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Give our regards to Broadway

Colfax gets all the attention. But Broadway ties this town together.

Most important, there is Jerry Feld, Genial Host. That would be Jerry in the very flesh, poking his nose into every laugh-crazed lunch booth, gazing over the assembled shouters and noshers of the teeming noon hour with the pride of a monarch, setting straight the bartender and talking up his "beautiful prime rib." Jerry the Great, Master of All He Surveys.

They don't make restaurateurs like Jerry Feld any more. Who else would dare write a menu encompassing both broiled lobster tails and goopy mountains of nachos? Who but Jerry would indulge the same tableful of bickerers and arguers for half a century's worth of weekly lunches? Who but this bold captain of commerce would stretch a Naugahyde tarp over the pool table each day and load it down with bottles of condiments, bowls of salsa, pitchers of water, jugs of salad dressing and icy tubs of butter pats, and then (there's nothing if not genius at work here) complete the effect with a dazzling bazaar of non-edible items -- stacks of baseball caps and T-shirts, random newspapers, mounds of chenille gloves, assorted trinkets and baubles?

You have a beer. You chance the chicken-fried steak. You gab with Jerry (don't worry, he makes it easy). But unless you're terminally despondent and cannot cope any longer, you leave the crab-cake linguine with Alfredo for someone with a lot more troubles than you've got. -- Bill Gallo

1:05 p.m.: Kitty's South, 119 South Broadway

The video collection at Kitty's South offers something for nearly everyone. Travelogue aficionados will be fascinated by Handjobs Across America. Fans of police procedurals should enjoy Grand Theft Anal. Those intrigued by uncommon attributes and skills need look no further than Big Clits/Big Lips 5 and She Squirts 12, whose plots should be easy to understand even for folks unfamiliar with the earlier volumes. Reality-show connoisseurs have an entire "amateur" section at their disposal, featuring the likes of Real Hidden Fitting Rooms. And lovers of classic cinema can turn to the original Deep Throat. Leading lady Linda Lovelace, who lived in Denver for a time, has passed on, but on tape she continues to offer a peculiar brand of pornographic nostalgia.

Kitty's South does, too. In an age when perversions of every description are just a mouse click away, there's something a bit old-fashioned about the establishment, which supplements its video cache with a theater, an arcade, and a shop filled with the kinds of playthings not generally peddled by Toys 'R' Us.

At this hour, Kitty's is hardly flooded with patrons taking advantage of its time-tested delights, but a few people are on the premises, their presence advertised by muted noises emanating from the arcade booths that occupy a dark labyrinth just off the brightly lit shopping zone. The sounds suggest video games heard from the next room, except that squishes and splats replace beeps and blips.

Until a few years ago, living, breathing women created much of the clamor at Kitty's, twisting and bending for the amusement of such consumers and hangers-on as singer-songwriter Jeff Dahl, who hanged himself at a Connecticut hospital in 1995. Dahl's friend Gary Watson used to manage Kitty's South, and he regularly gave Jeff such tasks as dusting the stock of romantic aids. In a tune called "Goin' to Kitty's," Dahl catalogued his experience with lines like "They've got blow-up dolls and Acu-jacks/They've got nasty movies in the back/And the girls behind the glass all know my name."

Unlike Dahl, Ron Tarver doesn't sing the praises of Kitty's South. Tarver, whose Broadway Terrace Realty office is about a block from the store's entrance, has been involved in neighborhood groups for decades, and he's railed against what he sees as the joint's negative impact for nearly as long. But even Tarver concedes that Kitty's is not the sleaze magnet it once was. "I don't know how they stay in business," he says. "You don't see that many people going there anymore." Nevertheless, "when you drive down the street, you still see the marquee."

The sign out front once featured the names of Hollywood's finest. Originally known as the Webber, the theater was one of Denver's original movie palaces; in a 1996 column, late Rocky Mountain News scribe Gene Amole remembered going there to see Wings, the 1927 silent film that won the first Academy Award as Best Picture. Some old-timers preferred the Webber over the Mayan, just up the street at 110 Broadway, because it was one of the first theaters in the city with an effective air-conditioning system, and its owner and namesake made going there fun even before the curtain opened. "He'd sometimes come down there with his top hat and cane and pass out candy," Tarver says.

The brand of sweets changed considerably when Kitty's took over the space in the '70s, long after the Webber screened its last big-studio blockbuster. Tarver says that many neighbors were upset by the sort of people drawn to the area by Kitty's and the Ballpark, an elaborate gay bathhouse that occupied the basement of the now-leveled building next door. At one point, Broadway business leaders decided that the only way to remove this blight was to purchase it. "I took some of the bank presidents and some other people into the Ballpark and part of Kitty's on a tour," Tarver remembers. "We were going to get them an SBA loan, and they were going to buy the whole thing and turn it into a high-end restaurant. But something went wrong, and it never happened."

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