Here are SFGN's "Best of 2017" winners in the people category in Broward County.
Best Local LGBT Activist
Robert Boo – CEO of The Pride Center
This isn’t the first time Robert Boo has won this award. In fact, it’s the second year in a row.
The CEO of The Pride Center at Equality Park has been in the role for more than five years, and his strong work ethic and tireless devotion to the LGBT community is so strong that South Florida noticed. More than once.
“My only goal since I started working at The Center is to make the community a better place than how I found it,” Boo said. “I love what I do and hope that I can continue to make a positive impact in our community.”
And he is. Boo has been involved with The Center for more than a decade in a few different roles before becoming CEO in 2012. He’s moved all over the country and doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon.
“My next move from here is into the urn!” Boo said.
Best Bartender (Gal)
Rumors Bar & Grill
2426 Wilton Drive
Kelly Campbell has been a bartender for 23 years at multiple establishments. But, no matter who she serves drinks to, she says those who come up to her bar are all basically the same. And it’s her favorite part of the job, one where she can avoid the two types of places she doesn’t want to work – outside or in an office.
“I would say meeting people all the time is the best part. I just like interacting with people,” said Campbell, who has worked at Rumors for four years and worked at New Moon for nine years before that.
Asked why she thinks she might have been chosen, she couldn’t come up with an answer.
“To be honest with you, I was pretty surprised. I don’t really know why I was chosen. I just feel honored.”
It might have something to do with her work with SMART Ride, which raises money for HIV/AIDS organizations.
Campbell has been one of the participants who ride their bicycle from Miami to Key West every year to raise money. “This will be my third year. I try to do as much as I can for my community. I like to get involved.”
2230 Wilton Drive
Joshua Bernal has won “Best Barista” two years in a row. But the six-year Java Boys barista says he’s still not sure why he’s so popular with the people who come up to his counter looking for their next cup of joe. “I wish I could tell you.”
On a recent visit, Alex Elliott became another customer to walk away from Bernal’s counter satisfied. “Josh was the guy that took care of my order, made it perfect . . . enjoyed the people watching. It’s a good place, friendly guys, and well worth the trip. I'll go back.”
But while Bernal’s not sure exactly why customers like him, he says he has a few ideas.
“I’m friendly, but I don’t think that’s different from any other barista. I wish I had a good answer. I always try and make sure the customers are comfortable and they get good service a step above of what they’re expecting.”
As comfortable as Joshua’s customers appear to be with him, he says he’s very comfortable at Java Boys. “I like the customers and I get along great with my boss. Java Boys has become like a family more than anything.”
Best Bartender (Guy)
Rumors Bar & Grill
2426 Wilton Drive
When Tyler Wright is tending bar, the drinks will cost you but the therapy’s free.
Wright, who has been a bartender for six and a half years, four and half of them at Rumors, loves the human interaction of his job and considers himself as a sort of therapist. “I’m a people person. I actually enjoy listening to everyone’s problems.”
Problems with romantic relationships, family, work; Wright has seemingly heard it all.
“They always come to us to vent and relax, so I like to be there for them. Everyone’s just looking for someone to talk to and I’m just happy to be that person.” He added that he never wants to be one of those bartenders who does a “turn and burn” and ignores a customer after they’ve been served.
Asked what made people choose him as “Best Bartender,” he credited his “phenomenal drinks” and his sympathetic ear. “I think people can really feel my energy and feel that I really care about them.”
Best Local DJ
DJ Josh Atom
DJ Josh Atom brings music to the ears of his fans across South Florida. He’s been a staple at clubs for more than 15 years. “My favorite part of being a DJ is the excitement of a crowd when they react to a song they like,” he says. “I like to play a little bit of everything. Very open format. I love requests and I usually tell people "I have a great remix of that!"
These days DJ Josh Atom plays music videos every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at Rumors in Wilton Manors and every Tuesday and Thursday at Southern Nights in Fort Lauderdale.
He has performed all over Florida, Las Vegas, Arizona and New York City. For folks who don’t love the nightlife, DJ Josh Atom can be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @djjoshuaatom. He can also be found at soundcloud.com/djjoshuaatom and
DJ Josh describes winning best DJ as a dream come true. “Thank you so much to everyone who comes out to see me every week and voted for me.”
Dick’s Service Station
3528 NE 12th Avenue
Dustin Caudill is a relative newcomer when it comes to being a barber. He graduated beauty school less than two years ago — but what he lacks in experience, he makes up for in customer service.
Dick’s Service Station is the first salon for Caudill to call home. He offers a range of services from haircuts to shaves and beard trimming. “The only thing I don’t do is wax,” Caudill said. Every time a client is in his chair, Caudill says his goal is to make them feel great.
“I think people like coming to me because I take my time,” he says. “I don’t rush people out the door. My attention to detail is why I think I have a lot of loyal clients. The clients here are amazing.”
Caudill works Wednesdays through Sundays at Dick’s Service Station.
Best Local Celebrity
Robyn Almodovar might be the only chef in Wilton Manors with an IMDB page.
Almodovar, who owns the Palate Party food truck and is the chef at Rumors Bar & Grill, has been a contestant on eight reality TV shows.
Among those shows, she was complimented by Gordon Ramsay as a contestant on “Hell’s Kitchen” in 2012, is competing on the current season of that show, and won “Chopped” on the Food Network in 2015. Her reality TV career has burnished her local celebrity status and lead to interviews with print media outlets and interviews on Deco Drive and NBC 6 South Florida. She was also chosen as “Best Local Celebrity.”
“The shows are so much fun. They’re a blast,” Almodovar said. She also calls it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show children that they can be successful, even if they deal with some of the same issues she does.
As to the secret of her cooking, “I just cook with a lot of love and a lot of passion.”
And if she wasn’t such a good chef, Almodovar is pretty sure she’d be a hairdresser. “I was a beauty school drop-out,” she said with a laugh.
Best Massage Therapist
Massage By Tito
2201 Wilton Dr.
Who doesn’t love a massage? Or to be touched by a strong man? Well meet Tito.
“I have a passion for what I do,” he told SFGN last year. “Some people just take a course and look for the quickest way to become a massage therapist – just to make a quick buck. If you don’t have a passion you’re not going to be that good.”
And Tito is good. With over 700 clients he’s been around the block.
This is Tito’s second year in a row readers have named him “Best Massage Therapist.”
What he believes separates him from the others is his deep tissue massage and the way he combines and incorporates different techniques into the experience like Thai massage.
He also takes time to work over your stomach.
“Nobody does a stomach massage,” he noted.
And with reasonable prices at $80 for one hour or $100 for 90 minutes you can’t go wrong.
Singer Jennifer McClain has performed in New York, Key West, Mexico, and West Palm Beach. But Wilton Manors is where fans can see her most often.
Most weeks, she performs at Georgie’s Alibi, like she has since 1997, two or three times and does “a little bit of everything.” A fan of Broadway, McClain says she sings that genre, Jazz, 80s, Country, or anything else her audience requests. “It just depends on where they want to go.”
But while she enjoys singing, she says she most enjoys the connection it forms with her audience. “It’s a way to connect with people . . . on an emotional level in certain cases.”
It’s that connection she cited when asked why she thinks she was chosen “Best Artist/Musician” for a third year in a row.
“I’m thrilled they chose me again. It’s always an honor to be selected by the community. I think it’s probably the connection they feel, the repour that I have with my audience. Maybe they know me on a personal level.”
Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Voted “Best Politician” for the second consecutive year by SFGN readers, U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) was an advocate for LGBT rights from the beginning of an illustrious 25-year career and counting. In the wake of the Pulse Nightclub massacre, Wasserman Schultz led the charge to end the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.
“I am truly thrilled and greatly moved to receive this honor from our community who know me best,” Wasserman Schultz said. “While our nation has made tremendous progress in the past several years, we must remain vigilant in enacting laws and policies that protect the LGBT community from outrageous discrimination.”
Transgender Americans, Wasserman Schultz said, are vulnerable in the current political climate.
“The Trump Administration’s egregious attacks, whether it be the baseless ban on transgender military service or rescinding protections for transgender students in our public schools, it is more evident than ever that our work is far from done.”
First elected at age 26 to the Florida House of Representatives, Wasserman Schultz now represents parts of Miami-Dade and Broward Counties in U.S. House district 23. She is the first Jewish Congresswoman to serve from the state of Florida and a breast cancer survivor. A mother of three, Wasserman Schultz, 51, lives in Weston with her husband Steve.
“With the help of our community and our allies, we must never allow progress to be rolled back without a fight,” Wasserman Schultz said. “I will continue to use my voice and my vote to help ensure LGBT Americans are free to live their truth and love who they love.”
Best Drag Queen
It’s been said that flowers don’t tell they show. The same can be said for Daisy Deadpetals.
“I absolutely love what I do and consider it such a privilege to be able to have a job entertaining folks,” she said. “I always work hard to put smiles on people’s faces and keep ‘em laughing! To have that recognized by South Florida Gay News readers (my extended fabulous gay family) is such an honor & means the world to me.”
It’s the third straight year for her to win Best Drag Queen. Her friend (and fellow Best of Winner) DJ Josh Atom is not surprised. “Of course she won Best Drag Queen, because she is,” he said. “Daisy makes all her shows original with clips from different things and she will have a costume down perfect!”
Daisy Deadpetals performs on Wednesdays at Boardwalk, Thursdays at The Pub, Fridays at Rumors, Saturdays at Lips and Sundays at Alibi. You can also catch her on TV’s Daily Flash on the panel for a fierce new fashion segment.