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Off Limits

Flying blind: Former Denver mayor and current Transportation secretary Federico Pena, whose image took a dive along with ValuJet, may regain some much-needed polish when he accepts a Hispanic Heritage Award at the Kennedy Center later this month. Pena's award will be presented by--no, not Pee-wee Herman--Esai Morales, who plays the diminutive Democrat in ABC'S TV movie about his wife's fight against eating disorders, Dying to Be Perfect: The Ellen Hart Pena Story. As a sign of just how far Pena's star had fallen in the wake of the Florida crash, while Bill Clinton traveled to Long Island to do damage control on the TWA tragedy, Pena was in Denver with his wife, watching film crews work at City Hall (where Hart Pena reportedly once downed, then upchucked, a whole bag of cookies). The award Pena's picking up September 23 (the show will be televised in October) is in the "leadership" category, for among other things, leading an "urban renaissance" in Denver. Other winners include actor Jimmy Smits and designer Oscar de la Renta; MTV hostess Daisy Fuentes and singers Julio Iglesias and Vikki Carr will be on hand to honor them.

Pena's reportedly not interested in staying on in D.C. (assuming Clinton wins and, in a larger leap, assuming he wants his Transportation secretary to continue in the cabinet). But other Colorado politicians are certainly interested in heading to the D.C. bureaucracy; the most persistent names running through the rumor mill are those of Governor Roy Romer and both Wilma and Wellington Webb.

Mall in the family: Talk about obscene! No, it's not that new Playboy video Sam Goody's is selling at its Park Meadows outlet that has our shorts in a knot; you can see worse in the average Victoria's Secret catalogue. The real insult to community decency is the amount of coverage that Park Meadows has received--and we don't mean those Nordstrom plastic bags that wrapped home-delivered editions of the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post on opening day. The newspapers had the new mall covered long before that. In fact, a quick electronic search of Colorado newspapers netted a whopping 407 stories containing the words "Park Meadows" published between January 1 and September 1, 1996. And seventeen of those stories, culled from the News and Post alone, repeated the mall's nitwitted description of itself as a "retail resort."

Even with all the inches of ink devoted to Park Meadows, one delicious moment managed to escape public scrutiny. At the grand-opening gala, Norm Clarke, the News's new man about town, suddenly found himself cheek-to-cummerbund with his predecessor, Bill Husted, who'd announced his move to the Post and then been unceremoniously escorted out of the News's offices earlier that week--making this bash one that came close to deserving the label.

Although the News moved quickly to replace Husted, it's taking more time filling Clarke's slot in the Sports section. Since the job was posted, a half-dozen News writers have expressed interest. The last time such a plum assignment was advertised internally--for a columnist to take the place of Greg Lopez--it was filled externally, by Bill Johnson, who somehow managed to wait until his sixth column to mention Park Meadows.

This just in! There's another Park Meadows story that has yet to see the light of day: The Covey Leadership Center has opened its first retail outlet at the mall (which CLC calls just that). Named--what else?--the 7 Habits Store, the shop specializes in products inspired by Stephen Covey's book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People--including 7 Habits "wall decor."

You can stock up on Christmas gifts there for perky Channel 4 anchor Stephanie Riggs, who auctioned off her copy of 7 Habits at last week's benefit for the Center for the Book. Among other KCNC staffers proving they could read were Linda Benzel, who offered up Woman in the Mists (no, it was not a discussion of her time out of television), and Greg Moody, who hosted the auction and sold off a copy of his own Two Wheels. The murder mystery set in the bicycling world has just gone into its second printing--no thanks to Denver's dailies, which never bothered to review it.

Steve Saunders has seen the writing on the wall: The anchor/ reporter is out at Channel 2, ending one of the local media's longest-running, if unavoidable, conflicts of interest: His father is News TV columnist Dusty Saunders.

 
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