remembering city spirit, part 2

—by Mona Lucero

every summer, city spirit would host fashion shows from the years 1994 to 1996 (not sure what years they were exactly). denver fashion designers always looked forward to showing their designs. there were as an amazing variety of fashion being shown. the designers themselves and the models came from many different points of view and walks of life.

in one show, you might see uzi designs (they sold their designs and other fetish-wear on colfax and pennsylvania, garden girl dresses (a retro-look if memory serves me right), ladybug clothing (fashion-forward), nur jewelry (the models would wear african-inspired headwraps), sugar twist kids (club kids who made everything they were wearing including their very high platform shoes which made them tower above everyone else in the show) and my own designs. at the time, i used the fashion shows to force me to come out with new lines on a regular basis as i was beginning my wholesale business. my big designs back then were candy-colored fake fur jackets, hats & bags and mini a-line skirts (some things never change!) and little mini-dresses with contrast vinyl banding at the empire waist.

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i’m sure all the participating designers were working really hard beforehand and when everyone arrived and dressed in the basement of city spirit, there was a lot of excitement in the air. each “posse” would check out what everyone else was wearing. you could always count on uzi to make a big scene even before the show. they would undress without modesty and make a lot of noise doing it. my models were pretty girly so they would scurry to dress behind the portable doctor’s screens that we used as dressing rooms.

someone from the restaurant would come down, i think i remember the owner, susan wick coming down once, and try to get everyone’s attention and finally announce that the show was about to begin. before you knew it, the room had emptied and the show was on. while waiting to go on, the groups of fashion models would wait behind the restaurant.

once my models told me they were ready to get into a scrap with the sugar twist kids in the alley because they were dissing my fake fur clothes. it was definitely a competitive atmosphere at times but i think everyone enjoyed the competition and vying for the audience’s attention.

once you got through the restaurant, there was a runway on the sidewalk where people were sitting in chairs. a lot were fans of the designers, but there were a lot people walking through on their way to the bars in lodo and they were in a for a big surprise but they seemed to love it. there was a lot of hooting and hollering.

in the second year, the show had gotten so much word of mouth, that it was necessary to open another space next to the restaurant. the music was eclectic and you never knew what was going to play next. most of the modeling was more like dancing. occasionally, a person from the audience would get up and groove on the runway. the craziest moments were always provided by uzi. they would feature models in diapers or with whips and i remember hearing from a few shocked but amused audience members that the uzi people were whipping onlookers.

i learned a lot from doing those shows. i’ll never forget clio ortiz’s work. it was my second fashion show ever and she had about a dozen gorgeous black models, all in “body-conscious” red dresses with black hats. it was a lesson in branding for me and i knew i had a lot to learn and i did! thanks, city spirit, tracy weil and especially susan wick for so generously hosting such fun fashion extravaganzas!

B50 note: Mona Lucero is a fashion designer and proprietor of Mona Lucero Design, located at 2544 15th St, Denver, CO 80211. For more on City Spirit, read part 1 of the story…

Remember City Spirit? I do.

— by Tracy Weil,

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In 1988 I graduated from Fort Lewis College in Durango and headed to Denver to try and find a job in the “big city.” Not really ready to start working a regular day job, I happened across an artful place called City Spirit Cafe. I dropped in and fell in love with the vibrant pink walls and playful tile mosaics covering the entire restaurant. I asked if they were hiring wait staff and sure enough they were. This is where I met owners Mickey and Susan.

The cafe was the brain child of local developer Mickey Zeppelin and artist Susan Wick. They opened the award winning cafe & bookstore in 1985 in the up and coming area called LoDo. They also enlisted Michael Fagen to help put together the fabulous Art & Architecture bookstore in the basement of this new venture. City Spirit Cafe served health conscious fare as well as sinful desserts. After 9pm the cafe was the place to be, regularly hosting live musicians like Johnny Long, Lionel Young, Eagle Park Slim & Sympathy F as well as live local djs like DJ Knee.

As an artist I fit right in. This is where I got my start with my first exhibition in the Art Annex next door to the cafe. I waited tables for about 3 years, then started bartending and managing the restaurant. I also booked bands and moved into handling special events and PR for the thriving cafe.

As a community meeting place, City Spirit always hosted interesting things to bring people together; from talks, to seminars, to poetry readings to fashion shows there was always something going on.


One of the most memorable fashion events was “Fashionhomemade,” the 5th annual show and one of the more wilder fashion extravaganzas. The fashion shows were always interesting and this small cafe drew over 1000 people this particular evening.

We took over Blake Street and the back alley, setting up tables for service and a runway right down the middle of the cafe. Le Menu consisted of fresh salads, Brie and roasted garlic, artichokes & the signature salsa and blue corn chips. Other tasty fare included; seafood lasagna & mussels, along with the deluxe tamale plate, Paella and Asian Lo Mein.

Another signature item was the famous and potent City Spirit La La. This “pre-cosmo” was a must have while sitting at the bar, limit of 4. I’ve included the recipe below for those nostalgics that would like to recreate it.

The fashion show started around 9:30pm and included lots of local designer talent including handmade knits and redo clothing by Susan Wick, vintage clothes from Soul Flower & designs made of astro-turf by Alicia Nowicki, Carol Mier sculptural fashions, uncommon & eclectic work by Mona Lucero, and S&M Housewife & tupperwear kink by now NYC designers Uzi (Jose Duran & David Ball). Other designers included Claire Inwood, Heidi Peterson, Shelly Schoeneshoefer, Cleo Ortize Couture, Colorado Institute of Art Students, Cydney Griggs, Chitahka Nsombie, Nur D’afrique, Gayla Coleman, Saohm Hattier & Jerry Whitehead. After the show patrons were invited downstairs to browse and buy all the creative wears in the show and the event ended with dancing at 11pm with music by dj Afro-dytee.

The café was also a great place to meet famous musicians all looking for a heathly place to eat on the road. Over my 10 years at the café I met or crossed paths with Beck, Allison Morissette, Boy George, Lauryn Hill, Digable Planets,The Fugees, Tool, Lenny Kravitz and The Brand New Heavys. The Smashing Pumpkins even made a special unplugged appearance one night after their concert in town.

What a place! City Spirit will always have a special place in my heart; here I learned what community was all about. We’d love to hear your memories of the café please post below.

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City Spirit Café La La: Sold for $4 (limit 4)
1 ½ oz. Absolut Vodka
3 oz. Knudsen’s Cranberry Juice
Splash of Cointreau
Splash of Rose’s Lime Juice or fresh lime juice
Serve chilled in a martini glass with a Twist of Lemon

City Spirit was located at 1434 Blake Street. All the tile-work was torn out but remnants of the space, including parts of the bar, can still be seen at Taxi in RiNo.