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if, after painfully specifying character set and collation for your database, all your tables, and all columns within them, you’re still experiencing discrepencies between what your database is storing (eg. strings appear correct from within phpMyAdmin) versus what your website is displaying from database query results (question marks instead of your fancy quotes), try this:

mysql_query(”SET character_set_client = utf8;”);
mysql_query(”SET character_set_results = utf8;”);

those two lines should go right after your mysql_connect() and mysql_select_db().

after several hours of trial-and-error i arrived at the above solution as if by magick. here’s hoping it helps someone else…