Off Limits

Gas pains

Okay, so he's a not a super-duper star, but he is pretty famous, especially now that he's co-starring in the remake of Ocean's 11 with five legitimate superstars -- and hey, he's from Denver, which usually is enough to rate several gossip-column items when an actor visits his hometown. Still, the daily papers missed the story of Don Cheadle and five members of his family going to the hospital Sunday morning to be treated for furnace-related carbon-monoxide poisoning.

Cheadle himself was treated and released from Porter Adventist Hospital; as of Tuesday night, just one member of the family was still hospitalized. And while Swedish Medical Center spokeswoman Ramonna Tooley wouldn't confirm the identity of that family member -- at the request of the family -- she did say the patient is a female in fair condition, which means she's conscious and recovering nicely.

Cheadle, who went to East High School and had a major role in the movie Traffic and a bit part in Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead, is lucky that he still has things to do in Denver while he's alive, considering that every winter, a few people die from carbon-monoxide poisoning in their homes.

The buck stops here: While Boulder continues to wrestle with the issues surrounding El Dildo Bandito, aka Bob Rowan, who liberated a string of ceramic penises from the Boulder Public Library earlier this month and wound up charged with criminal tampering, Aspen recently experienced its own artful dodger.

Rick Magnuson, a local artist and law-enforcement official (hey, he's from Aspen), had contributed a piece to the Aspen Art Museum's Roaring Fork Open that was titled "I Dare You to Steal This $100" and featured a genuine hundred-dollar bill. "It was a conceptual work of art, about the kind of tension between your desire to want to take the hundred-dollar bill and your conscience telling you not to do it," says museum director Dean Sobel. "It called for almost performance-like action."

Just not the kind he got. The day before Thanksgiving, another amateur art critic took a look at Magnuson's piece, reached for the hundred-dollar bill -- and then replaced it with five twenties. "He actually did it under the watchful eye of a museum staff member," Sobel says. "It was not in the museum's position to close down that kind of process. The staff member knew the artist wanted interaction. He just didn't expect it to be so benign."

But what's benign, like what's beautiful, lies in the eye of the beholder. While Magnuson had dared viewers to steal the money, it had never occurred to Aspen's police Picasso that someone would simply change the piece by making change. "I wanted someone to try and steal it and catch them, and this makes it vague now," Magnuson told a reporter. "It ruined the whole aesthetics for me. I don't think it's a valuable piece of art anymore, because it's been defaced."

But at least it's still there -- unlike "Hanging 'em Out to Dry," the penis piece that Rowan pilfered from the Boulder Public library's Art Triumphs Over Domestic Violence.

Both the Aspen show and the Boulder exhibit -- what was left of it, at least -- closed Sunday. But the reviews keep coming in.

Keen streets: Fort Collins is about as far removed from Boulder or Aspen as Picasso is from Norman Rockwell; in this burg, entire streets have been deemed to be works of art -- although that information probably won't be included in American Classics, a four-part series airing on the History Channel this week.

The programs take a look at symbols of twentieth-century Americana, including TV dinners, superstars, brand names and the concept of Main Street USA. University of Minnesota art history and American studies professor Karal Ann Marling, who is featured in the series, credits Walt Disney with keeping that last concept alive by deciding in the 1950s to re-create a turn-of-the-century-styled Main Street in Disneyland.

"Disneyland let people experience Main Street USA again in isolation as a work of art, a theater piece," she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently. "You could walk down this street and finally, for the first time, see it for what it represented, the joys of being a pedestrian." Marling went on to say that if it hadn't been for Uncle Walt, many towns would have watched their Main Streets die or disappear.

And if it hadn't been for Fort Collins's actual Main Street -- which stretches from the firehouse to the county courthouse to the bank -- Walt Disney's fantasy might never have been made concrete. That's because Walt relied on the men who designed his movie sets to create his theme park, and one of those men was designer Harper Goff, who grew up in Fort Collins and used his hometown as the model for Disneyland.

And that's no Mickey Mouse story.

Under-covers agent: Next week, Joyce Meskis will be going back to school for the ultimate extra-credit course.

Meskis, owner of the Tattered Cover bookstores in Cherry Creek and LoDo, will be sitting in Brighton High School's gymnasium when the Colorado Supreme Court justices convene there to hear oral arguments regarding her fight to keep a customer's book-buying records confidential.

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