Joshua Tehee

Joshua Tehee names the Top 10 pop culture moments in Fresno in 2015

One of the hardest characters to re-create for “The Force Awakens” Swede was the BB-8 droid.
One of the hardest characters to re-create for “The Force Awakens” Swede was the BB-8 droid. BRYAN HARLEY

It is not easy to condense an entire year of Fresno pop culture happenings into a single, cohesive list.

For one, you’re dealing with the entirety of a city’s collective culture. That includes art and leisure, food, entertainment and sports. In 2015, even politics register as pop culture.

It’s difficult to cull through it all. Add to that, the speed at which we process and discard information, even with the aid of digital archives and the polling of friends and co-workers, and there are surely things overlooked. Others just didn’t make the list.

For instance, soccer and craft beer were a big part of Fresno’s pop culture in 2015, but neither is on my list. Nor is that fact that 2015 was the year that hipsters migrated to Old Town Clovis.

So, what did make my list of top Fresno pop culture in 2015? In order of importance:

10. Celebrity sightings

One wonders if there were celebrity sightings before social media. Obviously so, but Twitter and Instagram have made it so much easier to track the famous (and semi-famous) as they pass through town. In 2015, we saw foodie star Alton Brown, who posted selfies of himself at local eateries such as Cafe Corazon (and also the dentist); comedian Kevin Hart, who was seen sitting at a poker table a Club One, and shock rocker Alice Cooper, who got to pet (and pose with) Fresno’s most famous dog at Peeve’s Public House. He also went shopping at Macy’s, apparently. No word on whether he squeezed in a round of golf, but one assumes.

9. Donald Trump

This was a big year for The Donald. The billionaire presidential hopeful is included on this list because he has a history with the city (see: The Running Horse development) and because Fresno was included on a short list of places that seem to agree with Trump’s take on banning certain immigrants on the basis of their religious beliefs. That’s according to Wall Street Journal quoting SurveyUSA, anyway.

8. Fulton Mall

While the political machinations for this have been turning since Mayor Ashley Swearengin took office in 2008, 2015 may be the year the nail was finally set in the coffin that is the Fulton Mall. Just last month, the City Council approved a $22.4 million bid to remake Fulton Street and return the mall to traffic.

7. Fresno, the film

Technically, the dark comedy starring Judy Greer and Natasha Lyonne and directed by Jamie Babbit is called “Addicted to Fresno,” and technically it has little to do with the city, other than the title and the fact it is fictionally set here. While it did screen at this year’s Reel Pride film festival, New York got the official premiere. That said, the movie pops up as the top result when you Google “Fresno in 2015.”

6. “The Gallows”

This film was actually shot in Fresno at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium by local filmmakers Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing. The found-footage horror film was made for mere $100,000 and was picked up by Warner Bros. for national distribution. It made $10 million on its opening weekend. And, for trivia: Mayor Swearengin declared June 30 as “The Gallows Day.”

5. Diana Marcum wins Pulitzer

Longtime readers of The Bee will remember Marcum’s byline from her time at the paper. She was a reporter/columnist from 2001 to 2009. Marcum now reports on the Valley for the Los Angeles Times, where she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize (it’s like the Academy Awards for journalists) in April for her coverage of California’s drought.

4. Kuppajoe hosts its last show

For 18 years, Kuppajoe was the go-to spot for live music if you were under 21. The all-ages venue on Shields Avenue hosted live music just about every Friday night (and some Saturdays) before its final show in February. All told the club did close to 1,000 shows over the years. More than that, it was a meeting place for young musicians and the testing ground for local bands.

3. “Book of Mormon”

Donald Munro called “The Book of Mormon” the professional theater event of the year. The controversially popular (and profanity-laden) musical was definitely the most talked about theater event of the year, especially with those who didn’t see it.

2. Fresno tacos

Over the past half decade, the Fresno Grizzlies have built a foodie subculture with the annual Taco Truck Throwdown. This year, a minor league baseball team built an entire marketing campaign around the idea. The team even changed its name to the Fresno Tacos for the night, donning special “Tacos” jerseys and releasing official team merchandise. The promotion pulled a record crowd and national attention from Taco Bell, which offered free tacos to everyone in Fresno if the Grizzlies permanently changed the name.

1. Fresno “swede” on Good Morning America

Seeing as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was chosen by The Associated Press as the Entertainer of the Year, it’s only fitting that Bryan Harley and Roque Rodriguez top this list with their low-budget brilliant shot-for-shot remake of the film’s trailer. The video is closing in on 1 million views and earned the pair a trip to New York to be guests on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” where they were able to name-drop their hometown.

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee

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