—by Donna Stephenson
In 1982, I was a bar fly. Six days a week, my friend Janice and I went to Walabi’s at 22 broadway. We’d meet around 9 pm after our jobs; Janice was a tele-marketer or somesuch and I worked days at my parents hardware store. We’d dance for hours, stopping to only to smoke, pee or to take a quick hit from a warm beer. Occasionally we’d ask guys to dance. But Janice was my main partner, we’d rigorously hop up and down for hours to music that sounded so good and so original and was wholly homegrown.
We were accepted as regulars pretty quickly, by the bands and friends-of-bands, and most importantly by the bouncer and doorman, Jim Scott. I was just 21 and pretty naive about things. Jim, a black guy at well over 6 feet tall and older than us, kept an eye out and became a friend. He ministered good advice — “Donna, don’t drink your beer with a straw” — and tips on who was good to hang out with and who was not so great. And he’d see us safely to our cars.
Most of the music was new wave with some rock-a-billy and punk. We’d wear un-breathable plastic pants in black or red with anything tight on top. We’d park on Broadway, lock the car and walk as fast as we could to the safety of the club. We’d pogo all night in short heeled ankle boots and leave at closing to go have a 3 am breakfast at Reed’s on 8th and Speer. Whether Reed’s was a gay and drag place all the time or just late night I don’t know, but Janice was hopelessly in love with one of the regulars so we’d go and eat eggs and drink coffee before going home to start all over again the next day.
I left for art school late in 1982, leaving the town and all the music I loved. I plastered my Kansas City dorm room with flyers from my time at Denver clubs, memories from nights at Walabi’s, Straight Johnson’s and the Mercury.
My favorite bands were The Pink, The Aviators, and The Rock Advocates. Great nights were also spent with the Astrobeats, Crank Call Love Affair and the Rotisseries — I don’t remember seeing anything I couldn’t dance to.
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B50 Note: Walabi’s closed its doors in 1985. Show flyers are courtesy of Trash Is Truth, where you will find images of hundreds of flyers from concerts in denver between 1977 and 1986. Donna Stephenson (formerly van horn) is an artist who lives in Denver. Her most recent exhibit was at Ironton Studios; her work can be seen on her website, donnastephenson.com.