Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
In 1980, a group of friends opened an alternative art space in a then-rough part of town and gave it the difficult and unconventional name of Pirate: a contemporary art oasis. But the co-op's name perfectly reflected the difficult and unconventional work that has so often found a home in the space at 3659 Navajo Street. Now, more than twenty years later, the original members have mostly scattered to the four winds. The exception is Phil Bender, who has not only remained as an active Pirate member, but has also run the place and kept it going during many dry spells. In addition, Bender has presented a solo exhibit of his own work at least once a year since Pirate's founding. For last summer's Bender bender, Paris, Paris Architecture, Etc., Etc., he covered the walls with hubcaps, postcards, coasters and other found items -- playing off his longtime penchant for using objects collected in multiples and putting them together in unlikely combinations to create pieces that are greater than the sum of their parts. Truly, Bender's unwavering dedication through the years has set a fine example for other artists.
No bones about it: Over the past few years, the Denver Blues and Bones Festival has grown into a great weekend. There are much bigger festivals -- the Taste of Colorado, the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, the People's Fair -- and much smaller neighborhood fairs, but Blues and Bones is just the right size, every inch and minute packed with great blues music from a variety of national acts and finger-licking good barbecue from both amateur and professional locals. Cross your fingers that the atmosphere survives a relocation from the Golden Triangle to Invesco Field at Mile High; see for yourself at this year's event Memorial Day weekend, May 24-26.
Barry, Barry, Barry: How can we miss you if you won't go away? Last summer, in a battle plan that rivaled the Invasion of Normandy for buildup and strategizing -- although the plans for D-Day were kept secret -- longtime concert promoter Barry Fe re-entered the fray, joining up with House of Blues (the outfit he sold his concert-promotions company to four years ago) to take on Clear Channel for Colorado's concert business.
Many tried, but after several area runs of The Vagina Monologues, it was local chanteuse Hazel Miller who really shone among the guest actors participating in touring versions of the acclaimed show. Monologues typically pairs local female celebrities -- swimmer Amy Van Dyken and radio DJ Nina Blackwood are examples -- with professional actors to perform the various readings, which range from moving to funny to serious. Miller's eight standing-room-only performances at the Boulder Theater raised the roof, though, so much so that she was asked to return to the role when the show comes back in August 2002. And that's something we can all shout about.
As part of the Denver's Public Library's Special Readings Project, children's librarian Heath Rezabek held a birthday party last fall for Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, two of the heroes in J.R.R. Tolkien's masterful books on Middle Earth, followed by a ten-week reading of The Fellowship of the Ring, book one in Tolkien's trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. Rezabek, who abridged the book himself for purposes of the reading, held a similar series the year before for The Hobbit, the trilogy's prelude, and he plans to follow up with the final two books in the next two years. Although the readings are scheduled to coincide with the three Rings movies, Rezabek's goal is to help kids of all ages use their own imaginations rather than Hollywood's, and to introduce a new generation of fans to Hobbitdom. No special effects needed.
Call her madam! Lou Bunch ran the most successful whorehouse in Central City back in the days when the mining town was known as the "Richest Square Mile on Earth." These days, it could be the saddest square mile on earth, since Central City's plan to mine the wallets of would-be gamblers was blocked by nearby Black Hawk, which literally moved mountains to make sure that its big casinos would snag all the suckers before they could head farther up the hill. As a result, though, Central City has managed to retain some of its classic character -- and you'll never see more classic characters than at Lou Bunch Days. Held every Father's Day weekend, the festival features includes bed races up and down Main Street (complete with appropriately attired female riders), costume contests and a dance; a recent, unofficial addition to the lineup is the return of many old Zekes, Central City residents who were frightened away or pushed away by gambling but return for this wild, wacky weekend. "It's a great time to be in Central City," says Lew Cady, publisher of the Little Kingdom Come newspaper ("published whenever we damn well feel like it"). "Especially for people who are longtime lovers of the town." And current lovers of good old-fashioned frolics. "If New Year's Eve is amateur night," Cady adds, "this is for the professionals." And no one was more of a pro than Madam Bunch.