Best Collection Dedicated to a Fashion Curmudgeon 2001 | Historic Costume and Textile Collection | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Richard Blackwell is best known for the acerbic eye he turns on the fashion faux pas of the rich and famous, a public service that culminates in Mr. Blackwell's ten-best-dressed and ten-worst-dressed lists released every January. (This year's worst of the worst: Britney Spears.) But CSU knows a different Blackwell -- the man who came out to teach design students for a week, the man who has donated a vast collection of sketchbooks, master patterns and original designs to CSU's 10,000-item Historic Costume and Textile Collection. The first Blackwell items were donated to the school by the Jenkins family, which owned a fashionable store in Cherry Creek; later, Blackwell himself started supporting the school. "It's the most frustrating thing in the world that people only know him by his lists," says collection curator Linda Carlson, who knows the designer well enough to call him Mr. B. "They don't recognize the fact that he was an extremely prominent designer, probably the most pre-eminent designer out of California from the '60s to the '80s." The collection is open to the public for research, and parts are sometimes included in gallery shows put on by the department. You're looking good in Fort Collins, Mr. B.

That unfunny dramatic theorist, Aristotle, probably would have loathed the idea that the high point of the Central City Opera's production of Dialogues of the Carmelites occurred in Act One, long before a proper "rising action" developed. Even so, audiences appreciated the fact that mezzo-soprano Joyce Castle marvelously commanded the stage as a venerable abbess. The regal singer conferred an authority on Francis Poulenc's opera and left one admiring a beauty too terrible to embrace yet too compelling to disregard. Even Aristotle would probably approve of that.

Cafe Cero is hip: It's cool and casual, it serves gourmet bar food, it attracts big-name local acts to perform acoustic sets and comedy acts, and it hosts All-Star Karaoke every Thursday night at 9. With more than 5,000 songs available, there's no excuse for you not to make a total fool of yourself in front of people who should know better.

Best Thanksgiving Performance by a Man Hearing Too Many Goddamn Voices in His Head

Wesley Willis

Wesley Willis, a schizophrenic Chicago street artist and Casio accompanist, played fiasco-free last Thanksgiving to a receptive Tavern crowd, rendering timeless (and preprogrammed) such holiday classics as "Eat That Mule Shit," "Shoot Me in the Ass" and "I'm Sorry That I Got Fat." The evening's earth-shattering, Mayflower hell ride -- as engagingly odd as it was devoid of cranberries -- made for a repetitively fun time with plenty of headbutts for all who were willing to "rock over London, rock over Chicago." For the wee pilgrims of Denver, Wesley can still whip the turkey's booty-hole.

Denver's major cultural institutions offered free admission all day on December 31, but that was just a taste of the big, big fun still to come. By 11:58 p.m. on New Year's Eve, the 16th Street Mall was one mass of happy, freeloading humanity, eagerly awaiting the fireworks that were set to light up the D&F Tower. And for once, a show lived up to its advance billing: Within seconds, the mall exploded in a blaze of lights and sights and sounds, wrapping 200,000 spectators in smoke and an incredible feeling of well-being. Everyone got such a bang out of the Mayor's Millennium Celebration that it more than made up for the bust of the previous New Year's Eve -- and Mayor Wellington Webb was so moved that he promised a repeat performance next year (if sponsors step up to the plate, that is). We say: Party on, Denver!
South of Fairplay, west of Colorado Springs and east of Gunnison, one of America's "100 Best Small Art Towns" devotes a weekend each year to the visual and performing arts. In 2001, Salida is set to go artsy June 22-24 for the ninth annual Salida Art Walk, with nationally known painters, sculptors, jewelers, ceramic and glass artists, photographers, storytellers, musicians, comedians, dancers and poets taking to the streets, galleries and restaurants that line Colorado's largest historic district. But in Salida, which is also one of Colorado's last relatively unspoiled towns, the arts aren't simply a once-a-year afterthought. A smattering of interesting galleries are open year-round, and the coffeehouse bulletin boards are always loaded with announcements of entertaining, artful events. All this and fabulous fourteeners, too.
Colorado sculptor John DeAndrea is one of only a handful of local artists to have achieved international renown. But there's no mystery to his success, as the incredible sculptures in last fall's John DeAndrea make clear. The spectacular show was a knockout even from the sidewalk on Wazee Street: Through the windows, passersby could catch a glimpse of what looked like a naked woman. It was actually a hyper-real figural sculpture, the first of many in this exhibit. D'Andrea also revealed his debt to Italian art in this show, something that was unexpected but hardly unlikely given the artist's Italian-American roots.
You'd have to look pretty hard to find a less pretentious entertainer than Paul Lopez, pianist at Charlie Brown's Bar & Grill. The perpetually congenial Lopez, a fixture behind the bar's ivories since the late '80s, always has a good word for patrons, whether they're participatory-show-tune types or not. He's no slouch on the piano, either.

Denver ceramics genius Martha Daniels threw everything into Grotto, her outlandish installation in which most elements were made of clay. She painted the walls, created architectural elements and even put in an operable fountain. The resulting atmosphere was dark and heavy, exactly her intention, since the show was meant to evoke the spirit of the ancient grottos of Italy. But despite her historical sources -- like those requisite Venus sculptures -- Daniels also threw in some of her futuristic robot figures.

Best Lunar Landing by an Experimental Caucasian

Whitey on the Moon

Besides spinning tunes for KUVO's Sleepless Nights once a week, Jamie Osborne hosts open-stage gatherings of vast proportions every other Wednesday at the Mercury Cafe -- an impromptu offering that launches listeners into twisting orbits of found sound, electronica, spoken word, jazz noodling and beyond. His own ongoing project, dubbed Whitey on the Moon, mixes indie rock, dance beats and Gil Scott Heron-inspired soulfulness, and it's produced one of the year's most intriguing studio efforts. Add the contributions of some talented local luminaries (including Tarantella violist Kelly O' Dea and reed master Mark Harris from Random Axe and Hamster Theatre), and you've got all the ingredients for a stratospheric sound party. Houston, we haven't a problem in the world.

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