Twenty Years of Denver

The Avalanche play soccer--not hockey--indoors.

1981: With a mighty assist from major Republican campaign donor Joseph Coors, the Colorado mafia goes to Washington: James Watt, former director of the anti-environmentalist Mountain States Legal Foundation, as secretary of the interior, and Anne Gorsuch Burford as director of the Environmental Protection Agency. Neither make it through President Ronald Reagan's first term; the Coors-bankrolled conservative Heritage Foundation endures.

Evergreen's own John Hinckley is a rotten shot, but a record number of Coloradans--239--are murdered this year. The record will stand even through the metro area's notorious Summer of Violence in 1993, when the state records its lowest number of killings for the first half of the 1990s.

As oil prices decline, Marvin Davis sells off a large portion of his oil bidniz and buys 20th Century Fox. He begins selling off pieces of the conglomerate at mighty profits.

The first family moves into Highlands Ranch.
Downtown has more than 10 million square feet of office space.
Colorado brokers, including penny-stock wizards Blinder, Robinson & Co., handle 96 initial stock offerings worth $36 million.

Vancouver's own Edgar Kaiser, Jr., uses his mining-based riches to buy the ailing Broncos from the Phipps brothers. He hires Dan Reeves as coach. Modern competitive snowboarding begins with a late-season contest at Ski Cooper, near Leadville.

In a not-so-surprising move by the new Ohio-based owners, jazz station KADX changes to a country format. Although there are 36 stations broadcasting in the metro area, jazz will return to the airwaves only sporadically during the decade.

1982: National unemployment reaches nearly 10 percent. Exxon shuts down oil-shale operations in Parachute with no notice. Black Monday signals the beginning of the oil bust.

Mork & Mindy goes off the air. Colorado's first case of AIDS--although the disease does not yet have that name--is diagnosed.

The Equal Rights Amendment is not ratified. National figures show women earn about 69 cents for every dollar their male colleagues make. The state's marriage rate declines for the first time in twenty years. The drop continues through the end of the decade.

After forty years of producing, storing and dumping toxic weapons and pesticides at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, the U.S. Army and Shell Oil cease operations. Lawsuits are filed to begin to sort out who's responsible for paying to clean up the most polluted place on earth.

The 16th Street Mall opens, finally.
A Christmas Eve blizzard buries the city in 25 inches of snow and paralyzes Stapleton International Airport. Mayor McNichols and Governor Lamm declare a state of emergency, but voters are unhappy with how long it takes to dig out.

The Colorado Rockies depart for New Jersey, where they become the (Blue) Devils, named after a mythical bogeyman said to inhabit the swamps and barrens of the southern part of the state.

1983: Former state representative Federico Pena defeats the incumbent McNichols (and five other candidates for Denver mayor, including Wellington Webb) with the slogan "Imagine a Great City!" and promises to get the snowplows out in a timely manner. He also favors expansion of Stapleton onto Rocky Mountain Arsenal land over building a new airport. During Pena's administrations, Norm Early becomes district attorney, former state legislator Webb becomes city auditor, and Bill Roberts becomes manager of public works. Not bad for a city controlled by the Ku Klux Klan less than fifty years earlier, but racial divisions still exist.

Beth Miller is missing in Idaho Springs. The authorities claim to have searched all known haunts of underage blond runaways but find no clues to the whereabouts of the fourteen-year-old. Nothing is done about the underage prostitutes working the truck stops, however.

Silverado Savings doubles its loans, from $51 million to $105 million, in one year. Larimer Square developer Dana Crawford begins work on the historic Oxford Hotel, across from Union Station. Much of dilapidated lower downtown is home to the domicile-deprived.

Image and reality merge at this year's Carousel Ball. Now in its third season, Dynasty, the prime-time soap opera set in Denver, places its ultra-rich fictitious characters among the ultra-rich real attendees, many of them Hollywood types flown in by 20th Century Fox owner Marvin Davis. As a result, part-time Vail resident, ex-male model and former president of the United States Gerald Ford and his lovely wife, Betty, namesake of the clinic so many of the rich and famous visit regularly, appear to be talking business with their old friends the Carringtons. Henry Kissinger, in charge of bringing the Vietnam War to a politically satisfactory end for Richard Nixon a decade earlier, schmoozes the lovely Alexis (Joan Collins) on camera.

The Colorado Lottery begins.
Pat Schroeder dubs Ronald Reagan the "Teflon" president. Local dog Pirate makes a run for the White House.

John Elway refuses to sign with the Baltimore Colts and is traded to Denver.
Westword is sold to New Times Inc., based in Phoenix, and finally goes weekly.

1984: The price of OPEC and North Sea oil is set at $29 a barrel. The nation's largest marketer of oil and gas partnerships, Petro-Lewis, lays off 80 percent of its 2,200 Denver-based employees.

Radio talk-show host Alan Berg is gunned down in his driveway in Cherry Creek by out-of-town neo-Nazis. Denver gets its first glimpse of right-wing militias that are alive and well and stalking the West. Gays are banned from the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Dick Lamm says we all have a duty to die.

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