Time's Out

Rocky the Leprechaun helps people prepare for the end.

Here in Rocky the Leprechaun's converted Evergreen garage, Mark Speck has reached ground-zero for his Y2K doubts. He eyes the display of thirty No. 10-sized cans of Mountain House freeze-dried foods. Rocky looks on.

"I only carry main dishes," says Rocky.
"Mmmm. Chocolate," says Mark, before turning his attention to the entrees. "I think one case is good enough for me."

"How many people in your house?" Rocky asks.
"Just me and my son."
"A case oughta be good," Rocky agrees. "Now, you're buying stuff at the store, too, right? How long are ya thinking?"

Speck pauses. "I'm thinking a month. But I guarantee you my neighbors will be knockin' down my door."

Rocky nods and pats a bowling-ball-sized can of freeze-dried chicken and noodles. His two Super Bowl rings catch the light. "This is long-term stuff," he explains. "You won't dive in right away. This'll be after the first month. You'll be looking to your refrigerator and freezer in the first month.

"Look over the main entrees here," he adds, handing Speck an order menu. "If you see something you like, check it." Then, helpfully, "with your Hearty Beef Stew, that makes 36 servings. That'll take you and your boy quite a ways."

Glen Brougham officially became Rocky the Leprechaun in 1983. "I had a chance to work with the Colorado Lottery," he recalls. "The first scratch game was called Pot o' Gold. The promotion company wanted to take a big pot of gold around Colorado--with leprechauns and everything. And I got the job." The "Rocky" part came from Brougham's childhood nickname, given for his hobby of collecting rocks, which he still does.

At the time, Denver had a second football team, the Denver Gold. Rocky, who is a marketer by training, sensed synergy. "I went to them and said, 'Hey, where you find gold you'll always find a leprechaun.'" The Gold agreed, and he became the team's official mascot. When the Gold withered with the USFL, he turned to the Broncos, with which he enjoys an unofficial, though high-profile, relationship. Each year he purchases one ticket for each game, and leaves his seat soon after the game starts to wander the stadium and pump up the crowd.

"The Broncos know I'm there, and they have an unwritten thing where The Barrel Man and I can go around where other people might be told, 'Please find your seat and sit down, sir,'" he explains. "It's a kind of respect. And it makes the world a bigger place.

"I've honed it to the level where I'm an actor doing a role," he adds. "And I have some talent for getting cheers going."

The idea to help citizens prepare for the approaching Y2K disaster came between games last season. "I was in Oregon, wanting to mail back some pinecones to Colorado"--in the winter Rocky sells Christmas trees and other holiday decorations--"and I found out this company also was supplying five-gallon buckets to seal grain in. And that's where I got the idea that I, personally, wanted to do something. Later, I came to find out there was nobody in Colorado who inventoried Mountain House No. 10-sized tin cans of freeze-dried food. I knew from when I was in the camping business"--Rocky, who is 48, owned three outdoor supply stores in Missouri in the late 1970s--"that they have an excellent menu of basic survival foods."

"In any kind of stress situation--and if Y2K isn't a stress situation, I don't know what is--the simplest food to prepare is freeze-dried. And Mountain House makes the best. Like the Beef Strogonoff. They take a completely cooked beef strogonoff--it's your mother's best recipe, just off the stove, steaming hot, ready to eat-and then flash freeze it. That's why the astronauts use it.

"I'm not so much a survivalist as I am into preparedness," he concludes. "The slogan that I came up with is, 'Your lack of preparedness does not make us kooks.' Isn't that good?"

Rocky, who looks the same off the field as he does on, has turned a room off his garage into a Y2K sales and information center. On one wall, a selection of No. 10-sized cans of Mountain House freeze-dried foods is displayed on a shelf. Nearby, a VCR plays a compilation tape that Rocky made of news shows warning citizens to prepare. Next to that is a poster: "Y2K list ideas: plastic sheeting. Kerosene lamps. Matches. Heater. Women. More women." ("I am single," says Rocky. "I am looking for a woman who is ready for the next millennium.")

A "days-left" calendar shows 176 days remaining in 1999. A brochure Rocky picked up at a Y2K convention is pinned next to it. "Y2K Paradise," it advertises. "Y2K in paradise has been established to help you and your loved ones relocate to the South Pacific Islands."

At a right angle to the food display is a black futon couch. "I'm trying to make this a real personal thing--a real quiet thing," he explains. Customers hear about his business mostly through word of mouth. "Everybody who's doing this is extremely sensitive."

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