Hall of Shame

The people and places that made 2000 what it was. Blame them.

Willie B.

The "B" in Willie B. Hung must stand for "butthead," because the KBPI morning DJ, whose real name is Stephen Meade, can't seem to stop doing idiotic things. He and fellow DJs Darren McKee (D-Mak) and Marc Stout made a big splash in September when they led an illegal and destructive four-wheeling expedition through a private meadow. The day before, the three men had discussed plans for the "mudfest" on the air. Although KBPI later said the DJs were simply discussing their weekend plans and didn't intend for all those people to show up, others have pointed out that you don't discuss weekend plans on the air when thousands of people are listening unless you expect at least some of them to join you. As a result of his antics, Meade was charged with criminal mischief and conspiracy -- both felonies -- and defacing property, a misdemeanor; McKee and Stout also face conspiracy and defacing charges. But Meade had already showed his true feathers back in February, when he was involved in an on-air stunt that entailed dropping a chicken from a third-floor balcony at the station. As a substitute for Groundhog Day, he also encouraged listeners to bring chickens to the station so they could be released on I-25; if the chickens survived, he said, there would be an early spring. Meade's trial on charges of animal cruelty in connection with that incident is set for January. But our verdict is already in.

United Airlines

United Airlines has always been a pain in the ass. It controls at least two-thirds of the flights going in and out of Denver, and that domination is reflected in its rising ticket prices. In years past, the airline has raised the number of frequent-flier miles needed for a free trip, limited the size and number of carry-on bags, decreased leg and arm room until only Tara Lipinski would feel comfortable on board, raised the fee for changing a ticket, and ripped off a beautiful Gershwin tune. This year, all that bad karma came back to bite United in the behind. But although the airline is suffering, its customers are the ones bearing the brunt of the problems. The trouble started in May when United's pilots, angry about the slow pace of labor negotiations and the company's failure to ask them about the planned purchase of US Airways, began refusing to work overtime and instigated an unofficial and covert operational slowdown. As a result, thousands of flights were delayed, or canceled altogether, across the country. United blamed the weather, but customers stuck in airports for hours, even days, knew better. The airline's stock price took a dive, and United became the deserved whipping boy for the entire industry's problems. In July, Mayor Wellington Webb asked Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater to intervene in the labor negotiations. In August, United admitted that it had canceled more than 23,000 flights since May and that less than half of its flights were landing on time. Things began to return to normal in September after the pilots finally reached an agreement with the company, but then the mechanics and flight attendants began their negotiations -- and guess what? United is delaying and canceling thousands of flights all over again. In November, the Chicago Tribune reported that United CEO James Goodwin, who was booked on a United flight to Hawaii, jumped planes at the last minute and instead flew on American Airlines, one of United's main competitors.

Unless things improve, hundreds of thousands of United passengers may do the same.

J. Shelby Bryan

On November 14, ICG Communications, once one of the country's most promising telecom companies, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The announcement wasn't a surprise, but Denver-based ICG's dramatic descent over the previous two months had been. In September, the company confessed that it was going nowhere, and its stock, which had been at nearly $40 a share in March, plunged to 31 cents before trading was halted. About 300 employees were laid off. Lawsuits were filed. The national media used the company to symbolize the entire decline of the telecom industry. Analysts predicted the end.

And where was ICG's former chief executive, J. Shelby Bryan? Planning a pheasant-hunting trip in jolly old England, of course. Or at least, that's what was reported in the New York Daily News, where Bryan's name has been seen more often than it has in Wall Street reports. A wealthy Texan with a flamboyant lifestyle, as well as a Friend of Bill, Bryan made the gossip circles buzz in 1999 when he left his wife of seventeen years for Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue magazine. CEO at ICG since 1995, Bryan had resigned in August, when the company's troubles first came to light. But his $6 million severance package is now part of the bankruptcy. "Just because he might be down to his last million is no reason for Shelby Bryan to give up the high life," the Daily News reported this month. He and Wintour "rented out the super-exclusive Badminton House (where the game was invented), as he has for the last several years...Word is it costs around $150,000 or so for a weekend. For that, you get Prince Charles as a neighbor...Wintour and the Duke and Duchess of Beauford (who own Badminton House) were Bryan's guests. Maybe he isn't as broke as they say."

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