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What's Up With Colorado?

State of infamy

In recent years, Colorado has been very, very good to late-night-TV laugh-seekers, thanks to a string of shocking stories that have gone national with a vengeance. Yet Jay Leno, David Letterman and the rest of their comic fraternity have tended to treat each tabloid eruption, from the murder of JonBenét Ramsey and the massacre at Columbine to the impending Kobe Bryant trial, as separate events instead of varied exports from a single, reliable source. All that changed, though, with the CU recruiting scandal, which on February 20 inspired Bill Maher to utter these five simple words: "What is up with Colorado?"

"I go there every year. I'm going to Boulder to play; I think I'm going there in March," he continued (and in fact, he'll be in town March 20). "I love it. I've never been raped over a chair. I was never kidnapped out of my home. I was never in a football program where everybody was getting raped. I never shot up a high school. What is up with the state of Colorado?"

Maher's guests on HBO's Real Time With Bill Maherdidn't have a clue. Actor/director Jon Favreau, whose Swingers buddy, Vince Vaughn, made an appearance in Denver last month, wisely remained mum, while author Debra Dickerson lamely suggested that "maybe it's all the snow. Cabin fever." As for standup D.L. Hughley, the best he could manage was "White people crazy," which didn't explain at least two of the items in Maher's litany.

To steal a page from Las Vegas's slogan -- Colorado: What happens here...goes national.

And here's the pitch: City marketing maven Angela Baier wisely ignored the sorry state of the state's national reputation when she gathered together her peeps -- i.e., the Colorado chapter of the American Marketing Association -- two weeks ago to offer a sneak peek at the agenda for the Denver 360 Summit. As part of her preview, Baier gave a city-slogan pop quiz, rewarding those who correctly answered such stumpers as "What city is the Hub of the Universe?" (Boston) and "What is the Most Fun City?" (Minneapolis) with Snickers bars to the skull.

"I absolutely throw like a girl. I hit a person in the head," Baier confesses. "I need to keep people awake -- especially after a large Maggiano's pasta luncheon -- and chocolate and fearing for their life seemed to work well."

Some found the combination downright inspiring. "Angela was a fabulous speaker. She totally throws like a girl, and I was proud to see it," says Gayle Davis, PR project manager for HealthONE. "Because I throw like a girl, and I'm trying to learn not to, but it's just not happening."

Less fabulously for Baier, the battery pack to her mike took a trip south during her speech -- straight down her skirt. But she soldiered on. "After you've dealt with roaming polar bears and escaped elephants, standing up in front of a few marketing people seems easy," says Baier, who was the face of the Denver Zoo before she took on the city job.

The animals collected for the city's official marketing summit on February 18 seemed pretty tame, too, agreeing that people liked Denver because it's "an energizing place to be." Obscured in all the rhetoric was the reason for that energy: the city's 300 days of sunshine. And of all the focus groups polled about Denver's attributes prior to the confab, which one appreciated the sunshine most (at 84 percent)? The so-called creative class, a breed formerly thought to hang out in dark coffeehouses writing in journals.

Welcome to the Mile Hype City: The smiling mug of former mayor Wellington Webb no longer welcomes travelers to Denver International Airport, and Hizzoner John Hickenlooper has spared us all his goofy grin, opting instead to post attractive photos of the city at DIA. But the plastic, cherubic faces of the My Twinn clones -- those Denver dollies -- still smirk from a billboard in the main terminal.

Not smiling are the many parents whose kids conned them into dropping between $80 and $150 on lookalike dolls from the Greenwood Village company, which subsequently failed to deliver. More than 700 complaints concerning My Twinn were filed with the Colorado Attorney General's Office last year; the final blow came when the company changed shipping services right before the holiday rush -- and most of the dolls from its manufacturing plant in Shanghai never made it to the States.

According to an open letter to customers now posted on the My Twinn website, "The net impact of the China Post shipping debacle is that unless there is a financial resolution before the end of January 2004, it will be necessary for My Twinn to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, under which the My Twinn assets will fall under the control of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court." And, in fact, that's where those assets -- including four crates of the creepy kids that were found in a San Francisco USPS processing center on January 16 -- have landed.

But despite My Twinn's well-publicized problems, Clear Channel's outdoor division, which handles advertising at DIA, is still displaying ads for the defunct company. "You have to appreciate that we have seventeen [airports] right across the continent," says Garfield Ogilvy, who manages Clear Channel's airport advertising. "We're never 100 percent sold out, so we sometimes rely on filler material."

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