At first, employees at the new Ritz-Carlton downtown didn't believe that a wealthy businessman named Sunshine Megatron had checked into the hotel for a long-term stay. Why would Megatron, who made millions selling offensive T-shirts through his website, www.tshirthell.com, be living in a Denver hotel?
And what was up with the name?
But it's true. Megatron, 34, is the real deal and is indeed living in the Mile High City. He tells me as much when I first contact him via e-mail in late January, adding that he has recently swapped the Ritz for a $1.15 million condo he'd purchased in Curtis Park — which he suggests I come visit. That meet-up is pushed off, then pushed off again, thanks to Megatron's busy, jetsetting schedule. "Hey...wanna fly out to Beverly Hills?" he writes me one day from Los Angeles. "I'll put you up at the Four Seasons... The strippers are better here." I decline that offer but accept one he sends two weeks later: "If you want to stop over at my studio for some Cristal and Cheez-Its, let me know."
Megatron, dressed in jeans and a grungy flannel shirt, meets me at the door to his condo, which looks like a dance club. It's massive and dim, with a bar in the corner and multiple landings suspended over a checkered-tile main floor, and it's almost completely empty, aside from a bed and a desk in out-of-the-way nooks. He offers me a drink from the refrigerator, which is stocked with nothing but champagne. Cheez-Its are nowhere to be seen.
He wasn't always Mr. Megatron, he explains, as we sip Cristal. He used to be Aaron Landau Schwarz, a Jersey boy with long, rock-star hair. Then, in 2001, he started making T-shirts sporting extremely distasteful sayings that he and his friends penned, like, "I Only Support Gay Marriage If Both Chicks Are Hot"; "I Beat Cancer (By Cancer I Mean Children)"; and "I Surfed the Tsunami 2004." Shirts no one would want to buy...except for everyone on the Internet.
On his computer, Megatron pulls up www.tshirthell.com's daily sales over the past seven years. What started off as a dozen sales a day progressed to fifty, then reached into the hundreds. Now there are days when his transactions hit four digits.
In 2006 he decided that "Aaron Landau Schwarz" didn't have enough pizzazz for someone with newfound millions. So he made another website, www.givemeaname.com, and left it up to his online fans to vote on a new one. He likes his new moniker, but it does have a downside. Like worrying about a lawsuit from the makers of the Transformers movie. Or seeing the disappointed looks on hotel concierges' faces when they realize it's not an alias for George Clooney. Or when "people think I'm a gay robot."
I don't ask about Mary-Kate and Ashley's cease-and-desist order stemming from the shirt emblazoned with "I Fucked the Olsen Twins Before They Were Famous." Or the time one of the death threats he often receives almost came true and he was rushed to the hospital because of an alleged poisoning. Instead I ask him what the hell he's doing in Denver.
Megatron has no clue. After living in New York City and Las Vegas, he drove into town a few months ago and decided to stick around. Partly it was because he noticed this condo in local real estate listings. He often decides where he's going to live based on a particular living space rather than a specific city. When you're Sunshine Megatron and can hop on a plane whenever you want, things like state lines lose significance. Later, he elaborates in an e-mail: "I guess the main reason was the prospect of hanging out with Illuminati reptilians in the underground bases near the airport when the apocalypse happens."
Megatron says he could bring a lot to this city. Maybe he'll buy up the entire block around his studio and turn it into high-end houses. Maybe he'll create a Denver-themed site now that he's almost done with www.torsopants.com, a website launching next week selling "torso pants" and featuring dry humor instead of his distasteful slogans. (TorsoPants are T-shirts. Get it? It's dry humor.)
Then again, he may not stick around long enough to do any of this. Megatron's already souring on Denver's cold snowy days, meager skyline and subpar strippers. He ought to be in Venice Beach, California, he says, pulling up online a multimillion-dollar property he found for sale there, one that overlooks the city's canals.
It's hard to argue with a canal, I admit, especially when the only thing flowing past his Denver windows are homeless drunks (his condo is located across the street from Denver's shelters). Part of the problem, we decide, is that Megatron doesn't know anything about his new home. So we came up with a plan. We'll throw him on the mercy of Westword readers and let them propose activities that will help convince him to stay. Maybe Mr. Megatron will even hang out with the author of his favorite suggestion.
I'm optimistic as I get up to leave: Maybe he'll stay. Then Denver will have its own Puff Daddy/Diddy, its own Donald Trump, one who's slightly alcoholic, strangely anti-social and probably not quite right in the head. Who knows? He could even become mayor! But then, as Megatron walks me outside, reality hits — in the form of an apparent carjacking occurring in front of his house. We duck back inside as men chase one another around a car idling in the street, yelling about car keys and threatening to shoot each other. When the coast is clear, I venture outside and bid my host goodnight.
"So long, Sunshine," I think. "We hardly knew you."