Best Of :: People & Places
According to most television-news experts, viewers prefer old, comfortable faces to new, unfamiliar ones -- but Asha Blake blows right through that theory. Denver's newest anchor looks young, but she has an extremely impressive resumé, having hosted such national programs as Later Today and Good Morning America Sunday, and she displays all this skill and savvy on Channel 2, whose ratings-challenged late-night newscast desperately needed the star power she delivers. While Blake is still a relative unknown in this city, she's worth getting to know.
Sitting on the steps of the Immaculate Conception cathedral's gothic entryway, or on a bench inside the courtyard garden blessed by Pope John Paul II himself, you may voyeurize the entire teeming array of life on Colfax Avenue. Perps, pervs and priests by the paddy-wagon-full. Hookers enjoying fresh McDonald's Big Macs. Across the street, a space for lease, a temp agency, an Asian restaurant, a drug and liquor store. The cathedral's garden is surrounded by a high, black-metal fence tipped with crosses and dull spikes, but the gate is open, and it's filled with topiary and amiable vagrants. A sign near the gate maintains that drugs, alcohol and loitering are not tolerated in a place honored with the title of "basilica" by big J.P. 2 on Christmas Day, 1979. That lightning once struck the east spire is proof enough.
Campus kiosks, newspaper event calendars and city-specific websites are all well and good, but you can't beat the backsides of bars and adult bookstores for ambience. This bulletin board, stuck to the back of the building housing Sancho's Broken Arrow, exists for the stated purpose of providing publicity for the bar's upcoming acts and those of its drinking buddies: Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom, Quixote's True Blue and Dulcinea's 100th Monkey. But while you can certainly find fliers for the DarkStar show, it's no surprise to also find other engrossing items on this board: cool indie stickers, particularly tasteful centerfolds torn from mags at the Kitty's outpost next door, offers for guitar lessons. Look across the alley toward the Denver Police Department's District 6 station before pinning up your ad for Used Bowflex, $20 OBO.
The enormous head stares at traffic headed east on Colfax with a cold, smarmy sneer. There's something about this man that you just don't trust. Maybe it's his surly glare, or maybe it's just the giant lettering next to him that asks, "Who Invited Syphilis to the Party?" Jesus, that's a little direct, isn't it? But we've all seen it a million times. The night is in full swing, second keg just got tapped, and then in walks Syphilis, covered in lesions, with swollen lymph nodes and patchy bald spots on his head. Nobody will fess up to inviting him, but he's there just the same, and he's ready to party. This billboard is positioned so creepily -- above the Guardian Angels' headquarters and kitty-corner from one of the most high-traffic prostitution spots in the city -- that many passersby just might heed the advice to "Get Tested" and call the prominently displayed number. Now, that's what we call a party favor.
Wavering between old, abandoned factory and gentrifiable condominium complex, the Gates Rubber building doesn't appear to be a hotbed of, well, anything. At best, it's a little bit of Queens right off I-25. But for experienced spray-painters (and criminal trespassers), the place is an amusement park, art gallery and Mt. Everest all rolled into one. Because after they get past the private-property signs, chain-link fences and high red-brick walls hung with stopped clocks, this is graffiti heaven. Huge block letters dominate the upper facades; the high windows are painted backward on the inside so that their messages are legible from the street. Mountaineers, ahoy: The crowning water tower is looking awfully drab.
Have you recently moved into one of Denver's fresh new neighborhoods and found yourself trading Tupperware with a fabulously gowned and mustachioed matriarch by the name of Nuclia Waste? Then welcome to Gaypleton. The once-abandoned landing strip of the former Stapleton Airport is now taking off as a hot 'hood that's snagged the queer eye. But homophobic house hunters need not fear. Even the happy folks at www.gaypleton.com don't take themselves too seriously, as they make clear in their disclaimer: "It's just a bunch of homos who live in Stapleton and like to have parties." Ahh, home, sweet homo.
We're not in Kansas anymore! And that's about all we know when we land at this intersection of Second Avenue and Clayton, which used to lead directly into the Sears automotive-service area. But now this one-block stretch is all va-va-vroom, with a prettified name -- Clayton Lane -- giving a certain je ne sais fucking quoi to a slicked-up street life that bears no resemblance to the kinds of life you find anywhere else in town. Get an eyeful as all the beautiful people -- are we on Planet Pretty? -- flit in and out of the new shops, the new restaurants, the new hotel. Cherry Creek's on a stroll, and we're watching.