The 1900 block of Market Street has been quiet this summer. Not quiet, in the sense that business has been bad -- in fact, business along this stretch of LoDo is better than it's been in years, with people packing the bars and restaurants and rooftop patios. No, quiet in the sense that the shootings and stabbings and related headlines have disappeared, along with the more unsavory crowds that used to congregate in the parking lots at Let Out. One reason for this outbreak of peace is that the block's most infamous club, the one where patrons got in a fatal altercation last Thanksgiving, is now a cowboy bar, where all the shoot-'em-ups are make-believe.
But the other peacemaker is the block's newest resident at 1920 Market, which came complete with vigilant managers and cameras and off-duty Denver police officers. In April, Bunim-Murray Productions took over the former home of B-52 Billiards (conveniently foreclosed on by a bank) and turned it into the home base for MTV's eighteenth season of The Real World. The seven-member cast of The Real World: Denver moved into the building -- now equipped with a basketball court and hot tub -- in May, and for more than two months, a crew filmed their antics both in and out of the house. Those moonlighting Denver cops kept things from getting too real, occasionally even tossing fans in the clink (but then, one cast member also wound up in detox).
After filming wrapped last month, the cast and most of the crew left town. And on Monday, the 1900 block of Market was quiet. Really quiet. A stool inside the Tavern Downtown -- which had played host to the cast numerous times over the summer, so will likely get some play when the 24-part series finally starts airing late this fall -- offered an unobstructed view of a tent across the street. The absolutely empty tent had been set up to accommodate the throngs that would no doubt accept the invitation to "meet the roommates" and "tour the one-of-a-kind residence" and fork over $50 to the Denver Art, Culture & Film Foundation, an organization occasionally dusted off when the city has an odd arts project (see Wilma Webb's dancing aliens, or the chubby Boteros in the Denver Performing Arts Complex). But the foundation would have made more money panhandling like the bums who used to frequent the area, because barely a dozen people showed for the fundraiser -- and two of them were members of the press, a group strictly prohibited by MTV from taking advantage of "this opportunity," despite the fact that the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs had sent out the original invites.
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As he walked down Market, one fellow who looked like prime MTV material -- except for the fact that he was reading a book! -- paused, glanced over at the empty tent and the well-groomed gals waiting for someone, anyone, to come over, and said, "See the Real World house for $50? I wouldn't pay $5 to get in."
Besides, the view from the cheap seats was much better. LoDo has always been the true heart of Denver, the center of both its past and its future. For seventy years, El Chapultepec, right at the end of the 1900 block, has been serving hot chile and cool jazz -- and during one interminable Colorado Rockies game this summer, colder beers through seventeen innings. For LoDo fans, The Real World: Denver was just another chapter in the almost-150-year-old story of the most real part of town.
And for Real World fans, there was no need to pay $50, or even $5, to see the house. The sad reality is that for them, reality TV isn't real until it's on TV.