The diminutive Sid King was the giant personality behind Sid King’s Crazy Horse Bar, a famous strip club that graced East Colfax Avenue for more than 35 years. This Saturday, August 7, at the Studio Loft of the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, King’s son Mike will present The Fifth Dentist in Search of Sid’s Treasure, a play about the life and times of the Mile High City’s “Sultan of Striptease.”
“I was always interested in my dad's business and how it related to me. He was such a great guy, and even though he was in this infamous, naughty business, there was so much more to him,” says Mike, who stars in the play, too. He'll be joined on stage by Broadway actress Carol Shuberg for a performance that’s sure to simultaneously bring back memories for former Crazy Horse customers and intrigue new Denverites.
In advance of the play's Denver debut, we've unearthed some fascinating facts about the memorable Sid King — who made a mark on Colfax Avenue, the strip Playboy once appropriately called "the longest, wickedest street in America."
5. Sid King was a philanthropist
Although he was known for his role as a strip-club owner and operator — a business that many felt contributed to the seedier side of Colfax Avenue's reputation — Sid King also had a generous spirit. Born and raised in Colorado, King donated money to help support Indian reservations and aided other charities dealing with mental-health issues, poverty and people with disabilities. In the mid-’80s, after his bar had closed, PT's Show Club invited King to host a night, with all proceeds going to one of his favorite causes: Children's Hospital. Though other donors took issue with the bar owner being a benefactor, the hospital always graciously accepted King's financial support through the years.
4. "The Sultan of Striptease" opened a striptease school in Denver
Dubbed the "Navel Academy," King created a place for women to learn about the art of burlesque. Forever the entrepreneur, King knew there was much more to the misunderstood world of adult entertainment than risqué performances. At the Crazy Horse, he worked to cultivate a club atmosphere that mixed exotic dancing with comedy and fun for singles and couples alike.
3. The Denver strip club made a cameo in 1978's Every Which Way but Loose
Clint Eastwood took on an unconventional comedy role in Every Which Way but Loose; his character, Philo Beddoe, goes on a search for the woman he's fallen for, following her all the way to Denver. With an orangutan as his co-star, the rough-and-tumble trucker makes a stop at Sid King's Crazy Horse Bar — and King himself is seen sitting beside Eastwood in the film. Off-set, the actor was a regular visitor to the notorious Mile High hangout. So was Elvis Presley.
2. King's later-in-life career was as a shoe repairman
After he closed the Crazy Horse in 1983, King soon reappeared: He opened a modest boot- and shoe-repair booth on East Hampden Avenue, a world away from the glitz and grit of Colfax. Suffering from brain cancer, the 86-year-old King passed away in August 2000 — and his wife, Edna (who'd run the club with him), revealed that while the shoe-repair business was a way to help the family financially, it also fulfilled King's need to entertain and connect with people.
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1. Sid King's Crazy Horse Bar's iconic Googie-style neon sign lives!
When the club closed in 1983, the building underwent a major facelift. The sign was lost, then found in the Queen City Architectural Salvage yard and later put up for sale on Craigslist. Neon-sign preservationist and photojournalist Corky Scholl — who runs the Denver nonprofit Save the Signs — launched a crowdfunding campaign in 2013 to purchase and refurbish the wild piece of Colfax history. The Crazy Horse's neon art now lives at the Collection Gallery at 9801 East Colfax Avenue, keeping Sid King's memory alive. Decades later, the building that once housed the exotic-dancing hangout at 1201 East Colfax is now virtually unrecognizable as The Irish Snug.
The Fifth Dentist in Search of Sid King’s Treasure will make its Denver debut at 7 p.m. this Saturday, August 6, at the Studio Loft of the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Tickets are $50 to $90, with all proceeds going to Children’s Hospital of Colorado. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the play's website.