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CLEARED FOR TAKEOFF

part 2 of 2
MEDIA
Denver's reporters did their best to find all the angles in breaking-news events like DIA. Post columnist Dick Kreck reported developing a mild case of frostbite during an experimental trek to the airport via light rail and RTD's SkyRide bus that wound up being a 142-minute excursion through the snow. Over at the Rocky Mountain News, however, editor Jay Ambrose (since departed) took his usual cheery approach to life's little distractions: "Forget the investigations. Forget the delays. Forget, even, the malfunctioning baggage system," he advised readers in his daily editor's note. "Denver International Airport opens today, and that's a major historical event for this city and state."

Indeed, the event was majorly bitchin' for local television crews, whose DIA reports were exceeded in sheer enthusiasm only by their marathon coverage of the "Big Switch" in network TV affiliations. The stations' airport coverage was epitomized by an adrenaline-drenched report from Channel 4 reporter Suzanne McCarroll. After riding the initial flight from Colorado Springs, McCarroll announced that it was "just like being on the cheerleading bus in high school." All the Denver stations provided live coverage of various DIA "firsts," interrupting their regularly scheduled programming to announce that after a total expenditure of more than $5 billion, large numbers of modern airplanes were actually managing to take off and land at the new airfield. Unfortunately, Channel 7 was left in the lurch on live coverage of the landing of the first flight--the station was airing a report by anchor Bertha Lynn on the airport's bathrooms at the time.

No such snafus were to be found on the editorial pages of the Post, which continued to be a verdant source of punditry. Columnist Gil Spencer, musing about Colorado for Family Values and its ongoing crusade against homosexuals, proposed that CFV bigwigs in need of information on sexual preferences should consult hamsters. The rodents, he noted, "are particularly eloquent on the gay issue." On July 4 the paper swelled with patriotic pride when it headlined a story about grateful immigrants living in Colorado, "Foreign People to Wave the Flag."

The Post waxed philosophical about the horseback-riding accident that left Hollywood actor Christopher Reeves, known for his role as Superman, paralyzed. Observed a Post editorial, "In real life, we are all just plain human beings who don't need to be anywhere near Kryptonite to be mortal, and who never know what fate holds for us." That was certainly the case for the Post's vice-president of marketing, Ken Calhoun, who resigned after a Miami television station alleged he had used a computer "chat room" to set up a potential sexual encounter with an underage boy. The boy turned out to be a TV producer conducting a sting operation. The on-line handle for Calhoun, who denied any wrongdoing: Ken 4 Boys.

Post political columnist Fred Brown provided his own lurid entertainment in November when he unveiled a titillating acronym he had devised to help keep track of the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate. Brown noted that he had coined the term "Sperm Wienie Lech" by combining letters from the names of candidates Ted Strickland, Phil Perington, Ramona Martinez, Paul Weissmann, Gene Nichol, Steve Leatherman, Sam Cassidy and Gary Hart. "Something to memorize over breakfast," quipped the normally conservative Brown, who presumably enjoys a nice hot sausage in the morning.

Issues of sexuality also seemed to find their way into the News, which set new standards for public-service reporting with a helpful column advising women on how to spot potential rapists. According to the article, men who "mix sex and violence," are "physically violent" and exhibit signs of "bossiness" could be rapists.

Women might also have been cautioned to be on the lookout for News reporter Curtis Eichelberger, the sex machine behind that paper's "A Man's Point of View" column. Pearls cast by Eichelberger included a mathematically complex rumination about how many men a woman has to sleep with before other men find her too "disgusting" to fall in love with. Eichelberger was unable to come up with an exact figure, but concluded that 22--the number of companions named by one of his recent dates--was definitely too many.

POLITICS
The Denver area lost a legend when Arvada City Councilwoman Joanne Conte went down in flames in her latest council race. True to her outspoken nature, the region's leading transsexual politician blamed her November defeat on sex-change jokes made by constituents and critics during the campaign. "This whole experience was like being a Jew in Nazi Germany," complained the aggrieved Conte. Shortly afterward, she began an abbreviated career as a talk-show host on KOA radio, which ran promotional ads that asked, "Is it a man? Is it a woman?"

Before leaving office, Conte asked a few questions of her own in an attempt to put Arvada's books in order. The councilwoman wondered, for instance, why the city didn't consider getting rid of "non-essential" services in a time of budget woes and flat sales-tax collections. Her comments came less than a year after she had filed a workers' compensation claim arguing that treatment of a staph infection in her right elbow should be covered because it may have been caused by excessive leaning on her desk during council meetings.

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