Sex In The City – Denver Hosts the Democratic National Convention (Twice) – Part I


(Mayor Robert W. Speer opening the “floodgates” of vice upon Denver. Denver Post, circa 1916.)

A while back, Daniel Chacon provided a piece in the Rocky Mountain News titled, “DNC boost for sex biz.” The piece noted that: “The sex and adult entertainment industries are expecting a boom in business when and estimated 35,000 visitors descend on the Mile High City for the presidential nominating bash.”

Well, one supposes, nothing is so good as the availability of flesh when the bash is out-of-town and away from the prying eyes and suspicious minds of the old lady (old man?) left behind in Des Moines or Detroit, Tulsa or Tallahassee. A kind of what happens in Vegas is left in Vegas mentality that is one of the perks of the traveling salesman or corporate potentate or, indeed, a credentialed Democrat who, naturally, dulls the edge of the tedious meetings, workshops and showings of vendors wares (what else is a political conventions but merchandising and packaging, selling your wares?), by engaging in a little hanky-panky with an opposite or same sex paramour.

Curiously, Chacon reports, “Too bad…Denver didn’t land the GOP convention instead.” He cites a San Francisco prostitute’s conclusion that, “‘It would be a lot better for the sex workers if it was the Republican convention. …We get a lot more business [at a Republican Convention]. I don’t know if they’re just frustrated because of the family values agenda.'”

Ah, methinks Chacon included that revelation with a wee smile on his face.

Had a thought. You know the glass exhibit hall Hickenlooper wants to construct in Civic Center Park? Well, here’s a suggestion. Let’s just get that thing built. And, by the dog days of August when the donkeys arrive, the Hick and his minions could provide space therein for–as Chacon says–the “…sex and adult entertainment industries…” to coordinate their efforts, provide transparency for the underbelly, albeit absolutely necessary sensual perk of the convention. I mean if Gene the Horny Drilling Machine happens to be on the phone, Sissy the Kissy Missie could just lend a hand and answer Gene’s other line for him. Yes, right there in the glass house just to keep the whole thing corralled in one place and easily accessible to the revelers. Indeed, the donkeys could just take a peek through the glass and if they see something they like, well, they could just head right in, make an appointment, pay their money and, in between identifying and electing a presidential nominee, they could, well… You know. Hell, the Hick could even station his revenue folks there and make sure sales, entertainment and, um, the lap, um, seat tax was duly paid.

Denver’s first Democratic Convention occurred in 1908. William Jennings Bryan who would become a three-time loser for the Presidency, became the candidate of the Democracy in 1908. Bryan was a Populist, feeding on his Nebraska agrarian roots (personifying “Prairie Populism), his unequaled speechifying abilities and his reliance upon the Word of God (evangelicalism) to carry the vote of his core: Midwestern Protestants. Bryan held only one elective office; a Congressman from Nebraska elected in 1890. Probably most of us connect with the name, William Jennings Bryan, by recalling his “Cross of Gold Speech,” delivered in 1896, and his involvement in the prosecution of a teacher in Dayton, Tennessee in 1925, who had had some crazy notion that his students should be aware of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Bryan participated in what has come to be known as the “Scopes Trial,” (excellent scene from “Inherit the Wind,” here, that loosely recounted the Scopes Trial) at the end of his life…dying a few days after the completion of the trial where his opponent was Clarence Darrow.

Interestingly, H.L. Mencken characterized Bryan as the “idol of Morondom,” and referred to him as the “Fundamentalist Pope.” (Shades of Huckabee, maybe?) From a piece at, Andrew O’Hehir describes Bryan as someone who “…seems to have been an incurious person with little capacity for introspection and almost no intellectual breadth.” A person who “…never read much or learned much…” and “…his impressions were largely superficial, and colored by xenophobic and racist assumptions.”

Anyway, that 1908 convention was held in the newly constructed Denver Auditorium with a capacity of between 12,500 to 14,000 persons–depending upon what newspaper reports of the day you believe.

As an aside, I found a very thorough and useful information on the 1908 Denver Democratic Convention at the New York Times on-line archives. The Colorado Historical Society and the Denver Public Library newspaper archives as well as the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News archives provided ziltch on-line data for this time period. Maybe I’m navigating to the wrong source. But, hell, all y’all want to be a “world class” city and all, you’d think the documentation of Denver’s past, through on-line newspaper archives, would be one of those vitally important tools you’d want to put out there. I mean, it’s that historical perspective that asks the inevitable question: How can you know where you’re going unless you know from where you’ve come?

From the New York Times archives:

May 10, 1908

A unique entertainment is being arranged for the members of the sub-committee of the National Democratic Convention who arrived today to inspect the plans for the Convention in July.

The entire committee will be the guests tomorrow of President C.M. Day of the Denver Convention League on a trip over the Moffat Road to the “Banks of Eternal Snow,” sixty miles from Denver. This will consume the entire day, and the members will take their midday meal in the snow fields at the height of 11,600 feet above sea level.

Additional reports from the Times indicated that a “ferocious” snowball fight ensued during the said excursion to the “Banks of Eternal Snow.”

Another piece from the Times archives indicates that the Tammany machine was alive and well in 1908:

600 Tammany Men Will Go to Denver

June 28, 1908

Four years ago, when the Tammany crowd went to the Democratic National Convention at St. Louis, the dining and cafe cars on all the specials ran dry before the trains got west of Buffalo. This time the reassuring information is disseminated that each district will have to cater for itself, and that the leader will be held rigidly to account if any member of his flock should be compelled to go about with a big thirst unquenched.

Ah, you naughty boys. Also, bear in mind that women in the United States didn’t get the vote until 1920, with the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Okay. Maybe instructive to take a look at Denver politics back in those heady days when Populism began it’s slip-slide into what would become known as Progressivism.

You’ll remember (won’t you?) that Robert W. Speer became Denver’s mayor in 1904, the same year the foundation of Denver’s present-day Charter was first approved by the voters. The home rule charter provided for a merged city and county government and also called for municipal elections on May 17, 1904. Speer won that election and would go on to serve a second term. He would take a break from elective office in 1912, when the most rabid of the Progressives formed a commission form of government in Denver that failed miserably. Speer would return to the mayor’s chair in 1916, only to die in 1918.

Okay. Let me end Part I here. Gettin’ a little wordy, huh. But, Part II will follow shortly. I find this stuff fascinating. Hope you do/will, too.

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4 Responses to Sex In The City – Denver Hosts the Democratic National Convention (Twice) – Part I

  1. George, if you haven’t already, have a look at the web site entitled, “Colorado’s Historic Newspaper Collection.” It may help you in your research.


  2. georgeindenver says:

    Thanks, Jeffrey. But, I have perused that site thoroughly, searched on about fifty keywords and nothing pops up?????

  3. Yeah, you’re right. I can’t find anything there either. So much for full-text searching. There are some pictures at that you might find interesting. Also, here are some links to information about some books that might be of interest:

  4. georgeindenver says:

    Thanks, Jeffrey. The images from the DPL Western History Collection are, as always, fascinating. (Keyword: Democratic National Convention)

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