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…

B-Happy Hour at the Club 404

Please join us for our first b-happy hour!

We’ll be gathering at Club 404 to celebrate Denver, our 50th blog post, the contributors to buckfifty, and those smarty-pants Westword Masterminds, past and present. We’ll have buckfifty Miller Genuine Drafts, snacks, and a selection of trivia questions taken from the B50 site (to warm you up for our Locals Only Quiz in March, presented by Buckfifty and Geeks Who Drink).

Only 100 more posts to go, send us your buckfifty.

Tuesday February 24th 5-7 pm at the Club 404, at 4th and Broadway across from Meininger’s.
See you There!

More about the Club 404

As Patricia Calhoun wrote in Westword in December, 2008, the Club 404 is “one of Denver’s last true dives.” Jerry Feld started the Club 57 years ago, and still runs the place with the help of his family. “He’s been there ever since, seeing Denver through boom and bust and boom and bust again. Club 404 will see us through this one, too.”

The 404 (and Nonny the Waitress who still works there) were immortalized in the song “Kristin and Billie” off the 1995 debut album by Slim Cessna’s Auto Club.

[audio: |titles=Kristen and Billy|artists=Slim Cessnas Auto Club]

“There’s a waitress named Nonny at the 404,
We’re wishing you were more near.
We’re still here in Denver,
Can’t wait till you get here,
Oh Nonny, another round over here”

Join us at the Club 404 for a round and some conversation in honor of denver and denverites, past and present.

A Bull in a China Shop

Spud and Titan, 2007 Champion Steers, at the Brown Palace
Spud and Titan, 2007 Champion Steers, at the Brown Palace

Animals are no stranger to the brown palace hotel. According to the hotel’s website:

In 1945, Dan Thornton, who later became governor of Colorado, arranged to have two Hereford bulls shown and sold here for $50,000. In January 1958, Monte Montana clattered into the lobby on his horse “Rex” and continued up the grand staircase to drop in on a meeting of the Rodeo Cowboys Association. In 1988, Gary Henry and “Bubba,” a Texas Longhorn steer, arrived at the front desk to signal the beginning of the National Western Stock Show.

One annual tradition involves the presentation of the winning steer from the National Western. As befits such a fancy place, he drinks out of a silver bowl. While the steer is there, you can go get your picture taken with him. It’s free. It’s fun. It’s a Denver tradition.

In 2007, Allen and I went down to get our picture taken. I’m not sure who the guy on the right is, but I think he’s trying to make sure nobody gets killed. As you can see, 2007 brought in two champion steers (Spud and the reserve champion Titan – I guess Spud was a bit too nervous to be there on his own). They’re good looking fellers, raised by kids from the Future Farmers of America. Spud was raised by Lance Unger of Carlisle, Indiana. Unfortunately for Spud, he became someone’s dinner. Okay, a lot of people’s dinner. Here’s what 9news had to say:

Weighing over 1,300 pounds, Spud sold for $80,000 during the auction. He was bought by the Emil-Lene’s Sirloin House.

For 2009, the steer’s appearance will be on Friday, January 23rd, between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. Whether you prefer your beef freerange or ranging free, this is a rare chance to get up close and personal with a champion steer before he heads to the dinner table.

The Last Great Coffeehouse?

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The Muddy’s idea began in 1975 as the brainchild of Joe DeRose. It started as a debating club for a few graduate students from Colorado University. They found a place in an old downtown hotel that was on the lower end of its declining years. It was a marriage of convenience—cheap rates, poor students. Too soon, urban renewal broke up this union, forcing the students to scurry about fifteen blocks up into north Denver, where they reopened.

The place quickly morphed into a bookstore that couldn’t support itself. In desperation they added coffee, then pastries and sandwiches and finally an old manual lever espresso machine. Although the birth canal had been strange, what emerged was a full-fledged Coffeehouse, “Muddy Waters of the Platte Inc.” It spent the next ten years surviving on a month-to-month lease, under the mainstream radar and against all odds.

It became a wildly successful “Bistro of the night,” open from seven in the evening until four in the morning, seven days a week. Along with the bookstore-coffeehouse, it added The Slightly off Center Theater, all in the same building. Now there was a place for Music, Plays, life-drawing classes and the piece de resistance, Muddy’s “Summers of Jazz Concerts.”

Muddy’s hosted all of the governors of Colorado and all of the Mayors of Denver from when it opened until it closed its doors in 1997. However, that was only a small part of Muddy’s patina, because it also caught the tail end of the “Beat” generation. Pontifical greats like Ken Kesey and Alan Ginsburg railed against man and machine in our confines.

Jack Micheline headed a list of great poets who spoke their lyrical prose on Muddy’s stage. Both the known and the unknown poet mixed pentameter and hexameter for all who would listen and then strode out the doors leaving their ambience behind.

What made Muddy’s worth writing about was not only who came and went, but also what happened to people while in its ethereal grasp. The real importance lay in its ability to expose people to each other by gently mixing together the grist of their characters, laying bare what was and wasn’t known about each other. It forced us to look at ourselves through the eyes of our contemporaries, some of whom had dared to live outside that damned mainstream box; showing us that social oxygen exists everywhere.

-excerpted from “Muddy’s Chronicles” by Bill Stevens

Author Bill Stevens will be signing copies of his new book, “Muddy’s Chronicles: Secrets of the last Great Coffeehouse” on Sunday, Dec 21 at 2 p.m at the Mercury Café. Admission is Free.

Mercury Café
2199 California Street, Denver

Remembering Sand Creek

Before dawn on the 29th of November 1864, a force of 700 soldiers under the command of Colonel John Chivington attacked the sleeping camps of Cheyenne and Arapaho at Sand Creek in what is now Southeastern Colorado. Over 150 tribespeople were killed that day, mostly women, children and elders. Though the American soldiers were initially hailed as heroes upon their return to Denver, within weeks a congressional investigation has been started and the “battle” had been renamed a “massacre.” More information on the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site is available from the National Park Service website.

For the past 10 years members of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes have organized the Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run as a way of bringing closure to this pivotal event in the history of the American west. The 10th annual Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run is taking place November 27-29th, 2008. For more detailed information, download the event brochure.

The following letter was written by Captain Silas S. Soule, who was present at Sand Creek on the 29th of November, 1864. Soule was assassinated in Denver in April of 1865 (close to what is now the corner of 15th and Arapahoe), most likely due to his refusal to fire at Sand Creek and his subsequent testimony against Colonel Chivington.

Drawing of Sand Creek Massacre
Drawing of Sand Creek Massacre, courtesy Denver Public Library Western History Department

Silas Soule
December 14, 1864
Letter to Edward Wynkoop

Dear Ned,

Two days after you left here the 3d Reg’t with a Battalion of the 1st arrived here. They then declared their intention to massacre the friendly Indians camped on Sand Creek. As soon as I knew … I was indignant … and told them that any man who would take part in the murders, knowing the circumstances as we did, was a low lived cowardly son of a bitch. Chivington and all hands swore they would hang me before they moved camp, but I stuck it out, and all the officers at the Post, except Anthony backed me.

I was then ordered with my whole company to Major A with 20 days rations. I told him that I would not take part in their intended murder, but if they were going after the Sioux, Kiowa’s or any fighting Indians, I would go as far as any of them. They said that was what they were going for, and I joined them. We arrived at Black Kettles and Left Hand’s Camp at day light.

Anthony then approached to within one hundred yards and commenced firing. I refused to fire and swore that none but a coward would. for by this time hundreds of women and children were coming towards us and getting on their knees for mercy. Anthony shouted, “Kill the sons of bitches”. When the Indians found that there was no hope for them they went for the Creek, and buried themselves in the Sand and got under the banks and some of the bucks got their Bows and a few rifles and defended themselves as well as they could.

By this time there was no organization among our troops, they were a perfect mob every man on his own hook. My Co. was the only one that kept their formation, and we did not fire a shot. The massacre lasted six or eight hours, and a good many Indians escaped. I tell you Ned it was hard to see little children on their knees have their brains beat out by men professing to be civilized. One squaw was wounded and a fellow took a hatchet to finish her, she held her arms up to defend her, and he cut one arm off, and held the other with one hand and dashed the hatchet through her brain.

One Squaw with her two children, were on their knees, begging for their lives of a dozen soldiers, within ten feet of them all firing – when one succeeded in hitting the squaw in the thigh, when she took a knife and cut the throats of both children, and then killed herself. One old Squaw hung herself in the lodge — there was not enough room for her to hang and she held up her knees and choked herself to death. Some tried to escape on the Prairie, but most of them were run down by horsemen.

I saw two Indians hold one of anothers hands, chased until they were exhausted, when they kneeled down, and clasped each other around the neck and were both shot together. They were all scalped, and as high as half a dozen taken from one head. They were all horribly mutilated. One woman was cut open and a child taken out of her, and scalped.

White Antelope, War Bonnet and a member of others had Ears and Privates cut off. Squaws snatches were cut out for trophies. You would think it impossible for white men to butcher and mutilate human beings as they did there, but every word I have told you is the truth, which they do not deny.

I expect we will have a hell of a time with Indians this winter. We have (200) men at the Post – Anthony in command. I think he will be dismissed when the facts are known in Washington. Give my regards to any friends you come across, and write as soon as possible.

Yours, SS
(signed) S.S. Soule


At 8am on Saturday, November 29th, there will be an honoring ceremony at Riverside Cemetery in Denver, where Soule is buried. The healing run then continues on for an 11:00am presentation at the Colorado State Capitol and a noon reception at the Colorado Historical Society, 1300 Broadway, Denver. Everyone is welcome to attend this event.