OFF LIMITS

Law and what's your order? You see plenty of odd things on Broadway at midnight, but a vision spied at the Taco Bell at Iliff late one Saturday is still the taco the town. Customers cruising through the drive-through lane were stunned to find themselves conversing with a uniformed Denver policewoman at the window "who even asked us if we wanted extra hot sauce," says Bruce Ediger, a local computer programmer. And the blonde cop had plenty of other extras: "a gun, cuffs, mace and everything," Ediger recalls.

Ediger took to the Net with the news, and a half-dozen other Bell grazers were soon comparing stories and speculating on the meaning of the sighting. Conjectures ranged from run-of-the-mill robbery protection to a new kind of drunk-driving stakeout. "Easier than a roadblock," noted one surfer.

But Laurie Gagnon, Taco Bell's PR person in Irvine, California, sent those rumors running for the border. The off-duty policewoman, whom Gagnon declined to identify, was hired strictly for security reasons, she says. "But she gets bored in the evenings," Gagnon adds, "so she likes to help out, God bless her."

Mixed-media message: The Denver District Attorney's office took its show on the road last month, bringing to the Littleton Art Depot an exhibit of works by youthful offenders enrolled in Acquiring Restitution Through Talent, a program designed to help juveniles make good by selling their art. Although DA Bill Ritter maintains that ARTT is worthwhile if it saves just one youth from a life of crime, some critics question the value of the lessons kids might be learning--that anyone can make money as an artist, for example. Or that, while crime may not pay, calling crime "art" can pay off.

Last week the Arapahoe County Sheriff's office was called to Littleton's Southglenn Mall, where a security guard found evidence of fresh tagging. The deputies caught two kids green-handed, with seven cans of spray paint in their cars, including one that matched the still-wet paint tagged on the side of a truck. The deputy reported that the teens said they had been trying to find the Spot, a hangout where painting graffiti is legal, and had gotten lost (very, since the Spot is ten miles away, in downtown Denver). And then one of the tagging two offered this "spontaneous utterance" as explanation for the duo's actions: "We're not taggers, we're graphic artists."

How to win friends and influence people...to leave: The Denver Business Journal was sold this week, part of a $269 million acquisition of its parent company by Advance Publications, the New York-based media conglomerate owned by the Newhouse family. But many of the publication's employees didn't wait around for the ownership switch--more than half of the Journal's staff has left this year, most recently the production and circulation directors.

Under pressure from corporate management to stop the turnover, publisher Maureen Regan Smith enrolled the entire staff in Dale Carnegie motivational training. Over the summer, employees had to report early for weekly reprogramming, during which they rolled their eyes as they were spoon-fed the "customer is always right" Carnegie philosophy and listened to grumpy newshounds forced to give reports on how Dale Carnegie had changed their lives.

It apparently convinced some to change jobs: The Journal's revolving door has actually rotated faster since the staff got motivated. Those remaining in the newsroom have erected a mock shrine to Dale Carnegie, complete with votive candles, where they now offer silent prayers for departed colleagues.

 
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