrete cracks are speed bumps in streets. The word describes Mobile’s history of moving slowly.

9. Fried
Nothing in town is more important than what you put in your mouth. It also suggests the temperature of our black streets.

8. Gothic
Charleston, New Orleans, Savannah and Mobile — the four great Southern Gothic cities. This notion is from film producer Martin Jurow.

7. Fertile
Fish, shrimp, oysters, crabs, ducks, quail, turkey, deer. We are the fertile crescent of the Gulf. No delta system is as rich with diversity, as we have learned from our own E.O. Wilson.

6. Local
Family is everything, and everything is family. Everyone knows everyone.

5. Secret
Tunnels under a river, a secret fishing hole or sandy empty beach symbolize hidden connections. Mobile Bay offers privacy, quiet and a chance
at mystery.

4. Gospel
Soul, black and white, church music, and car radios are the beat of the Bay. The spirit of the heart and soul of Mobile is alive and well in all expressions of faith.

3. Muggy
You could cut the crime of humid air with a knife.  The rainiest city in America envelops you in life-nourishing moisture and wraps you like a mug of warm coffee.

2. Muddy
The sediments of our Delta floor are as old as any place on earth. A rich, dark melting pot of people, all stuck together like a muddy gumbo.

1. Strong
From bridges to wrought-iron oaks … our tree-filled  port city is new again thanks to steel, ships and a strong traditional work ethic, and the likes of ThyssenKrupp Steel, Austal and RSA.

Let’s go to a secret gospel, gothic local place down a muddy, bumpy, muggy road and have fried, fat, fertile, strong fish. Let’s go to a place pronounced “Mo-Beel.”

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