Off Limits

Put it on my tab: Just when you thought the JonBenet Ramsey saga couldn't get any stranger, a familiar face popped up in the Rockefeller Center rabble waving to Today show cameras Friday morning. It was Bill McReynolds, former University of Colorado journalism prof and Santa to the stars--or at least to the Ramseys. McReynolds, who has a budding second career going as a substitute Santa, had played the Jolly Old Elf at the Ramsey Christmas party held two days before JonBenet's murder (that was the night the mysterious 911 call was made to Boulder cops, allegedly by a drunken guest). Once Today staffers learned of the celebrity in the crowd--McReynolds, disguised as himself, apparently revealed his true identity to Al Roker, the jolly old weatherguy--Katie Couric rushed out to interview him and reveal, on air, what the Ramsey family was really like.

You can also find that out from the supermarket tabloids, if you admit to reading that sort of stuff. They continue to cover the Ramsey case like an O.J. glove. Although the National Enquirer, Star and Globe have been right on the money--literally--in many developments of the case (and isn't it a relief that Boulder DA Alex Hunter has decided not to prosecute the Globe for doing its job), the Rocky Mountain News is so concerned with being tainted by the "tabloid" tag that it has banned the word from news stories on the case. The News, of course, is a tabloid--even if its generally snoozy appearance goes against the true tab grain. And yes, we admit it: Westword is a tabloid, too.

There's no denying the tabloid size and style of the brilliant Weekly World News, which is so busy running stories on angel sightings and half-alligator/half-human babies that it doesn't have room for JonBenet updates. Still, it managed to find space in its February 4 issue for the stunning "Man Blows His Nose--and His Eye Pops Out!" with a dateline of Eagle, Colorado. The account of a man grievously injured in a bar fight includes this quote from police chief Phil Biersdorfer: "He just wanted to go home and get cleaned up. But when he blew his nose, his left eye became dislodged from its socket."

Up in Eagle, Biersdorfer is still chuckling about the incident--which the WWN says is "under investigation"--and also over the fact that the tabloid is trotting out a story over two years old (as are his quotes). In fact, Biersdorfer points out, Ron Sommerhause, the officer cited in the article as helping the victim, has been retired for some time. Even so, the "story" came as news to the folks at Glenwood Springs' Valley View Hospital, where the unfortunate fellow reportedly had his eyeball stuffed back in its socket. "We'll have to run out and get a copy," says one staffer.

Just my typo: Perhaps to atone for the recent rash of incorrect names--on Monday the station identified Denver City Councilman Dennis Gallagher as "Bob" (the retired Arapahoe County DA), and a story last Thursday labeled the state Office of Consumer Counsel's Dian Callaghan as "Diane Calhoun" (an error repeated, along with the segment, Sunday morning)--Channel 9 came up with a doozy of a story Monday night. Sunday's News had included a sobfest story on a family that couldn't afford an apartment and lived in a Denver motel; as readers rushed to help the unfortunate souls, Ward Lucas tracked down hard-luck daddy Spiro Littlefield, who'd told the News he'd only wanted to do better for his family.

The real question: Which family? Lucas had not only learned that Littlefield possessed a several-page-long rap sheet, but also a large second family (with another kid on the way) that he had abandoned a few weeks before. Oops.

Down in Colorado Springs, the weekly Colorado Springs Independent is still shocked--shocked!--by a Second City stunt in which Peter Gwinn, a member of the Chicago-based comedy troupe, passed himself off to a reporter as a 68-year-old actor whose film credits bore a suspicious resemblance to those of Roddy McDowall. Editor Cate Terwilliger didn't appreciate the joke--much less the fact that her paper ran a story that swallowed Gwinn's story whole--and sent a message to papers across the country warning about the "deception."

Which is all well and good--but wasn't Terwilliger the woman who went undercover as a man to write about a Promise Keepers meeting?

 
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