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Off Limits

I pity the fool: On August 1 radio newscasters were predicting a blistering weekend. But the temperature shot up sooner than expected, when Peter Boyles, host of the early blabathon on KTLK-AM, got an unexpected call that morning from First Lady Wilma Webb, who said she'd phoned not because she couldn't stand the "heat in the kitchen, but because of the stench in the kitchen."

"I am calling your show because I wanted to ask you a question," Webb said, after declining to talk with Boyles off the air. "You have repeatedly characterized me as Mr. T, and I wanted to know what your reasons were for placing me in that sort of a characterization...Can you tell me and your listening audience why you have portrayed me as Mr. T?"

Boyles tried. A few weeks before, when the crew filming a TV movie about Ellen Hart Pena came to town, he'd filled considerable airtime contemplating a more appropriate cast for Denver's characters--including Pee-wee Herman, rather than Esai Morales, as Federico Pena; Lily Tomlin as Pat Schroeder; and Sebastian Cabot as Barry Fey. It was a caller who suggested that Mr. T could play Wilma Webb--and not for their similar taste in jewelry. "I apologize if you were insulted," Boyles told the First Lady (who has previously requested that she be addressed by that honorific). "It was meant more as humor in the jugular vein, as Mad magazine used to say."

"Do you think, Peter, that some things are funny and some things are not funny?" asked Webb.

"I thought that it was a very funny line..."
"My opinion, and I've heard it from other people as well, is that those characterizations aren't funny. I don't think the characterization of Mr. T as Mrs. Wilma J. Webb, former state elected official and First Lady of Denver who tries to project herself in a way that little girls and everyone can honor the position--I don't think that's funny."

Boyles asked who the First Lady wanted to play her instead. "I'm not even sure I'm in the movie," Webb replied. "I haven't thought about it. It's a 'newism'--it's a new phenomenon for African-American women to be First Ladies...there haven't been that many. I haven't given it much thought."

A brief discussion of the meaning of parody followed, after which Webb offered this: "You know, Peter, there are some rules and regulations and laws with regard to communications that go over the air, and there are some places where people in your position draw the line. And I think that was in poor taste, in bad taste, and that's all I have to say about it...Some things are said across the air that are in poor taste, and it would really be helpful if people who are in positions such as yours would try to help the public..."

After the news, Boyles returned to the air accompanied by the theme from the A-Team. His first caller had a new casting suggestion for the First Lady: Leona Helmsley. So far, Boyles himself has managed to escape the casting couch. But if Mr. T. is going to play Wilma Webb, the only clear choice for the talk-show host is Murdock, the A-Team's looniest member.

First things first: A decision has yet to come down from the federal judge considering a lawsuit filed against Boulder-based Paladin Press and its owner, Peter Lund, for allegedly aiding and abetting murder--specifically, the Maryland killings of Millie Horn, her son Trevor and nurse Janice Saunders by a hitman hired by Horn's ex-husband, Lawrence, who reportedly used the Paladin-published book Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors as a guide. But Ed Byrne, Democratic contender for the Boulder County Commission, has found enough in the suit to use it as ammo against his competitor, Paul Danish. "Paladin's books don't reflect the values of Boulder County--much less the values of the Democratic party," Byrne says, demanding that Danish return the $1,000 in "blood money" he accepted from the publisher. Misfire: Lund contributed $100, not $1,000, to Danish (who did get $1,000 from Robert Brown, whose Soldier of Fortune magazine Danish has written for); and no matter how much Danish received from Lund, the candidate says that to return it "would be to endorse a very serious attack on the First Amendment." On the other hand, Danish suggests that Byrne's campaign contribution list makes for interesting reading, since it's rife with "Boulder developers."

Talk about obscene.

 
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