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.

He enjoyed himself so much that he joined the neighborhood association. Eventually he was voted vice president, where he would have been happy to stay. But this past February, the president of the Ballpark Neighborhood Association, Eddie Maestas, died, and Art inherited the job.

And the headaches. The Ballpark Neighborhood Association has become one of the city's more contentious groups, with officers and members couping and purging each other on a regular basis. Personal animosities have developed, factions have formed. Nothing is simple. Most recently, Karle Seydel, the staffer who has worked for the association on revitalizing the neighborhood since the 1980s, was let go. A few weeks ago he sued for back pay and satisfaction.

Even without the in-fighting, the neighborhood has been much slower to share the success enjoyed by LoDo. In the past five years, that business district, also adjacent to Coors Field, has been transformed from a near-empty precinct of decrepit warehouses into a lively night stop. (So far, the only benefit Diamond Lil's has seen from the stadium is that it no longer has to charge a fifty-cent entrance fee to discourage the bums.) Of course, Larimer Street also had a longer way to climb back up. By the time anyone got around to being interested in reclaiming the area, it had already been unofficially designated the city's dumping ground, home to five homeless shelters.

A few resuscitation efforts have begun to breathe life back into the neighborhood. Last year the old Burlington Hotel, a beautiful brick railroad-hotel-turned-flophouse at 22nd and Larimer streets, reopened after a several-million-dollar facelift. The so-called Dial-a-Dinner building at 22nd and Larimer is also getting a government-subsidized tuneup. In all, the Mayor's Office of Economic Development has given out about $2.5 million worth of low-interest loans to property owners with plans to fix up their holdings.

As a newly minted neighborhood activist, Art wants to see the area prettified. And getting Diamond Lil's dressed up will be another victory for a community on the rise. But all the well-intentioned government money floating around the Larimer Street neighborhood has stimulated his business sense, too. "The mayor's out there offering this loan to fix up all these buildings historically," he says. "I'd be stupid not to take it. Stupid."

Art has a mixed view of his occupation. "I've never been ashamed of the adult business," he says. "Never." Later, however, he says, "I can't stand porn. Can't stand it. I don't use pornography the way the rest of the world does--and I don't keep any in my house."

But that doesn't mean he doesn't recognize its value--a robust income, for instance. Also, he notes that smut has its place in a healthy society. "I believe porn holds a lot of marriages together," he explains. "If you don't get along with your wife, go to a porn store. Or go there instead of bars."

So here he is, one sunny early-winter day, standing in the middle of Diamond Lil's, eyeing the inventory. The store is well-lit, the aisles are wide, the shelves are stocked. It is, in short, a very nice store. A young, exotic-looking Asian woman walks in.

"That's the best one," he says under his breath, nodding toward the Live Women Behind Glass. "She can make $500 a shift."

His cell phone rings. It's the satellite dish installer. Art mumbles into the phone for a minute before hanging up. He sighs.

"My mom moved in with me a little while ago, and all she watches all day is TNN, the country-Western cable channel," he explains. "So we gotta get a new dish for us. Of course, the kids watch cartoons all the time, so I'll still never get to watch what I want to."

Which is?
"Cooking shows," he says. "I love the cooking shows. I'll watch any of them."

Upstairs, Knill and Bison Enterprise's general manager, Jerry Halamicek--who is also Art's son-in-law and drives a pick-up truck with the license plate "Poor No"--offer their opinion that the money Art is spending on Diamond Lil's historic renovation is, frankly, a colossal waste. "Art is the kind of guy who will spend a dollar to save a quarter," gripes Knill. "I think the money he's spending is way out of line. I don't think it'll ever be worth what he thinks it will."

"I'd rather spend the money someplace else," agrees Jerry.
"I'd rather open two or three more of these stores," suggests Ron.
But Art is determined. "I'm trying to protect this real estate," he explains. Someday, he adds, he'd like to leave it to his six children and five grandchildren, although not necessarily as Diamond Lil's Adult Emporium. Maybe lofts. Lofts would be nice.

In the meantime, Art and Kandice are brimming with ideas on how to make Diamond Lil's the classiest porn store in town. Admittedly, there is not much competition. But still.

"We're gonna fix it up real cute," Art says, adding with a laugh, "Something the city can be proud of." It is a joke because, even though the city has approved Art for a low-interest loan, it has also zoned adult stores out of his neighborhood. The only reason Diamond Lil's is here at all is that it was grandfathered in.

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