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A New Dress for the Old Gal

If Art Greer has his way, Diamond Lil's will be a porno palace Denver can be proud of.

"One day this guy comes to me and asks if I would sell," Art remembers. "I didn't plan on it. But finally I says, 'Sure, I'll sell it--for $2 million.' He came back a few weeks later with an offer of $1.8 million. I said, 'Sold.'"

Art had spent the previous ten years working eighteen-hour days in the book business, so suddenly being a millionaire felt a bit like being a runner finishing a marathon. But he soon got bored with early retirement and hooked up with Knill, a connection that launched him on his way to a new career as a porn baron.

At the time, Knill worked as a distributor for adult bookstores across the Midwest. He and Art soon went into business together, servicing stores across the region with arcade machines and triple-X publications. In 1981 they decided to give the retail side a shot because, as Art had quickly figured out, "the profit margin's better, and the competition is less than straight bookstores."

Their first store was 24 Road Video Exchange in Grand Junction. Seventeen years later, it remains their most profitable outlet. "It's because of the Mormons," says Knill. "They come across the border and buy $500 or $600 worth of stuff at a time. It's our best store by far."

Their business grew quickly. In 1983 they started Emporium Video in Casper, Wyoming. And in 1989 they bought an old 20th Street adult business called Sun Books and its building for $180,000 and changed its name to Diamond Lil's.

"I didn't like this building at first," admits Knill.
"Ron's not the kind of guy who's willing to put his foot out the door," Art says. "But we bought it. And then the ballpark came."

"It was a blessing," says Knill.

At sixty, Art Greer is leading a good life by any measure. When driving between town and his adobe house in the foothills, he can choose between his red Porsche (license plate: XXXX) or his 1967 Rolls-Royce (XOXO). He owns a hunting lodge on the Western Slope. (His Denver-area home looks like a taxidermy museum.) Twice divorced, he has a new live-in girlfriend, a redheaded model named Kandice, who is exactly half his age and seven years younger than his oldest daughter. For their first date, Art took Kandice to a ZZ Top concert, where they sat in the front row.

Art says he was first attracted to her hair. "This," he says on a recent day, nodding generally to the stock of porn surrounding him in Diamond Lil's, "is not my obsession. My obsession is long red hair. Like that woman over there on that video box."

Kandice says she liked Art right off because he was sweet. "People are a little weird with the age difference," she says. "When they see me and Art out to dinner, they just assume he's my father. Then when they see us kiss, they can get kind of freaked out."

Before she moved in with Art, Kandice had to negotiate her way through a difficult divorce and custody battle. Though she worried a little that her new boyfriend's line of work might be of concern to the judge, today she and her son share Art's home.

"Earlier in my life, I thought it would be awful and sleazy and yuck," she says of Art's occupation. "But now...how to say this?"

"She likes the money situation," offers Art. "It's a great way to make a living."

"I've come to appreciate it," agrees Kandice. "But I've also learned a lot from Art about the business. It helps people."

These days, though, Art doesn't spend much time running his string of stores. One day at Diamond Lil's, he wonders why the Playboy magazines aren't in their old location on a thigh-high rack just inside the store. "They haven't been out on the floor for weeks," his cashier informs him. Art shakes his head and sighs as if he has lost touch with a profession he once understood.

Recently, after embracing a homeopathic diet, Art became interested in apiary. As always when something catches Art's interest, it wasn't long before he became obsessed. First he signed up for a beekeeping course. Then he began acquiring hives from keepers eager to bail out of the business. Earlier this year he built a white, two-story, steel-framed barn on his three-acre foothills property; when it was finished, he bought all of the latest stainless-steel equipment required to extract honey from the hives.

Knill used to help out occasionally but soon stopped. "I got tired of getting stung all the time," he explains. "Let him take care of his own damn bees. He can get stung." This year, working by himself in the new barn, Art extracted 2,400 pounds of honey from his fifty hives, as well as a good-sized chunk of beeswax.

Art's other new preoccupation has been the Larimer Street neighborhood, although it has turned into more of an obsession than he'd ever planned or, at times, wanted. In 1994 some property owners in the area asked him to participate in Fiesta! Fiesta!, the neighborhood's now-defunct annual block party. Art agreed, and during the celebration he operated a stand selling his Bullnuts, a snack item that is exactly what its name implies.

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