By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By William Breathes
By Jonathan Shikes
By Michael Roberts
By Jonathan Shikes
By Michael Roberts
Colorado was all the rage in 1997.
We had road rage. We had Ramsey rage. We had ragin' Caucasians. We raged against the injustice of it all when John Denver splashed into one more drink off the California coast.
We were frazzled, irked, incensed, piqued, miffed and generally ticked off. Let's face it: We were pissed. And who could blame us?
This, after all, was the year that an escaped ax murderer was actually loose on Halloween night, when professional body-slammer "Vader" of the World Wrestling Foundation signed autographs on the steps of City Hall as part of Denver's "Safe City Initiative" for children, when suburbanites in Cherry Hills Village headed home to "Swastika Acres" and local kiddie pageants reported a fourfold increase in contestants following the death of JonBenet Ramsey. Fort Collins flooded, Denver was buried in a blizzard, and Santa Claus himself got dragged into a murder investigation.
In June, scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder did their part to fend off the chaos, adding a leap second to the calendar to keep the world's atomic clocks synchronized to the rotation of the earth. But it was no use. No amount of tinkering could keep Colorado's portion of the planet from spinning out of control.
The view looked rosy enough from afar. In December, even as the cops in Denver were stacking empty school buses in front of the University Boulevard substation to fend off a potential attack by skinheads, Bridal Guide magazine named Denver one of the nation's top ten cities for newlyweds. In April, just before stampeding college students rampaged through the streets fighting for their right to party, the scribes at Parenting magazine named Boulder the "best place in America to raise children." Only days before a shotgun-toting postal worker in a black beret and combat boots took hostages at the Denver mail-sorting facility on Christmas Eve, P.O.V. magazine listed Denver as one of the nation's Top 20 cities because of its "laid-back lifestyle--like Boise or Cheyenne."
Well, Boise-breath, things were just a little more tense up close. The state's militia-loving patriots took a hit when radio station KHNC in Johnstown burned to the ground, but they received new inspiration when KWHD-TV talk-show host Bob Enyart, convicted of spanking his seven-year-old stepson, announced that the whipping had left the boy's behind "lit up like the stars and stripes." Down in Colorado Springs, the populace continued to seethe, urged on by the "Dragon Man," who thrived as the state's most prominent dealer of fully automatic weapons. Mel Bernstein tooled around on a three-wheel Harley, complete with a dragon's tail that spewed fire on command, and peddled "destructive devices of 20mm and up plus dynamite and cannons" to anyone in the mood for a little excitement. He even provided silencers--"for people who have a hearing problem or don't want to bother their neighbors"--and did a booming business charging people $6 a head to watch him blow up old cars.
The Dragon Man wasn't the only one having a blast. In late June, a bolt of lightning came out of the blue and struck the bell tower of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on Colfax Avenue, sending chunks of concrete raining onto the sidewalk and prompting one eyewitness to observe, "It was like a message from God--or someone else." In October, a freak windstorm hit the Routt National Forest, blowing down more than five million trees like matchsticks and leading to fears that voracious hordes of pine beetles would invade the state to slurp up the rotting timber. By then, however, Boulder had already gone buggy, overrun by swarms of tabloid reporters who skittered into town to provide readers with the real story of the Ramsey murder: "JonBenet Killed Because She Wet the Bed!"
It didn't take long for crack reporters to sniff out the rest of the state's dirty little secrets, either. The Weekly World News scooped all comers with its exclusive report from the mountain town of Eagle: "Man Blows His Nose--and His Eye Pops Out!" Down in Durango, chicken rancher Arnella Purdy reported that one of her laying hens--either Curly, Gigi, Gloria or Big Red, she wasn't sure which--had delivered a completely intact egg inside a larger egg. Her neighbor, Lela Metzger, reported never having heard of such a thing but said, "Once in a while we get a double yolker. When you get one of those, you feel like you've hit the jackpot."
The chickens, though, had no lock on strange behavior. In Colorado Springs, a woman gave birth to her third child born on the same day of the year, beating odds calculated at 133,000 to 1. Officials at Denver Social Services puzzled over the supernatural forces that allowed a form letter mailed to more than 150 foster parents to somehow include the salutation "When you receive this fucking letter." Not long after, a local adoption agency scratched its head over an attack of the "wazoo virus," which infiltrated its computer system and randomly sprinkled the word "wazoo" throughout letters sent to prospective parents.
As things continued to go hell in a handbasket, it was obvious that somebody--anybody--was needed to maintain order. Maybe someone like Adams County District Attorney Bob Grant, who, after watching convicted murderer Gary Davis get the big sleep from lethal injection, turned to the man sitting next to him and said, "Put 'er there, pal!" Or the equally strict disciplinarian who police said "held himself hostage" with a pistol for several hours in an area west of Canon City known as "Prison Gardens."
But help never came. Sewer gas invaded Coors Field. Squirrels invaded City Hall. Broncos mascot Thunder tried to invade a mare but injured himself having rough sex. Clearly, it was too late to do anything but pray.
So wipe that smile off your face and get on your knees. Then join us as we rage against the year that was.
WASTING AWAY IN LOLITA-VILLE
United Artists opened a virtual-reality fun center at Park Meadows, and Boulder native Jason Cornwell joined the cast of MTV's Real World, but the real place to lose touch with reality was Boulder, where the death of a six-year-old girl quickly became the most infamous American homicide since little Lizzie Borden went upside her mama's head with an ax.
"It's not O.J. and it's not L.A. Our guy won't walk," said police chief Tom Koby the week after the Christmas-night murder of JonBenet Ramsey. But what he meant to say was, "Our guy won't walk in and confess"--which was the only likely scenario under which his department might solve the case. And what a case it was--complete with cops, a victim and a cast of suspects right out of Barnaby Jones.
For openers, there were Ma and Pa Ramsey, a former Miss West Virginia and a stone-faced computer jock who came across like a hot tamale and a cold fish served up on one surreal platter. The eccentric couple told Larry King and CNN more than they did the cops, surrounded themselves with a phalanx of lawyers, media consultants and makeup artists, and staunchly defended having allowed their first-grader to dress up in skintight Vegas showgirl outfits.
Before long, the case also came to include CU journalism professor Bill McReynolds, another raging eccentric who had played Santa Claus at the Ramseys' Christmas party days before the murder and then showed up outside Rockefeller Center in New York City a few weeks later waving to the Today show cameras. Professor Claus was invited into the studio for an interview, apparently in the hope that one of his reindeer might be able to shed some light on the situation.
As Boulder's finest continued to bumble their way through the probe, they did their best to stay laid-back. Big Chief Koby wore a beard--banned in most metro-area departments--and other officers were allowed to wear earrings if they felt the need. But despite the mellow vibes, the dudes and chicks working for The Man in Boulder couldn't help getting stressed out. Prosecutors and cops set up a "war room" to sift through evidence, then majorly freaked when they suspected someone had monkeyed with their top-secret computer. After an investigation determined that a short circuit in a battery was responsible, an expert from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation reported, "It's not a burglary. It's not a break-in. It's not a breach of security. It's not lightning."
Still, before the year was out, the city had agreed to pay police sergeant Larry Mason $10,000 to keep quiet about the "stress-related illness" and damage to reputation he suffered after being accused of leaking information to the media. Detective Linda Arndt, the investigative genius who first suggested that Pa Ramsey search the house--leading to his discovery of the body and subsequent contamination of the crime scene--went on medical leave to "recover from the stress" of working on the case. Even Lou Smit, the ace detective from El Paso County hired by District Attorney Alex Hunter to work as a "special investigator" on the case, was described by a fellow officer in Vanity Fair magazine as "a delusional old man": Grandpa Lou decided John and Patsy were just too darned nice to have killed their girl and focused instead on the theory that an intruder climbed through a window, dragged America's People's Princess down to the basement, killed her, spent an hour or so dashing off a couple of ransom notes on Patsy's notepad, and then split.
The one man who might have been able to get to the bottom of the situation, Geraldo Rivera, descended on Boulder but left quickly after being treated rudely by fellow reporters. "I have better things to do than talk to cynical yuppies who make snide references to my coming here," pouted the former Jerry Rivers.
Making an equally quick entrance and exit was James Michael Thompson, also known as J.T. Colfax. The shock-theater specialist, who once was fired from a body-transport company for taking photos of corpses with signs nearby reading "Getting Fired Isn't the End of the World" and "Yee-Haw," fit right in with the Ramsey case. After torching the Ramsey family mailbox, he landed in jail, where he promptly began leaking information about other famous inmates such as the lead singer for Firefall, who reportedly received wild applause from his fellow inmates when he whipped out a guitar and sang "Just Remember I Love You."
As it turned out, Thompson was a better source of information than the quickie book Death of a Little Princess, a tell-all that told almost nothing about "the JonBenet event" but did seem to sum up its otherworldliness. "The natural conclusion was the expectation of an arrest," the book's author noted. "That way the story could die, as expected, to be replaced by something else. But what if it never happened? What if, like TWA Flight 800, the event just petered out without any finality?"
HANG DOWN YOUR HEAD, TOM KOBY
There seemed little chance of anything just "petering out" in Boulder, however, while Big Chief Koby was in command. Throughout the year, Koby railed against journalists, dragging a copy of the First Amendment along to press conferences so he could shake it in his fist while refusing to answer questions and getting so worked up in general that when a loud explosion rocked Boulder in October, it was assumed his head had finally exploded. Actually, it was the No. 2 steam generator at the college power plant that went ballistic, but judging from the Big Chief's ongoing blue funk, he should continue to be monitored for seismic activity.
Of course, Koby had his reasons for being steamed. After Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau told a group of Colorado College graduates to "go forth and raise hell," Boulder's college legions raised a little of their own. The kids rioted over such civil-rights issues as their ability to get liquored up without being hassled by the fuzz. But they soon learned not to beat the war drums with Big Chief. During nightly melees in May, Koby sent buses full of cops in riot gear to keep the longhairs in check and, after a repeat performance, told the Boulder Planet that his officers "would have been justified in killing some of these young people."
In August, the cops actually did kill a twenty-year-old man who'd made the mistake of fondling a woman at a rave party; after handcuffing, hobbling, hog-tying and pepper-spraying the offender, they sat on him until he couldn't breathe, in the process blowing any chance Jack the Gripper had of making it onto America's Most Wanted. Then the department promptly went on Full Panic Alert. In November, SWAT teams shut off the Pearl Street Mall after getting reports that a "potential sniper" had been spotted on a balcony overlooking the shopping strip with a rifle. The lone gunman turned out to be a video cameraman teaching a film class to a group of schoolchildren.
Helping maintain law and order up north were CU's campus cops, whose past arrest of three black football players for riding their bikes at night without headlights apparently led the school to make an attempt at reconciliation with the African-American community. CU officials this year honored Black History Month by serving up an all-you-can-eat "soul food dinner" at the Cheyenne Arapahoe Dining Room. The menu included barbecued ribs, catfish, collard greens, black-eyed peas with ham hocks, cornbread and okra-tomato gumbo. For dessert there was peach cobbler--and a whole lot of love.
And there were still a few people in Boulder who wanted to make love, not war. Most belonged to the group Loving More, which told its members to have multiple sexual relationships--at the same time--and celebrated weddings with as many as six figurines atop the cake. Most locals, though, were Loving Less. The dour mood was summed up by a man who dashed off a piece of hate mail after a city transportation planner bent on eliminating air pollution suggested putting electronic monitors in cars and then paying people for the trips they didn't take.
"Even the Communists never tried this," said the letter writer. "You people are out of your minds."
LEAVIN' ON A WET PLANE
The state hit a Rocky Mountain Low in October, when John Denver, the finest singer-songwriter ever to wrap his car around a tree in the Starwood subdivision of Aspen, pulled a similar stunt with his Y-shaped experimental airplane, piloting it into the surf off Monterey. John Boy splashed down just weeks before a promising career move that might have marked the beginning of a huge comeback: the issuance of a greatest-hits collection advertised on late-night television and not available in stores. Sadly, the album doesn't include his last recorded song, in which he sang of "my brother, the wolf, my mother, the moon" but left out the part about his cousin, the fish.
Denver was intensely mourned by thousands of fans, such as the sensitive soul who fought through his tears to pen the tribute "But Now I'm an Ocean Buoy" to the tune of "Thank God I'm a Country Boy." However, the man whose attorney once moved jurors to tears when he revealed that his client suffered from a thyroid condition that stalled the metabolizing of booze would not have wanted people to cry for him. There had been enough of that while he was alive. No, he would have wanted people to smile. And smile they did, all the way through an open-air ceremony in Aspen, where Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn gathered to hear Lyle Lovett make his most controversial public admission since being dumped like a sack of manure by Julia Roberts: "John Denver was my hero and my teacher." The festivities were capped by a flyover from a small plane, which dipped both wings in what was either a traditional pilot's tribute or a dramatic re-creation of Denver's death plunge.
The mountain flying wasn't so good for Air Force pilot Craig Button, whose A-10 Thunderbolt was finally found atop Gold Dust Peak after an exhaustive search. When the aircraft was located, there was but one clue to its fate: a black-box recording of Button saying he "knew he shouldn't have turned left at Albuquerque." The massive search effort threw a scare into mountain goats and other creatures: One Eagle County woman, worried about infrared devices that could reportedly "see" into buildings to detect areas of great heat, told the sheriff she was afraid the Air Force might be planning to watch her take a shower in her home.
Going out with an even bigger bang was the pilot known as "Smilin' Jack," who turned his plane upside down along with his frown in June, plowing a vintage F-68 fighter jet into a hillside during an air show at Jefferson County Airport. The Korean War-era aircraft crashed and burned after the pilot attempted to complete an aviator's stunt known as a "loop." Noted one observer, "It wasn't a smooth loop."
As usual, however, the truly explosive action was out at DIA, where airplanes and other objects continued to arrive unexpectedly. Channel 4 reporter Brian Maass revealed that an unidentified aircraft had made a mystery landing at the airport, dipping one set of landing wheels into the grass next to a runway and tearing out a giant gash in the turf before pulling up and going around. No pilot fessed up to the flubbed landing, but conclusions were a little easier to draw after an employee shuttle bus and an airplane collided at the airport for the second time in six months. DIA officials made the shocking suggestion that airplanes should turn on their headlights while taxiing in the dark.
The strange goings-on all seemed to make more sense when one took note of British author Alex Christopher's revolutionary theory about DIA: that the airport is really a "control center for world control." Christopher noted that designs on the terminal floor suggest Nazi "Black Sun" worship and that "grotesque" murals painted by local artist Leo Tanguma secretly explain how governments would like to "splice out specific races." Not only that, but beneath DIA is an "eight-level underground base" adjoining an underground city filled with child laborers and surrounded by chain-link fences.
Actually, that's the baggage system.
THE WILD BUNCH
In a year when even little Bobby Brady--also known as actor Mike Lookinland--could be busted for drunk driving in neighboring Utah, it was clear that nobody was above suspicion. Summit County law enforcement responded with nighttime stakeouts when an unknown "Tourist Terrorist" ran amok, tossing "caustic liquid" on cars with out-of-state plates. Sheriff's deputies near Wiggins used machetes to harvest a bumper crop of four tons of marijuana found growing in a seemingly innocent cornfield. "My gas-powered Weedeater with a metal blade couldn't cut through this," complained one officer. Even the grand-champion steer of the Southeast Weld County Fair couldn't be trusted to behave himself; he was disqualified after residues of an illegal tranquilizer were found in his system. Authorities became suspicious after the animal "went wild" and chased two people out of a holding pen.
Similar unbridled behavior was seen on the highways, as motorists in the throes of "road rage" vented their spleens and their automatic weapons at one another. After an Idaho truck driver forced a Chevy Cavalier into oncoming traffic on I-25 to punish its driver for invading his personal space, the Colorado State Patrol immediately sounded a code red, instituting emergency measures that called for drivers to flash each other the two-finger "peace" sign rather than the more common one-finger salute.
When push came to shove, not even the cops seemed able to contain themselves. One Denver officer pleaded guilty to an ordinance violation after slapping and pushing members of a family who had called him to help resolve a "domestic disturbance." A Denver detective was cited for disorderly conduct after an altercation at an Aurora bowling alley--the latest incident in a career whose other highlights include pulling his pistol while demanding a refund at a Church's Fried Chicken restaurant and punching out an opposing player during a softball game.
The violence from society's role models continued in the fall when Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski, who is white, was fined $7,500 for spitting in the face of San Francisco player J.J. Stokes, who is black. The incident sparked a fascinating discussion about race among other Broncos. Spitting is the worst thing you can do to a black man, said tight end Shannon Sharpe. Wide receiver Willie Green agreed. "It is," he said. "Other than defecating on somebody."
Not that there weren't people around to show defecators and other evildoers the light. A Virgin Mary sighting in the plains town of Holly drew people from across the Midwest to ogle one Mother of a stain on Yolanda Tarango's wall. And in May, newspaper ads advertised that "good seats were still available" for the Dalai Lama's appearance at McNichols Arena. The multimedia extravaganza included Tibetan music, Native American dancing, a presentation by the Colorado Children's Chorale and--reportedly--a show-stopping 27-minute version of "Stairway to Heaven."
MORE BLUSTERY THAN EL NINO
The state briefly righted itself in June, when eleven-year-old Andrew Martinez of Palisade headed to New Jersey to represent Colorado in the National Marbles Tournament. But while Andrew was shooting his marbles, other Coloradans were losing theirs. A monster blizzard swept into Denver in October, snarling traffic, downing power lines and bringing things skidding to a halt at DIA, where starving passengers fought over the last bags of stale pretzels. Mayor Webb donned a cowboy hat for the occasion, had his picture taken riding shotgun in a snowplow and announced that it didn't take a "brain scientist" to know the city had botched the job of plowing Pena Boulevard. Or a rocket surgeon, presumably.
Just two days before, Webb had held a press conference boasting that the city was ready for anything El Nino could throw at it. And his wasn't the only political snow job of the year. A Golden retriever named Shanda was elected mayor of the Park County town of Guffey. The official explanation for the dog's election: "The cat left." Up at the state capitol, lawmakers simultaneously mulled bills banning female genital mutilation and advocating the castration of male criminals. Both got nipped in the bud.
Sometimes legislators seemed to be speaking another language altogether--which at times proved to be pig Latin. During a hearing on the state lottery's use of public funds to buy liquor for parties, state representative Ben Clarke of Denver--who during a discussion of the chemical castration bill had opined, "My suggestion is that we just whack the little critter off"--told a puzzled Lotto official, "Ixnay on the oozebay." Clarke later cemented his reputation for getting to the heart of issues during a discussion of concealed-weapon legislation that would allegedly help protect farmers in rural areas. "Are the cows armed or what?" asked Clarke.
State senator Ben Alexander of Montrose was even more outspoken, telling an eighteen-year-old Montrose High School student he was a "worthless piece of shit" after the teenager wrote an essay asserting that America's forefathers were "hypocritical, pot-smoking idealists." And state senator Charles Duke made national headlines with a little outburst of his own, informing El Paso County sheriff's deputies that Newt Gingrich and former Education Secretary William Bennett might have been behind the alleged burglary of his home near Monument. Though Duke continued to lead state pols when it came to shooting off his mouth, his Senate colleague Mary Anne Tebedo became the first member with the capacity to shoot off someone else's. This year Tebedo publicly declared what many had already suspected: that she had a gun and was prepared to use it. "It's no secret that I carry," said the pistol-packin' grandma.
Over at the Regional Transportation District, the politicians were more likely to shoot from the lip. During one public meeting, boardmember Ron Nichol told colleague Mary Blue, "Shut up, bitch." When reporters expressed shock at the outburst, Blue's colleague Jon Caldara told them, "If you think calling someone a bitch is something, I've heard of people saying 'Fuck you' at these meetings." The board, meanwhile, got essentially the same message from voters, who in November blasted its billion-dollar Guide the Ride proposal at the polls.
Even more shell-shocked was Governor Roy Romer, whose decision to take the job of national party chairman for the Democratic party was only the latest sign of declining brain function. The guv's exploits this year included flying to California without his wallet and having to beg spare change from fellow passengers; showing up at JFK airport in New York to fly to Turkey without his passport; and attending a Washington, D.C., banquet at which he attempted to start a conversation with the most overexposed woman in America, Martha Stewart, by asking her, "Martha, what is it you do?" Oh, well--at least the guv had his video collection to watch during his daily spoon feedings. Romer told reporters a favorite was a tape of his own shoulder surgery, which he had already sat through twice. Marveled Romo, "There's all kinds of gunk and goo in there."
The dogs of the press got a better reception during the prestigious Summit of the Eight, when Coors offered to provide free beer to media representatives from around the world. Queried journalist Sam Lusky, "Anybody ever seen a horde of locusts strip a wheat field?" The city went all out to head off trouble during the Summit, welding metal grates over Denver's sewer drains as a security measure. As it turned out, though, most of the Summit meetings were so boring, not even a sewer-based terrorist would have felt like crashing them. After a few uneventful gabfests, the world's most powerful men adjourned to an un-air-conditioned cow barn at the stock-show complex to witness performances by Crystal Gayle and Kool and the Gang. As German chancellor Helmut Kohl told a fellow party-goer, "I don't know much English, but this is shit."
Former Colorado congresswoman Pat Schroeder didn't know shit when she went on celebrity Jeopardy. But luckily for her, neither did comedian Al Franken or NBC-TV reporter Jack Ford, and Schroeder emerged the victor in a pathetic contest in which the total cash awarded was $100. All three contestants botched the "Final Jeopardy" question, but while Franken and Ford bet all their money and lost, Schroeder held back $100. At least she had an excuse for her own poor performance: "I just could not get my clicker to work."
Delicate personal problems aside, Schroeder wasn't the only Colorado politician to get face time on the boob tube. Wellington Webb got his own talk show on the city cable channel this year and also made a surprise appearance in May on The Late Show With David Letterman, winging his way to the Ed Sullivan Theater along with 461 other Denverites for a theme show complete with a choir singing the praises of the Tattered Cover Book Store. The whole exercise fell flat, though, when an anticipated performance by Highlands Ranch trained bird "Billie Bird," who whistles and stamps her foot, was axed due to lack of time.
Television provided a happier ending for the city later in the year, when cable magnate Bill Daniels donated his $7 million "Cableland" mansion to Denver and suggested it be used as the mayor's residence. The rambling Hilltop home would have made quite the love nest for Mayor Webb and his First Lady of Love, Wilma, who could have celebrated her appointment to a cushy Department of Labor sinecure at the sunken bar or tickled the keys on the pink baby-grand piano. Her Majesty, who appeared on the couple's Christmas card in a pose that suggested her butt was about to be ignited by a roaring fire, could have cooled her caboose in the pink Jacuzzi or gone channel-surfing on the 64 built-in big-screen TVs. However, Wellington said ixnay on the artypadpay.
Not everybody in city government kept their noses so clean. Gary Lane, Denver's manager of theaters and arenas, and Jeff Krump, his director of marketing, were placed on administrative leave for allegedly playing pranks on a co-worker that included setting her trash can on fire, putting water in her briefcase and hiding her keys in the men's bathroom. But Webb somehow managed to stay above the fray. He continued his campaign to clean up the town, announcing Eliminate Rodent Month in Denver in September; Douglas Bruce could not be reached for comment. More important, the mayor's staff also succeeded in ferreting out the biggest stink yet at City Hall: four dead squirrels in a heating duct, slowly being digested by maggots.
An even heartier odor pervaded the federal courthouse, where a jury managed to convict Timothy McVeigh for the Oklahoma City bombing despite distractions that ranged from a blubbering newspaper reporter to defense attorneys who sometimes seemed as mentally challenged as their client.
As the trial got under way, Colorado Springs staged a "mock explosion" to test its response to possible terrorist attacks. But the biggest shock waves in the courtroom came from Rocky Mountain News reporter Lynn Bartels, who, her own paper revealed, regularly cried like a baby during testimony. Bartels may have been moved to tears by the legal maneuvering of defense lawyer Stephen Jones, whose greatest hits included the quizzing of a Kansas restaurant owner about an order McVeigh allegedly placed for Chinese food. Jones began by asking the man to explain what moo goo gai pan is. "Maybe you never eat Chinese food?" responded Yuhua Bai incredulously.
Jones was even sharper while questioning Eldon Elliot, the owner of a body shop where the Ryder truck used in the bombing was rented. Asked if it was raining the day McVeigh picked up the truck, Elliot said, "A real light mist." "Coming out of the sky?" asked Jones. "It usually does," responded Elliot. The defense provided the coup de grace with testimony from a British forensic pathologist who backed its theory that a mystery leg found in the rubble might have belonged to an unknown terrorist by telling jurors how he once cracked a case after finding an Irish bomber's penis in the wreckage.
Nearly as exciting as that unforgettable image was the long goodbye afforded Colorado's own Gary Davis. The state spent $237,000 on Davis's execution, and for the state's media outlets, it was worth every penny.
The News and the Denver Post went to court to fight over which paper would get to witness the execution, and local TV stations immediately dispatched reporters to witness executions in other states so they could brief viewers on what to expect when the sex-crazed Davis was sent to the big adult arcade in the sky. One radio reporter was so curious, he asked prison officials to let him lie down on the gurney to be used for the lethal injection. Workers resisted the urge to let him try out the lethal cocktail of sodium pentothal as well.
Davis, on the other hand, got whatever he wanted before checking out. The galloping gourmet asked for a last meal of cantaloupe and ice cream--chocolate and vanilla, in little cups--and was allowed to scarf all he could hold.
Equally appropriate for a last supper were the toxic burger patties cranked out by a Hudson Foods plant in Nebraska. Colorado became ground zero for the tainted-meat scare after sixteen residents ingested the E. coli bacteria, but thanks to the News, the public did not have to wait long to get an answer to the critical question of just when Burger King would reopen. "Many in the metro area were opting for chicken or fish," the paper reported after the fast-food emporium quit serving meat in the wake of the scare. The masses were put at ease, though, when the News ran, in big type, the unforgettable headline "Burger King to sell beef today." It was a revelation second only in emotional impact to another News headline, which told readers everything they ever wanted to know about the bottom line of a Liberian guerrilla: "General Butt Naked trades bullets for Bible."
The Post did its best to keep up, enticing readers with in-depth stories such as one listing in great detail the odoriferous items found in the city's main sewage plant. And for the most part, the year's journalistic output was comparable.
The News brought tears to the eyes of readers when it ran a cover photo of Colorado Rockies mascot Dinger the Dinosaur standing with his horned head bowed in sorrow after the untimely death of pitching ace Doug Million. News gossip columnist Norm Clarke must have felt like crying after he trumpeted the scoop that Steven Spielberg was in LoDo attending secret meetings about building a studio in Denver--which he wasn't. Clarke couldn't help spreading his serving of crow around, however, noting that chief rival Bill Husted of the Post once reported that Lee Marvin had been seen skiing in Aspen after his death.
The Post ran a killer retraction of its own in September, denying its own exclusive report that All-American boy John Elway sports a nipple ring. And the paper further raised hopes with the headline "Temple Sinai and First Plymouth Congregational Church are having a joint at 10 a.m. Thanksgiving Day." Alas, that report, too, proved to be wishful thinking. Said the Reverend M. Scott Landis, "I'm afraid it might attract certain people who will only end up being disappointed."
The city's television stations also did their part to keep the world safe for democracy. When radio station KRFX-FM planned an event in which ten listeners would have newsbabe Natalie Pujo's likeness tattooed on their bodies, Pujo initially agreed to pose for the branding session. But the comely anchor withdrew after Channel 7 news director Melissa Klinzing nixed the stunt, calling it inappropriate for a newsperson. Complained KRFX deejay Michael Floorwax, "Pujo is a hot news chick, a celebrity, but Channel 7 only lets her do the straight stuff, like Punts for Kids or something. We should tattoo 'woozie' on Klinzing's forehead."
Klinzing had other things on her mind, though, such as leaving the imprint of her boot heel on the double-wide buttocks of Post sports columnist Woody Paige. After Paige criticized Channel 7's habit of running Colorado Avalanche hockey games on a tape-delayed basis, Klinzing hit the roof, allegedly authoring an irate letter to Paige that the columnist immediately raced into print. "You apparently don't like the fact that Natalie Pujo tilts her head," Klinzing wrote. "That's something you would never do. After all, how can you tilt your head when it's so far up your ass?"
GETTING YOUR PURB ON
In the final analysis, there was seemingly no end to the fury. But at least somebody was in a good mood. The seniors at Denver's Manual High School, for instance, closed their school year with a memorable edition of the student newspaper that proved not everybody was bummed out.
"Sandy has the biggest ass I've ever seen on a white girl," teased one cheerful imp.
Another jolly sort wished a friend good luck "keeping his hoes in check" and offered best wishes for the "pimp of the year award and a schmibbin', bliggidy session." Then there was the positive thinker who wished his best buddy "a 40-ounce so you can get your purb on and act mannish."
So here's to you, Colorado. Have a schmibbin', bliggidy '98. And remember the words of Colorado Avalanche star Uwe Krupp, quoted after he and his teammates lapsed into a temporary slump:
"We have to pull up our panties and just do it.