Off Limits

Playboy of the Western world: Federico Pena was called many things during his eight-year tenure as mayor of Denver--but "playboy" was not one of them. That, however, was the label laid on Pena--or at least Esai Morales, who played him--in ABC's Sunday night sobfest, Dying to Be Perfect, the story of runner Ellen Hart Pena's ten-year battle with eating disorders. What parts of the sob-sister script weren't provided by Hart Pena seemed to have been ordered up by Colorado Republican Party chair Don Bain; the only other place Pena's bodyguards appeared as often as they did in this TV epic were in the commercials that were the best part of Bain's run against Pena in 1987. And as to that stiff playing the governor of Colorado--why didn't the production company just ask Dick Lamm to play himself? He's not turning down any offers these days.

But on one point, at least, the flick was right on the money--the real Pena didn't look too perky after the 1984 Denver Mayor's Cup, the race where he met his future wife.

News from the front: When Denver officials lured the G-7 conference to the city next summer, they didn't expect the town to still be hosting another media circus--the Oklahoma City bombing trial--at the same time. But with the two defendants now guaranteed separate trials, and the first, that of Timothy McVeigh, not starting until the end of March, Denver could already be, well, bursting at the seams when the leaders of the free world converge on the city June 19-21. The mayor's office is concerned enough about the overlap that it may ask the court to put the trial on recess the week of the G-7 confab. "We still don't have our marching orders from the feds," says Wellington Webb spokesman Andrew Hudson. "That's a lot of planning in a very short time."

And the city could be down a key player. Media logistics whiz Wayne Wicks coordinated coverage for Denver when the Pope came to town in 1993, but he's already signed on to work the bombing trial. Earlier this month Wicks became full-time "liaison" for the press covering the trial--at $2,500 a week, paid by the press. According to Hudson, Wicks had been talking to the city about doing some G-7 coordination, but since he's "pretty much a one-man show," it could be tough for Wicks to keep his hands in both projects.

Besides, Wicks already has his hands full just dealing with blowups between reporters at the federal courthouse. After one such dustup on November 13, "liaison" Wicks issued this reminder to his charges: "We all need to stay in full control of what we are doing and not allow that stress to be translated into a physical assault in any manner, to our peers or anyone else, for that matter."

But some people didn't get the message. On Friday, November 15, the day after Wicks released his memo, Channel 4 TV guy Rick Sallinger and Denver Post reporter Chance Conner took turns swiping and sniping. "It was no big deal," Sallinger says. "Some photographers were yelling at Chance to move, and he didn't." And when he repeated the request to Conner, Sallinger says, the Post reporter "said something not very nice, and we exchanged words. These kinds of things happen all the time." However, Conner, who would not comment for the record, told others that Sallinger had grabbed him by the shoulder and that his actions were "completely uncalled for."

The earlier scuffle also involved a Channel 4 reporter, Terry Jessup, who says he's been unfairly portrayed as an instigator when his situation was akin to that of "an NBA player caught with the second foul." Jessup was jammed into a makeshift "bullpen" along with other reporters trying to interview key players in the trial, when Reuters and Daily Oklahoman stringer Robert Boczkiewicz "nudged me, pushed me forward, and then he ripped my jacket," says Jessup. After that, he admits, his elbow did meet with the chap's midsection. That's one man's opinion. According to Boczkiewicz, Jessup pushed up against him so hard that his pen came off his notepad and touched Jessup near the shoulder, at which point he "punched me in the chin with his elbow." Both agree that Boczkiewicz suggested--rather vehemently--that Jessup say he was sorry. "He loudly demanded a written formal apology," Jessup adds, "and he said if he didn't get it, he'd call the cops--which is surreal, because we were surrounded by federal marshals." And in fact, Boczkiewicz says he did talk to the feds but decided not to pursue criminal charges. Which could be why Jessup thinks the matter was settled amicably. "I told him I was sorry it happened but that he kind of started it," he says.

And just think: Four months to go before the action really starts.

 
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