Off Limits

Wet cleanup on aisle eight

Colorado's first family spent a quiet Thanksgiving at their home in Centennial.

But Governor Bill Owens wasn't about to show up for dinner empty-handed. And so the night before, in search of some CDs for his kids, he landed at the Super Kmart at Broadway and Alameda. Savvy shoppers did double takes as Owens prowled the paper towel aisle -- but it was the trenchcoated security guard following twenty feet behind and the black Lincoln Navigator waiting in the parking lot that ultimately gave the guv away.

"He didn't look good," reports Off Limits' eagle-eyed spy. "I mean, he looked happy and healthy, but his eyes are sunken in. He doesn't look nearly as young and vibrant as when he got elected."

First decorator: Frances Owens puts on a holiday face 
in Colorado Homes and Lifestyles magazine.
First decorator: Frances Owens puts on a holiday face in Colorado Homes and Lifestyles magazine.

Official gubernatorial mouthpiece Dan Hopkins wasn't sure at first why his charge was perusing the blue-light specials at 6:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving Eve, and laughingly suggested that maybe "he was getting fruitcakes for the holiday dinner."

Not if he wants to keep the First Lady happy, he wasn't. According to her seven-page close-up in this month's Colorado Homes and Lifestyles, Frances Owens is more of a Colorado-peach cobbler kinda girl -- served à la mode, of course. Other delightful revelations by reporter Cyndia Zwahlen include the "green-eyed Owens' penchant for the colors of the forest" and her declaration that the Governor's Mansion "is not particularly our style, although maybe if I could afford it, it would be. It's not quite me, although I love it."

The ostensible excuse for the cover story was Frances's holiday decorating of the historic -- if empty -- home officially known (at least according to husband Bill) as the Governor's Residence at the Boettcher Mansion, which is open for tours this month. The First Couple's awkward separation rated a scant twenty words in the piece, compared to many times that amount used to describe France's table arrangements and the casually elegant overstuffed chairs that she's adding in the Palm Room as she embarks on phase two of a renovation project.

Meanwhile, Bill's been doing some image-polishing himself. The vice chair of the Western Governors Association, he was in Boca Raton in late November partying with other GOP guvs as they celebrated three top-spot wins in Mississippi, Kentucky and California. New governor Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn't make the festivities because, he said, he's "in the middle of a fiscal crisis," but he did do a phoner to the group's Friday-night dinner with a bunch of lobbyists.Although Owens didn't get to offer Ahnold any tips that night, he'd spoken with him a few weeks earlier, when Schwarzenegger asked Owens for some information on the Taxpayers Bill of Rights -- the Tabor Amendment pushed through Colorado voters by former California attorney Douglas Bruce over a decade ago (and with no help from Owens, Bruce would be quick to tell you). "He told him how it worked, how long it's been in the state and that it's been helpful in keeping spending down in the good years so the state didn't have to make nearly as many cuts," Hopkins explains.

If Schwarzenegger wants to know more, maybe Frances should invite the Governator and wife Maria Shriver over to the mansion for dinner. We're sure the "seven-piece sterling silver tea service and matching candlesticks," "gold-rimmed Lenox china painted with the state seal," "gold-plated flatware" and "exquisite wine-colored blown-glass ornaments" would be enough to impress even a Kennedy -- particularly if Bill throws in a Kmart fruitcake or two. And maybe Maria can return the favor, offering some tips on how to keep your Kennedy cool in the midst of rumors of spousal indiscretions.

Lucy in the sky with Santa: The North American Aerospace Defense Command is getting by with a little help from its friend Ringo Starr. The former Beatle has signed on to be the second celebrity face of NORAD Santa Tracker, which allows children everywhere to track St. Nick's Christmas Eve route on www.noradsanta.org.

Last year, Aaron Carter, little brother of Backstreet Boy Nick, provided the live Web updates as NORAD -- which usually concentrates on the air defense of North America -- tracked Santa's progress by satellites and radar. But unlike Carter, chosen for the honors by Canadian army major Douglas Martin because his daughter was a fan of the keen teen, Starr won't be reporting from inside the belly of the beast at Peterson Air Force Base. No, he'll be doing his bit for the free world from the comforts of his home in England -- even throwing in a little of his own Christmas music.

"We have a Santa Cam in Great Britain, and for the last few years, it's been very close to Stonehenge," explains Martin, deputy director of NORAD public affairs. "We needed to update to get better visuals, and because of taking it out of service for a little while, we thought, 'Why don't we look at a celebrity tracker in Great Britain?' The first name that came to my mind was Ringo because of his affiliation with neat children's programming over the years. A lot of parents and grandparents enjoy the site with their kids, so it was a way to make it a little more fun for them. Ringo transcends generations."

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