Putt Seriously, Folks

John Baker wants to give this town what fore!

The problem with being a creative person in Colorado is that in order to get truly big, you have to leave. There are a few exceptions, of course: the author who carves a successful career from his Boulder home, the painter who gains renown out of his LoDo studio, the Colfax hooker who attracts an entire planet's attention with the delightful combination of things she can fit inside of her. But for the most part, if you want the big fame and success, you have to leave Colorado. Look at Don Cheadle, the South Park boys, Jessica Biel, um, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Oprah Winfrey, the Dalai Lama and Mr. Clean! I used to see Mr. Clean scrubbing transients by the train tracks all the time, but in the end, there was not enough recognition of his creative endeavors, so even he had to leave.

John Baker wants to change all that. But first he needs to tell me that he never grabbed that middle-schooler by the ear. Nor did he call him a "spic."

"I might have said, 'little shit,'" the plaid-clad Baker tells me when we meet at the City Park Golf Course clubhouse on a sunny afternoon. "But I would never call someone a 'spic.'"

Weird how I didn't ask John about any of that, but it's too late now: John's on a roll, so I just sit back and listen. Seems that back in 2000, John was a Denver Public Schools substitute overseeing a middle-school gym class when several students told him that one little bastard was cheating during dodgeball and not leaving the game after he'd been hit. John mock-grabbed the cheater by the ear and told him to cut it out, hamming it up to the delight of the other kids. But John didn't count on the cheater being a politician -- rookie mistake -- and soon found himself summoned into the principal's office, where he encountered a complaint signed by several witnesses about how he had manhandled the boy. John cried bullshit. The principal told him to get the hell out.

John did. He went home and drank some vodka, then called the principal and told him if he saw him again, he would kick his ass.

That's when I ordered a beer.

Long story short, John retained legal counsel and fought back -- and as luck would have it, that principal was soon embroiled in a bigger scandal that saw him run out of DPS, and all of the allegations against John were dropped.

So long as he took two anger-management classes, that is.

Did I mention that John wants to make a children's cartoon? We'll get to that.

Though allowed to return to DPS, the experience left a sour, cherry-ball flavored taste in John's mouth, so he decided to take a break from teaching and return to his true love: golf. But rather than be content to just shoot eighteen and then suck back as many Tom Collinses in the clubhouse, John decided he would become the first person to golf across the country. He started in the surf of the Pacific, putted his way through La Jolla and eventually made it to the interstate, attracting press, police and alcohol wherever he went. He figured the adventure would last a year. Instead, it was over in thirteen days and 230 miles. After a cop told him that he probably wouldn't survive his attempt to golf the Sonoran Desert, John quit.

He then headed to Venice Beach, where he set up a putting green and charged a buck for nine putts, two for eighteen. He "felt right at home with all the other wackos," he reports. But he'd gotten a taste of celebrity with his aborted golf-across-America effort, and he hungered for more.

"I had two minutes of fame," he says. "I wanted three."

So in addition to selling putts, he did some acting -- he was an extra in Hidalgo, and you may remember him as "the Wheel Chair Guy" in an episode of Judging Amy - and wrote a script for a golf sitcom called Divots, as well as a treatment for his kiddie cartoon, The Goofy Golfer. As luck would have it, the wacko working to his right on Venice Beach happened to be an animator who liked John's idea, and the two set about making a pilot cartoon, complete with high-profile voices from the William Morris agency, including Eliza Schneider, who does most of the female voices for South Park. There was some interest in the industry, John says, but eventually things fell apart. Three years and $20,000 later, he had to threaten the animator with legal action to get the pilot back.

Funny, I had the same experience with the animator I picked up while busking on the 16th Street Mall.

After a brief stint in North Dakota -- where he executed his now-infamous hole-in-one off a water tower (see it here), John moved back to Denver. He's subbing again while he tries to shop Goofy Golfer and his sitcom, certain that they'll be his ticket to fame. (A second YouTube clip shows such destined-for-success antics as Goofy Golfer hitting the ball in the air only to have it come back down and hit him on the head, and GG asking for a wedge but getting a wedgie instead!) But John's determined to stay here, no matter what it takes. "There are just no agents for people like me in this city, and that's ridiculous," he says. "Why not have something like that here? Why not take all the kids from Boulder majoring in animation and put them to work here instead of shipping them to L.A.?"

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