Off Limits

Social climbers: On Friday, gossipmonger Bill Husted told the Rocky Mountain News he was entertaining an offer from the Denver Post. Apparently the News wasn't interested in countering: When Husted showed up for work Monday, he got the boot instead of a boutonniere and was escorted from the building with the explanation that they were in a newspaper war, after all. (What, did they think he'd steal Dawn Denzer's Rolodex?) Shortly thereafter, the tabloid's new man-about-town was introduced: sports columnist Norm Clarke, who popped into the newsroom wearing a customary eye patch, a tuxedo and no shirt. That Husted would jump ship after thirteen years wasn't all that surprising; the News's much ballyhooed "Page 2" in "Spotlight" is almost as hard to find as the Post's "Empire" magazine. (Clarke, however, has been promised Husted's old spot on the inside back page.)

On Tuesday, both papers offered their own versions of the switch. Never mentioning Husted's defection, News editor Bob Burdick rhapsodized about Clarke, a man with an "uncanny knack for somehow ending up where major news stories break." (Like when another columnist is shown the door.) The Post's puffers took the opportunity to plug their statewide circulation--"I'm glad to be back at a paper that has greater access," Husted was quoted as saying. Yeah, they love that Planet Hollywood stuff in La Junta. But the Post's new editor, Dennis Britton, clearly has a personal interest in the social scene--he's taken affront when he's failed to get an invite to a big shindig, such as the Sunset Boulevard soiree.

We're ready for our closeup, Mr. Husted...
At least the News did finally manage to land columnist Bill Johnson, who, after accepting the plum position several months ago, flirted with the idea of staying at the Orange County Register until the News re-wooed him. His column was introduced Sunday--beating the debut of another Post columnist by two days. When he isn't penning obvious observations of the Democratic Convention, Wellington Webb is the mayor of Denver--a role that you might think would pose a conflict of interest for a paper that's supposed to report on his work, rather than print his byline. But at least the Post gave the Republicans equal time; State Treasurer Bill Owens performed the same soporific service for the San Diego convention.

Pressing engagements: Short-term presidential candidate Dick Lamm, never known as a yukmeister, had a duty to try when he showed up on Jay Leno's show last Wednesday. In what smacked of a setup, Leno noted that Lamm was wearing cowboy boots. No, they were politician's boots, the former governor replied; if they were cowboy boots, the manure would be on the outside. The joke was neither new nor original to Lamm, acknowledges out-of-work Lamm for President spokesman Eric Anderson, but it got a laugh nonetheless.

Far fresher is this "Friendly Explanation to Dick Lamm," offered in the current Nation by Calvin Trillin:

See, Ross is the boss, Dick,
Perot has the dough.
The party's a scam, Lamm.
Perot runs the show.
A Ross double-cross, Dick,
Lured you as a foe.
So you're in a jam, Lamm.
We thought you should know.

Perhaps inspired by Lamm's peppy performance, Governor Roy Romer popped up on Monday night's Politically Incorrect--where his routine won fewer laughs than Sarah Brady's. Apparently unaware that politicians come off best on Bill Maher's chatfest when they display a sense of humor, Romer spent the hour either glowering or lecturing. In fact, the only gag lines with local resonance were delivered by Al Franken and Arianna Huffington. When Franken suggested that Brady's speech was controversial, Huffington replied, "The only votes that might lose are in the Hinckley family." (Assassin wannabe John Hinckley had been living in Evergreen before he shot Ronald Reagan .and Brady's husband.) Franken insisted, "Well, that's a risk. After all, Colorado is a swing state."

Romer's appearance was Emmy-worthy compared with most of the programming on KDTV/Channel 8, Denver's government channel. Even so, challenger Craig Silverman thinks the show Dialogue: Denver DA, repeated ad nauseam, gives incumbent Bill Ritter an unfair edge in the upcoming election, and last week he asked Ritter to put the show on hold. The DA refused. The program, Ritter says, is "public education."

And that's not entertainment.

 
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