Jill Hadley Hooper and Hugh Graham are two of this town's least-toxic assets, artists and entrepreneurs who've helped change the aesthetic landscape of the city. And in honor of Denver's 150th birthday, Graham and Hadley Hooper (who was included on Denver's list of 150 unsung heroes released last November) presented this town with a real gift: buckfifty.org, a website that celebrates the city's past and present. According to the buckfifty manifesto, "Denver has pulled its ass out of the fire any number of times. Whether it was the flood of 1864 (or 1965), the silver crash of 1893, the great depression, the oil bust of the eighties, or countless other struggles, Denver and the people who live here have reinvented themselves through community, art, and story." Anyone is welcome to submit a contribution to buckfifty, but better hurry — when it gets to 150 posts, the site will become a permanent time capsule.
Breakfast King
Mark Antonation
Breakfast King has always been there for us, through early-morning breakfasts and late-night breakfasts; breakfasts when the sun is just peeking up over the horizon and we haven't yet been to bed; and breakfasts at four in the afternoon when we've just woken up from whatever the night before had brought us. And no question, when Denver's night owls are in need of a feed, Breakfast King is the place to go. There are nights when this venerable 24-hour diner looks like something out of Quentin Tarantino's wet dreams — a weird conglomeration of club kids and criminals, night-shift blue collars and just plain folk who've found themselves a little bit lost on the wrong side of midnight. The King is there for all of us, helping us get up or come down, chill out or straighten up. In fact, the King has never once locked its doors in all the years it's been operating. And honestly, we're not sure what this city would do if it ever did.
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Chef Ian Kleinman is a magician. Not just because he manages to make thoroughly impossible food (carbonated grapefruit, grape caviar, floating bacon and the like) that people come from all over the country to eat, but because he somehow figured out a way to do this at a hotel restaurant in Westminster, Colorado. Magic, indeed. In addition to watching over the regular menu at O's Steak & Seafood, Kleinman personally oversees a brilliant molecular-gastronomy menu that changes completely every week — and he has yet to blow the place up, burn it down or accidentally freeze himself in liquid nitrogen. A single taste of his instant peanut butter sorbet, watermelon powder, Miracle Fruit pills or guacamole space foam and you will never, ever look at food the same way again.
In this odd, enigmatic play by Edward Albee, Terry Burnsed played Julian, a humble priest destroyed by a Lawyer, a Cardinal, a Butler and a seductive benefactress named Alice, who may all have been acting on behalf of a corrupt and unimaginably vicious God. Burnsed's portrayal was at the heart of Tiny Alice's power and success; in fact, he acted with such integrity and passion that you wondered how he could endure repeating the role again and again through the run.
Tyee Tilghman brings dignity, subtlety and intelligent understatement to almost everything he does on a stage. This year's triumphs included a hardened street person in Curious's The Denver Project; a small but telling role in the Denver Center's Merry Wives of Windsor, where his low-key humor contrasted nicely with all the crazed hijinks going on around him; and a gravely beautiful portrayal of Orpheus in Sarah Ruhl's conceptually daring version of the Orpheus-Eurydice myth, staged — again — by Curious.
Doubt is about a priest who may or may not be molesting a young boy at his school, and the nun who, convinced of his guilt, is determined to bring him down. Jeanne Paulsen made Sister Aloysius every bit as stern and judgmental as the script required, but she also showed us there was something admirable about the woman's strength, single-mindedness and lack of sentimentality — as well as her bracing and ironic sense of humor. Every now and then, there was even a flicker of tenderness. She was, in short, riveting.
All three divas in 3 Mo' Divas sang pieces that ranged from opera to blues to disco with great authority and power. All were sensational. But Nova Y. Payton stood out. When she gave her sexy, playful, yearning rendition of Gershwin's "Summertime," you felt as if you'd never heard the song before, and she stripped "My Funny Valentine" of its corniness. Her phrasing was original and her voice a wonder. Note to Denver directors: Bring her back to us.
Two knock-it-out-of-the-park performances, and another acting display so good it almost saved a not-very-convincing play — that was Emily Paton Davies's contribution to the theater scene this year. In Crimes of the Heart, she played ditsy husband-killer Babe. Describing the killing, this girl was so sweetly and transparently reasonable that you really understood why she'd had to make herself a jug of fresh lemonade immediately afterward (she was thirsty) and then offered her husband a glass as he writhed on the carpet (it was the mannerly thing to do). In Love Song, Paton Davies showed us that she could be tough, funny, brittle and deeply tender. This actress has been on the scene for quite a while, and she gets more versatile and talented with every year that passes.
The SugarCube
Most of the new construction in LoDo apes the look of the original buildings there, but a few refer to the neighborhood's character more subtly. A triumph of this second, more sophisticated approach is the SugarCube, developed by Urban Villages and designed by the Toronto-based firm of KPMB (Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects). The site, right on the 16th Street Mall, is a sensitive one; the venerable 1906 Sugar Building by Gove and Walsh is right next door. While the details of the SugarCube are chicly neo-modern, KPMB created a buff-colored brick volume to visually associate the new building with the old one next door, and the SugarCube brick matches the Sugar Building brick. But that's just the beginning: The SugarCube also has the same sight lines at the roof, and its windows follow the older building's fenestration pattern. The SugarCube is not just the best addition to LoDo this past year; it's the best new building in many years.
These days, CDs are seen as outmoded technology — a point made in a witty way by EP01, whose sleeve duplicates the design of an '80s-era floppy disc. Unlike a floppy, however, the CD inside will work in a modern computer drive. That way, Able Archer fans can go old-school in a new-school way.

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