Up From Under

The regulars at Rodney's are a sufficiently worldly and world-weary lot that when John Elway used to fall by for a Scotch on the rocks and a game of backgammon, they paid him almost no mind. Too busy dismembering their slabs of prime rib and football-sized baked potatoes. Too busy wrestling with Mr. Jim Beam. Too busy, below-ground in tony Cherry Creek, contemplating domestic intranquilities past and present, killer fluctuations in the Dow or that upcoming thing in district court.

Listen. One regular, upset that his ex-wife had taken up with a new man, started packing heat. But when, after a couple of late-night cocktails, he ascended the staircase leading out of the depths and tried to put the gun back in his glove compartment, it went off.

The ex-wife loved it: "You shot your car!" she chided.

The deafened ex-husband eked out a comeback: "Well, I hit it, didn't I?"

So it goes sometimes in the windowless, subterranean confines of this storied old watering hole. For fifteen years now, proprietor Rodney Utz has been serving up excellent saloon food, drinks as big as your aching head and -- more important -- the opportunity to consider the ruins of your fourth marriage or conduct your third childhood precisely as you see fit. The faces you see stationed around the rectangular bar are, well, experienced faces -- brokers on a bender, ink-stained newspapermen bitching about long hours and short pay, women who will never ask to see your fraternity pin. Among the well-heeled retirees, white-collar homeless, go-getter bizfolk and working wounded in this cave, you'll find a couple of things in common: John Elway could be anybody, and easy on the ice, please, pour that thing to the top.

Another silvery regular, whose butt just has to be nailed to the barstool, drinks nothing but tall screwdrivers. "His liver is shot," an old friend observes, "but he hasn't had a cold since 1942." Has hardly missed a night, either. Knows when Rudy Tomjanovich drops in. Or Dick Butkus. Or Christopher Plummer, twenty minutes after the standing O.

Rodney? He's that quiet, lanky piece of work over there. Never goes behind the bar. Sees to it that his joint (and its descendant down in Tamarac Square) turns out fine drinks, a surpassing bowl of clam chowder, great chiles rellenos and a splendid burger -- The Fat Boy -- slathered with blue cheese and crisp bacon and trimmed with onion rings. But he is so hesitant when it comes to personal dining experiments that he once took a suitcase loaded with Wonder Bread and peanut butter to Mexico so he wouldn't have to hazard the local enchiladas. His place reflects his style: dark green walls dimly illuminated by brass banker lamps, here and there a framed charcoal nude, and in the cramped men's room, the infamous poster that imparts certain indispensable bits of knowledge. Sample: Oldest prostitute, one Mrs. Nobel, of Arkansas, age 86, reputed by her husband to have received $35 for services rendered. Sample: Heaviest male sex organ, seven pounds, attached to one Peter Howes-Standill, a giant living in Hampshire, England.

` Still. If you're looking for a New York strip rare and an hour of grownup conversation, this is the place. If you want a healthy whack of Cognac and a shared lament for the woes of the world, descend Rodney's staircase. If you're in the mood for a laugh or a ball score or an argument or a drink with the Beautiful and the Damned, drop on down. If you want world-weary, look no further.