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Just the 'Fax, man

Thirty miles of developments, drunks and dreams -- the ultimate road trip.

Kulsar is a soft-spoken man with a bushy beard and flowing locks. He could easily be an extra in The Lord of the Rings, and he proudly shows off a collection of hundreds of herbs and oils that looks like something straight out of the movie. The sacred oils are made in the store during specific phases of the moon. Chaste Tree Berry oil, mugwort, frankincense, fennel -- there's an herb or potion for anything that troubles you, from insomnia to trying to quit smoking.

Last year, the Kulsars opened the Oh My Goddess! coffeehouse down the street at 1526 East Colfax. That establishment features readings by psychics, drumming sessions and sensuous murals of naked goddesses in all their splendor. Oh My Goddess! also offers coffee specials on "We're not Starbucks Wednesdays," when there's not a frappuccino in sight. -- Stuart Steers

10:07 a.m.: Golden Hours Motel,
11080 West Colfax

When Paul Kim, the present owner of the Golden Hours Motel, is asked about John Hinckley, who tried to kill then-president Ronald Reagan almost 23 years ago, he responds with a blank expression that slowly turns quizzical. "I read about him in the newspaper," Kim says. "He stayed here?"

Did he ever. For two weeks in March 1981, Hinckley roomed at the Golden Hours before traveling to Washington, D.C., where he wounded Reagan and permanently injured press secretary and future gun-control advocate James Brady. Since being found not guilty by reason of insanity for the shooting, Hinckley has lived rather quietly at St. Elizabeths Hospital in D.C. -- but he recently returned to the public eye. In late November, his clumsy gunplay was dramatized in The Reagans, a mini-series produced for CBS but shunted off to Showtime after conservative critics complained that the production was historically inaccurate, as if any bio-pic has ever been otherwise. (Hinckley has previously been characterized in at least two made-for-TV movies, 1991's Without Warning: The James Brady Story and 2001's The Day Reagan Was Shot.) Then, on December 17, a U.S. district judge granted Hinckley six unsupervised get-togethers with his parents in the Washington area, sparking the ire of Reagan family members.

The press coverage that followed this decree immediately grabbed the attention of Kathy Lee, a producer for the Lewis & Floorwax Show on KRFX/The Fox. In 1981, Lee's parents not only owned the Golden Hours, but they lived there with Kathy, then eight years old, and her two sisters. "All of us remember him," she says of Hinckley.

Today, kids growing up in such a transitory environment would probably be kept on a short tether, but young Kathy was allowed to interact with any guest she wished. Her favorites were followers of the Grateful Dead, who turned up in force at the Golden Hours whenever the band was in town. There were limits, however. "My mom said I couldn't hang outside with them," Lee points out, "because she said, 'Those people like to smoke happy smoke.' And I'd be like, 'What's happy smoke?'"

By these standards, Hinckley was rather nondescript: He favored brown pants, brown jackets, brown button-down shirts and a semi-conservative hairstyle. Still, he made an impression on Lee even before he drew a bead on the chief executive. She and her sister Linda, two years her senior, loved to jump rope or play on the stairs at the motel, "and he would hang out where we were playing, buy everyone sodas and sit there and watch us, ask us questions," she says. "I remember him asking about Jodi Foster. He told us, 'She's my favorite movie star. What do you think about her?'"

Hinckley would later explain that he thought he could impress the child star by slaying Reagan. But even before he gained national notoriety, considering that Foster's Taxi Driver character was a child prostitute, Hinckley's inquiry could have been interpreted as molester talk. Lee didn't take it that way. "He just seemed like a normal person asking questions," she says. "It wasn't that we were afraid of him or thought he was creepy. Believe me, there were way creepier people. There was one guy who lived at the motel full-time who never wanted the maids to clean his room and always carried a paper bag with him. We never found out what was in the bag." In a youthful attempt to torment him, Lee and her playmates "used to stick naked Barbie dolls on his door."

Before Hinckley could receive such treatment, he split without paying his bill; according to Lee, his father later covered the outstanding balance (reportedly $55.40). The next time she saw him was on television at a friend's house immediately after the shooting. "I'm like, 'Wait a minute. That guy lives at our motel,'" Lee remembers. She returned home to discover that cops and the media already had the Golden Hours under siege.

The police investigation determined that Hinckley had purchased most of his meals across the street at a McDonald's (#418), differentiated from other restaurants in the hamburger chain by a row of seats made to look like Western saddles. Newspaper articles from the period suggest he may also have headed to 935 East Colfax for a March 11 screening of Taxi Driver at the Ogden Theatre, a movie house that eventually became a concert venue. Promoter Doug Kauffman, whose company, Nobody in Particular Presents, purchased the Ogden a decade later, was told by someone who claims to have been at the same show that Hinckley did indeed catch the flick. His source -- former Denver resident Kirby McMillan Jr., aka Mojo Nixon, whose hit songs include "Elvis Is Everywhere" and "Debbie Gibson is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child" -- isn't exactly unimpeachable. Even so, Kauffman sounds a cautious, albeit wry note. "The current ownership of the Ogden Theatre takes no responsibility for Mr. Hinckley's actions," he deadpans.

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