Off Limits

First things first: The winning slogan that pushed through the city's 1989 bond sale? "Vote for Elitch's--It's Denver."

Not anymore.
First, new owner Premier Parks, out of Oklahoma City, dumped the century-old amusement park's local advertising agency. And then First Night Colorado, the alcohol-free, family-fun New Year's bash that's become another city institution over the past nine years, had to make an eleventh-hour move to the Colorado Convention Center. Although First Night had a contract to stay at Elitch's, where the event was held last year, "a significant portion of the park was going to be under construction," says First Night founder Bill Michaels. "I certainly didn't want First Night in a place under construction." He and the board didn't make the final decision until November 18, when their planning was far along; making the move was "tough," he admits. Elitch's has had the good sense to stay involved as a First Night sponsor, though, and the two organizations have maintained a "friendship," Michaels says. "I think Elitch's will come into play again."

Is nothing sacred? We're used to local media outlets hyping the hell out of themselves: Lewis and Floorwax ridiculing the pope, TV stations getting all touchy-feely about their weatherguys and good works. But usually, newscast promotions are savvy enough not to make the news themselves.

Enter Channel 7's "Real Life. Real News," with a really misguided promo featuring a woman going to confession--in a real confessional, at St. Ignatius Loyola Church near City Park. Her sin? Despite what everyone's been saying, she's been watching Natalie Pujo--and likes her. (So, apparently, does the priest; his glasses either reflect Pujo or the Second Coming, it's hard to tell which.)

Author Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves (on the New York Times bestseller list for 99 weeks), was watching Channel 7 with her family when the promo came on. Although she tries to keep a low profile in her hometown, this was more than she could take. "With all due respect," Pinkola Estes wrote in a letter to station manager John Proffitt last Friday, "I must say that to a devout Catholic, such a crass and secular use of our sacred sacrament in a television commercial promoting a newsperson is entirely objectionable." As a representative of La Sociedad de Guadalupe, a contemplative Catholic order, she called a press conference Monday to express her dismay--which, in a rare moment of TV journalism, inspired a Greg Moody commentary on Channel 4 that night.

"I think that in a civilization, there's always a line where something is made profane," Pinkola Estes explains. "And the line can't keep moving backward and backward. That's an invitation to the young to act vulgarly--without consideration and contemplation toward ideas and ideals."

At least last spring's highly publicized stunt in which KBPI DJs invaded a Muslim mosque and played the "Star-Spangled Banner"--a lame response to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf's refusal to stand for the national anthem at Nuggets games--was promoting radio screwups. That caper earned Colorado's Muslim community a full-page newspaper apology. Channel 7 has yet to respond to Pinkola Estes.

Speaking of former Nuggets, the only one who may be less popular in these parts than Abdul-Rauf is Dikembe Mutombo, who met up with his old teammates Tuesday night. But first he shared plenty of gripes about ousted coach Bernie Bickerstaff and the rest of the team.

Well, Mutombo might be gone, but he's not forgotten. You get to take another look at his mug every time you drive along I-25 and pass that giant sports mural just north of 15th Street, which features a constipated-looking Andres Galarraga, chipmunk-cheeked John Elway and, yes, Mutombo. Although artist Mike Stemple said he'd designed the mural so that sports figures could be replaced when they left town, Mutombo's still front and center.

Crossed wires: After years of paying millions of dollars for TV time only to wind up on obscure religious channels at, say, 6 a.m., Denver's own Marilyn Hickey is finally getting the kind of publicity money can't buy--a rip from Joe Bob Briggs on the Comedy Channel's Daily Show. Switching from gory drive-in flicks to hoary preacher clips, Briggs lampoons such evangelistic fundraisers as Kenneth Copeland and Paul Crouch the best way possible--by showing them in action. But his favorite target seems to be the horse-faced Hickey, whose trademark line "Say 'yuck' two times. Yuck. Yuck." is the ultimate self-parody. The only problem for Hickey is that probably very few of her suckers watch the Comedy Channel.

 
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