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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

Best karaoke host

Mel Apodaca, a former investigator for the Denver Coroner's Office by day and a self-proclaimed "karaoke slut" by night, was captivated by the musical phenomenon as soon as a friend introduced him it. As Apodaca felt pulled by the powerful lure of karaoke, he noticed deficiencies in the business: Hosts took their jobs lightly and lacked enthusiasm and sympathy for karaoke virgins, so Apodaca decided to change all that. Seven years ago he took over the Karaoke Showplace business (303-839-1355), a hosting gig that takes him to the city's karaoke hotspots. Now working mostly at Ogden Street South and Charlie Brown's, the metro-area karaoke guru distinguishes himself from other hosts by taking an interest in the singers and encouraging first-timers. Apodaca sets the mood by singing the first tune himself, possibly a number by Elvis or Sinatra; he's also quick to defend the daring singers from audience hecklers. Denver karaoke fans, meet your mentor.

Best entertainment for under $1

After a long night at the bars, it's hard to find things to laugh at. But down at the corner of Colfax and Broadway, the bus stop for the #15 eastbound is a hive of entertainment. The stop is usually packed with denizens from the bars, winos trying to get out to Aurora, and people dealing with the graveyard shift. Some nights the conversation can get pretty interesting, as folks talk about the various effects of Thunderbird and Night Train on the central nervous system. The bus is almost always packed, and it's not unusual for passengers to break out in song.

Readers' choice: Kitty's

Best entertainment for under $1

After a long night at the bars, it's hard to find things to laugh at. But down at the corner of Colfax and Broadway, the bus stop for the #15 eastbound is a hive of entertainment. The stop is usually packed with denizens from the bars, winos trying to get out to Aurora, and people dealing with the graveyard shift. Some nights the conversation can get pretty interesting, as folks talk about the various effects of Thunderbird and Night Train on the central nervous system. The bus is almost always packed, and it's not unusual for passengers to break out in song.

Readers' choice: Kitty's

Best local rendition of "Blue Moon"

The Partridge Family? Not. The Jackson Five? Please. But cross Selena with the Brady Bunch and you'd be pretty damn close. Mariachi Vasquez is a certified mom-and-dad-and-all-the-kiddies mariachi group: Daddy plays bass, Mama sings tenor, and the three sisters and two brothers join right in there. The group, which hails from Tucson, has been shaking its maracas since the kids wore Pampers. While other children scribbled multiplication tables, these youngsters perfected their chops on violin, trumpet and guitar. Last year the group cut its first CD, Como la Ves, and is compiling its second. Mariachis usually are content to cover the classics, but Mariachi Vasquez spices its playlist with original material and south-of-the-border tributes to Patsy Cline and Elvis. Although the Vasquez kids are still learning their way around a recording studio -- let them make it through puberty first -- they can still put a little rumba into a conga line. And the Mr. Microphone tribute to the King -- as sung by ten-year-old Vincente -- is enough to put a swivel in your hips. If not a black-velvet Elvis painting in your living room.

Best free entertainment

Sure, it may sound like nightmarish DTs to a barfly in the prime of his life, but there are people out there who actually enjoy listening to the tinkling of the ivories without the cacophony of rattling ice cubes and expectorating stool-clingers. And you just may find those people settling into the comfy chairs surrounding the white baby grand piano in the lobby of the Lutheran Medical Center. The piano was donated by hospital volunteers, who could see the healing power of music. Anyone with the gift is welcome to play the instrument -- except for the times when professional musicians volunteer to warm the bench, the keys and the hearts of hospital patients.

Readers' choice: 16th Street Mall

Best free entertainment

Sure, it may sound like nightmarish DTs to a barfly in the prime of his life, but there are people out there who actually enjoy listening to the tinkling of the ivories without the cacophony of rattling ice cubes and expectorating stool-clingers. And you just may find those people settling into the comfy chairs surrounding the white baby grand piano in the lobby of the Lutheran Medical Center. The piano was donated by hospital volunteers, who could see the healing power of music. Anyone with the gift is welcome to play the instrument -- except for the times when professional musicians volunteer to warm the bench, the keys and the hearts of hospital patients.

Readers' choice: 16th Street Mall

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Best karaoke host: Mel Apodaca

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