Best Of 2002 | Denver | Denver Westword | The Leading Independent News Source in Denver, Colorado
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.
Since September 11, we Americans have been self-medicating our depression with foods that remind us of hearth and home, warmer, fuzzier times, and the good old days when you could get on a plane without getting felt up. Mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, roast chicken and Oreos are being consumed in record numbers as we seek out restaurants that comfort the heart as well as the stomach. And you won't find a more comforting place in town than the lunch-only Tom's Home Cookin', which does a fine job with all of our homey favorites (okay, not Oreos, but Coca-Cola chocolate cake is a mighty good substitute). Owners Tom Unterwagner and Steve Jankousky know how to nurture through nature's most soothing comforts: pot roast and cheesy potato casserole, warm cornbread and peach cobbler. Maybe if bin Laden had tried the daily bargain, "meat and two" for $6.45, he'd have had a better outlook on life.
It's no easy task to buoy up the spirits of fans whose on-floor heroes are always getting their butts handed to them. But Rocky the Mountain Lion does it every night -- with astonishing acrobatics, the occasional no-look swish from half court (including one recently with a ball he boldly had Michael Jordan autograph) and a mischievous playfulness that captivates kids and grownups alike. Rocky's three-foot-long lightning-bolt tail is a triumph of the costumer's art, and even if every Nugget now on the roster goes the way of Dikembe Mutombo, the most entertaining pro-sports mascot in the country will endure: He made his debut way back on December 15, 1990, and hasn't lost a step since.

We've grabbed the bull by the horns for this, our nineteenth annual Best of Denver issue, a celebration of everything that's wacky and wonderful about this city. For 51 weeks a year, Westword raises olé hell; on the 52nd, we stop to honor hundreds of truly worthy people, places, policies and, yes, pizza joints.

But before you plunge into the pages that follow, a few red flags. The Best of Denver 2002 is not for beginners: If you're new to town or need a refresher course (you've forgotten how to find Confluence Park or the Cherry Creek Tattered Cover, for example), a visit to our Best of Denver archives should come in handy; you'll find them here.

And while we¹ve asked our readers for their opinions on dozens of categories, the majority of the Best of Denver 2002 belongs to our highly opinionated editorial staff. Remember, when turning a beast into the best, the pen is mightier than the sword.

Best Performance by a Denverite in The Vagina Monologues

Hazel Miller

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.

Best Place to Get Jail Threads Without Going to Jail

Where the Buffalo Roam

Denver's jailhouse certainly doesn't rock, but those bright-orange jumpsuits sure are purty. If committing a crime, getting arrested and doing time in the pokey isn't worth it for you, though, why not just pretend? Where the Buffalo Roam, a novelty shop on the 16th Street Mall, sells orange jumpsuits, T-shirts, button-up shirts and a variety of hats with the words "Property of Denver County Jail" stenciled across them. While the city's corrections director, Fred Oliva, didn't have much of a sense of humor about the grim garments, that hasn't stopped people from snatching them up (after paying, of course), says a store employee. And why not? After all, the clothes look criminally cool.

Best Place to Sing "America the Beautiful"

Pikes Peak

Maybe it was the cold. Maybe it was the lack of oxygen at 14,110 feet. Maybe it was the stunning view from the top of Colorado's most famous mountain. Whatever it was, something clicked in Katharine Lee Bates's brain on July 22, 1893. As she stood at the summit of Pikes Peak, and as a carriage carried her back to the bottom, she scribbled down the first lines of what would eventually become "America the Beautiful." Although not as well known as the national anthem, of course, the rousing song has made a major comeback since September 11; it's been sung since then at nearly every professional sporting event (in addition to the "Star-Spangled Banner") and other events of all kinds. But the best place to belt out the lyrics -- "O beautiful for spacious skies/For amber waves of grain/For purple mountain majesties/Above the fruited plain!/America! America!/God shed his grace on thee/And crown thy good with brotherhood/From sea to shining sea!" -- is amid the majesty of Pikes Peak itself, on the very spot that inspired those words.
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.
Westward ho! Bright lights, big titties! Come see her mountains! We put the strip in strip-mining! Georgetown: Where the scenery is on us, and the mayor is on you. Thanks to a mayor with a penchant for inflating both her stories and her breasts, Georgetown wound up in the media G-spotlight this past year. Stripper-turned-hairdresser-turned-mayor Koleen Brooks kept the old mining town hopping with her attempts to oust city officials, her admission of pot-smoking, her insistence that she'd been assaulted (CBI investigation to the contrary). But in the end, her antics were self-defeating and her career self-deflating, another in the series of endless boom-and-bust and boom-boom-and-bustline tales that abound in the West. The results of an April 2 recall election may keep things quiet in Georgetown for a while, but damn, it was fun while it lasted.

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