PAGE 22 ★ THE COLORADO STATESMAN ★ MAY 10, 2013 “That best academy, a mother’s knee.” — James Russell Lowell
Tammy Cunningham with Denver Post owner and CEO of MediaNews Group William Dean Singleton, a loyal customer of the restaurant.
Well-known real estate doyenne Mary Rae and pal Patterson Benero celebrated many an event at Strings including Benero’s 80th birthday. (Those white Chloe sunglasses are to die for.) Mary Rae was a big fan of Strings’ liver and onions dish. Well, each to their own.
Penne Baguta and the closing of an institution hile my love of shopping is well known, fewer people know what Mr. Style Matters likes to do. Well, its camping and mountain biking, specifi cally in Moab, Utah, with good friends and our two sons. The night before each trip, Mr. SM stops at Strings and buys a quadruple portion of his favorite dish — Penne Baguta. He freezes the pasta into a giant block and hides it in the back of his Toyota 4Runner. By the time the sweatclad, cycledout group arrives at their first campsite, the penne has melted just enough to be ready for some heating and eating. Well, no more. Strings has closed, and with it an end to an era for Denver foodies, movers and shakers and the occasional celebrity. Captained by the convivial chef/owner Noel Cunningham, the restaurant managed to stay in business for more than 25 years, a ripe old age in the food industry. Noel passed away last December at the age of 62. Noel’s lovely wife, Tammy, plans to return to her first career as a life coach,
By Judie Schwartz but not before she orchestrated the end of Strings as her husband would have wanted. Last week, Tammy held an auction open to the public partly to raise funds for several charities she and Noel supported, but also so fans could say their final goodbyes. “After Noel passed away, I didn’t know how people would react,” she said. “But my customers stayed with me. They are so loyal.” The restaurant’s famous artwork and autographed celebrity photos adorned the entire space. As people bid, memories welled up and favorite stories were
exchanged. Former managers and wait staff came together for one more serving and if you coaxed them enough (That’s Style Matters “speak” for nagged), they spilled a few juicy tidbits. Did you know that Noel cooked for all
four Beatles? Yup. Paul and Linda (no last named needed) ate in the famous back room where many a soiree took place. The best table in the house to see and be seen? Table 16. Sorry folks if you never got to plant your bottom at this exclusive round. I once had dinner at Strings with the entire MCA music department (opera tors of Fiddler’s Green at the time), and we were not seated at Table 16. A partial list of who partook of Noel and Tammy’s hospitality and tasty dishes includes in no particular order: Lily Tomlin, Robert Redford, Don Johnson, Shirley MacLaine, Treat Williams, Katey Sagal, Sting, Sheryl Crow, Tom Jones and Michael Jackson, although suppos edly he stayed in his limo. That’s not to Continued on Page 23
Tammy Cunningham shows off the first of the famous ‘Strings’ posters, dated July 22, 1986.
Business leader and lobbyist Manuel Martinez, Wells Fargo Bank executive Pat Cortez, and pal Lynn Villafuerto have been coming to Strings since it opened.
Photos by Marie Griffin Dennis The Colorado Statesman
Loyal customers Anna Jordan-Helser and Theresa Joseph reminisced about their connections to Strings. Jordan-Helser helped raise money for Noel’s Ethiopian charities. Joseph’s sister held her engagement party there.
PAGE 23 ★ THE COLORADO STATESMAN ★ MAY 10, 2013 “I regard no man as poor who has a godly mother.” — Abraham Lincoln
Warren Village volunteer Tammy Abramovitz is the recipient of the organization’s lifetime achievement award. Warren Village provides housing and other services for low-income single families. Some of the monies raised at the auction will be donated to Warren Village.
The famous artwork at Strings was on display for the auction — attendees moseyed around to view autographed celebrity photos which adorned the entire space. PHOTOS BY MARIE GRIFFIN DENNIS/THE COLORADO STATESMAN
...Iconic Strings restaurant closes its doors after a long and memory-filled run Continued from Page 22
Rebecca Gschwend bid and won this art Deco print reproduction. She had been pregnant with twins, lost one baby; the other was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit up the street at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center. Nothing particularly valuable about the poster except that it will always remind her that she ate at Strings “to feel normal.” The fabled Strings restaurant on 17th Ave. closed its doors on April 30, leaving many Denverites, and even international celebrities alike, full of vivid memories from over the years.
mention the cast members of national Broadway touring companies brought to town by impresario Robert Garner; they partied at Strings after opening night. Some celebrities wanted low visibility; others sent mixed messages. One former manager recalls a request from Sammy Hagar, lead singer of Van Halen at the time. It was drummer Alex Van Halen’s birthday and the band wanted to cele brate very “incognito.” The staff made all the arrangement, only to have Hagar walk in with his flowing long blond hair, lime green leisure suit, yellow shirt and matching shoes. That turned a few heads. Who knew all this shmoozing was
going on at the corner of 17th and Humboldt? Once in a while, servers were called upon to act as bouncers. One server clearly remembers an argument between two gentlemen regarding a Toys for Tots fundraiser at the restaurant. The dispute over who was to get the credit for organ izing the successful event deteriorated into a fist fight with wait staff jumping in to break it up. With the closing of Strings, is that yummy Penne Baguta lost forever? Maybe not. Tammy is planning a cook book of restau rant recipes and promises to include this beloved pasta dish. Strings — bon appetit. Judie Schwartz, whose Style Matters columns appear in The Colorado Statesman, is the coauthor of
two bestselling books on the best places to shop in Colorado. Called “A Fashion Lover’s Guide to the Best Shopping in Denver and Beyond,” the books are available at stylematters.us. Schwartz presents seminars on the importance of a professional image, shopping tips and fashion trends. She can be reached at: • firstname.lastname@example.org • www.stylematters.us • Facebook: StyleMatters1 • Twitter: StyleMatters123 Of all the memorabilia, Tammy is most partial to the framed white chef’s coat worn by Noel and signed by Brazilian soccer super star Pele´. Noel was a huge soccer fan. Funds raised from the auctioned off coat will go to a variety of non profits including veteran suicide support.
Lobbyist and former state legislator Bill Artist, friend Sharon Owings, and Peter Meersman, longtime head of the Colorado Restaurant Association, rue the closing of Strings. “This was the place to go. Noel helped rid Denver of its cow town image” Meersman said. Artist swore that over the years he brought at least 3,000 customers to the restaurant. “Noel was always wanting to do something for children’s causes,” Artist said. “One year he wanted help in bringing Santa Clause to Strings for one of his kid’s charities. He even got me to get the street closed for Santa’s arrival.” Mile High United Way CEO Christine Benero enjoys a last visit to Strings with regular customer, mom Patterson Benero.