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Soft landing


  • Photo by Lew Tilley. Courtesy of Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum

For one glorious night in the early '70s, Indy publisher John Weiss was amongst the crowd at Fannie Mae Duncan's Cotton Club. He was but a young Colorado College student at the time either a freshman or a sophomore; he can't remember and, well, as he puts it the whole night was "a big adventure."

Weiss and his classmates had heard about the nightclub the music, the glitz and finally decided to give in to temptation and trek to the downtown hotspot. Much of the pressure to check out the venue came from Weiss' friend Ted Panos, a trumpet player from Wyoming who hoped to see the stage where jazz greats had played.

"It was like a dare," Weiss says. "We were way nervous."

At about 11 o'clock on a Saturday night, the group headed south from campus. When they arrived, one thing was obvious: "We were way underdressed."

The realization was especially painful, as Weiss and his friends had purposely dressed themselves to appear sophisticated. This was even more startling than finding that he and his pals were among just a handful of whites in the bar.

"It was really crowded," Weiss recalls, "and people were dressed to the nines. Clearly, this was not our club. But everybody was welcoming, and we didn't feel unwanted."

After getting inside the door, Weiss remembers standing around until a table opened up. And sadly, that's where this story ends.

"We got a table and this guy came over and asked us for our IDs," he remembers. "By chance, we all had "left ours at home.'"

And, just like that, Weiss and his friends were asked to vacate the premises.

"We were in and out in 10 minutes," he laughs. "We were giggling. It wasn't a total loss.

"We could say with a swagger, "Yeah, I've been to The Cotton Club,'" Weiss says. "We just didn't give the details."

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