Big Bang Theory

Grab your crying towels--and wipe away a flood of '96 tears.
Denver was a boomtown this year. In fact, the whole state seemed ready to blow at any minute.

The speed limit accelerated to a rip-roaring 75 miles per hour, allowing residents to flee Colorado even faster whenever Channel 7 newsbabe Natalie Pujo threatened to bare more of her cleavage on the air. Former governor Dick Lamm's ego inflated with the force of a driver's-side airbag, prompting Governor Gloom to launch an ill-fated presidential run that ended with him lodged firmly under the boot heel of midget conqueror Ross Perot. And Denver First Lady Wilma Webb, apparently short-fused after a failed flirtation with Pat Schroeder's congressional seat, blew up real good when a caller to radio talk-show host Peter Boyles had the audacity to suggest that A-Team superhero Mr. T. portray her in a TV movie about bulimic predecessor Ellen Hart Pena.

Schroeder herself went ballistic this year in a dispute over mouse turds at Denver International Airport, and the Colorado Avalanche also undertook a little rodent control, exterminating the Florida Panthers and their rat-tossing fans to take the Stanley Cup. Even pumped-up suburban "nerd" Amy Van Dyken was out for revenge in '96, torpedoing a convoy of alleged steroid queens at the Olympics to bring home four gold medals. The U.S. Supreme Court blew Amendment 2 to smithereens, deeming the anti-gay-rights measure unconstitutional and sending Chrysler salesman Will Perkins and Kevin "I've never been homosexual!" Tebedo carpooling back to Colorado Springs. And down in Englewood, cable giant TCI started the year off with a bang when a Chinese rocket carrying one of its satellites blew up on launch. Later in the year, the company watched its stock price flame out and responded by laying off employees just in time for Christmas. Business god turned bumbler John "Ebenezer" Malone saw his vision of the 500-channel future vanish in favor of the 60-channel present, but his company did what it could to keep that limited lineup appealing. An especially popular programming move: dropping the highbrow Bravo channel in favor of cartoons, while saving space for the steamy late-night pay channel that runs such masterpieces as Boob Acres and Babes Behind Bars.

Perhaps inspired by such cultural amenities, the National Alliance of Baby Boomers tuned in to Denver this year, shifting its headquarters from Connecticut in a move that set local Volvo salesmen a-twitter and sparked a run on espresso-cart franchises. And thanks to the state's exponential population growth, the Boomers had plenty of recruiting material. Coloradans officially became a minority in their own state as Californians completed a three-year takeover, flooding the streets with minivans and retreating at night to covens in Douglas County. Who could blame ultra-trendy artist Christo for wanting in on the action? The Michelangelo of the Nineties flew in to announce his latest project: draping gobs of plastic crud over the helpless Arkansas River.

Even the federal government was impressed by the state's volatility--so much so that it transferred the Big Boomer himself, Timothy McVeigh, from a prison cell in El Reno, Oklahoma, to the federal pen in Jefferson County. Thankfully, McVeigh didn't have visiting privileges at Rocky Flats, where clean-up crews reported finding "between 2.4 pounds and 7.2 pounds" of plutonium while decontaminating a building. But he and fellow suspect Terry Nichols could still feel at home in their new surroundings. Some days it seemed like you couldn't swing a mutilated steer without hitting someone who wanted to tell you all about the New World Order's latest plot to lodge a microchip in your buttocks. Radio station KHNC in Johnstown beamed its patriot missiles around the world via a shortwave link, allowing aborigines in the outback to listen in to "Dr. Norm," the only talk-show host who keeps a loaded gun strapped to his hip while on the air. The state was also home to Marilyn the Patriot Matchmaker, a Craig woman who specialized in putting love-starved patriots back in each other's armageddons again. The state even had a "patriotic" congressional candidate--Pat "Killer" Miller, the tough-talking Arvadan who lost to David Skaggs after the former Marine publicized a comment Miller had made at a 1994 meeting of the Boulder Patriots: "When I make statements about the black helicopters and the U.N. and all that, I am expressing real concerns that folks know about and the newspapers have no idea."

Of course, some of the newspapers had ideas, and they were usually bad ones. GQ magazine printed a filthy! profile of former CU football coach Bill McCartney that described him as "the only major college football coach in America with two illegitimate grandchildren sired by two different players upon his only daughter." Colorado also made the top twelve in Spy magazine's ranking of the most annoying states. The state was cited for having towns named The Pie, Hygiene and Spook City, for tolerating the Coors family and for clinging to archaic laws such as the Durango ordinance that makes it illegal to go out in public dressed in clothing "unbecoming" one's sex.

All in all, though, 1996 was a real bombshell. So put down that "Tickle Me Elway" doll, cancel that Macarena lesson, and remember to surrender all jewelry and pocket change before you pass through the metal detector. Then join us as we blast through the year that was.

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