Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

The old days…..Cin City

The old days…..Cin City

Things to do in Denver When your DEAD (from the August heat)

It’s been pretty warm lately, which has us at z diving for air conditioned pastures. But just because it’s hot, doesn’t mean there aren’t some COOL things to check out before summer is officially over in a month or so. Her’s what we’ve been up to at z…

Starlite, starbright, a true overnight stay delight!

Earlier this summer, the z|staff took a long vintage weekend in Canon City, to visit the famed Starlite Campground and RV park. Sounds pretty trailer trashy, huh? Well, if those trailers are restored and original vintage specimens, and themed to boot, then we love to be trailer trash! The Starlite is owned by a husband and wife team who eat, drink, and breathe vintage, and in their copious amounts of free time the renovate vintage trailers on the side. The park has a campy charm (ha ha) and is very family friendly, and once you’ve spent a day or so, you feel like family! They go over the top to make your stay super pleasant, and make sure that their visitors have peace and privacy in the park. Each of the vintage trailers has a picnic bench, chairs, a fire pit, and a charcoaler in addition to stoves, fridges, etc in the trailers (options vary per trailer based on year). The Starlite is perfectly set for a group stay for a family vacation, where you can still stay together but get some much needed alone time. And if you need a wedding plan, they do that too! Larry the owner is an ORdained Minister, so your wedding party can stay at the campground, then you can tie the knot on the Royal Gorge Bridge (talk about taking a leap!) The bridge is closed right now due to the fire, but things are looking good for a 2014 reopening. Oh, and they have regular RV hookups and parking as well, so if the grandparents want to come out in the motor home, everyone is a winner!

So if you are sick of the same old vacation, take a trip to the Starlite and indulge in a great past-time! visit them at

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CATALYST: Colorado sculpture at the Denver Botanic Gardens

In the spring, we got tickets to hear art experts Michael Paglia and Mary Chandler discuss the sculpture works at CATALYST at the Botanic Gardens. Michael’s event we attended, Mary’s was rained out in those crazy July storms we had. But even if you don’t have the opportunity to hear what the experts say, you should DEFINITELY head over to the Gardens and check out this installation! Most works are “larger than life”, and many incorporate water elements, multiple viewing angles or multiple pieces (think triptychs), and works you can “get into” to experience the world from the inside out. The pieces span the entirety of the gardens, so it’s like getting two shows in one. Perfect for a romantic date or a way to get the kids out of the house.

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Zoppe Family Circus

Lastly but by far not the least, be sure to check out the Zoppé Italian Family Circus for the last few days they are here in Denver. Zoppé (pronounced Zoh Pay) comes to Denver each year for the Carnation Festival in Wheat Ridge, and is the BEST circus performance you will ever see. It’s not big, it’s not glamorous, it’s not Cirque de Sole (they are proud of that, by the way!) What it IS… very much audience inclusive especially with kids, intimate, loving toward animals (no exotic stuff here, just some rescue dogs doing great tricks, Belgian horses and a Shetland pony), bonded by family, and truly talented performers. When you come to the Zoppé tent, you are welcomed into their home, and you feel it. They truly care about giving a fantastic performance and love what they do…smiles all around. The performers care for the animals, set up and tear down the tent, and travel in mobile homes which they stay in on site to make sure the animals are safe. You will laugh until your ribs hurt at the antics of Niño the clown, who shows you what a REAL clown should be like (not a bumbling baffoon in stupid makeup).

The show is only in town through this Sunday, so be sure to get over and experience what a family circus is, and you’ll never go back to those cold, commercial lightshows again.

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Playtime at DAM

Occasionally, all of the hard work and craziness here at z| gets a payoff. And that’s what happened this week, when we received an invitation to an opening party at DAM! One of Randy’s colleagues has teamed up with the Denver Art Museum for a playful and fascinating exhibit showcasing the textiles and works of Jacqueline Groag. Groag was Czech in descent, married a rather well known architect, and later in life her work eclipsed his through her comical and fun designs.

The party itself was small and intimate, with friends of the owners of the Collection and Museum patrons in attendance. As usual, the food and conversation were both exceptional, but the textiles and works of Groag stole the show. While this is a small exhibition in comparison the the YSL exhibit we wrote about last year, you do not want to let this one get away without a viewing. Ahead of her time, Groag developed patterns that are still fresh and pertinent in today’s styles, and would be a welcome addition to any interior design project.

Pattern Play: The Contemporary Designs of Jacqueline Groag, opens on May 19th and runs through September 22nd at the Ponti building (aka the North building) of the Denver Art Museum. We encourage you to check it out, along with the other textile exhibits featured in DAM’s SPUN: Adventures in Textiles.

Searching for Elvis Presley in Palm Springs

Searching for Elvis Presley in Palm Springs –

In Search of the King

Hit the California desert town the rock ‘n’ roll legend called (second) home and soak up his spirit with a bite of his favorite pastrami sandwich—and a bounce on his bed


Sunset Boulevard/Corbis; Getty ImagesVACATION MECCA | A view of the iconic (and since closed) Desert Inn.

THE LILY PAD-SHAPE steps bridged a waterfall and led our group to the front gate, where a fluorescent-muumuu-clad Priscilla Presley impersonator named Darlene Perez—aka Darling Presley—was waiting for us.

“Elvis recognized Graceland in these walls,” she said, batting her false eyelashes and stroking the peanut-brittle masonry in the entryway. “The minute he stepped into the backyard, he looked around and realized he wanted to get married here.”

Everett Collection/Rex USAI’M YOURS | Elvis and Priscilla the day after their wedding, in 1967.

Palm Springs may not be the first, or even the third, place that comes to mind when pondering Elvis Presley. But in 1967, he and Priscilla honeymooned in the midcentury modern Honeymoon Hideaway (1350 Ladera Circle, ), and he spent much of his final decade in the city, leaving a mark that remains to this day.

I wouldn’t describe myself as an Elvis fanatic, but I’ve always admired his originality and boldness. (He was wearing eye makeup and crazy one-piece ensembles well before David Bowie made them chic.) So when my husband and two of his cousins—a music-industry executive and a fashion entrepreneur—and I found ourselves headed to a family reunion in La Quinta, Calif., earlier this year, we decided it was worth a detour to follow in the footsteps of Elvis, visiting the places where he lived and loved, and eating like the King.

Photos: Elvis Lives! (in Palm Springs)

Noah Webb for The Wall Street JournalClick to view slideshow.

Located in the Coachella Valley, about a two-hour drive east of Los Angeles, Palm Springs emerged in the 1920s as a retreat for Hollywood stars who were lured by its sunny weather and privacy. By the 1960s, it was a playground for the famous: Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor were all frequent visitors. These days, Palm Springs is making a comeback among celebrities and vacationers who enjoy the midcentury architecture, the Coachella music festival and the retro vibe.

Our first stop was Sherman’s Deli and Bakery (401 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, ), a kosher-style deli founded in 1953 and a Palm Springs institution. “Elvis used to come in and sit in front of that painting,” said Joe Hanna, an 85-year-old manager, pointing out a Paul Blaine Henrie depiction of Elvis on the back wall. Mr. Hanna said that the singer used to show up with an eight-person entourage and order his favorite: a hot pastrami sandwich. Though a publicist for the Presley Estate said that she has “never heard of him liking pastrami,” we preferred to take Mr. Hanna’s word for it.

Bettmann/CorbisElvis Presley and his bride Priscilla prepared to board a chartered jet airplane after their marriage.

Our sandwiches arrived piping hot and overflowing with salty meat. To top off the meal, we devoured a fluffy coconut cake, one of the 23 old-school dessert options on the menu. We were off to a promising start.

Across the street was the Spa Hotel—now the Spa Resort Casino(100 N. Indian Dr., )—where Elvis’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, is said to have taken mineral baths. While guests can still soak in pools filled with spring water that the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians claimed had natural healing powers, the recently renovated hotel was not particularly evocative of the King, so we moved on.

Noah Webb for The Wall Street JournalLOVE THEM TENDER | Priscilla Presley look-alike Darling Perez in the bedroom

We wound up a few blocks away at Route 66 West (465 N. Palm Canyon Dr., ), a boutique that sells designer vintage costume jewelry and “opulent vintage plastics,” like an emerald-hued Bakelite cutlery set from the 1930s ($995) and a 1970s violet acrylic necklace by designer Judith Hendler (also $995). Priscilla would have approved. Down the street were a couple of vintage furniture shops, including Trend House (675 N. Palm Canyon Dr.), which specializes in a mix of midcentury modern (a Corbusier-style chaise was $2,100) and newer pieces, like a ’60s-inspired dining room set with zebra-upholstered chairs designed by store owner Joel R. Wolfgang ($5,200). The metal light fixtures ($1,125) would have fit perfectly in Honeymoon Hideaway, which a 1962 issue of Look magazine dubbed the “House of Tomorrow.”

Next, we drove by the only property besides Graceland that Elvis owned when he died. In 1970, he bought the Spanish colonial-style house at 845 West Chino Canyon Rd., for $105,000 from Elton F. McDonald, part of the fast-food-chain family.

I’d spoken by telephone to Reno Fontana, a real-estate investor and sportswriter who in 1998 ran for the congressional seat formerly held by Sonny Bono. Mr. Fontana and his wife paid $1.25 million for the house in 2003. Over the phone, we had made elaborate plans for a picnic by the pool facing the valley below.

Designed by Albert Frey, the “desert modernist” best known for the historic Tramway Gas Station (now the Palm Springs Visitor Center), the stucco home became Elvis’s bachelor pad after Priscilla left him in 1973. He added a basketball hoop to the end of the driveway and extended the roof over the Jacuzzi, which comfortably fit members of the Memphis Mafia—the friends and hangers-on who surrounded him—to protect himself from the increasingly intrusive paparazzi.

“In the Hideaway, we set foot in the bedroom where Lisa-Marie Presley was possibly conceived.”

Our Graceland West garden party was not to be. We would not marvel at (or mock) the likeness of the King sculpted in steel on the house’s chimney, Mr. Fontana’s addition. A few days before the arranged date, he emailed to say that he had been kicked out of the house pending a court date with his lender. When we arrived, the gate was padlocked and odds and ends—rugs, a vacuum cleaner, clothing—were strewed across the driveway. A tour van packed with Elvis enthusiasts pulled up to gawk.

Mr. Fontana said he expects to emerge from the lawsuit victorious and he’s hoping to open the house to tourists again in November. Michael P. Rubin, the attorney for Financial Bonanza LLC, Mr. Fontana’s lender, called the evicted owner “a con man and a flake.” (By the end of March, Mr. Fontana’s cellphone had been disconnected, and he didn’t respond to .) emails

Gazing at the vacant home, my companions and I thought of the song “Spanish Eyes,” which Elvis recorded there, with the lyrics, “Soon I’ll return, bringing you all the love your heart can hold.”

We headed to dinner at Las Casuelas, the first Mexican restaurant in town. Elvis reportedly loved Mexican food, and sang a Spanish song called “Guadalajara” in the 1963 film “Fun in Acapulco.” He starred as a former trapeze artist who becomes a hotel lifeguard and finds himself trapped between two muchachas bonitas.

Noah Webb for The Wall Street JournalA dish at the Original Las Casuelas restaurant

We had made a reservation at the Las Casuelas Viejas (368 N. Palm Canyon Dr., )—there are now several Casuelas in the area—requesting the “Elvis booth,” next to the kitchen. The restaurant was an inexpensive, authentic place where a TV played telenovelas nonstop. But there was no trace of the rock ‘n’ roll legend. In the corner, an ideal spot for some kind of Elvis figure, there was a ceramic cat.

“We are…not a ‘Hard Rock Hotel’ type of place,” said Alana Coffin, granddaughter of founders Florencio and Maria Delgado. “The stories can be heard firsthand rather than by reading an article on the wall.”

We ordered the Combo Plate #1—shredded beef tacos, beans, chile relleno—because Ms. Coffin said that’s what Elvis used to eat. (He substituted refried beans with Memphis-style beans, she said.) We washed it down with micheladas (beer with lime juice and some spice) and iced tea, which the King used to drink with his Mexican food. “Oh yeah, he preferred pills to booze,” said Andrew, the music-industry executive, when the waitress advised him to order the iced tea.

In search of a more upbeat retro feel, we headed down the block to Workshop Kitchen + Bar (800 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Suite G, ), an industrial-chic restaurant with high ceilings and concrete booths, a seasonal menu and excellent classic cocktails, in a building formerly occupied by a 1950s movie theater. We ordered five “Palm Springers”—cocktails described as “similar to the kiss of an ex-lover…only without the early morning awkwardness and wayward feelings.” Now it seemed as though we were channeling the 1969 Elvis hit, “Suspicious Minds.”

The next day, our final stop—and the pièce de résistance of our weekend—was the Honeymoon Hideaway.

Noah Webb for The Wall Street JournalA hot pastrami sandwich at Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

In 1966, Elvis Presley leased the five-bedroom home at the urging of the notoriously controlling Colonel Parker, who lived around the block. The Hideway was built in 1960 by Robert Alexander, part of a father-son development company responsible for more than 2,000 houses in Palm Springs. Mr. Alexander had created the home for himself and his wife, Helene, a well-regarded hostess who rubbed elbows with Barbara Sinatra and Dinah Shore; Elvis rented the home for $21,000 a year (a copy of the lease hangs on the wall) after the Alexanders died in a plane crash.

Then 31, Presley was struggling to mount a musical comeback amid the twin threats of the British Invasion and the rise of hippie counterculture. He had made a series of films that were mostly profitable—and critically despised. Overweight and sporting a wig-like hairstyle, he turned to the desert to seek inspiration.

The 5,500-square-foot home has curved walls in every room and was renovated in the 1990s to restore it to its 1960s glamour. Now it’s a museum stocked with Elvis memorabilia. In the Hideaway you can sit on the marital bed, complete with pink comforter, and stroll through the kitchen, with its state-of-the art pop-up cake mixer built into the countertop. (Tours cost $30-35 per person and can be booked online.)

In the leopard-print “Jungle Room,” located in the back of the house, overlooking the pool, visitors can check out a recreation of the black leather ensemble Elvis wore for his 1968 NBC “Comeback Special.” We set foot in the bedroom where Lisa-Marie Presley was possibly conceived and saw the indoor grill where Elvis would cook steaks in the summer.

Noah Webb for The Wall Street JournalA vintage furniture shop in Palm Springs

According to Hideaway lore, Elvis and his then-fiancée, Priscilla, planned to wed at the home, but changed plans after realizing that their next-door neighbor, Hollywood gossip columnist Rona Barrett, was hot for the story. By the time the paparazzi pulled up to the house on the morning of their wedding day, May 1, 1967, the couple had made their way out the back door into Frank Sinatra’s limo. Mr. Sinatra flew Elvis and Priscilla to Las Vegas in his Learjet and chartered a plane for everybody else. (The Elvis estate spokeswoman says that the escape to Vegas was the plan all along.)

After touring the house, we followed the path out through the backyard, creeping toward Rose Avenue, as we imagined the wedding party had, while the faint strains of “It’s Now or Never” wafted from a strategically placed CD player. When the couple returned from Las Vegas, Elvis sang “Hawaiian Wedding Song” while carrying his new bride over the threshold and up the stairs. Lisa-Marie was born nine months later.

Over martinis at a bar that evening, we engaged in a lively debate about what, exactly, went wrong toward the end of Elvis’s career. Would he still be alive if his music had remained relevant? Did his manager trigger his undoing by pushing him toward Hollywood? What was with the white embroidered jumpsuits? We may never know.

Then we heard it: the King’s low, rumbling voice singing the 1969 hit, “In the Ghetto,” over the sound system.

When it was released, the song was Elvis’s first top-10 hit in the U.S. in four years. Listening to it, we forgot about all about the city’s golf courses and tennis courts. We had fallen completely under Elvis’s spell. We stopped talking and sang along.

What To Wear There: Palm Springs

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His and Her guide to Palm Springs fashion (click for details) .

F. Martin Ramin for The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Anne Cardenas (pants)

Write to Rachel Dodes at

Palm Springs version 2.ohhhhhhhh

Yes, it’s been a bit since our last update, sorry about that. We have been working, really! It’s just been a lot of behind the scenes stuff, which to you is probably not that interesting. Or maybe it is, if your into masochistic stuff. So the brief overview is this:

  • The holidays were crazy busy
  • We successfully got the building that z|modern resides in up for sale
  • Don’t panic, we’re just downsizing a bit and reinventing to bring you the leaner, meaner reincarnation of z
  • We’ve been working hard on the new space, which is the old 9Health space next to z
  • and we did the annual pilgrimage to Palm Springs

If you read last year’s post about Palm Springs (you can start the 3 part saga here) it was my first adventure out there, and I had a great time, even though as a minion I was worked like a mule. So This year, Kevin and his wife, Rando and I, decided we’d stay a few days after to see the sights, decompress, and maybe get a mini-break from the prep and execution of the Palm Springs show. Great plan, glad to be a part of it!

Because I had a crack of dawn flight to catch to get to PS and meet Rando, who had already driven the booty to the treasure site, I opted to use Uber to get to the airport. Even if one of my friends did not laugh heinously when I told them what time I had to leave, I couldn’t ask anyone to drop me at the airport when I myself would rather be in a coma. Uber is somewhat new to Denver, but is very popular in the coastal cities and places like Chicago, and having tried it I truly think it is the only way to go to the airport. You get a towncar, leather interior, chauffeur, water, the whole 5 star treatment, but for much less than a normal car or limo service, in some cases, more than half as much. And not having to deal with an obnoxious, chatty driver in a cab that reeks of smoke, crappy air freshener, and hope they show up on time? Priceless. It’s a bit more than a cab, but work every penny. I encourage you to check it out, the quiet and posh ride was a very welcome start to what would be a crazy week. Check ’em out HERE.

I arrived to 72 degree sunny weather, a ride to the convention center from Randy’s friend (Tony who is a total sweetheart), and a nice lunch from a place called Koffee that stomps the everloving crap out of anything Starbucks has done or even would think to do. Chaos has already ensued with the truck unloading process, but it was pretty controlled compared to last year. At least, from where I was sitting.

photo 1-2

photo 2-2

Since we didn’t have the problem with the floor like we did last year, and we had a better understanding of what Randy’s “vision” was, we were actually able to get the booth a bit farther along than planned, though not as far along as Kevin & I would have liked. However, fish tacos were calling us, it was a long day for everyone, and we were all happy to be done even though the progress was a bit slow. Day two is the big push, because we still have to go home and clean up before the big opening Friday night, and there’s not much room for error or your booth will look like dog poo in front of your biggest and best clients. Randy was in and out of the booth, depending on how freaked out he was, and whether or not he was shopping around at the other vendors. Overall, other than a hiccup with lunch and a few last minute decisions on moving things around to get the best presentation, it came together pretty well. Friday night was a good one for us, and some of the luck followed into Saturday’s sales. We did sneak away on Saturday and check out the art show, which we missed last year, an it was very fund and educational. Sunday was slow, but we were on the last leg of the journey. The hot tub at the hotel was our best friend, and we spent a lot of time hanging out there after supper.

Sunday’s dinner is worth mentioning, but not for any of the right reasons. We were walking to a mexican restaurant, and on the way was an “English” pub called Lyons. We stopped in the front reception area just to see if they had Bass Ale, since Rando’s fav beer is rarely served, and we had to check the menu just because. The items looked really good, and from the price we determined that if they food wasn’t tasty, they couldn’t charge their rates. We changed our plan, foolishly, without checking reviews and decided to try dinner at Lyons. The service was horrid, once you got into the restaurant it was throw-back 1970s, and so dark we could barely read the menus. Our waitress “doe” was actually stand-offish all night, and was really extra icky to Kevin’s wife. The food was mediocre at best, and if you factored in the cost, really not good. The icing on the cake was while we were waiting for the check (which took forever, and was also wrong) we watched two other waiters serve their tables with both zeal and fun, and the salads, appetizers, etc were DOUBLE the size of what we received, and each item was described and explained in detail. We weren’t even given the specials. Lesson learned, check the reviews BEFORE you try an expensive place (the reviews were very similar to ours) and don’t eat where you can’t read the menu. While having dinner at Lyons, (or Lyings, as it should have been called) I picked up this nasty little cough that just wouldn’t go away. I thought it was from sharing the hotel room with Rando, (which he switched to a smoking room before I got there) but wasn’t completely convinced. Otherwise I felt really good and enjoyed another post-dinner dip in the hot tub and some scotch. Alas, I was seriously mistaken. I woke up on Monday SICK SICK SICK. I thought at first I just had a migraine and needed to try and shake it off (which never works, but I still always try). Randy was determined we needed to have breakfast at his favorite place, Spencers, so we headed out. In the short 20min drive, walk, and entrance into Spencers, I started to truly grasp that I was likely not going to keep down whatever my breakfast was going to be, but hoping that I might still be ok, I ordered the oatmeal figuring if it did stay down, great, if not, well….And it was the best damn oatmeal I have ever had. Period. Randy’s eggs benedict, and Kevin’s breakfast were also beautiful, and everyone raved about the food and service, a much needed experience after our tragedy at Lyons.CameraAwesomePhoto-8

Once we made it to the show, I had a full blown migraine, and could barely stand up. So Randy opened up the truck and I got myself horizontal on a couch we had slated for auction. After what seemed like another 20 min, Randy came and got me, informing me that 3 hours had passed, I looked green, and his friend Ken was taking me back to the hotel. Normally I’d at least feign some sort of bravado, but there was nothing left in me to do that, I was wiped out.  On the way back, I was met with the unfavorable realization that the oatmeal was going to make a repeat appearance. I made it to the room, it did, and then I went to bed. For 3 days. Solid. I didn’t eat, I barely slept, I felt like someone threw me down a flight of stairs in a sack and then beat me with a bat before opening the sack. I couldn’t drink, though by day two was able to slurp down small portions of chicken stock. I finally was somewhat able to function on Thursday, but very slowly, and still without food. When it was all said and done, I was sick for two weeks before I felt like myself again.


This would be the view I got for three days, instead of touring houses, looking at killer furniture, and enjoying the sunshine

Randy was very sweet and brought me vitamins, water, and soup, though I wasn’t able to do much with most of it. He was wise enough to start pounding vitamins right after teardown at the show, so though he too caught sick, he was only down about a day. Kevin & his wife were coming down with “something” about the time they were flying out, which was good and bad. Good that at least they’d be home to be sick, instead of cramped up in a hotel room with a TV that shuts off automatically every 45 min. I’d tell you about the teardown of the booth, how Randy hustled out a ton of furniture and had a great show, and many other things that happened if I had actually participated and knew the stories, but that clearly didn’t work out. In addition, we were supposed to all go out to celebrate Randy’s birthday, but with the dread mahacas working it’s way through our merry band of troops, that was a subdued celebration. I did mange to get out and see some of the stores on the strip and also catch a car show for an auction that was happening. So, compared to last year, this year’s trip wasn’t the best. Randy did well in Palm Springs, and was able to unload most of the items we brought. The hotel (The Vagabond) was a good value and overall was a good stay. Most of the places we ate at were very tasty, and we were lucky in that most of the new places we tried (other than Lyons) were great. Unlike last year though, I don’t want to repeat this year’s trip. Blech.

Art with a Heart

Above & Beyond can be seen from the lobby of 1801 S. Indiana Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. Stay tuned for more information!

Support the Above & Beyond Campaign or see a list of donors

On Memorial Day 2001, the museum added a stirring and spectacular new exhibit to its already highly praised fine art collection. The work of art, an immense 10 x 40 foot sculpture entitled Above and Beyond, is comprised of imprinted dog tags, one for each of the more than 58,000 service men and women who died in the Vietnam War. Above & Beyond is the first new permanent Vietnam War memorial, other than The Wall in Washington, D.C., to list all those killed in action. Above & Beyond at the National Veterans Art Museum is a singular honor for Chicago. It was even the subject of a question on the TV show, Jeopardy, on Jan. 10, 2011.


When visitors first enter the museum, they will hear a sound like wind chimes coming from above them and their attention will be drawn upward 24 feet to the ceiling of the two-story high atrium. There they will see tens of thousands of metal dog tags, spaced evenly one inch apart, suspended from fine lines which will allow them to move like a living thing with the shifts in air currents.

Photo from Chicago Tribune.


Photo courtesy of Jeanine Hill-Soldner 

Tinsel Time!

It’s been a little while since our last posting, mostly due to the craziness of the fall season and our renovation of the new space (more info coming about that soon!). So now we find ourselves in the midst of the Holiday season with everything merry and bright, and an excuse to max out the credit card. Ok, ok, don’t do that, but if you just have to, come and do it here at z|modern!!

ImageWe strive to offer our customers the highest forms of design in the Denver area, and we work hard to bring you quality items that are second to none on the market. Whether it’s Colorado historic art, furnishings, or lighting, we at z| do our best to find you the best of the best. And with that in mind, we have stocked the store with some of the best vintage Aluminum Christmas trees we could get our hands on.

Aluminum Christmas trees? Did you just read that right? Yes, we have many sizes and shapes to illuminate your holidays with shiny boughs of twinkle. Tacky you say? Perhaps, but when you consider the history of the Aluminum Tree, you too will be a convert.

The following was excerpted from The Aluminum Association at

It was 50 years ago when a sales manager for an aluminum cookware company saw a hand-made aluminum Christmas tree. He took the idea back to his company, and in 1959, America saw the first commercial aluminum Christmas tree.

It was not billed as an artificial tree but instead was called a ”permanent” tree. Some people immediately embraced the new space age tree. Conservation of real trees was not a consideration, but the chance to have a new modern interpretation of an ornamental tree inspired some and dismayed others. Artificial trees of various kinds had been available in earlier years. There was even a base-metal tree available in 1950 along with feather trees and visca (straw-like rayon) trees in green or white.

Aluminum trees were first manufactured by the Aluminum Specialty Company in Manitowoc, Wis. It is estimated that this company made more than four million trees in a 10-year period. ”Shredded” aluminum strips were wrapped by hand around the wire branch and then fluffed to spread out the aluminum needles.

Each branch was then packed in a cardboard sleeve. Any branch could be put in any one of the holes in the pole that was the trunk because the branches were all the same length. This made the tree easy to assemble. The correct shape was attained because the holes in the pole that formed the trunk were drilled at different angles. The first trees had a folding tripod base to hold the tree trunk. Later, other stands became available that rotated the tree and played music.

It was recommended that electric lights should not be put on the trees because of the possibility of an electric shock. Color wheels, which had earlier been used to decorate in other ways, were used to illuminate the aluminum trees with different colors as the wheel with four or five colored transparent sections rotated past the light source. The branches were not strong enough to carry many ornaments. Usually the decorations on the trees were only glass balls and often of only one color.

Eventually many other companies manufactured their own version of an aluminum Christmas tree. Some later models had pompom ends on the branches to make the tree look fuller. Colors were introduced – gold, blue, green and even pink. Some models were only one foot high, while the tallest were seven feet. The more expensive models had more branches. Even half trees were made to put on the wall in small areas or an office. The interest in aluminum trees peaked about 1965 and by the end of the 1960s few were being manufactured.

So as you can see, the previous generation had a little “conservation” thing going long before it was considered necessary or even “in vogue” to do so! Not only are these stylish trees minimalistic in their presentation, but by purchasing one of these highly collectable beauties you are saving a real tree from an untimely demise. Form and function come together yet again at z|!

Veni, Vidi, Da Vinci

For those of you a little bit lax on your Latin…that would be “I came, I saw, Da Vinci”. And as far as cheap cool things to do in Denver are concerned, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better way to get your brainmatter going and be entertained.

As we’ve mentioned before (and preached, and chanted off rooftops, and considered painting on the side of our showroom) great design comes in many forms, and merges seamlessly with other forms of great design no matter the topic or era. If great design had a Godfather, it would be Leonardo Da Vinci. A true unmatched genius of his time (and perhaps of all time), Da Vinci sought out the mysteries of design and function like no other. He lived, breathed, and produced design in every aspect of his life, and made it possible for the world to learn it and apply it through his innovations and drawings.
Many know of Da Vinci for his incredible art, and some may even have studied his contributions to machinery and application of physics principles, but few realize his great contribution to medicine and the study of the human body. Everyone knows the following image for Grey’s Anatomy, but you should know it as “Opus of the Godfather of Design”.

This is Design, not a TV Series

The Da Vinci Machines Exhibit runs through September of 2012 at the Pavilions off the 16th street mall, and costs $15 for adults, $9 for kids, or save a couple bucks and get the family pack (up to 5 people) for $40. This educational, interactive exhibit has something for everyone, and with many hands-on displays to illustrate the functionality of Da Vinci’s designs, it’s great for kids young and old. Double thanks to my buddy Adam for scoring us cheap tix through Living Social, and maiking sure I didn’t miss this awesome display.
Visit today to plan your visit, or stop by on the fly. You need to leave about two hours of time to truly take in the full exhibit, and make sure to watch the video on Da Vinci’s life playing at the back of the display. It is both entertaining and educational. We did not follow the tour guides, but catching a bit of their spiel you may want to take the tour!
Great design comes in many forms, and if you truly love design, Vado, Visum, Da Vinci! (Go, view, Da Vinci!)

PS. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a street performer who weasels his way out of straight jackets! Watch the slideshow for a glimpse of some silly street entertainment after the Da Vinci pics!
If you have really sharp eyes, see if you can spot the typo in one of the exhibit texts! It’s a doozy!

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Slow Death by Estate Sale

I was not given a blindfold or a cigarette. When you’re about to be executed, you should at least be given a blindfold and a cigarette. Or a last meal request. Instead I got 7 days notice. Oh, and I was informed there’d be some torturing leading up to it. Nice.

It all started back in November, just before we left for San Francisco. Randy’s extended family J&J decided retirement in a tropical setting sounded like a good plan, and had asked Randy to help them part with some of their treasures. As aging Rock Stars, and I MEAN ROCK STARS (as in, toured with the Doors, The Dead, Jimi Hendrix) they had a selection of goodies that any collector would sell their first born for. And some did, as SF is a great place to find collectors of Vintage. They hadn’t listed their house yet, but were considering their next option for decommissioning their collection.

Enter Vega, my 3 1/2 year old, 6 pound (on a good day) cat. Vega has always had a weird physiology, and underwent several procedures while very young. Vega REALLY wanted to go to SF. She heard about the seafood, and said she was in. Since work was involved, she finally agreed to stay home, but wasn’t happy about it. On the last day of our trip while traveling home, Vega came down quite ill, and I ended up going straight from the airport to the Emergency Vet. Follow that with her spending a week in emergency care, visits to a couple of specialists, and finally several trips to CSU and a specialized surgery, I was up to my eyeballs in vet bills. Vega has since made a near full recovery, though her condition caused her to lose part of her vision so she doesn’t jump up on things anymore.


I’m ready to go! When do we leave?

Vega before surgery, not feeling so good.

Vega after surgery, sporting her sweater since she lost so much body fat

Vega these days, happy, healthy, and having a nice kitty nap!

While all this was going on, J&J decided to ask Randy to host their Estate Sale, as they could think of no one else they could trust with their goodies. Many of their art pieces were rare, a full pottery collection to rival some museums, and all in a beautifully designed house. The main problem was that Randy doesn’t have the staff to pull off a small estate sale, let alone one of the proportions of J&J’s with over 50 years of collecting involved. So being the problem solver that he is, Randy proposed to do the estate sale, but the proceeds would go to Vega’s vet bills, if I could get enough volunteers to pull it off. It’d be a win-wn for everyone, he helps friends, Vega gets out of debt (her allowance isn’t very big), and the stuff gets sold by knowledgeable friends with care and respect. Sounds like a winner!

Well, as we all know the economy is not “fine,” and therefore the hope of J&J’s house selling by March quickly vanished, as did the estate sale. April came, then May, and still no luck. After a trial run of their drive down to their new warmer climate at the end of May, it was time to get our game plan on for the sale. J&J were thinking something before the middle of July, since that was when their exit date was planned, so basically they gave use 6 weeks to figure it out. Not bad.

A few days after receiving this information, Randy & I were working out the shop to-do list, and the estate sale came up. The conversation went something like this:

Me: So J&J sent the dates for the estate sale. You want to do it before or after the 4th of July?

Randy: I’m doing the renovation. It’s next weekend.

Me: You mean the weekend of the 23rd? Yeah, that will be tight, but doable, I think.

Randy: No, next weekend.

Me: As in, 7 days from now?

Randy: Yup. That’s the only weekend it can happen.

Me: (Dumbfounded) Uh, there’s not enough time. I haven’t even seen the house, or the contents. And I don’t think I can get help that fast!

Randy: Well, that’s the plan. I’ll just make it happen.

What followed could be considered a spirited debate, fraught with expletives, amazement, and a complete failure on my part to convince Randy that this was NOT a good plan. I left the store that evening wondering if he had lost his mind or if I was overreacting. When J&J pretty much had the same reaction, I felt a little better, but the go date was still on. We had 7 days to pull off a month’s worth of prep and work, and make it count.

It’s not as bad as it looks, it’s worse.

Of course, I wasn’t able to get near the amount of friends to help as I would have with 3 or 4 weeks of notice. Nor was I able to do a full marketing campaign that would draw people from Ft. Collins to Castle Rock. But my close group of friends and family came through yet again, and put in many hours of time to make it happen. Randy was able to bribe several of his connections to come work, and also call in some favors from his inner circle. J&J were clearly freaked out at the first night of recon at the house, because there really was no plan other than “get it done.”

To be blunt, Randy’s strengths do not lie in manual labor. He’s easily distracted, constantly on the phone with clients, and can be overwhelmed if he has too many decisions or options presented to him. So having him help bag and tag the majority of the sale was out. However, his little black book of connections and his ability to show people the beauty in things was at a premium for this sale, since there was not much junk and a lot more “funk.” I had to remind myself of this fact multiple times during the process, as Randy was standing around wooing potential buyers, having a beer, lounging on the sofa, while myself and the crew slaved over pricing endless boxes of office supplies, literature, books, tools, knick knacks, and the like. Every night was dinner on a paper plate while tagging items, getting home around midnight, and then back at my “normal” job in the morning. Needless to say, we all lost track of what day it was, what time it was, and if we’d ever see the end of the bottomless pile of stuff.

The layout of the house is FANTASTIC, but not for an estate sale. A windy thin stairway to the bedrooms and office was begging for either wall damage or a lawsuit (or both), so everything had to come to the main floor. The good news was we had some big guys help who could carry the sofas and large plants. The bad news was they could only do it for one night. So It was a mad dash to get everything ready to move for our tiny time slot and find somewhere to put it. In addition, the books couldn’t be prepped in time for the big guys, so myself and Chris (who works in the store with Randy) ended up carrying the 10 boxes down. At least my missed workout was made up for that day.

Of course, while all the in-house prep is going on, there’s the additional prep of signage, web listings, photos for the listings, web pages to be built, email blasts to be sent, etc, and the daily store chores to be done as well. Luckily I had a bit of practice for this sort of thing before, which streamlined the process but didn’t take the time out of it that much. Considering I was shooting pictures on a Tuesday to post them on a Wednesday, things turned out ok.

Friday afternoon rolled around, and upon arrival at the house it sorta kinda looked like things were coming together. J&J spent the better part of the day pricing things they knew the history on, which sped up the process considerably. With the sale starting bright and early at the butt-crack of dawn, we could lay some things of less value out on the lawn and free up space in the garage to move. (This was a huge improvement over “take it out and put it back” the previous 4 nights). At 11:30pm, we finally buttoned it up, with all the chips on the table for our morning opening. If there was anything we missed, we’d find out by 9am when (hopefully) hoards of people would clamor to the sale. Just the though of having to be up again in a mere 6 hours made me tired, and knowing it would be back at the sale just put a few more nails in the coffin. If I did sleep, it was spent dreaming about tagging stuff for the sale.

Saturday morning came, and fortunately, so did the shoppers! The morning rush was exactly that, and we had a nice line of people willing to give money for J&J’s stuff. Most of the street leading to the house was filled with cars, and few of them our helper’s rides. Having J&J sign up for the Square app was a good call, as many folks were happy to shop more when they found out they could credit and forget it. Though the weather was sketchy, we were spared rain and only had to deal with some light winds. I think I spent the majority of the day in a coma, the simple math I normally do in my head was impossible to calculate and I was relying heavily on my best friend Adam to check my totals. Our customers were friendly and easy to work with, a treat we knew would not be the case on day 2 when the vultures would be looking for deals. Kevin (see the Palm Springs post) was amazing as a roaming sales guy, talking up different items, making deals on the fly, and getting the merchandise OUT THE DOOR. When the final bell came and we shut it down, all and all it was a very successful day.

Randy was feeling like celebrating, so we ended up at Pacific Highlands on the suggestion of Kevin. As you know from reading the SF blog postings, after eating at Swan’s I wasn’t sure if I could ever eat oysters in Colorado again and not be disappointed. I have to say, thought it wasn’t Swan’s, Pacific Highlands has a great seafood selection, and some really great oysters. And for the quality of the seafood, it is reasonably priced, too! We will definitely be back for their $1 oyster specials. As tired as I was and completely fried, I toyed with skipping dinner and going straight to bed. I can honestly say I was glad I chose to stay up and snarf shellfish.

Sunday came too soon, and TOO HOT! In hindsight, placing the checkout stand on the concrete by the street was a crappy plan for crazy summer heat. Those of us working the cash register easily drank 5 gallons of water a piece and were still parched. J&J kept the snacks and drinks coming, but there was not making up for the sun baking us to a crisp. “Clearly we are dead, and this is hell, because otherwise it wouldn’t be so hot.” I seriously think I could feel my sandals melt to the pavement. Surprisingly, we did have a good turnout despite record solar flares from the sun and it being Father’s Day. Also surprisingly, most folks were quite social and friendly, and not out for blood playing “let’s make a deal.” We had a few turkeys, but in the end it was a thanksgiving. More stuff left, J&J were thrilled, and we easily sold more than half the inventory. Randy successfully negotiated the exit of several collections as a whole, and got J&J fair market prices. Kevin stopped by with his family and ended up with a car-full of purchases. A few repeat shoppers came by and left with boxes of stuff. Overall, not bad.

I’d like to give you a play by play of what happened the two actual days of the sale, or even better descriptions of the prep time, but I honestly can’t recall due to the speed, duration and intensity of the setup and sale itself. It truly came down to friends and family to save the day, you know who you are, and we THANK YOU!!!

We’ll know in a few days how the numbers came out for Vega’s debt, right now it’s looking pretty good. J&J have much less to do to get ready for their Next Big Adventure, which is excellent news.

Of course, with these sort of debacles, there are always heated arguments, stress, confusion, miscommunication, more stress, broken items, and more, and we had our fair share. To say it was completely smooth sailing is like saying the Titanic had a minor incident. But the purpose of this blog is to make you laugh and show you cool stuff, so I’m just going to skip all that.

It must be mentioned, though, that there was one major downfall with performing this miracle for J&J. Before the sale, those of us who knew J&J, or knew of J&J, considered ourselves lucky to have met such cool people. After working so closely with them, under such a mountain of stress, we all got to know them a lot better.

I think I speak for all of us when I say our greatest feat performed in helping them with this sale for their next journey, will be saying goodbye.

Charles Parson: The Interview




On June 8th, we have the honor of presenting Dichotomy: An Evening with Charles Parson. We will host Charles and get an inside take on his life and art, and maybe a few other things, too! In anticipation of this event, we interviewed the artist and asked him a few questions. This is the result. Click the  link below to listen to the interview.

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