Lew Cady passes away, leaving Colorado a lot less colorful

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Colorful Colorado became a lot less colorful yesterday. Lew Cady -- resident of Central City; graduate of East High School; adman and publisher of the Little Kingdom Come; beer-drinker (and beer-can collector); baseball fanatic; lover of lists and hijinks; wearer of cowboy hats, boots and beards; friend to thousands, grandfather to three, father to Sue and Jane, husband to Leslie -- passed away. Among his many activities (or perhaps obsessions) was a passion for doing things first. But this time around, everyone who knew him wishes that Lew had stuck around a little longer.

For another beer or two, at least.

I met Lew Cady through a story in Westword. Then-staff writer Robin Chotzinoff had been invited to a Spamposium in Central City, devoted to the wonders of that almost meat and led by one Lew Cady, already a legendary creative director back in Denver after a stint on Madison Avenue. The stories about Lew were much tastier than the subject of that "simposium," a biennial event on a mine-scarred hillside above the town, where Lew would plug in an old refrigerator that spent the year out in the elements but still managed to start right back up every summer and chill down case after case of Coors. And then people would speak on learned topics. And drink beer.

After that first appearance in Westword (which sadly predates the Internet), Lew would periodically pop back up in these pages and on the blog. That's because Lew was always doing something so very interesting. Even after his alleged retirement, he kept busy working for the Wynkoop Brewing Co. (the details of that contract are vague, but it involved going to a baseball game every year with co-founder John Hickenlooper). He compiled a book on the first season of the Colorado Rockies, to which I contributed a chapter. He edited the newsletter and calendar for Lone Tree, and made that municipality look like about the most entertaining place on the planet. He was always busy, always checking things off that list.

When the Wynkoop marked its twentieth anniversary, Lew provided this memory:

The night Rock Bottom opened, John Hickenlooper and I (and you) were there and I asked Hickenlooper what he was going to do now that there was a second brewpub in town.

"Crush 'em like a little bug," he said, demonstrating the technique with the thumb on one hand and the palm of the other.

The Rock Bottom is still going strong. But then, so is Hickenlooper, though he's no longer in the restaurant/brewpub business. He moved on to become mayor (that political career got its start with a campaign that he and Lew launched to save the Mile High Stadium name) and then governor.

And Lew continued with his very interesting projects. One, the Little Kingdom Come newspaper based in Central City, was the focus of this 2010 Westword piece:

The Rocky Mountain News closed down a year ago this week -- on February 28, 2009 -- bringing a 150-year tradition to an end. But the News's website, complete with headlines and memories from that final day, lives on, like a creepy online time capsule.

All is not lost for Colorado journalism and its traditions, however: The Little Kingdom Come has been "bringing beery news to the pointylands" of Central City for four decades, and it put out a forty-year anniversary issue on February 16. Not bad for a paper with the motto "published whenever we damn well feel like it."

So how has the mostly tongue-in-cheek (but always beer-in-mouth) paper stayed alive while others have failed?

"More nudity, for one thing," says editor Lew Cady, and he should know. Cady and a crew of cohorts posed naked for the regular Gunslingers feature in the anniversary issue; while the LKC regularly features a nude Gunslinger, this was only Cady's third showing. "I do it every ten years," he says. "In other words, I'm a good sport once a decade. And I do it only in groups with women Gunslingers in them so nobody will notice me." While guns and cowboy hats are placed somewhat strategically, the shot doesn't leave nearly enough to the imagination.

But readers are used to staring at the naked truth in the LKC, even if many of the paper's articles and photos are doctored. "My favorite year was the year gambling came to Central City, and we warned them that it would get out of control," Cady recalls. "And they didn't listen, and it got out of control." Now, as the LKC's current cover story reveals, "Local lady loses eight billionth dollar in Gilpin County!"

"But Central City is still a great place," says Cady. "There are a lot of funny people in Central City. It's a joy to hang around with them and drink beer with them."

And he was just the guy to do it.

There are so many Lew Cady stories, and they will keep spilling out in the days and weeks to come. Memories keep coming from all corners of the country. Memories sad and silly, happy and heart-wrenching. His career was as a creative director -- but no one ever directed a life more creatively than Lew Cady.

Colorado became a lot less colorful yesterday, but we can still savor the many hues of Lew.

Continue for a list of Lew Cady's Firsts and Lasts. Here's a list of Lew Cady's recent First and Lasts.

Lew Cady's Firsts and Lasts

When did you first meet Lew? Share your stories in the comments section below.

More from the Calhoun Wake-Up Call archives: "A House Divided: Black Hawk plays the lace card."

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