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Trading Spaces

A Denver couple learns the ABCs of filming commercials.

Their home may be old — it was built in 1902 on what was then just prairie — but it certainly isn't falling apart. Scott and Kirsten Hamling's white two-story farmhouse at Sixth Avenue and Olive Street is actually quite stately and beautifully landscaped. But that hasn't stopped neighbors from teasing the couple about how shabby the place looks in that goofy new TV spot starring Mayor John Hickenlooper.

In the ad, which was filmed in mid-September and began airing shortly thereafter on TV as well as YouTube and MySpace, a (real) shutter falls off the house behind the mayor, and the (prop) gutter collapses as he walks forward on the sidewalk. Later, a host of people dressed in those giant, spongy red letters begin putting the house back together.

"The neighbors have been offering to bring us pot pies and casseroles, saying they feel so bad for us," Scott Hamling says with a laugh. "Which is pretty embarrassing as it is."

The production company hired to film the ad — it was paid for by the Better Denver tax and bond campaign pushing issues 1A-I — knew about the home because it had shot scenes there in 2005 for the independent movie Looking for Sunday. So when the production company knocked again, the Hamlings were amenable. Although the crew was there all day, they were polite and cleaned up after themselves, Kirsten says. The only incident involved a bee that flew into the letter costume worn by one of the actors.

Mail-in ballots — which include not just the nine tax and bond issues, but also school-board elections and another marijuana measure — are due back to the city by November 6. Kirsten, a Rudolph Giuliani supporter, says she thinks she's going to vote for all of 1A-I. Scott, who admits to leaning Republican, pauses before calling himself "undecided." But they are clear about their feelings for the mayor. "We love the 'Looper!" Scott says.

Chatting with the mayor during the shoot, the Hamlings discovered that Teddy, Hickenlooper's son, is in kindergarten at the same school where their daughter is now in first grade. And in lieu of payment for having their house play a wreck, the couple had the city donate $500 to that school.


Scene and herd: There was a time not so long ago when Denver's dailies would have fallen all over themselves reporting on world-class shopping coming to this ol' cowtown. But now that the biggest prize of all, Nordstrom, is finally opening at the Cherry Creek Shopping Center, Rockies coverage has pushed Nordstrom news to the business and feature sections. Still, the Rockies did the giant shopping mecca one favor: By sweeping the Diamondbacks out of town Monday, it ensured that Nordstrom's charity benefit on October 17 wouldn't have to compete with a fifth game. And Denver's status as a shopping center has already garnered global attention: A New Zealand travel writer returned from a recent visit here to publish a story on "Denver's Shoppie Mountain High."

Hmmm. Did the city really mean to name its reading program One Book, One Denver, One Person? Because that was the turnout — one person — at a recent Denver Public Library discussion of Nick Arvin's Articles of War, this year's pick for One Book, One Denver. In contrast, well over a hundred hipsters — including architect Ed White, who was Tim Gray in Jack Kerouac's On the Road turned out this past Sunday for a DPL program featuring composer David Amram, Kerouac's musical collaborator, and actor John Ventimiglia. While Amram and two other musicians improvised in the background, Ventimiglia read three portions of On the Road: The Original Scroll, including Kerouac's musings as he was leaving Cheyenne and "thought of what lay ahead for me in Denver," then headed south into the city through the old railroad yards and warehouse areas — a neighborhood already filling with baseball fans Sunday afternoon.

And then Amram created a special, never-to-be repeated riff to Denver and its "pitch to get to the World Series...and the spirit of the Rockies and this incredible city appreciating itself."

The Beat goes on...

 
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