Off Limits

That hits the G-spot: The most unfortunate timing of the week belongs to Denver mayor Wellington Webb, who scheduled his announcement of G-8-related downtown beautification projects at 1:30 p.m. Monday--the exact moment the Oklahoma City bombing-trial verdict was read. But, hey--at least the return of the verdict means that all those unsightly news crews could be off the streets by the time the leaders of the free world hit town.

The swift and sure conviction of Tim McVeigh also means that American jurisprudence did not sustain a fatal blow during the O.J. Simpson circus. But although Judge Richard Matsch kept a strict gag order on participants in the McVeigh trial, lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler did sound off to the press on one very specific topic: multiple sclerosis. The lawyer, who uses a motorized scooter to get to and from court, sent dignified letters to both Denver dailies, pointing out that, as he told the Rocky Mountain News, "I do, of course, have multiple sclerosis, but I do not 'suffer' from it. My condition is painless, non-contagious, non-heredity, and, perhaps most importantly, non-fatal...Physical limitations do not automatically or categorically impose the boundaries of suffering or victimization. I believe I speak for other disabled Americans in asking that we be accepted and accommodated as we are, not pitied. You can even save ink by simply referring to me as someone who 'has' multiple sclerosis."

Sustained.

Making book: On Monday, Lela Cocoros returned to Englewood-based Tele-Communications Inc. from New York-based NBC to become chief spokeswoman for the country's largest cable TV company. Nice work if you can get it; she might want to start out by reading Ken Auletta's new book, The Highwaymen: Warriors of the Information Superhighway, a collection of New Yorker articles, including "The Cowboy," Auletta's February 1994 profile of TCI chair John Malone. At the time, Malone was riding high, negotiating a merger with Bell Atlantic and looking forward to more time with his wife, Leslie--the only person who could dial him directly at work, Auletta reports. (Malone kept a photo of Leslie in the desk drawer of his Tech Center office, which did not contain a single TV.) The original piece ended with a quote from former senator Tim Wirth about Malone's biggest deal: "I wonder who this guy from Bell Atlantic is. He's in for a ride."

And so was Malone. In a postscript, Auletta notes that the TCI-Bell Atlantic merger soon fell through. "By early 1997," Auletta writes, "Malone was no longer the most influential figure in television. His company was choking on debt; his stock price plunged. Malone was compelled to curb R&D spending and to become more involved in running the day-to-day business than he--or Leslie Malone--wished. Once again there was talk of finding a merger partner. For the first time, it was not unusual to hear it said that Malone was not a visionary but a charlatan. His lower standing mirrored the view of the moment on Wall Street and in the media toward the cable industry. Cable is in trouble, it is now commonly said. Maybe cable's woes are permanent. Maybe the stock market and the media are just demonstrating that the only thing more fickle than technology is the opinion of the herd. Perhaps we are only in the fourth inning of a nine-inning contest. Or perhaps the game is over for John Malone."

Malone also makes an appearance in Auletta's chapter on Rupert Murdoch. "The worst, and funniest moment I experienced while reporting this profile," Auletta notes in another postscript, "came during the summit between Murdoch and Malone. For four hours I sat there desperate to pee. Yet I was convinced that if I left the room they'd never let me back in. So I waited."

Pressing engagements: Sure, things got a little wild in Denver's newsrooms Monday--but that doesn't excuse one local TV report on the "Deli" Lama's weekend visit to Denver...Morgue-sheet stealer J.T. Colfax has reportedly checked himself into an alcohol rehab center; he's due to appear in Boulder County Court this week on misdemeanor theft charges...The streets of LoDo are once again safe now that another alleged artist, Peter Schmitz, has gone home to Germany. Earlier this spring Schmitz was acquitted of charges of vehicular homicide in the death of Greg Lopez; still pending is a civil suit filed against Schmitz and the estate of Spicer Breeden by Lopez's widow...On Monday night those LoDo streets were packed with a thousand book-lovers who wanted to get a peek at author Jon Krakauer, in town to promote his personal account of last year's Mount Everest disaster, Into Thin Air. The night before, close to a thousand people were turned away from Krakauer's Boulder reading; the Tattered Cover managed to jam everyone into its LoDo store, where it broadcast Krakauer's talk on TV monitors.

 
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