Mark Antonation
If you can squeeze in between the former and current thespians bellied up to the piano at Charlie Brown's Bar, lovable Paul Lopez will play nearly any song you can name, as long as it was written before 1980. But Paulie will also occasionally astound the truly lucky patron with telepathic feats both impressive and mundane. He may recount details of a stunned piano-side couple's recent trip to Leadville, or tell how many siblings they have. He will most certainly pinpoint the radio station they listened to growing up. Lopez wowed the Sunday cafeteria crowd for years down at Furr's, but his true calling is in knowing the extraordinarily ordinary.
The Ramada Inn Downtown Denver is like a rock-and-roll RV park on weekend nights, when tour buses crowd the parking lot and bleary-eyed musicians trickle through the lobby at all hours. The crash pad for artists and crews in town for shows at the Fillmore, Ogden and Bluebird theaters -- as well as an actual hotel for normal people in town for things like vacations and conventions -- the Ramada is a totally entertaining culture clash. On a single floor, you might find a cluster of cattlemen, a sweet family of four from Omaha, the Insane Clown Posse and a bunch of college kids tripping on acid after a killer String Cheese Incident show. This human mishmash creates some amusingly weird scenes inside the elevator, and the Ramada's rock-star element also makes for fun rounds of Who's Who in the Lobby: Is that Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, or just a Capitol Hill hipster look-alike? Only the front-desk clerk knows for sure.


The Fillmore

It's not really the Fillmore's fault. The venue hosts a wide range of musicians and holds a couple thousand people, so it's bound to attract some contradictory characters. Being right across Clarkson from Sancho's Broken Arrow probably doesn't help. And after all, Colorado is a red state. Whatever the reason, when the jam bands come out and play, the Fillmore is probably the only place on the planet where you can find dreadlocked, patchouli-smelling, pot-smokin', patchwork-wearing 'Heads who sincerely believe in the power of capitalism and who would have voted for Bush -- but they totally spaced that whole democratic-voice thing on election day. Look for a Republican hippie the next time the Fillmore opens its doors for a jam band; when you find one, enjoy the sheer absurdity of it all.
Mark Antonation
When Eagle County and Pueblo have passed smoking bans, you know the writing is on the wall. Whether or not the Colorado Clean Indoor Act passes the legislature and is signed by the governor is almost moot. If they don't, the Denver Regional Council of Governments will step in and almost-assuredly push one through for the entire Denver Metro area. Before lighting up becomes a crime, head over to Charlie Brown's. Sure the smoke is thick and heavy there, but that's part of the bar's charm, along with the piano and Paul Lopez tinkling its ivories. It brings back images of older days when Denver was young and brash. There's also the cheap surf and turf that is surprisingly good, and the patio is one of the best in the city for early evening people watching.
Evan Semón
Several months after opening, the Meadowlark Lounge still has that new-bar smell, thanks to its decision to 86 smoking. Everything in the underground tavern is pristine and clean, from the shiny bar to the bathrooms, a dichotomy to gritty Larimer Street just outside its heavy, wooden door. But the place is laid-back and unassuming, a perfect spot for a chill beer, a conversation and even some mind expansion, thanks to Pyroclastic, a new experimental electronic-music night that makes its nest at the 'Lark every other Thursday. Pretty soon, the subterranean spot will feel worn in, like it belongs in the hood, but it won't ever smell like an ashtray.
If you can maneuver the maze of striped shirts that line the bar five-deep and survive repeated offers to take Jagermeister shots with complete strangers, you will have the opportunity to immortalize yourself in the TP-littered graffiti gallery that is LoDo's bathroom. Better than freshly laid cement, LoDo's stalls are a canvas waiting to be decorated with your wit, poetry, declarations of love and, even better, testaments of hate. Nowhere is the First Amendment so righteously put into practice. Tell Jessica she is a slut. Let everyone know that Matt slept with Veronica. Leave your number (for a good time), and know that people will read your profound thoughts while they are peeing for years to come.
During Friday night's Lipgloss festivities, the men's room at La Rumba is backed up worse than DIA on Thanksgiving weekend. Luckily, controlling all that human traffic is one Brooks Miller, wise-ass, punk-rock bathroom attendant. With a barely perceptible smirk that nonetheless screams, "Dude, are you for real?," he squirts soap, administers cologne and keeps the paper towels coming. With the Buddha-like patience of a junior-high janitor, he seems almost paternalistically fond of his drunken, dick-in-hand wards. Don't forget to tip, my friends. You are in the presence of a master.
A weekday fixture on the seven-to-five shift, 52-year-old Terry Sullivan has been tending the 72 feet of mahogany at Duffy's Shamrock for more than 23 years, dispensing a quip as he whips up an Irish coffee, exchanging notes on the latest Broncos win (he's held north end-zone season tickets since 1967) while drawing a Guinness, wondering aloud about the Rockies' woes (on homestands, that's Terry up in section 328, row 1) while pouring a cup of black joe for a stockbroker en route to work. "Night bartending is tough," the balding, bespectacled master of his domain explains. "You get a different crowd. Working days has allowed me to keep regular hours, raise a family and have a pretty good time." Truth be known, he's following in his father's footsteps. Dad Danny was the longtime proprietor of Sullivan's, just around the corner at 14th and Court Place, which fell to the wrecking ball in 1982 -- the same year Terry took up at Duffy's.
If Grenade were to put a help-wanted ad in the newspaper for a doorman to join his coalition of hotties, it would read: "Looking for an Adonis, six-foot-plus, with chiseled features, washboard abs and an affinity for tight jeans and fitted T-shirts." And we thought the bouncer mold was football-player rotund, with a double chin, buzzed hair and an affinity for Twinkies. But at a place as West Coast-wannabe as Grenade, a Euro-hawk-sporting pretty boy will suffice. Actually, it's preferred.



For the past 25 years, Charlie's is where all the real gay cowboys (and ranch hands, sheepherders and rodeo riders) have met, two-stepped and tried to quit each other. But it's hard to quit watching them twirling each other gracefully across the floor every night in their ten-gallon hats, boots and skintight Wranglers. If line-dancing isn't your thing, Charlie's offers other choices: non-C&W dancing, pool, darts, trivia, karaoke, Broncos parties, food, the bar's infamous annual Valentine bachelor/bachelorette auction and many other events throughout the year that benefit the LBGT community. So slap on your spurs, come on down and cowboy up.

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