Off Limits

Pack journalism

Since he was sworn in three short months ago, Denver mayor John Hickenlooper has kept busy naming cabinet members, popping up at every groundbreaking or envelope-opening in the city, and even playing himself (very well, too) in the Denver Press Club Gridiron 2003 skit "Leader of the City" on Sunday night. (Former Broncos Pony Express cheerleader Pat Woolseysang that number, backed by Channel 6's Cynthia Hessinand Claudia Lamb, now of the Colorado Department of Transportation, formerly of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.) The show gave some mayoral also-rans a few good, swift kicks, too, but in real life, Hick's former opponents insist they're happy, so very happy, with their post-election lives.

Hickenlooper came from the back of the pack to lead the field in the May election, then far outstripped Don Maresin the June runoff. And now Mares, a north Denver native, is taking off on another track, having recently joined Fleishman & Shapiro as special counsel. He's going to use his law degree, as well as his eight years as city auditor and seven years as a state representative and senator, to help "extend the firm's work in governmental relations," he says.

"I'm back among the living. I spent the last two-plus months reconnecting with my wife and kids," explains Mares, who ran the 26.2-mile LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathonon October 12 with his wife, Ruth(who beat him by three places). "It's just a matter of getting back into it. Practicing law is kind of like riding a bike. I'm enjoying it."

Mares won't say whether he's still flirting with the notion of political life beyond offering this: "Never say 'for good' to a politician."

Penfield Tate III echoes those sentiments. "I'm still keeping my hands involved politically," says fellow attorney Tate, who gave up his seat in the Colorado Senate last winter in order to concentrate on a mayoral run. While he won't divulge what pies the fingers connected to those hands might be in (beyond co-chairing Hickenlooper's transition team with Linda Alvarado), Tate's back practicing law at Trimble, Tate, Nulan, Evans and Holden. "Life is treating me extremely well," he says.

Susan Casey has returned to running political campaigns rather than running for office herself. The former Denver City Council representative and original soccer mom is working on Massachusetts Senator John Kerry's presidential bid, helping him prepare for the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries just a dozen weeks away. "I've taken on another great adventure. Right now I'm spending a lot of time in New Hampshire, my old stomping grounds," says Casey, who stomped there first for Gary Hart's presidential campaign and later for Bob Kerrey. "It's hard to sit on the sidelines," she adds. "I've got a few balls in the air here, and I hope that after the primary, I can find a way to be as involved as I'd like to be."

Like Casey, Elizabeth Schlosser is looking for ways she can stay involved in Denver -- but she's gone a little further afield in her hunt for inspiration. Schlosser and her husband, recently retired Denver Water exec Charlie Jordan, just returned from a five-week trip to Rome, where she "just toured around looking at city-planning ideas for Denver, kind of restoking the idea furnace," Schlosser says. Before that, she co-chaired the General Services committee for Hick's transition team; now that she's back in town, she's "generally trying to get back to organizing my kids and my house and thinking about what's next."

Jeremy Stefanek was moving on to the next big thing weeks before the May vote: He got bumped from the ballot for failing to follow proper petitioning procedure. The former dot-commer is still working for his parents' flooring company, but he's also interviewing to lead a sales division at a new startup company in Boulder. And not even a failed bid to be cast in NBC's upcoming reality show The Apprentice could discourage eternal optimist Stefanek.

And then there's campaign curmudgeon Phil Perington, who's concentrating on his real estate business -- and not wasting any time reading Westword, he's quick to point out. Perington's also changed his voter registration, although he's keeping mum on whether the Republicans or the Independents can claim the former head of the state Democratic Party. "I'm taking a sabbatical from politics," he says. "I was the only candidate who literally had to continue working through the campaign. Don Mares was double-dipping, and Ari Zavaras, well, we know that story. And everybody else pretty much didn't have a career or a business to deal with. I lost some ground doing that, so I'm back working hard."

Really hard, since the real estate market is "kind of soft, kind of mushy," Perington notes. "If Hickenlooper doesn't stop clowning around and start doing something about parking and the Convention Center, Denver will suffer."

No telling how Zavaras feels about Hickenlooper's work thus far; the former Denver Manager of Safety, who was initially seen as the man to beat in the mayoral election, appears to be MIA. (He did serve on Hickenlooper's Education & Children transition committee, however.) Numerous calls to his cell phone and home went unreturned, and Arnie Grossman, communications director for the Zavaras campaign, told Off Limits he wasn't sure where his onetime candidate could be reached.

Sub-human:Denver-based Quiznos Sub has always preferred quirky advertisements -- a man eating a Quiznos sub after it had been in his dog's mouth; a businesswoman eating hers after digging it out of a trash bin -- and the company's most recent commercial, "Raised by Wolves," was no exception.

For those of you who missed the thirty-second ad, whose four-week run ended earlier this month, here's a recap:

Two young businessmen sit in a park, both eating sandwiches.

Man #1: "You got that ordinary untoasted sub instead of the toasted Philly Cheesesteak from Quiznos? What, were you raised by wolves?"

Man #2 ponders the questions as he goes off into a dream sequence.

Depending on the time of day, viewers were then treated to either a "mild" or "spicy" ending. For family-friendly hours, Man #2 lies on the ground, smiling as he's licked by a pack of wolves (huskies, actually). After 8 p.m. and during Sunday NFL football games, Man #2 is caught suckling a mother wolf surrounded by her pups. And for the really racy late-night crowd -- let's call this the "super spicy" version -- Man #1 dares to use the "C" word, calling the untoasted sandwich a "processed piece of crap."

We're not sure what it was about these ads that would make people go out and buy a sub sandwich, but apparently they worked. According to Quiznos spokeswoman Stacie Lange, the wolf campaign was a smashing success, spurring a nationwide growth in sales at the homegrown chain's more than 2,000 stores. "We're always looking for memorable ways to illustrate the difference between our high-quality toasted subs and the competition," she says. "We definitely knew that we were stretching it with the wolves, but we wanted to capture people's attention and be unique."

In an advertising landscape dominated by the Coors Light Twins and Miller Light's nearly naked mud wrestling, maybe it takes sucking a wolf's tit to get the attention of males ages 18 to 49 -- Quiznos' target market. "That type of humor gets us noticed," Lange says. "We need our ads to really scream, and they do. We've gotten a few complaints that we pushed the envelope too much with this one, but we expected that."

But now the wolves have retreated to their den, and Cliff Freeman & Partners, the New York advertising agency responsible for the "Raised by Wolves" commercials, no longer has the Quiznos contract. The company recently gave the account (reportedly worth between $25 million and $30 million) to the Martin Agencyof Richmond, Virginia, whose creative team won the contest by transforming a room at the agency into an oven using aluminum foil and red lights, then putting a local Quiznos franchise owner wearing just his boxers and a T-shirt inside and threatening to toast him until they got the account. "Every few years, we re-evaluate to make sure that we're getting the best ideas," says Lange. "And the Martin Agency really showed that they understood our brand and had a lot of creative new concepts."

What those new concepts may be, Quiznos isn't telling. So we here at Off Limits have come up with a foolproof sub-selling suggestion -- for free!

Ad: "Raised by Cannibals"

Two young businessmen...

Man #1: "You got that processed piece of crap sub instead of the toasted Philly Cheesesteak from Quiznos -- what, were you raised by cannibals?"

(Flash to a dark tribal scene, blazing fire, drums beating.)

Man #2 is greedily picking meat off a charred human carcass.

Man #2: "Yes, I was." (He flashes a toothy grin as blood dribbles down his chin.)

No Moore: "Michael Moore: College Drop Out. The real stupid white man."

So read a sign held up by disgruntled youths who showed up at the University of Denver's Ritchie Center on Wednesday, October 16, to heckle the filmmaker, best-selling author, ball-cap enthusiast and gun owner. But 7,000 others eagerly forked over cash to hear Michael Moorerant on about the Iraq war, presidential dimness and the gross failures of the local media. From the Magness Arena stage, Moore called KUSA/Channel 9 to ask why the station hadn't sent reporters to cover his speech. Apparently, Moore's recent omnipresence on CNN, HBO and Comedy Central, as well as his position on the New York Times bestseller list -- where Stupid White Men has been for sixty weeks, and a new tome, Dude, Where's My Country? debuted this week -- aren't validation enough for the portly parodist.

Moore got to know Denver -- Littleton, specifically -- while filming Bowling for Columbine, the documentary that explored America's fanaticism over firearms as well as the extracurricular activities of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. That movie won Moore an Academy Award, and in his acceptance speech, he condemned the then-new war in Iraq, provoking boos from the audience and earning him the ire of right-wingers, who immediately christened him an enemy of the state (if they hadn't already). But that speech was good for business: As Moore told reporters who gathered at the Ritchie Center prior to his DU talk, attendance at Bowling for Columbine screenings went up 110 percent after the Oscars, and Stupid White Men became one of the most widely read titles in America. So even if some local media ignored his most recent appearance, Colorado has been good to Moore.

But Joeand Ann Kechter, whose son, Matthew, was killed at Columbine High School, say Moore hasn't returned the favor. Last fall, they were invited to a special advance screening of Bowling for Columbine, one of the top-grossing documentaries in cinema history. But reading the fine print of the invite -- which came through an e-mail list-serve used by victims' families -- they discovered that they'd have to pay admission in order to see the Columbine massacre dissected on the big screen. That was an offer they could refuse.

"People ask us all the time if we've seen the movie," says Joe Kechter. "But we have never seen it, and we never would see it if it means giving them some of our money. We won't even rent it. It kind of angers us when people make money off our children."

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