By Michael Roberts
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By Michael Roberts
So there I was, being led into a roomy townhouse mere blocks from the Denver Dumb Friends League by the Denver Post's Chuck Green while one of his pooches, eighteen-month-old Auggie, yapped and yowled like Jim Carrey on amphetamines. As Green looked at his furry buddy and said (jokingly...I think), "Stop barking at the bad man," I found myself wondering: How the hell did I get here?
Even now I'm not quite sure. Since 1995, when Green, 53, became a full-time columnist at the Post, various Westword scribes have taken delight in giving him the needle for many of his in-print obsessions, including JonBenét Ramsey, who's been mentioned in his oeuvre about as often as Jesus Christ turns up in the New Testament, and domestic animals -- most prominently, Snowy and Keko, a pair of dogs whose poisoning deaths at the hands of a neighbor spurred one of his most histrionic campaigns, and his own canine Gus, whose diagnosis of cancer and subsequent death were chronicled in melodramatic detail over the course of more than a year. (Like Gus, Auggie is a keeshond, and her full name, Augusta, is intended as a tribute to her much-adored predecessor.)
Green seemed to take these jabs in stride, and even offered Westword kudos at the time of our twentieth anniversary. But after I casually identified him as a "pet worshiper" in an article in early June, his bile geyser erupted. Throughout a June 11 offering headlined "Proud to be Labeled 'Dogfather'" (another Westword writer identified him using this last term in February), he came after the paper with fangs bared and chops foaming, arguing that the employees of this establishment see no distinction between "a loyal, dedicated Seeing Eye dog and the hubcap of an old Dodge." He added, "They have no compassion for, and they have never acknowledged any use for, the golden retriever who leads its blind owner through traffic, or to the grocery or onto a bus."
Oh, yeah -- he also identified me as a "hit man," which, owing to my Italian ancestry, could have been interpreted as an ethnic slur. (When you call me "paisan," make sure you smile.) But I was more concerned about Green than my own tender sensibilities. His column struck me as a strangled expression of pent-up rage and frustration at not having a chance to explain himself to us; particularly poignant was the clause "Although no one at Westword has bothered to ask..."
Chuck, I decided, just needed someone to hear him out, to take him seriously -- and I wanted to be that someone. For this reason, I called him and asked if he'd be amenable to a sit-down at his place, where he could finally say everything he'd been burning to express lo these many years. He suggested a time the following week, and despite the fact that my not-terribly-complimentary response to his anti-Westword column was published prior to the big day, he didn't try to back out. Clearly, this was a man with a lot of baggage to unload, and it seemed that I'd become his designated skycap.
Once Auggie calmed down, I asked Green if I could get a tour of the place he shares with Susan, his wife of fourteen years. Green said that would be fine as long as we didn't go anywhere "too personal" -- after which he showed off practically every square inch of his abode, including a bathroom adorned with a caricature of him reading the Post in his tub and a sleep chamber dominated by an almost-made bed. What could have been more personal than that? A complete library of well-worn Hustler magazines? Or perhaps Heavy Petting?
Much of the decor at chez Green is journalism-related, as befits such a longtime Poster; Chuck started stringing for the paper well before he graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and since his 1968 hiring, he's served as reporter, city editor, editorial-page editor and, for about a year during the '80s, editor of the entire thing. The array is highlighted by his lifetime membership in the Denver Press Club (glug, glug), editorial cartoons by Pat Oliphant and Paul Conrad, who won Pulitzers at the Post during the '60s, and a replica of the Pulitzer gold medal for public service that the Post won in 1986 for a series about missing children.
There's also a slew of weighty bronzes, countless ornamental roosters and angels (Susan collects them), and, inevitably, loads of pet-oriented paraphernalia: bird cages lining a staircase, for instance, and a replica of a car door with a dog resembling Murphy, another of Green's four-legged companions, hanging out of it, tongue flapping. Green said that if there were a fire, the car door is what he'd take with him -- aside from his "family," of course (since he has no children of his own, his pets are his "kids"). In addition to Auggie and Murphy, the clan includes Creature, an elderly cat whom he rescued from a dumpster when the feline was eight weeks old; a cockatoo, Peaches; a large and very talkative parrot named Lassie; and Reggie, its smaller cousin. While Green boasted that Reggie can defecate on command, he chose to have the bird demonstrate another of its stunts. He placed it on its back in his palm, pointed at it with his free hand and snapped, "Dead! Dead!" Reggie responded by laying motionless; then, after Green announced, "Come to life!" the bird began fluttering again.