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Flair Lounge

Richard Engel transforms a Stapleton bar into a live-music venue.

When I check out a club for the first time, I like to keep a low profile. I'll just slide into the place, grab a seat at the bar, order a beer and observe for a bit, getting a feel for the joint.

But when I walked through the doors of the Flair Lounge (9496 East Montview Boulevard in Aurora) last Wednesday, my cover was completely blown by Lynn Harris, who books bands for the place and happened to be there. The next thing I knew, she was introducing me to everybody and giving me the lowdown on the Flair. Richard Engel, who also owns the Sand Creek Lounge (16893 East Iliff Avenue in Aurora) recently inherited the Flair from his father and is trying to revitalize the fifty-year-old bar that was once a meeting spot for travelers, pilots and flight attendants when Stapleton was still an airport and not the housing development it is today.

One of the first things Engel did after taking over was add live music, mainly blues. Keyboardist Bruce Delaplain usually plays on Wednesdays, but he was sick, so bluesman David Booker was filling in. Booker, who moved to Denver from England in 1981, is one of the busiest musicians in town. You can hear the guy nearly every night of the week playing in solo, duo or trio settings or with his Swingtet. And he just started a Monday-night residency at the Flair. While Booker didn't study music formally, he learned a lot from the school of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley.

And it showed during his set, which closed with a funky interpretation of Willie Dixon's "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man," a tune made famous by Muddy Waters. Booker's interpretation inspired a woman who'd just come in to start dancing. And after the tune, as Booker started packing up, the gal came over, pulled out a five-dollar bill and persuaded him to play one more song. He gave her "The Sky Is Crying," and she went back to dancing.

While I watched, a guy came over and asked if I remembered him. I looked at him for a moment, pretty sure I'd never met him before. So he put his fingers around his large, oval belt buckle and tilted it up so I could read "Suns of Darkness" inscribed on the buckle. A couple of years back, Westword ran a story about the late Alvin Maxie, the onetime president of Suns of Darkness, Denver's oldest black biker club ("Suns Set," December 15, 2005). The guy praised Maxie, then told me he was doing security for the Flair. The bartender had told me how the club was going to try to keep out the riffraff, and this security guy looked like he could do a stand-up job.


Club scout: Theo Smith, who fronted the legendary local funk band Lord of Word and the Disciples of Bass for seven years, has been working on his DJ chops -- he goes by DJ Hottness now -- at the Sweet parties at 3 Kings Tavern (60 South Broadway) and the Loft (821 22nd Street) that he's thrown with producer Eric Bernal and the Skyline Productions crew over the past year. Now they're throwing another Sweet event on Sunday, February 17, at the Sugar House (1395 West Alameda Avenue), which is a swingers' club on Fridays and Saturdays. Techno and jungle guru Alert headlines the show, and Tom Hoch and Miss Audry (who've spun at previous Sweet parties) will throw down some tasty house grooves. "We just want everybody to dress up in their freakiest and funkiest and just let it all go," Smith says.

Smith says he's been frequenting Sugar House for the club's open DJ nights on Wednesdays. You can also catch him some Saturdays at the Funky Buddha (776 Lincoln Street) and with other members of the Skyline Productions crew Fridays at Opal (100 East Ninth Avenue).

 
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