“There are no gentlemen in Denver,” my mentor Giles Humbert III said, “thus there are no gentlemen’s clubs.”
“Sure there are,” I said. “The phone book is full of them.”
“You’re as likely to find a gentleman in those clubs as you are finding decent scotch in a wino’s pocket.”
“Well, we’ll just see about that, won’t we?”
“Let me offer you some advice before you go. First, an aspiring gentleman needs a squire, a valet, if you will.”
“My bandmate Todd Daigle once worked as a valet at the Red Lion.”
“And you’ll need a small fortune in cash.”
“I’ll invite his wallet, too.”
2:00 pm—PT’s Show Club 1601 W. Evans Ave.
Wanting to establish myself as a gentleman right off the bat, I encourage Todd to buy two good blended whiskies with beers to act as their loyal squires. This civilized gesture immediately draws the attention of a friendly female who, judging by her swimsuit, is looking for the pool. She quietly assures me PT’s was once called the Family Dog, then describes the club’s fine pedigree, claiming it was owned by a famous local rock promoter and often frequented by the ungentlemanly likes of Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead.
She heads off for the pool I’ve yet to locate, and I notice that for a gentlemen’s club there are a lot of gentleladies hanging about. I know they are gentle and trusting because one was fearlessly (and toplessly) standing about a half inch away from me.
She introduces herself as Amanda and I immediately assure her that despite the fact there is a whiskey in my hand (Crown Royal) and a naked lady’s breasts balanced on my forearm (hers), I am an aspiring gentleman.
“I’m not a drunk, but I used to be,” she confesses, eyeing my early-afternoon libation. “I miss everything except the puking and hangovers.”
I offer to buy her a comeback cocktail but she declines, removing one of Todd’s dollars from the bar and handing it to me. What she did next I will refrain from detailing—just imagine a starving tiger that knows you’ve got a fish in your pants. A really good fish.
Who was she trying to fool? The only people who act this way are deep in the grips of a week-long bender. She’s probably just too shy to accept a drink, so I have Todd give her a couple bucks so she can buy her own.
The lowdown: Happy Hour daily from 4:30 – 6:30pm, $1 off everything and $2 10oz draws.
“Resisting temptation is the hallmark of a true gentleman. Where savages lick their chops, a gentleman covers his smirk with a polite hand.” —Giles Humbert III
3:01pm All Stars Sports Cabaret 4255 S. Santa Fe
As you pull up you are immediately emboldened by a sign trumpeting the kind of drink deals you’d expect to find in dive. Conforming to the theme of the club, the bartender wears a referee shirt, which at first can be quite unsettling—you keep waiting for her to throw a flag or try to sell you some basketball shoes. She introduces herself as Rhonda and offers us a $5 beerburger. That’s a beer and a burger for five bucks. We decline and order the southern gentleman’s lunch—a pair of Jack and Cokes.
“All I want to do is drink beer while I work,” Rhonda confides. “I’m probably the only one here who doesn’t.” She leans over our drinks to wink and whisper, “That’s shit’s for beginners. Straight vodka for me. Top shelf.”
I’m sold and so is Todd. I look into his eyes and see he has already mentally conked her on the head, thrown her over his shoulder and dashed out of the place, hooting like a savage.
I crush temptation with a stern glance. If we are to be a gentlemen, our base urges must be controlled. I ensure Todd tips her well and says thank you. Once again, there are more women than men and they too are all in search of the pool. I’m definitely bringing my swimsuit next time. It dawns on me that women must simply be comfortable around gentlemen and therefore come to these places to swim in the pool and dance on the conveniently placed stages. The dancing apparently makes them very hot because they always remove their tops. Wow. Being a Gentleman has its pluses. To think that all this time I’ve been wasting my time in ungentlemanly bars with no food, no naked women and no pool.
A man to my right introduces himself as Sean Flynn and says, “Rhonda here is one of the best bartenders ever. I’ve been to clubs all over and they just don’t have their shit together. You wait and wait for a beer and everyone’s a grouch. Not here.” Rhonda giggles, flips her blonde hair, her eyes swimming freely in their sockets, dreaming of top shelf vodka. Ah, yes.
The lowdown: Every Saturday one can expect .99 drafts, $4.99 pitchers and $1.99 bottles. Coors only. Also, from 4:30 to 6:30 daily you can subtract $1 off every drink and enjoy $2 lOoz drafts. Every Friday is the succulent $5 prime rib buffet from 11am to 2pm.
“You cannot call yourself a gentleman until you’ve stared the devil straight in the eye while slowly drinking the last of his good scotch.”—Giles
4:22pm Paper Tiger Santa Fe & Mississippi
The drink and food prices are so low I become immediately concerned that they might attract the less wealthy, more ungentlemanly set. The ladies are certainly taking full advantage of the beer deals, judging by their midsections. As my eyes adjust to the extreme darkness I notice the cleaning lady across the room. She’s up on the stage and apparently drunk. She must have forgotten her mop because she’s using her dress to polish the floor. At least she’s wearing something lacy underneath. No one else seems to notice. Somehow I don’t think this place has a pool. I glance at the clientele and absorb a very valuable social lesson—construction workers, used car salesmen and every manner of thug can be gentlemen too. They all couldn’t have snuck in.
Our dinner arrives and I’m glad I ordered my steak well done. I’m glad the knife is sharp. I’m overjoyed there is plenty of mustard.
Just before we leave I glance back at the stage. The cleaning lady must have passed out, because her co-worker is finishing things up. Time seems to suddenly stop, the room shrinks, my heart pounds and the skin on the back of my neck feels like it’s being licked by Lucifer. I can’t figure it out until I realize the new cleaning lady has looked up from her work and is trying to lure me back, her shiny tooth hypnotizing me from between razor-thin lips. She pretends to pant with passion as she uses her amble bottom to attack what must be the grandmother of all stains on the floor. All I’m missing is the good scotch.
The lowdown: The daily drink specials are impressive. Mon: Corona $3.25. Tue: Tecate $3.25. Wed: Coors longnecks $3. Thu: Becks and Newcastle $3.25. Fri: Red Stripe $3.25.
“A gentleman must learn to bear the rudeness of those around him, no matter how outnumbered. Imagine a Christian missionary surrounded and being poked at by a thousand shrieking cannibals. That is the sum of every day of my life in Denver.”—Giles
6:20pm—Dandy Dan’s 214 S. Federal Blvd.
The hulking doormen take turns memorizing the personal information of my ID while swearing to rip me limb from limb if I say anything less than gushing about their excellent establishment.
I meant to hold true to those threats. I truly did. Unfortunately my barely floated promises are torpedoed the moment I meet Phoenix, the bartender.
“I swear by this place, I come here on my nights off,” she coos, serving up the coldest beer yet. “The staff is real nice and I know I’m safe if anything freaky happens.” I wave at the doormen watching me from across the room and smile in an aggressively unfreaky way. “I’ve been the Cuervo Queen of Denver for 11 years,” Phoenix continues. “I can out-drink most men shot for shot. I’ve worked at Shotgun Willie’s, Diamond Cabaret, Cheerleader’s, PT’s Show Club and helped open All Stars and PT’s Gold Club. This place is by far the coolest. I can be dirty, hang out with the guys and they give me money for it.”
Todd is roundly encouraged to splurge on a pair of Cuervo shots in honor of our new friend. Before we can come up with a toast she chimes in, “What’s the smartest thing that’s ever come out of a woman’s mouth?” We’re both stumped. “Albert Einstein’s cock,” she replies.
Certainly a place for aspiring gentlemen. Certainly. Most of the swimmers proudly display their beautiful tattoos, yet for some reason they project the untrusting glances of strangers in an inner-city laundromat.
The lowdown: Happy Hour: 1130pm-midnight. You read that right. Better drink fast.
“You will be reviled for your superior manners. You will be called frightful names by creatures who can barely pronounce their own names. Let these grunts roll off your stern countenance like gin off an olive. If they lay a paw on you, however, that’s when you let the cruel weight of your brilliantly hand-carved wolfshead cane do the talking.”—Giles
7:40pm Cheerleader’s 6710 N. Federal Blvd.
There may actually be ex-cheerleaders working inside, because there are certainly ex-jocks working outside. A hulking parking attendant rudely growls that we owe him $2 for parking, punctuating his point by clearing his throat and spitting at our car. Todd can’t locate his wolfhead cane, so we pay him off and the savage scurries back to his hut.
Homer had to trick a monstrous cyclops during his journey and it appears so shall we. The doorman’s two eyes (Homer had it easy) immediately fasten on my notebook and he wishes to know just what the hell I have in mind, with my fancy writing stuff. Just words, I assure him—no lewd drawings, no passing of mean notes about the staff.
I look over his shoulder as he bears down on my ID. They call it Cheerleaders and not a pom-pom in sight.
“Don’t you be trying to hand out anything in here,” he warns, spying my copy of Modern Drunkard. In the howling vacuum of silence while I search for the perfect comeback, Todd starts making backwards glances at the wolfshead cane he must have left in the trunk. I bite my tongue and let the cyclops’ glare slide off me like Friday night whiskey off the back of my throat.
“Homer is laughing at us from his grave,” I say as we skulk back to our $2 parking space.
“Homer Simpson is dead?” Todd asks, startled.
The lowdown: Bring your wolfshead cane.
“No matter how refined your battle repartee, no matter how cleverly stinging your wit, don’t expect to win every verbal skirmish with the savages. The armor of ignorance is the steeliest armor of all and will deflect the sharpest of barbs.”—Giles
8:11pm Saturday Night Live 7950 N. Federal Blvd
The bartenders introduce themselves as Wholelotta Charm and Lickmy Crack and I know we are in for some serious whipcrack repartee. Not only have they a knack for clever monikers, their laughter seems oddly genuine and they are without question the most attractive barmaids yet. Ms. Charm reveals her drink of choice to be a tall jolt of Jagermeister. Many and often, she says and I ponder the meaning of romantic love.
Above the bar a sign reads: Warning—our non smoking room is located in Boulder. What would Giles do, I wonder, lighting a cigarette. Before I have a chance to urge Todd to order a couple Jagers, as a thinly-veiled tribute to our hosts, two appear before us.
Ms. Charm compliments me on my haircut and I giddily tell her I’m actually a model when I’m not awake. First the cyclops, now the mind-reading sirens. The tide is coming in and I’m riding high on tall blue waves of booze. A gentleman to my right quips, “Could I get another beer? There’s a hole in this one.” I salute his wit by having Todd order beers for us too.
The ladies present are dressed as mechanics, wearing jeans, tank tops and presumably undergarments. Before we can bid farewell the sirens serve up two more shots. Todd feigns reluctance, and with a smile that would prompt the Cheshire Cat into filing a lawsuit, Wholelotta says, “You gotta drink, baby. It’s free!” In response, Todd murmurs, “I don’t want to leave.”
In a hushed voice I explain to him what the sirens did to Homer and his boys. Wrecked ships, bad behavior, long beer-free exiles on rocky isles. We lug our hearts into the lonley night.
The lowdown: Daily happy hour, 7-11pm, 2-for-1 well drinks. The snappy repartee is on the house.
“There are as many different degrees of gentlemen as there are layers of an onion. For example, if you were to spend the rest of your life trying to attain culture and charm, I, as a natural-born gentleman, would still be forced to snub you at certain social functions. Not out of meanness, mind you, but fear of contracting your inferior manners.” —Giles
10pm Diamond Cabaret 1222 Glenarm Pl.
My squire wisely counsels that we relinquish the coach and continue on foot. En route we practice walking a straight line and pronouncing our ages properly. It is rumored that the guardians of the Cabaret’s portal are professionals of the highest order.
We find the rumors reinforced by a doorman with a gaze so penetrating it would send a twenty-year Secret Service agent back to hassle-the-mohawked-weirdo school. The summoned manager possesses a similar intensity. It seems Todd’s ID expired a couple days ago and the manager solemnly reports their policy is very, very strict and he must at all times adhere to the Rules, lest the savages storm the palace. It occurs to me that this man really is a Secret Service agent and there are very important political figures inside. Perhaps even the President and his wild-ass daughters themselves. Everyone is very serious and I realize that, with the very security of the free world teetering in the balance, we won’t be soon chumming around with U.S. royalty. Almost all terrorists have expired IDs, in case you didn’t know. And it’s painfully obvious—we are yet true gentlemen.
The lowdown: Bring a legal ID and practice the secret handshake.
“Beware of impostors. A slick tongue tainted by an accent does not a gentleman make. Beware of his tricks, watch what he drinks. He may talk the talk, but does he drink the scotch?” —Giles
11pm PT’s Gold Club 4451 E. Virginia Ave.
The bartender informs me that there is audience participation for the especially inebriated patrons. Pointing to a brass pole going from floor to ceiling, he explains that the man who can climb it the fastest gets free beer. I recall my superior skill on the gym rope in junior high and imagine myself zipping up the pole with an agility that would make Tarzan want to kill me.
Then I remember Giles’ words and darkly realize—they’re trying to trick me. A ruse to identify and expel non-gentlemen. I smile and turn away. Good try, old stick.
The room is spinning and I know I’m swaying with the wicked revolutions as I negotiate a jungle of balloons and Christmas lights. The floor is covered with confetti and I remark to Todd the place reminds me more of a frat house than a gentlemen’s club. It dawns on me that this place must be for gentlemen with college degrees only. I quickly straighten up in my chair. I must compose myself lest I be exposed as a non-college-educated gent, but rather an un-degreed cretin clawing at the very fringes of society. Two 2Ooz Buds and double shots of Patron Silver arrive and I can’t remember if we ordered them or they are attempting another ruse. Next I’m jabbering very seriously about the relative merits of tequila and mescal with a woman who chooses, for reasons I’m terrified to ask, to call herself Velocity. She’s so impressed by the size of the shot I sank she orders up two shots of Agave. She slams hers then walks off without a gentlewomanly adieu. Oh, right, Velocity. Gotcha.
I finish mine and follow. She climbs onto a stage and naturally I try to follow. My squire restrains me and Velocity unleashes a routine of gymnastic break-dancing gyrations while lip-syncing to Aerosmith. She’s thin as a rake and moves like Spider Girl. She ends her routine to Pink Floyd’s “Brick in the Wall.”
“She’s just another chick before last call,” my squire indiscreetly shouts in my ear, but I know, I know for certain, she’s once, twice, three times, a gentlelady.
The lowdown: Bring an appetite. Mon—meals for, that’s right, $2.99. Tue—$3.99 T-Bone steaks. Wed—2.99 menu. Thu—$2.99 menu. Fri—4.99 Prime Rib Buffet. Best of all, you get $1.99 domestic beers with any meal.
“One of the most tremendous benefits of attaining the status of true gentleman is you will be accepted into a secret brotherhood of the best and the politest. How will you know? When an obvious gentleman shakes your hand and ushers you into a portal hidden from the grey and hideous masses. Where a cad is turned away without a thought, a true gentleman will be graciously accepted with open arms.” —Giles
12:33am Shotgun Willie’s 490 S. Colorado Blvd.
“We’ve been expecting you,” the doormen say and, before we can bolt back to the cab, the anticipated throat-grabs turn into handshakes and complimentary beers. Merciful Christ, I think, grinning like an idiot, Giles wasn’t kidding. We’ve entered the inner portal!
The club is packed with gents and swimmers alike, some of latter displaying the most elaborate poolside attire I’ve seen this side of Mexican TV. I try not to stare when the ladies get too hot to wear the wretched things. At the bar we meet Garth who reveals he plays in a band called the October Episode and drinks Bacardi 151. 1 tell him I’m in King Rat and newly-arrived gentleman and soon the Crown and Cokes are hitting me like a firehose. I realize there are three faces in front of me. I concentrate on the middle one and watch the mouth move in slow motion. Was it a fellow gentleman? Would there be a complicated handshake involved? The face frowns and fades and I feel relief. I gaze around. The atmosphere is grand yet altogether unhostile. I squint through the smoke and haze, trying to locate fellow gentlemen. Now that I’m in the secret club, I might as well get to know the members.
Perhaps they’re hiding. Perhaps this is part of the initiation. I settle down at the bar to brood over a double Jack on the rocks. Being a true gentleman certainly feels different. Almost like being really really loaded, minus the guilt of having paid for any drinks. Like being surrounded by naked women who liked to smile and wink one hell of a lot.
But there’s a downside too. The $2 parking, for example. And don’t forget the two-eyed cyclops. And the Jager sirens.
So if I snub you at certain social functions and refuse you entrance into the sacred portal—well, at least your parking is free.
—Luke Schmaltz, Gentleman