The Annotated Gospel According to Regas Christou
Anyone who knows Denver’s foul-mouthed, hyper-educated, perennially controversial nightclub king knows that he’s a storyteller. But whether you think he’s as fabulous as he claims to be—or merely a very entertaining fabulist—the one thing everyone can agree on is that the guy just can’t seem to keep his mouth shut.
Regas book II
Have you seen Slumdog Millionaire? That’s my life. I’m going to write a book about it someday.
The cyprus of christou’s youth tiptoed along the ragged edge between the Cold War East and West. He was the fifth of six children—four boys, two girls—born in 1952 to a woodworker father, Stavros, and a homemaking mother, Eleni. The family was relatively poor, a condition made worse when his father died of cancer in 1955. After the loss, Eleni maintained a stubborn pride in the success of her children. “I might only have had one pair of clothes,” Christou says. “But my mother made sure that they were the cleanest in my class.”
The small Mediterranean island finally received its independence in 1960, after more than 80 years under the thumb of the British. As with many former protectorates, independence revealed long-standing animosities. Pro-American Greeks (capitalists), pro-Russian Greeks (communists), and ethnic Turks were at each other's throats. Christou started getting into what he calls a “little trouble,” which includes the time he and his friends lit the car of a suspected communist on fire. They eluded authorities but were nabbed by his mother after she caught a whiff of gasoline on him. Soon afterward, she sent him to Danbury, Connecticut, to live with his aunt, uncle, and three cousins.
Connecticut in the 1960s was a rigid new world for Christou, and adapting was difficult. He didn’t speak the language. He missed his mother and siblings. And he didn’t get along with his aunt and uncle. On Christmas Eve, 1973, he got into a tense argument with his uncle about Cyprus, which was in the midst of a turf battle between Greece and Turkey.
The argument got so heated that Christou’s aunt threw her nephew out of the house. He hopped on a train, intending to head to New York, but he ended up in Newark because of a language miscommunication. He returned home the next morning, and passive aggression ensued, with the family trying to, as he says, “break” his famous stubbornness. They moved Christou into the basement and wouldn’t set a place for him at the table. Instead of fighting back, Christou says, he got a job at a gas station, worked from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., and went to school during the day. He says he slept little and lived on Chips Ahoy cookies for six months. “I wouldn’t tell them I was hungry, because it would have been like begging,” he says, smiling. “Now you see where my stubbornness comes from.”
Christou was attending Western Connecticut State University, where he played soccer, kicked for the football team, and earned a degree in political science in 1975. Around this time, he says he played professional soccer for the Boston Astros and tried out as a field-goal kicker for three NFL teams. After leaving Connecticut, he says he worked as an intern at the United Nations and received a master’s degree in international relations at Long Island University. In 1978, he moved to Denver because he says he once saw a picture of Colorado and liked the way the mountains looked. He says that he pursued a Ph.D. in international relations at the University of Denver from 1979 to 1982 but didn’t finish his doctorate.
While at DU, Christou started picking up busboy shifts at the Olympic Flame, an eatery owned by Pete Contos, the Greek god of Denver restaurants. He went from busboy to waiter to bartender to manager, and by the early ’80s, he was eager to Be Like Pete and start his own restaurant. In 1982, Christou, his sister Eva, and her husband Jimmy pooled $12,000 and opened up the Regas Mediterranean Café on Colorado and Evans.
Even with Christou’s ambitious vision, running a restaurant turned out to be tougher than they thought, and after 10 years of razor-thin margins, they converted the Café into the Deadbeat Club in 1992. Named after the popular B-52’s song, the Deadbeat played alternative and rock music and became a rollicking DU bar. Bars, Christou quickly discovered, were easy: Play music, charge for booze, and let people dance. What happened after that was out of his control.