"I once danced on that table right over there," said the executive vice president, pointing with a well-manicured finger at a metal table near the far wall of the Wazee Supper Club. "I once spent the night under that table," her companion replied.
No surprise. Over the years, the Wazee has seen -- and inspired -- a lot of wild, weird and wonderful behavior. And although it marks its thirtieth birthday this weekend with festivities that commence at 8 p.m. this evening with "Nostalgia Night" for past and present employees, not much seems to have changed inside this classic saloon. The black-and-white tile floor is the same, as are the vintage light fixtures, the tables, and the wooden benches that came from Denver's old Elks Club. There's the same roomy front bar, rescued from an about-to-be-demolished hotel, with a dumbwaiter (a converted 1937 garage-door opener) that takes drinks and food to the tables perched on the second-floor mezzanine. A staircase once led from there to the floor above; that staircase is gone, as is the Westword office that occupied the second-floor space in the early '80s.
By then the Wazee, founded in 1974 by Angelo and Jim Karagas, who'd brought us My Brother's Bar five years earlier, was already a landmark. Long before lower downtown got the nickname LoDo, office workers, artists and nightlife lovers alike flocked to the urban oasis at 1610 15th Street to drink pitchers of beer, eat great pizza, chat long into the night and, yes, dance on tables.
Of course, a few things have changed over the years. A once-spartan menu (but really, who needed more than pizza?) now boasts not only an appetizer section, but a respectable wine list. The old jukebox has been replaced with an Internet model. After Angelo, the most gracious host in town, passed away, Jim sold the Wazee to John Hickenlooper and company (and you can occasionally catch Hizzoner dining here). And while the kitchen keeps cooking until 1 a.m., the Wazee is now open Sundays, too.
This Sunday, the Wazee will roll prices back thirty years, offering pizza at fifty cents a slice and PBRs for the same amount. A few of those, and you'll be well on your way to recovery after the previous evening's "Tribute Night," featuring music by Vincent Wiggins. For a complete birthday-bash rundown, call the Wazee at 303-623-9518 or visit www.wazeesupperclub.com. But fair warning before you hop on one of those tables: The place has seemed awfully bright since the 15th Street Viaduct came down. -- Patricia Calhoun
Early and Often
The Voting Kickoff fest makes it count
There's one thing everyone can agree on this election year: People want to get out and vote. They're taken by the fever -- champing at the bit and signed up in droves in anticipation of that wonderful day when all Americans of age, for once, get to push all the buttons. But guess what? In this game, it is actually possible to leave the gate before the gun goes off at 7 a.m. on November 2. Early voting opens today at the Denver Election Commission and a handful of Denver-area grocery stores (go to www.denvergov.com/ dephome.asp?depid=39 for details).
In light of that, a list of non-profit organizations a block long are banding together today to host an Early Voting Kickoff Festival, conveniently located in Civic Center Park, at Colfax Avenue and Broadway, and just a hop, skip and jump from the DEC offices, 200 West 14th Avenue, Suite 100, where extra voting machines are being added to accommodate the crowds. And before and after doing their civic duty, early voters will be treated to a non-partisan party in the park from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., augmented by a bevy of high-profile political cheerleaders and speakers. "People can come and have a good time, listen to some music and be with their friends," notes one event organizer. Left or right, party on.
Java for the Birds
Next time you order a fancy cup of joe at your neighborhood coffee emporium, consider this: While coffee grows naturally under the lush rainforest canopy, many coffee plantations are shifting to less environmentally friendly growing procedures that eliminate shady bird habitats. So while there will be lots of coffee for stateside java guzzlers to enjoy, a lot of our feathered friends could be left homeless, without a safe branch to nest on.
Some growers, however, are sticking to the old plan. The Denver Zoo, along with the National Zoo's Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, hopes to increase public awareness about more ecological shade-grown coffees by hosting Jungle Java Coffee and Conservation. This educational evening of tree-hugging coffee samples, hors d'oeuvres, a lecture and nose-to-nose meetings with rainforest animals in the zoo's Tropical Discovery exhibit will help set the record straight. You can get your daily ration of whipped, steamed, soy-infused, hazelnut-flavored caffeine without upsetting the natural order.
Tickets for the event, which runs from 5 to 8 p.m. at the zoo, 2300 Steele Street in City Park, are $30 ($25 for zoo members). Call 303-376-4894 for reservations; for information, go to www.denverzoo.org. -- Susan Froyd