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Don't Be An Ash!

We know where the Rocky's bodies are buried.

Rumor has it that some people really love their jobs -- but how many love them enough to want to be buried at their workplace?

Former Rocky Mountain News employees H.W. "Bill" Hailey and Lee Casey did. Hailey was a longtime executive who oversaw the Rocky's transition from a broadsheet to a tabloid in the early '40s, while Casey was an erudite columnist with local star power. Denver author Mary Chase reportedly had Casey in mind when she created the lead character in Harvey, a hit play turned hit movie about a man whose best friend is an imaginary six-foot rabbit; Jimmy Stewart played the Casey-like character on screen. Before Casey and Hailey breathed their last (in 1951 and 1965, respectively), they'd asked that their cremated remains be interred at the Rocky, and their wishes were granted. In 1985, their urns were moved from less noble quarters into a place of honor: entombed in the lobby walls of the Rocky's then-just-renovated headquarters at 400 West Colfax Avenue.

Now, however, the Rocky is in the process of relocating from that building to a suite of offices in a spiffy new facility just down the street, at 101 West Colfax, which it will share with the Denver Post. Much of the Rocky's August 5 edition (too much, in fact) was devoted to the move, including a column by features editor Mike Pearson, who joked about all the crap he was leaving behind. "The city is planning to demolish the current building in December to make way for the new justice center," Pearson wrote. "And if they find the errant cookbook or RuPaul CD in the rubble? Consider it my gift of cultural enlightenment to the incarcerated masses."

Will incinerated fragments of Hailey and Casey wind up in the same pile? No, fortunately -- but neither will what's left of these dedicated workers be allowed to watch over the Rocky in perpetuity, as they'd clearly hoped. In late 2002, even before the sale of the building at 400 West Colfax to the City of Denver was finalized, representatives of the Denver Newspaper Agency, which handles business operations for the Rocky and the Post, decided that the urns had to go -- but then couldn't locate surviving family members to take Hailey and Casey off their hands. So the urns were quietly disinterred under the supervision of DNA spokesman Jim Nolan and transported to Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary and Cemetery.

And according to Crown Hill funeral director Susan Watson, they've been resting in peace at her facility since January 14, 2003. The location may not be as lively as the Rocky newsroom, but at least they're no longer in danger of being evicted.

Job security? Don't be an ash.

And on the run: In a very Bill Clinton-esque ruling, last week the state's Office of Legislative Legal Services determined that a bar that collected more than 5 percent of its total gross income from tobacco sales but had no humidor could not legally be considered a "cigar bar." Although the Colorado Indoor Clean Air Act that banned smoking in bars and restaurants left that 5 percent loophole for cigar bars, this "legal memorandum" tightened the loop considerably -- and it all came down to the definition of "and."

"'Cigar-tobacco bar' means a bar that, in the calendar year ending December 31, 2005, generated at least five percent or more of its total annual gross income or fifty thousand dollars in annual sales from the on-site sale of tobacco products and the rental of on-site humidors, not including any sales from vending machines," read the memo (complete with italics) that was originally prepared for state representative Mark Larson, who's apparently been asking the same question that Off Limits has been throwing around for four weeks.

After wrestling with grammatically correct definitions of "and" and "humidor" and expounding on the "plain meaning rule" (we didn't make that up), the memo concluded that the ban "set forth a threshold requirement for income derived from tobacco sales and humidor rentals. Reading the 'and' as an 'or,' or disregarding the humidor element entirely, would violate long-standing rules of statutory construction and create a loophole contrary to the clearly stated purposes of the Act." (For the full text of the memo, go to www.westword.com/blogs/?p=106.)

But does that ruling really prohibit any establishment without a humidor, such as Paris on the Platte, from sliding through the cigar-bar loophole? After all, 5 percent of gross revenues from tobacco sales and0 percent of gross revenue from humidor rental still equals 5 percent. So far, Paris has allowed customers to puff away -- and advertises its non-smoke-free status in a big sign in the windows (customers eighteen and over only, please). But on Tuesday, an Off Limits operative casing the joint (and smoking a cigarette of her own) heard two upscale passersby tsk-tsking the pro-smoking sign and vowing to rat off Paris to the proper authorities.

Clearly, this state isn't done blowing smoke.

Scene and herd: After leaving First Friday on Santa Fe Drive last Friday, a couple of female Off Limits operatives stopped by their cars to chat when a strange man suddenly emerged from the yard of a small adobe building, pawed one woman, leered at the other, invited both to visit a gallery in the basement of 670 Inca Street and offered a free shot of Jack Daniel's or "whatever you'd like." Although the yard did feature an A-frame display unit containing Bika Tsaava's landscapes, our operatives found the invitation a bit dubious -- what, did he want to show them his etchings? -- and headed home. But surprise, surprise: Off Limits subsequently discovered that 670 Inca does contain a basement gallery devoted to custom pet portraits by Meredith Topping-Brooks. And next month, Topping-Brooks promises that in addition to her work and that of Tsaava, the First Friday show will also include a third artist.

And not a makeout artist, either.

 
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