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the Twin Cities

BEST SCANDAL

Denny Hecker's fall from grace

Once, Denny Hecker's kind face, big smile, and grandfatherly white hair graced billboards, television screens, and the sides of buses all over the Twin Cities in ads for his auto empire. Then in late 2008, Hecker began his long and embarrassing fall from grace when the recession began eating away at his heavily leveraged auto dealerships and rent-a-car business. More than a dozen of his businesses were shuttered and hundreds of employees were put out of work. But that was only the beginning of his troubles, as bankruptcies turned into allegations of fraud and salacious tidbits began to surface about Hecker's personal life, including almost comically lavish homes, a DWI charge after driving his Land Rover into a utility pole, and a bankruptcy cat fight over a $60,000 fur coat he gave to a gal pal. Throughout his spectacular collapse, Hecker, along with Tom Petters, has come to represent a local microcosm of all that went wrong in business leading up to the Great Recession: unchecked greed, a misplaced sense of entitlement, an ego large enough to block the sun, and complete disregard for the well-being of the workers who made him wealthy. Even more pathetic, Hecker still refuses to accept responsibility for his actions and behaves like a child in court. He has been known to storm out of courtrooms cursing when things didn't go his way. Then in March Hecker's downfall turned tragic with the suicide of his former father-in-law, Bill Prohofsky, whom Hecker reportedly asked to hide assets from his bankruptcy receiver. It's the rare scandal that even scandalmongers can't bear to watch, but Hecker has managed the feat.

BEST AMUSEMENT PARK Valleyfair

BEST BATHROOM Macy's Minneapolis, fourth-floor ladies room in Intimate Apparel

BEST BUS ROUTE 21

BEST CHARITY Second Chance Animal Rescue

BEST CORNER Lyndale Avenue South and 26th Street, Minneapolis

BEST CURE FOR WINTER DOLDRUMS Learn to skate ski

BEST DAY TRIP Red Wing

BEST DOG PARK Airport Dog Park

BEST FESTIVAL Soundset

BEST GRAFFITI Jimi Hendrix in Uptown

BEST KARAOKE Cloggy's Tavern

BEST LAKE Lake Calhoun, Minneapolis

BEST LIBRARY Franklin Library

BEST LOCAL BLOG The Adventures of Johnny Northside

BEST LOCAL BOY MADE GOOD Al Franken

BEST LOCAL GIRL MADE GOOD Dessa Darling

BEST LOCAL WEBSITE Minnesota State Legislature

BEST MAYOR Chris Coleman

BEST MISSISSIPPI RIVER EXPERIENCE The view from the Guthrie

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD Northeast Minneapolis

BEST NEW HIPSTER HANGOUT Angry Catfish

BEST NON-FOOD THING ABOUT THE STATE FAIR Feeling better about your lot in life

BEST PARK Loring Park

BEST PLACE FOR A FIRST DATE Loring Park Summer Music and Movies

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BEST PLACE TO DO SOMETHING FOR FREE Aquatennial fireworks

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BEST PLACE TO MEET SINGLE MEN (GAY) 19 Bar

BEST PLACE TO MEET SINGLE MEN (STRAIGHT) Vertical Endeavors

BEST PLACE TO MEET SINGLE WOMEN (LESBIAN) The Town House

BEST PLACE TO MEET SINGLE WOMEN (STRAIGHT) Bar 508

BEST PLACE TO PEOPLE-WATCH Mayo Clinic

BEST PLACE TO STAY WARM IN WINTER Water Park of America

BEST PLACE TO STUDY Dunn Bros, University Avenue and Sixth Street

BEST PLACE TO TAKE OUT-OF-TOWN GUESTS Linden Hills neighborhood

BEST PLACE TO WASTE AN AFTERNOON Marjorie McNeely Conservatory

BEST POLITICIAN Al Franken

BEST PUB CRAWL Zombie Pub Crawl

BEST SHOUT-OUT TO THE TWIN CITIES BY A NON-NATIVE Ringo Starr's plug for the Electric Fetus

BEST SIGN OF SPRING Art in Bloom at Minneapolis Institute of Arts

BEST STATE FAIR FOOD Pig Lickers

Best Staycation Bloomington

BEST STREET Summit Avenue, St. Paul

BEST TWEETER Jason DeRusha

BEST UNDISCOVERED NEIGHBORHOOD Dayton's Bluff

BEST VIEW The High Bridge

BEST VILLAIN Michele Bachmann

BEST WEEKEND GETAWAY Madeline Island, Bayfield, Wisconsin