Terms of Endearment

Give me a C! Give me a U! What do you have? The start of the year's biggest scandal.

Phil Anschutz gives the entertainment world a sappy hit with Ray and a global miss with the unfathomable remake of Around the World in Eighty Days. Denver dramatists serve up two musicals -- Brooklyn! and The Immigrant -- to savage reviews on Broadway. And ruddy-skinned, cane-toting Coloradans find their way to the unreal world of reality TV, on The Apprentice, Survivor, Who Wants To Marry My Dad?, even the gender-bending He's a Lady, on which a basketball-playing Denver transplant dons a dress. But the state's oddest cultural export is shipped in August, when a full theatrical production based on Reverend Keenan Roberts's Hell House opens at the Steve Allen Theater in Los Angeles. The cast, which includes Bill Maher as Satan and Andy Richter as Jesus Christ, closely follows the specs outlined in Roberts's $200 script and production kit, right down to the mangled aborted fetuses and singeing flames of eternal hellfire. Roberts's own production remains hunkered down at the Life Temple in Arvada.

Denver gains a dubious distinction in September, when Men's Health toasts the town as the "Drunkest Big City in America." The mag bestows the title after surveying drunk-driving arrests, alcohol-related deaths and alcohol-related liver diseases in 101 of the country's biggest cities. The distinction might be merely pathetic if not for the creepy timing: The magazine is still on the stands when two college students, Colorado State University's Samantha Spady and CU frat pledge Lynn "Gordie" Bailey Jr., turn up dead after binge-drinking marathons.

Those deaths come just in time to pick up the national media slack after the Eagle County District Attorney's Office announces on September 1 -- even as jury selection is under way -- that it is dropping the sexual-assault charges against basketballer Kobe Bryant. With the accuser no longer willing to participate, there's just one pair of tainted panties too many for the DA. But the story lives on, because the accuser had filed civil charges in federal court a few weeks earlier. When a judge rules that her name must be on the suit, the worst-kept secret in Colorado spills wide open.

Nathan Santistevan

Even so, Katelyn Faber isn't the most omnipresent name in the media that month. No, that honor belongs to Bill Owens. Fresh off a televised debate with Howard Dean and guest spots on Real Time With Bill Maher, Colorado's governor signs on to host a sports-talk show on Altitude, Stan Kroenke's fledgling cable upstart. The monthly program helps fill time that would otherwise be occupied by the Colorado Avalanche, a teamona non grata since the NHL lockout. While the shiny-faced guv talks Nugs and Broncos, everyone else is trying not to talk about his ongoing separation. (Maybe he took Forbes's description of Denver as a bachelor's paradise too seriously?)

Owens stays away from October's big sports story, when superstar Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony is popped at Denver International Airport for the teeny bit of marijuana found in his carry-on bag. A month later, prosecutors drop the charges against Melo and pin them on James "Slim" Cunningham, a pal who signs an affidavit indicating that the weed was his. The story seems almost as unlikely as the fact that the Nuggets, with Anthony and import Kenyon Martin, are now the state's most winning athletic franchise. The formerly sucky team seems downright spoiled come late December, when head coach Jeff Bzdelik is canned after a six-game losing streak.

Former Colorado Rockies slugger Larry Walker becomes a star by cranking game-winning homers for the St. Louis Cardinals during the World Series. The closing Rox record leaves no doubt who got the best deal when Walker split D-town: Denver lost more than ninety games this past season, finishing 68-94.

Colorado Democrats bat about .500 in the November election. Although the state goes for Bush, by the time all the counting and shouting is over, the Dems again rule both houses of the Colorado General Assembly, for the first time since 1960. In an unrelated development, Denver's place on the Department of Homeland Security's list of cities most likely to be targeted by terrorists drops from nine to 39. Whoever compiles the list obviously hasn't heard the Coalition of the Willing, a Boulder High School talent-show band that draws the attention of the FBI for an endearingly angst-filled rendition of Bob Dylan's "Masters of War."

In December, Denver unveils its new Colorado Convention Center, a massive structure that sits on 2.2 million square feet, cost $310.7 million and came in on schedule. In coming months, the center will get its finishing touches, including the addition of a forty-foot, 10,000-pound sculpture of a bear that will hover by the main entrance, blue as the oxygen-deprived Denver sky. But there's no time for a civic celebration, because Hickenlooper's casual comment that he may replace the "Merry Christmas" sign on the City and County Building's annual holiday display with "Happy Holidays" has Scrooges from around the country whining about our anti-Santa sentiments.

To which we offer, in the immortal non-words of loser Jake Plummer, a one-finger salute.

So what do we have to look forward to in 2005? Two words: Hooters Air. At the end of January, the fledgling carrier begins service to Denver, the town where sex and booze made all the news in 2004. All aboard!

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