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Off Limits

Talk hard

Listeners of the three local stations owned by Infinity Broadcasting got an unexpected earful this past Monday morning when the nasal tones of Governor Bill Owens suddenly rode the airwaves of Mix 100, Kool 105 and Jammin' 92.5. Infinity's offices are in the Denver Post building -- just one hot-dog stand away from the State Capitol -- and the guv is a semi-frequent guest, says spokesman Dan Hopkins.

This time, Owens had shown up to rally support for a Thanksgiving charity benefit led by Mix morning jocks Domand Jane. Strapped into headphones, he talked with that chatty twosome before sitting in with 105's Kool Krew. He sounded right at home on adult-contemporary Mix and on oldies-bastion Kool, which both boast playlists as white as the governor's cabinet.

But Owens revealed his true inner soul man while rapping on Jammin' 92.5, which spins the music of classic and contemporary urban artists, from R. Kelly and J. Lo to Marvin Gaye and other Motowners. After delivering an extemporaneous beatdown of his plans for state highway expansion -- a thoroughly unfunky topic -- Owens told jam-meisters Otto and Wilde that "without jammin', I wouldn't be where I am today."

D'oh. We thought it was Frances!

But has Owens ever been caught in the act of, er, jammin'?

"I don't know that I would know what jamming is," Hopkins responds. "If I saw it, I don't know that I would recognize it, so I can't say whether it's something the governor is doing or not."

Pucker up:Thanks to the decency police -- or an obscenely savvy PR move -- the streets of Cowtown are once again safe for minivan-driving soccer moms. Last Thursday, a KISS 95.7 billboard containing a super-sized snapshot of Britney Spears and Madonna playing a little tonsil hockey during their infamous smooch at this year's MTV Video Music Awards show was removed from its perch by southbound 1-25 and 58th Avenue -- but not before assorted Clear Channel outlets decried the "pressure from a local government agency," as KISS's promotions manager, Therese Campanelli, put it.

That government agency could only be the Department of Transportation, which oversees this state's highways and byways -- but according to spokeswoman Stacey Stegman, there's no way the DOT ordered the removal of the billboard. "We don't do that -- we're not allowed," she says. Her department does oversee the billboard-permitting process with companies such as Viacom Outdoor, which had erected the KISS kiss, she explains, and "our roadside advertising guy had gotten a couple of complaints, so we called Viacom and told them, 'Here are the complaints we are getting.'"

That's just standard procedure, she says, and the complaints were nothing special, certainly nothing to cause the DOT to ask for the billboard's removal. So the department was as surprised as anyone when word came down that the billboard was coming down -- and all fingers were pointing to the DOT. "We realize there's a physical impact when you put up a billboard," Stegman adds. "If it was a safety hazard, we would step in, but a silly kiss? It was way overrated."

Still, for a week or two, the two lip-locked divas did make for a welcome distraction from the stench of the nearby oil refineries. Their image has since been replaced by a nice, safe advertisement for Adams County Foster and Adoptive Homes.

So, who ordered the billboard removed? So far, neither KISS nor Viacom -- which owns both MTV and the billboard where the smooch was smacked -- are talking. Unlike Britney's, their lips are sealed.

Full house: In an inspired variation on the New Deal, the George W. Bush administration introduced a deck of cards featuring the faces of wanted Iraqis earlier this year. Smart marketers across the globe have followed suit in the months since, but none has been quite so evenhanded as Denver's John P. Broach, co-founder of www.playingpolitics.net. He's created a pair of decks for American political junkies on opposite sides of the ideological poker game. The "Right Handed" set ridicules the sort of liberal icons that conservatives hope will fold; its "Left Handed" companion returns the favor by doubling down on Republicans and their ilk.

Broach, a onetime executive for companies such as US West, claims to lean in neither direction. "Probably 25 percent of what the left says and 25 percent of what the right says has some merit. The rest is spin, parse, drivel and nonsense," he declares. "The political debate is so bereft of humor, so acrimonious, that we decided it was time to make fun of everybody."

Among the targets in Broach's pile are several with Colorado connections. In the Right Handed deck, the eight of hearts is author Hunter S. Thompson, who's dismissed with this line: "The '70s just aren't coming back, Doc." The five of clubs, meanwhile, pictures the three nuns who were convicted in July of damaging a Colorado missile silo; Broach refers to them collectively as the Lenin Sisters.

The Left Handed Deck is even more Colorado-centric, and just as politically incorrect. The queen of spades needles the Promise Keepers with an illustration of PK supporters holding up placards reading "All the Way with Yahweh"; the jack of clubs credits Interior Secretary Gale Norton with putting "the CONSERVATIVE back in conservation!"; and the five of spades has this to say about war- bonneted Ben Nighthorse Campbell: "Was a Democrat who used to vote Republican. Now is a Republican who votes Democratic. Talk about a forked tongue!" Finally, the two of hearts juxtaposes a heroic caricature of Gary Hart with a caption that salutes him "for being the only Democrat who wanted it for his country -- not himself. We wish you would have run." He and Hart "have been friends and political colleagues for fifteen years," Broach says. "The last thing I'd do is take a shot at him."

He has no such reservations about most other politicos, which is why he's developing a syndicated newspaper column that will zero in on the vast middle ground that most politicians ignore. "Listen," he says. "If there can be a far left and a far right, can't there be a far center?"

Broach is betting there is.

Switch it, switch it good:Broach isn't Colorado's only creative thinker. And not all good ideas come out of think tanks, even though Colorado is crowded with such big thinkers as the Bell Policy Center and the Aspen Institute and the Independence Instituteand the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Center for the New American Century and the Bighorn Center for Public Policy... You get the idea. Nor do they always come from entrepreneurial organizations like the Louisville-based DaVinci Institute, which has offered the world such inventions-that-haven't-yet-been-invented as the Instant Sleep Chamber, a weather controller and a space hotel.

No, sometimes they knock you upside the head while you're sitting in bed. At least that's what happened to Metro State grad Matthew Rowland, who now has offered mankind the Switch It.

It seems that Rowland didn't want to hop out of bed after studying to hit the switch, and the infamous Clapper, which lets you turn off the lights by clapping your hands, "seemed like it was for old people," he says. So he rigged up strings on pulleys to do his bidding.

"Whenever everybody would come into my room, they'd be like, ŒWhat the heck is that?' says Rowland, who was a Florida State student at the time. "All my nephews wanted it in their rooms."

The retail market has been slower to catch on, however. Rowland, now an employee of Lockheed Martin, is still shopping for manufacturers to make the Switch It, which he hopes to sell for a reasonable $4.95.

Clap on.

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