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Biennial of the Americas 2015/MCA

Wednesday, august 1, 2009


The image you are viewing is a double exposure.  The stenciled word  Westword" on the asphalt of a parking lot designating a space, and the view looking North at the 20th St. Viaduct from that same location.     1988

Westword's offices were in the Atrium Building at 18th Street and Wynkoop Street, across the street from the Wynkoop Brewing Company;  the parking was just north in what is now the Keg Steakhouse location.  The 20th Street Viaduct was across the street and field, providing transportation East and West for the area, the 23rd Street Viaduct seen faintly beyond.  Coors Field would be built in that exact location between the two viaducts with Blake Street to the right out of view.

The Denver Westword, then and now, provides urban Denver with the essential information of feature stories, art and restaurant reviews, with insight as to what is really going on in our city.  The publication, may I dare say, leans to the liberal side of our community with articles, cartoons and photos, some cuss words and things we would think, but not print.

Patricia Calhoun, the Editor to this day, has provided the leadership of Westword, and directed content that was initially before its time but is now accepted, appreciated and always moving into the future. The publication truly helped move Denver into the future, all the time respecting our past and providing the conduit for the community attitude and commerce to grow.

So, back to the past.  I viewed Westword weekly and bathed myself in its publication.  Many talented people offered unique expertise; I will mention some of the names I remember most over the years from 1982 - 1995.

In alphabetical order: 

Kenny Be, Cartoonist
Patricia Calhoun, Editor and Columnist
Nancy Clegg, Art Critic
Susan Froyd, Happenings
Susan Goldstein, Photographer
Gary Isaacs, Photographer

For additional images and commentary, please refer to the Lower Downtown section.


Rainbow Music Hall

The answer would be "yes".     1988

Rainbow Music Hall opened in 1979 with Jerry Jeff Walker, and closed in 1988 with Warren Zevon after hosting some 1,000 performances.

Rainbow Music Hall was all about great musicians and an intimate connection with audiences who were positioned anywhere from 5 feet to 125 feet from the band.

The musicians were the best in the world with an incredible sound and light system complimenting the performances.  Nice indeed!

Located at Evans and Monaco Street, the former 3-screen movie theater - walls removed and seats for 1200 patrons, a building far from an architectural gem - took on a new life when the music started.  It was the best in the world.

I worked at the Rainbow Music Hall from 1978-1983 and was fortunate to work the stage/back stage position where the performers entered.  My job was to check backstage passes for roadies and groupies etc. - if you had a pass you got back stage, if you didn't, please go away...

I would "trip" on being at that spot, mostly by talking with the roadies, then by the show itself, and finally by looking at the audience and band.  It was almost overwhelming to be so immersed in the work of the musicians and crew that earned that spotlight -  so many practices from childhood, and here we all were.

The Rainbow was not unlike similar venues nationally that did not serve alcohol.  We searched the patrons for obvious bulges of alcoholic containers and confiscated them, but the hidden amounts of weed or cigarettes were not detected.  Once inside, the room filled with smoke,  and unless a patron was openly drinking, everything was cool. As long as people stayed in their seats, everything was cool...

We had a room for bands or special guests near the front entrance that was closed to the public.  It had a one-way glass mirror with a view of the crowd.  The window was straight up isle from where I was positioned; the crowd looked at the band and I saw some very interesting things when the lights inside or occupants were close to the window.

One evening after a Bob Dylan performance, we were selling tickets for the upcoming show of The Knack to people who had been in line overnight.  We were to "guard" Bob Dylan's semi-truck of equipment.  A fellow employee and I were doing "what you do to  stay alert to see the early morning," and in the harsh morning light, we surveyed the area, checking out the crowd and truck trailer. We were so proud, until...we looked up at the back up the trailer full of equipment, the lock was on the door, unlocked...rock and roll.

Some of my favorite musicians were: J.D. Souther, who actually called a fellow employee who had been beaten up working a show, to wish him well.  Other favorites were the J. Geils Band, Tom Waits, Stanley Clarke, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Messina, Talking Heads, Andy Kaufman, Bonnie Raitt, Leo Kottke, Jerry Jeff Walker (Rainbow opening night), and a special benefit for my late friend and comedian, Don Becker, that featured Robin Williams, Dennis Miller and Rosanne Barr.

A thank you to my fellow friends I worked with, and to the larger group of people who saw these shows.

My late friend, Frank Maes, who helped me get the job at the Rainbow, had more back stage passes than I have ever seen (500) from Red Rocks to...I know your last pass got you in, My Brother.

Rock on.

For additional images and commentary, please refer to the Denver section.

Kim Allen, 2009

My Thoughts On Denver

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Kim Allen

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