Off Limits

The big Kiss-off

Denver just can't handle a good, hard tongue-licking. Unlike such hot spots as New York, Toronto and Atlanta, which are celebrating decades of Kiss expos, this city has canceled its second attempt to host such an event in as many years.

"With a total of seven tickets sold and no exhibitor or vendor booths sold, I decided to cancel," says Michael O'Donnell, who was going to throw a Kiss Expo (think a geekfest that combines Trekkie convention ambience with Kiss fans) at the Oriental Theatre, the Federal Boulevard icon that he and his partner, Cory Morrison, renovated in time for a party last Halloween. (They even gave Kiss action figures to the first handful of folks to arrive at the grand-reopening celebration.)

"I will not put thousands of dollars, in addition to what has already been spent on marketing, into something that no one cares about or believes in," O'Donnell adds.

To promote the August 14 party, which was going to feature tribute bands, look-alike contests and former Kiss members Bruce Kulick (a guitarist from 1984 through 1996 -- the non-makeup years -- who now tours with Grand Funk Railroad) and Jesse Damon (who did background vocals on 1992's Revenge and played guitar on 2001's boxed set), O'Donnell had put up fliers around town and handed out another thousand at the June 15 Kiss/Poison concert at Coors Amphitheatre. But for all his cozying up to the Kiss-crazy crowd, he sold only two $12 tickets.

House of Blues didn't fare much better that night. "We were probably disappointed with the results," acknowledges senior VP Jim McCue. "The show last year did better, but both bands did a good show, and probably a Tuesday night had something to do with it."

O'Donnell places the blame for his expired Kiss Expo not on the night -- it had been slated for a Saturday -- but on Jim Ryan, the Fort Collins man who'd planned a local Kiss Expo last year, also to feature Damon as well as former drummer Eric Singer, then canceled the Holiday Inn-Denver International Airport fete at the last minute. "The Kiss Expo last year was canceled the day of, which probably has something to do with the lack of interest in our expo," says O'Donnell, who has been a Kiss fan since he was seven. "The chance of a Denver expo has been given a bad name by Jim Ryan's corruption last year. At least we are professional enough to notify people far in advance of the scheduled date."

Ryan did not return Off Limits' phone calls, and e-mails to him bounced back as undeliverable.

Refunds for all seven tickets that were sold are being issued through King Soopers, and the Oriental has been rebooked on August 14 with a gay/lesbian/ transsexual concert. "We have an alcohol license for that day," O'Donnell explains, "and we don't want to waste it."

Raise your glasses...

And keep them raisedS: Why not celebrate this 4th of July with a star-spangled bender? While most people will be heading for the hills or their own back yards, there's no better place to toast America the Beautiful than a VFW hall. In particular, VFW John S. Stuart Post #1, opened in 1899 as the nation's very first watering hole for those who have served in foreign wars -- as well as those who like truly stiff drinks.

Sadly, Post #1 no longer occupies its historic home. In 1995, developer Bruce Berger convinced the vets to trade their location at 901 Bannock Street for a renovated building at 955 Bannock, so that he could build luxury lofts near the building that then housed Racines. Although that Golden Triangle dream tarnished, the original VFW building was still torn down, as was Racines last year after Berger sold the combined lots to Houston developer Hanover Co., which is building . . .luxury lofts.

Despite Post #1's relatively short history at its second location (the museum portion, with its collection of old weaponry, is currently closed for renovations), the bar still exudes a bygone flavor. Actual members mingle with servicemen passing through town, as well as a handful of locals who like to stop in for a Bullmeister (a mug of Red Bull with a shot of Jägermeister dropped in, a bargain at a mere $5.50) and some easy banter. This is not a place for scenesters and the tragically hip; Post #1 is home turf for true characters, old-school types out of a Richard Russo novel.

At last Friday's afternoon reconnaissance mission, Laurie the bartender had the Off Limits team's names down in seconds and was already starting trouble -- otherwise known as talking to Teresa, who is "T for short, because she's Trouble." But T was busy shouting down the bar to Grady, who was threatening to leave his wife if, in fact, T's "sex was better than his lasagna." And later, when T went to play the jukebox, she was warned that "Skid Row" skips. "Does it look like I'd play ŒSkid Row'?" she retorted. "I'm country clear down to my soles; you just can't tell because I don't have my boots on."

Watch the fireworks every day at Post #1, from 11 a.m. to whenever they feel like closing.

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