Foursquare mayors reveal their territorial ambitions
DJ Rockstar Aaron
1390 South Colorado Boulevard
Like most professionals, DJ Rockstar Aaron goes to work every morning. But since his office consists of the entire city, he can be a little tough to track down.
You might find him getting his nails done (pink this week) at Posh in the Cherry Creek mall or eating barbecue at Brothers on Sixth Avenue. In the evenings, he's almost always behind the decks at one of five different clubs where he DJs. And once a month, on Wednesdays, Rockstar Aaron chows down on wings at the Hooters on South Colorado Boulevard, where he never forgets to check in on Foursquare.
"Most people are too embarrassed to check in there," he says. "But I love wings, and they have a really good deal on Wednesdays: All-you-can-eat wings for $9.99."
Rockstar Aaron, who is one of Denver's most recognizable DJs, is also well known on Foursquare, the social-media game that allows participants to "check in" at locales all over the world from their smartphones. Once they do, their Foursquare friends instantly know where they are and how to find them. People who check in at a particular spot more than anyone else become the "mayor" of that place.
And Rockstar Aaron goes by Hizzoner at about 25 spots, depending on the week, including Hooters, Posh, Brothers, Famous Dave's, Bar Standard, Beauty Bar, Independent Records, the Bluebird, the Shoppe, R Bar and Matthew Morris Salon.
"My professional and personal life crash together so much, it's a good way to remind people who want to come see me of what days I deejay and where," he says. "I have a lot of friends who use Foursquare, so it's a good way for them to find me, too.
"I'm embarrassingly proud of being the mayor at Hooters," he adds.
One of his latest conquests was Einstein Bagels at Ninth Avenue and Corona Street, where he has checked in only three times but is still the mayor. And Rockstar Aaron is always jonesing for barbecue. "I'm from the south [Jacksonville, Florida], and since I moved to Denver, I haven't been able to find a perfect barbecue place," he says.
"The only place I don't check in is the bank. It's too boring, and I don't want people to know the boring part of me — or where I bank."
Foursquare players also earn points and badges. The Crunked badge is for checking in at four places in one night; School Night is for checking in after 3 a.m. on a weekday; Overshare means you've checked in ten times in twelve hours. You can also check in somewhere even if you're not really there, but the GPS system in your phones will know, and Foursquare won't give you points. Plus, you'll be mocked for being a poser.
And then there's the competition. Rockstar Aaron trades the mayorship of certain places back and forth with other big users like the ubiquitous Colfax J, who rules the roost at more than twenty places, including Gabor's and the Ogden Theatre.
"Colfax J is the mayor everywhere. I'm competitive with him, but I don't know him," Rockstar Aaron says. Colfax J recently ousted Aaron from Planned Parenthood.
You have to move fast on Foursquare, because Foursquare changes quickly. "It's not as big as Twitter yet," Rockstar Aaron says. "It's a little ahead of its time."
— Jonathan Shikes
490 South Colorado Boulevard
Leesa Simone sits in a metal chair in the basement of Shotgun Willie's, facing a counter loaded with boxes of cosmetics. It's 8 p.m. on a Monday, and she's watching the score of a nail-biting Nuggets game fluctuate on her iPhone. Loud '80s rock seeps down from the strip club above, and thong-and-bra-clad dancers flit around the room, which is long and skinny and lined with lockers pasted over with bumperstickers.
One dancer blasts her spiked hair with AquaNet. Another borrows some super glue from Simone in an attempt to fix the sole of a broken stiletto. Yet another counts her money, mostly twenties and singles.
Simone is a freelance makeup artist at Shotgun's four days a week, where she does dancers' hair and makeup for a fee: $30 for the full face, including lashes; $5 for a tattoo cover-up; $20 to straighten and tease the hair.
In addition to working fashion shows and weddings, she also freelances at La Bohème, alternating days and nights at each club.
She's the Foursquare mayor of both.
"Dorkiness is what this is," she says, laughing and fiddling with her phone.
At 29, Simone is friendly, cute, and quick to make a joke. Though her business card features a sultry picture of herself in an off-the-shoulder black dress, tonight her brown hair is pulled into a ponytail and she's wearing a sweater. Her three passions are the Nuggets, "making girls feel pretty" and her dogs: Boden, a sweet-faced two-year-old golden retriever, and Belle, a five-year-old sheltie. Her iPhone is full of pictures of them.
Simone joined Foursquare a few months ago, after her BlackBerry was stolen and she replaced it with an iPhone. She was hooked immediately. "Once I started using it, I was gung-ho. I was like, okay, I'm in it!" she says. She started checking in everywhere: the grocery store, the vet, the dog park. Her first mayorship was of her Lakewood home. Her second was of La Bohème. In both cases, she was the first person to claim the title.
It was a different story at Shotgun Willie's, where there was already a virtual sheriff in town: the elusive Lizzie B. "She may be a dancer, she may be a cocktail waitress. I'm not sure," Simone says. "I'd just see 'Lizzie, Mayor.' And I was like, 'I'm going to get that Lizzie!'" It took about a month, but after twenty check-ins, Foursquare declared Simone the new mayor of Shotgun Willie's. Lizzie didn't congratulate her. In fact, the two have never met. "We've never had words about our mayorship," Simone admits.
Simone holds eight mayorships in all, including MAC Cosmetics in Cherry Creek; Pets N Stuff in Lakewood; the Sally's Beauty Supply on South Colorado Boulevard; and a Starbucks, where she always orders an iced soy mocha latte.
It was a co-worker at MAC who told her about the job at Shotgun Willie's. Simone spoke to the head makeup artist, who liked her work and hired her on the spot. "For me, it's just like any other job except [the clients] happen to get naked and dance," she says. "They expect you to show up on time, do your job and don't disrespect anybody."
Simone just loves doing makeup. "If I can do makeup at a bus stop in Kentucky, I'll do makeup at a bus stop in Kentucky." And she keeps her work life and her personal life separate. "After I'm done, I go home," she says, adding that she doesn't think any of the dancers know that she's the Foursquare mayor. "I just do it for fun, just to be silly."
Simone says her dad has questioned her obsessive Foursquar-ing. "He's like, 'Do you know that everybody knows where you go?'" she says. And while she admits that it can be a bit intrusive, she uses the program's privacy settings so that only her friends can see a real-time tally of where she checks in.
Tonight, she admits that she's been to five of the places where she's mayor since this morning. "This is not helping me," she adds with a smile. "This is not going to get me a boyfriend."
— Melanie Asmar
1155 East Ninth Avenue
It's fitting that the badges you can collect on Foursquare share a name with the awards that Boy Scouts earn. Like Boy Scout merit badges, they are a mark of pride. Also like Boy Scout badges, they are lame. Then again, the whole concept of Foursquare is kind of lame — something that Jarrod Munger, a 29-year-old software engineer who downright dominates Capitol Hill in terms of mayorships, acknowledges.
"I am the mayor of Queen Soopers," he says, chuckling about the dubious distinction of being mayor of a grocery store named for its location in a gay-friendly part of town. "My boyfriend was really, really sad when I got that one." Actually, that particular King Soopers, at Ninth and Corona, has three designations in the Foursquare universe: a correct spelling (King Soopers), an incorrect spelling (king's souper) and the aforementioned nickname. "I think I'm the mayor of all three," Munger admits. Then he sighs: "Yeah."
Munger has about twenty mayorships — which include the popular Releaf Center medical marijuana dispensary, BJ's Carousel, a liquor store, two gas stations and, perhaps most notably, Wash Park (again, one of several versions on Foursquare) — but what really sucked him in were the badges, especially the location-based tie-ins to TV programs or events. "I kind of like them more than the mayorships," he reflects.
What's the point? Foursquare describes it thus: "Earning badges proves that you are more social than your friends." And if that's the case, Munger is very social: He's got 25 of them. There's the one he got from the History Channel for visiting the Capitol Building and the Molly Brown House, and another he got from the Logo TV network for showing up at Tracks nightclub, which was a tie-in to Logo's "A List," a reality show that, as Munger describes it, "follows some homos around."
"Doesn't your life feel more glamorous already?" the badge rhetorically asks.
"It's more bragging rights than anything else," Munger explains. "And it's not even really bragging rights. My boyfriend is ashamed sometimes when I tell him, like, 'Oh, I got this badge.'
"I think it's just to spite me," he adds. "He took my mayorship of my apartment building."
And in the end, that's really what's so funny about Foursquare: Lame as it may be, competition is competition and winning is winning — even if the only prize you get is King of the Mountain in the land of geeks.
— Jef Otte
3553 Brighton Boulevard
Rhinoceropolis is one of Denver's most prominent underground music venues, playing host to acts such as Dan Deacon, Abe Vigoda, Matt & Kim and the Mae Shi. But the place is also the literal home of a group of musicians and artists who live and sleep in the warehouse. One of them is Travis Egedy, who performs under the moniker Pictureplane and has brought national attention to Rhinoceropolis.
But the mayor of Rhinoceropolis isn't one of its residents. Crawford Philleo plays drums for the Vitamins and co-runs a music blog called Tome to the Weather Machine.
"I've always been into social-networking things," Philleo says. Foursquare debuted at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin in 2009, and Philleo was there. "It just seemed like some stupid fun thing to do." But a music festival is the perfect example of how Foursquare can be functional. "It's such a clusterfuck down there, so many people. It's really easy to get lost and lose track of what bands are playing where." With Foursquare, you can find friends and bands that have accounts on it.
The problem, Philleo says, is that only a few of his friends use Foursquare; he is only connected to fifteen people on his account. So why does he keep it around? "It's not something I'm necessarily proud of, but, honestly, Foursquare is a thing where if I'm sitting there having an awkward moment with someone, I can pull out my phone and check in," he says. "It's something I'm going to do for ten seconds."
Philleo is also the mayor of T&R Graphics, where he works; and the men's room at Gabor's on 13th Avenue. He's not the mayor of Gabor's proper, though, and it's something of a sore spot. "When I first got Foursquare, I was like, 'This will be my spot to be mayor,'" he says. And he was, for a while. But after a few months, a stranger with the handle Colfax J swooped in. Philleo describes him as "this mystery bastard with, like, thirty mayorships." Try as he might, Philleo can't unseat Colfax J.
And Colfax J has even taunted him, leaving a tip for visitors to Gabor's that reads: "Crawford Pee spends a great deal of time in the men's room. Say hey to Crawford Pee. You can always find him..." Ouch.
So Philleo was surprised on November 6 when he checked into Rhinoceropolis during a Yoda's House show to find out that he had become the mayor there by ursurping the throne from another Denver musician, Jason Cain, who recently stopped using Foursquare. "It made me feel good, I have to admit," Philleo says.
Pictureplane's Egedy isn't familiar with Foursquare, but says his Rhinoceropolis cohorts are pretty tech-friendly. "I use Twitter all the time," he adds. Indeed, Egedy's account was recently named one of the Top 40 Artist Twitters by Pitchfork.
For now, Egedy welcomes the newly minted online head honcho of his house: "We should get him a mayor top hat."
— Kiernan Maletsky
City and County of Denver
1437 Bannock Street
Now that Denver mayor John Hickenlooper is moving across the Civic Center to the governor's chair, a host of would-be mayors are considering a run for office.
Lots of big names have been bandied about, but voters might want to think about one they probably haven't heard of: Emma Garrison is already the mayor of the mayor's office — on Foursquare — and it didn't take any campaigning at all.
"I haven't even checked in there since August," says Garrison, a 31-year-old lawyer who was unemployed at the time and volunteering for the City Attorney's Office. "It wasn't a major coup, and I'm kind of surprised I haven't been ousted yet."
Truth be told, Garrison, who now works for a small Denver firm, is actually an accidental mayor. She spent most of her time in another city building but kept checking into the wrong place. (There are several versions of city and county buildings on Foursquare.) "I thought it was kind of funny that it was one of the easiest to get," she says. "Maybe the people who work there aren't that tech-savvy."
A University of California, Berkeley, law-school grad, Garrison moved to Denver four years ago but didn't get into Foursquare until this past June, when she upgraded from her "rotary cell phone," as she calls it, to a Droid-enabled smartphone.
Now she checks in wherever she goes, whether it's the Whole Foods in Capitol Hill — a competitive mayorship that she held for only a few days before being ousted — to the Starbucks at 18th and Stout streets, where Garrison currently holds the honor. But gaining those mayorships has been tough on the pocketbook, she adds.
And although being mayor of City Hall is cool, Garrison's real Foursquare aspirations don't lay in politics. "I was mayor of the YMCA downtown for three or four months. I was proud of that, but I just got ousted." If she can't get that mayorship back, Garrison, who has been running more than she's been working out, says she may go after the current mayor of Washington Park.
Mostly, though, Foursquare is just for fun. "I like getting points and badges," she says, "and I only friend people who I already know in real life."
— Jonathan Shikes
3 South Broadway
Potential Foursquare mayors of Sputnik, beware. David Jones, aka LORDSCIENCE, rocks his mayoral status at the South Broadway hangout — and at the next-door hi-dive — with authority.
"I'm always trying to shake down the [potential] mayor, scare him out of there," says Jones, a 31-year-old illustrator who lives in the Highland neighborhood but who has made it down to Sputnik about thirty times in the past two months. "They know me pretty well," he says of the Sputnik staffers, who greet him with some variation of "Do you want a corn dog, a Hearts of Palm salad and a Pabst Blue Ribbon?" Jones acquired the corn dog habit as a result of the frequent visits, but is "trying to limit myself to two corn dogs a week."
As for his favorite seat at Sputnik, the mayor doesn't get preferential treatment: "Wherever there's space," he says. And sadly, his favorite booth is no longer there due to renovation, the same booth Jones matter-of-factly states has a black hole that leads to another dimension: "If you pulled the seat back, there's this light that would pour out from beneath it. I don't recommend you try and find it," he says.Jones suggests that first-timers show up at Sputnik on Thursday nights for "What We Do Is Secret," a DJ spin of goth and punk music (Bauhaus to the Spits, he says).
So does the staff know he's the mayor? Not really. "I think [head bartender] Maria is the only one I talked to about that." However, people on the street — or in the bars — seem to be amused by the fact that he's the Foursquare mayor. And if you go, or you're trying to unseat Jones, it's easy to find him. "Ask for LORDSCIENCE at the bar. You can always ask anybody if they've seen me."
Just watch out for the black holes.
— Nick Lucchesi
Elway's Cherry Creek
2500 East 1st Avenue
If you're forty and single, a friend once told forty-something divorcé and lobbyist Ahsan Khan, there's an unbelievable roving social scene in Cherry Creek.
And it starts and ends at Elway's.
"It was one of the first bars I went to when I moved here," says Khan. "Now, everyone knows my name and what I drink" — typically a Grey Goose martini or a Stella. In fact, Khan spends enough time at the opulent wooden bar and linen-clothed tables to make him the Foursquare mayor, and he goes there for the same reason he checks in: networking. "I meet a lot of people at Elway's. And even if I stop in alone, I almost always run into someone I know."
That reflects the nature of the neighborhood: Cherry Creek is an epicenter for socially active, outgoing adults with successful careers, forging business or love connections over wine and martinis in up glasses rather than plastic cups.
"I mostly hang out in Cherry Creek and LoHi," Khan says. "I'm not really into the young, young crowd in LoDo." Khan cites a list of venues that includes Earl's, Second Home, Zengo, Vita and Lola — and he's mayor of Earl's and Lola, too.
The crowd that frequents those restaurants can afford valet parking, the reserve wine list and the occasional $75 lobster tail — all of which appeals to Khan, who joined Foursquare to "toot my own horn, to let people know where I am in the world."
Khan moved to Denver from Washington, D.C., three years ago, when his job sent him out this way. He liked Colorado right away because the population is committed to staying healthy, a breath of fresh air after twenty years in a city that didn't share that focus. He embraced that, skiing and biking when he wasn't traveling for his job. He's also an avid freelance photographer, and he's especially interested in concerts.
When he's out socializing, though, he wants places that are crowded and fun, restaurants and bars that serve a good meal and pour a good martini.
You can find him at Elway's about once a week. — Laura Shunk
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