Off Limits

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On January 2, the day after Mayor Wellington Webb said he was looking for a corporate sponsor to partner with the city on next year's New Year's Eve bash (conveniently overlooking the fact that one of the obstacles faced by the Mayor's Millennium Commission in its 2000 fundraising efforts was Webb's very public campaign against selling a corporate sponsor naming rights to the new Broncos stadium), Lew Cadygot an unexpected call. It was from the founder of Janus Funds, Tom Bailey. Allegedly.

Long before Webb became an ardent supporter of keeping the Mile High name, ad-man Cady had started his own campaign, printing up bumper stickers to remind metro residents that Mile High was the best name for a stadium -- "by a mile" -- and enlisting a certain local restaurateur in the effort. And while the Metropolitan Football Stadium District had subsequently announced that any naming-rights negotiations were off (blaming Webb for his "grandstanding"), toward the end of last year Cady began hearing rumors that such negotiations might be back on -- and might involve a compromise like "Janus Field at Mile High Stadium." And then he opened Janus's most recent report to shareholders, which noted that the Janus Fund is down and Janus Twenty is way down, admissions that inspired Cady to fire off a letter to Bailey: "As shareholders, we are appalled to learn of Janus's plan to participate in the naming of the new football stadium...If this is your marketing department's idea of a good investment, Janus is in serious trouble. I can understand the need to spend money in the promotion of Janus (the Winter Report was very well done), but to spend money in a way that will turn a high percentage of the local populace against Janus? That doesn't make sense at all."

Cady had hand-delivered this missive to Janus headquarters on December 28. And then, early January 2, Bailey himself called. Allegedly. Janus didn't want to put its name on the outside of the new stadium, Bailey told Cady. In fact, he continued, this fall Janus had considered going in with Coors and Level 3 on a deal that would give the three companies certain signage rights within the stadium and cover the cost of leaving the Mile High name alone outside. But the deal had fallen apart.

On January 2, Janus wouldn't confirm that Bailey had called Cady. (Janus's founder is out of the country.) But last Thursday, as the dailies began investigating tips that Janus, Coors and Level 3 had indeed contemplated such a deal, a Janus spokeswoman called back and said the company was releasing the following statement: "As we've said before, Janus has never had any intention of putting our name on the new football stadium. All along we worked with two other local companies and the Metropolitan Football Stadium District to find a creative way to preserve the name Mile High while reducing the local taxpayer burden. Unfortunately, the idea has not worked out."

Allegedly.


Something's fishy: Although Willie Matthews's work is a favorite during Stock Show season, his eponymous Wazee Street gallery is popular year-round. Still, the spate of calls that flooded the gallery late last year were confusing: People seemed to want Matthews to paint portraits of their pet fish. "When I asked them what they were talking about," Matthews remembers, "they said they'd read the article, and we said, 'What article are you talking about?'"

An article, it turned out, that had just appeared in FYI,a lifestyle quarterly put out by Forbes,whose editor, Chris Buckley(son of William F.), happens to be a "great friend" of Matthews's. A friend who, when the Buckley and Matthews families had vacationed together in Hawaii, convinced Willie to paint a picture of some koi. That picture wound up in FYI alongside a glowing review that netted the painter a new school of fans.

Before the koi, the closest Matthews had come to painting fish were a few trout that made an appearance in some of his Western scenes. (Matthews has also drawn inspiration from such exotic locations as China, Ireland, Spain and...Pueblo, where he loves the old factories.) But while the calls seemed to indicate that Matthews could have a budding career in fish portraiture, he doesn't plan to give up painting the West.

"As corny as many people perceive it, I really enjoy painting the West," he says. "It doesn't get a lot of respect in the grand modern art world of New York, and yet I think it has a real validity when done well. I love the West, I believe in regional art, and I believe in responding to where you live and the people you live around."

And anyone who's seen Matthews's work in the Coors Western Art Exhibit at the National Western Stock Show -- particularly the tongue-in-cheekily named "Gun Control" (only $6,400) -- has to be glad he does. "To paint cowboys seems so anachronistic, and yet it's a subject that continues to have a real immediacy to me," Matthews says. "Even though I'm not a cowboy, and I don't own cattle and horses." Or fish.

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