HOW SWELL IT IS

DENVER'S LOUNGE LIZARDS WERE ALL DRESSED UP WITH NO PLACE TO GO. ENTER THE KIT KAT CLUB.LET'S DO LOUNGE SINATRA SONGS, COCKTAIL PARTY CLOTHES AND CHAT GALORE--THEY'LL DRINK TO THAT.

"A couple martinis and anyone can sing," Cruz says modestly. A good decade older than most of the Kit Kat crowd, he is firmly established as a regular nonetheless. "Because this is a corps of men and women who are not subliminal brutes," he explains. "Girls have always bought beautiful dresses only to have beer spilled on them on the dance floor. Here you can wear incredible shoes that kill your feet and have them appreciated. You can have a conversation. One-liners are out. Conversations are in."

"Music is coming back instead of garbage," agrees 72-year-old David Gavin, who does a rousing version of "San Francisco." "I follow John Pike around," he explains. "We have fun tormenting each other. For instance, he teases me and tells me I seem to have a bunch of young female groupies on Thursday nights."

There is some truth to this. Whenever Gavin sidles up to the piano, the crowd quiets down a notch or two and a few women in their twenties gather round to hear him sing. "I must have convinced them that it pays to do business with an old, reliable firm," Gavin laughs.

"There's the head brewer from the Wynkoop," Stubbs says. "He's got a couple of Aveda stylists with him. There's the lead singer for Wretched Refuse, Brian Hagman."

"I don't know, maybe I'll sing `My Way,'" says Hagman, who is un-Loungely decked out in jeans and hair grease and swilling beer instead of hard liquor. Hagman's band plays regularly and loudly at Cricket on the Hill and Seven South, but he likes to take the occasional side trip into mellow. His cabaret singing, he admits, is still in its formative stages. "My dad was a square and my mom went to nun school, so I didn't have any proper guidance," Hagman complains. "And I try to sing all the lyrics correctly, but by the time I have the guts to get up there, I've had a few drinks and I forget the words. Luckily, I listen to the Frank Sinatra Reprise collection. It may save me."

Not all Frank tunes have that redemptive power. Someone has just hollered for "New York, New York," and Pike actually seems ready to play it. Sharp must do something fast to keep the Lounge swingin'. And so he lurches into Cole Porter's "Night and Day"--a bit of a desperate move, since he barely knows the words.

On the stool next to Sharp, a dapper young espresso worker named Marcel Galang suppresses a smile. "I thought of this as my song," he confesses, "but I didn't make my move."

Galang is holding the obligatory martini and wearing the appropriate draped suit. He wishes every night were Lounge night. "My father was a cat in his day," he says. "I can dig that I was born in the wrong generation. No. Put this: I'm a music lover and I appreciate a good melody."

When the third verse of "Night and Day" comes around, Sharp is still repeating the first. "Whether near to me or far," he sings gamely, "it's no matter, darling, where you are..."

"That should be, `In the roaring traffic's boom/In the silence of my lonely room,'" Marcel sighs, "but, oh, well. It used to be my song. It's his song now."

It was swell while it lasted.

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