[Best of the Santa Clara Valley 1997]

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Best of Campbell

Shampoo Chez
Fur Real: The pet wash facilities at Shampoo Chez in Campbell can work wonders in human-canine relations.

Best Place to Make Rover Over
For $10 each half hour, dog owners can shampoo and blow dry Rover without leaving their own bathroom and surrounding environs smelling like Eau de Wet Dog. Shampoo Chez has five dog-washing stalls--complete with tub, drying stand, towels and hot and cold running water. Pet supplies and professional grooming services are available on site as well. The end result? The house smells great, Fluffy's coat is shiny and flea-free. These people make money on an outstanding idea. What could be better?
523 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell (408/379-WASH)

Best Use of Winchester Drive-In Land
The former Winchester Drive-In site sits on 23 acres of land and is the only open space in the densely populated city of Campbell. Nearby residents have wanted a park and opposed high-tech development. So here's a plan: revert the Winchester Drive-In to its original purpose: a drive-in theater. Even with computers and video games flooding the market, good family entertainment never goes out of style. Install new, clip-on stereophonic speakers. Erect the screens. Sweep out the parking lot. If Blockbuster can buy its own bowl game, Nick at Nite could certainly kick down for a drive-in and broadcast cheesy movies in the open sky. According to the Redevelopment Agency, two lawsuits are holding up a agreement that would open the land to high-tech companies. "The current direction of the City Council is to save four acres of land for a park and open the rest to R&D development," Redevelopment Agency project manager Kirk Heinrichs says. What about a drive-in? "I don't know of anybody who has expressed interest in that," he says. Let's show 'em.

Best Dollar Record Store
With that "For Lease" sign hanging in the window, nobody knows how much longer JS Enterprises (a.k.a. "Memories") is going to be around. Until the U-Haul truck pulls up, hardcore beat junkies and thrifty music lovers can rifle through boxes and boxes of vinyl records. All records--with the exception of a box or two--are priced for a dollar. A recent trip netted vintage Keely Smith, a duet between Miriam Makeba and Harry Belafonte, Thin Lizzy's Live and Dangerous, and a couple on the ABC/Impulse label. Total damage: $5. The store also has a smattering of rock and roll memorabilia, antiques and old stereo equipment. DJ Shadow once said that record shopping is like rooting through a box of broken dreams. Memories gives these broken dreams a second lease on life.
394 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell (408/379-7333)

Best Place to Ward Off Evil
With grinning and groveling gargoyles leering and smirking at every turn, Gargoyles Etc. may not be for the weak at heart or sensitive of stare. However, the shop harbors gargoyle-philes the way Notre Dame attracts pigeons. Laid out like any other sundries shop, a goth's best friend sits in every shape, size and facial feature possible. Some grin, others gloat, all look positively happy to be cast in stone. Invoke medieval decor on an empty banister. Ward off evil spirits in the kitchen. Add some Merrie Olde England to an outdoor fountain. Whatever the inclination, Gargoyles Etc. is loaded with fountains, magnets, candleholders and wind chimes, all bearing the grotesque features of everyone's favorite water spout.
401 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell (408/374-5210)

Best All-Ages Ska Club
With curfews and security guards dogging kids' elongated shadows, South Bay teens equate hanging out with criminal behavior. To combat this, Campbell's Gaslighter Theater assembles once-a-month all-age shows. The music leans toward the high school-approved ska-punk vein and word is getting out. Local bands like Monkey, Creech, 78 RPM, Slow Gherkin as well as touring bands like the Siren Six, Facet and Attaboy Skip have blasted away underneath the tacky light-bulb horseshoe surrounding the stage. The vibe is reminiscent of Morgan Hill Playhouse or Los Gatos Teen Center's glory days: $5 shows, a place where music and dancing take precedence over staring and drinking.
400 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell (408/866-1408)

Best Avenue for Music
Starting at Campbell Ave., head south on Bascom Avenue, stay in the right lane and prepare for record-shopping utopia: Tower, Rasputin's, Streetlight, Rowe's Rare Records and Solid Grooves. Everybody knows Tower, the oldest of local music emporiums, and a worthwhile stop. Rasputin's is the new kid on the block with an inventory that's expanding quicker than Sylvester Stallone's midsection. Streetlight is heavy on new and used CDs and vinyl. Solid Grooves specializes in dance and DJ music. Rowe's Rare Records is worth an hour of browsing through its one-of-a-kind collectibles. Bascom's vinyl blacktop is more spread out than Telegraph but 50 percent less crazy and parking's a breeze.
South Bascom Avenue, Campbell

Best Interactive Live Comedy
Boo the dastardly villain! Cheer for the noble hero as he defends the virtuous, lovely, innocent-yet-smartmouthed damsel! Have another beer! Throw some more popcorn! It's live melodrama, and this turn-of-the-last-century art form (OK, maybe we're stretching the term "art") is alive and well throughout the valley.

Then (groan) the shtick begins in earnest as the vaudevillians take the stage. Maybe this one's the worst joke you've heard since Henny Youngman retired. But the honky-tonk piano's clinking, and everyone is grinning and drinking, and you're having some of that good old-fashioned fun. The local vaudeville revival has been in full swing since the Gaslighter Theater opened in 1969, and has spread to the Opry House in New Almaden and to Big Lil's downtown. This is escapist comedy in its rawest form, and sometimes that's the best kind.
Gaslighter Theater, 400 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell (408/866-1408)
Opry House Theater at Club Almaden, 21350 Almaden Road, San Jose (408/268-2492)
Big Lil's Barbary Coast Dinner Theatre, 157 W. San Fernando St., San Jose (408/295-7469)

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From the Sept. 18-24, 1997 issue of Metro.

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