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Off Limits

Neighborhood Watch

Here Off Limits sits, in the belly of the beast, right across the street from Planned Parenthood headquarters, and not a peep from the Reverend Flip Benham and his traveling circus, Operation Save America, which launched its "Name and Shame Campaign" in Denver -- "ground zero," they call it -- this week, snarling traffic on I-25 and protesting at the Capitol and along the 16th Street Mall, but thus far ignoring the 900 block of Broadway.

In the blessed silence, an Off Limits operative reminisced about an earlier encounter with Benham, the man who's been both the titular head and spiritual bullhorn for America's most powerful anti-abortion organization since the ouster of Randall Terry. "This was six years ago in Buffalo," he recalled, "the year after an abortion doctor was killed by Army of God member James Kopp. Extra police had been brought on. People were expecting riots, mass arrests. But the funny thing is, none of that happened. I'd gone to Buffalo with a buddy of mine who ran some shitty little zine, and both of us were figuring on a war zone -- blood in the gutters and everything. And obviously, so had the national press, because everyone was there. All the heavy hitters. I sat at a bar next to Connie Chung."

After two days of what was scheduled to be a seven-day action by Operation Rescue/Operation Save America's pro-God, anti-everything-else forces, most of the major media left. But our operative stayed, and wound up tagging along after the pro-life side, talking with many of the OSA's top dogs, including Reverend Flip. "Scariest guy I ever met in my life," he recalls. "Friendly, absolutely charming, blue eyes like a sniper. He'd talk to people and always put a hand on their shoulder or make some little joke. Even when he was with his generals, making plans for sending 500 people to demonstrate at this clinic, a hundred people to some guy's house out in the suburbs, he had this big smile on his face like he was having the time of his life. But you look at him, and you could just see someone had thrown the freak switch. I got to talk with him twice face-to-face, for a good amount of time, but it didn't matter. Whatever anyone was saying to him on the outside wasn't nearly as loud as the voices in his head."

And now he's brought the party here. Operation Save America will be in town all week, waving signs and creeping out the locals. For clues on how to catch -- or avoid -- the Flip Benham show, check out denver.operationsaveamerica.org.

It's an ad, ad, ad, ad world:"Our image is to be the good neighbor," says Teresa Tuschoff, State Farm Insurance public affairs specialist, of the company's current billboard campaign. "Our agents are an important part of the community; we live where you live."

For these very reasons, State Farm plastered this city (as well as many others) with giant, beaming heads of its agents, smiling down on Denver residents. Each billboard features a different agent, their names and numbers, and a message to call them about car insurance, health insurance, life insurance, etc. Now if only State Farm sold billboard vandalism insurance. The campaign has drawn the attention of graffiti artists across the metro area -- and you didn't need to be an expert on the actuarial charts to predict that would happen.

The action has been particularly heated at Colfax and Fillmore, where a billboard devoted to State Farm agent Tammy Booth was placed directly above an easily scaleable house, with a high platform that's perfect for clandestine alterations. The first assault was by a cheeky vandal who blackened in a gap between Booth's teeth, giving her a distinctly Letterman-like appearance. State Farm responded by putting up a fresh billboard, which vandals promptly orthodontured again.

The game continued for several months until, in the most recent installment, the words "Fuck Face" were scrawled directly below Booth's head. Although State Farm's campaign doesn't conclude until the end of this month, Booth's billboard has already been taken down, replaced by a more generic State Farm advertisement.

"It's pretty unfortunate that there are small-minded people out there like that," says the besieged Booth. "For the first few months, I didn't have any problem with it. But this last one was pretty derogatory and vulgar, much worse than coloring in someone's tooth. It's clear that somebody doesn't want my picture there."

And that's not very neighborly.

Digging dirt:The man once touted as George W. Bush'sbrain, Karl"Blabbermouth" Rove, has got to be feeling buried these days -- but he should recognize the sensation. Back when he was a young lad growing up outside of Leadville, where his father worked as a mining engineer, he lived in the small town of Kokomo, a boom town founded on the west side of Fremont Pass during an 1881 silver strike that was booming again during the glory years of the Climax Molybdenum Mine.

But in the early '70s, when Rove was starting his climb to the top of the heap as the executive director of the College Republicans, mine managers came up with a brilliant way to dispose of waste from that mine: They buried Kokomo under a pile of tailings.

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