Stage Fright

Mike Jones looked buff in the buff, but when the naked truth about a Denver ordinance was exposed, the nudity had to exit stage left.

Keep your pants on!

Because that's what Mike Jones has done since Naked B4 God: Exposing the Hypocrisy of Ted Haggard opened at the Bug Theatre last Thursday night. The play, by Neal Davis, is based on Jones's book, I Had to Say Something: The Art of Ted Haggard's Fall, and Jones stars as, well, himself. While he seems pretty natural up on the stage, it can't be easy to stand in the spotlight for 75 minutes, reciting a script that recounts Jones's very uneasy time in the spotlight back in November 2006, when the gay escort/masseuse made headlines after revealing that his longtime client, Art, was actually Ted Haggard, founder of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs and the head of an evangelical group that had a weekly conference call with the White House.

In sharing his story, Jones drops tidbits about not just Haggard, but Paula Woodward, the TV reporter he first talked to (and who was in the audience at the premiere) and Peter Boyles, on whose radio show he went public. And on opening night, he also dropped his shorts around his sneakers — showing his jones as he demonstrated how he would massage Art. But that was before someone suggested to director Michael Dempsey that the full-frontal nudity that had been part of the play when it debuted in California might violate Denver ordinances.

Getting the goods on such an ordinance, however, is about as easy as pinning Haggard down on his relationship with Jones. Both the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and Curious Theatre Company have featured naked actors and actresses on their stages, and while the city hasn't busted either of them, the producers remain at the ready with good First Amendment arguments about artistic expression and free speech. "The Supreme Court beats the local laws," says Curious's Chip Walton, whose theater still has a case pending on the legality of on-stage cigarette smoking and whose production of Take Me Out showed plenty of skin.

The Denver Police Department didn't bust that show — but it could have, according to one officer in the prudey-pants Excise and Licenses division that's been keeping a close eye on burlesque performers, too (Off Limits, February 7). "If it's in violation of municipal code, it's adult entertainment," he says. And that would be Municipal Code 631, which prohibits full-frontal displays.

And so Jones is keeping his pants on for the duration of the run, which ends Saturday. But while Denver audiences no longer get to see him in the altogether, they can still see plenty of emotion laid bare (as well as Jones's very developed chest) as he shares the process he went through deciding to go public. "It's amazing the feedback I've been getting," he says.

Despite the strong local support, he can't help noticing that a certain other, um, escort, one Ashley Dupre, the woman behind Eliot Spitzer's artless fall, is suddenly selling millions of downloads of her song and is up for big photo deals and interview requests — while "Oprah wouldn't meet with me," Jones says. "It shows how our society views this situation. If you're a man, you're just a faggot whore...but I'd put my body up against hers any day."

With his pants on.


Lucked up: Because so many political groups hope to organize events during the Democratic National Convention this August, city officials thought it best to ditch the traditional application process for a lottery (which Jared Jacang Maher blogs about here). And it was March Madness on Tuesday at the Webb building as they joined journalists, civil servants and lawyers for the drawing.

But the would-be protestors were playing the numbers, and the city was inundated by the same outfits applying under different names.

"I kind of feel like I'm working the brackets," said Danielle Versluys, of the pro-life Prayer for Change, who used four family members to apply under other organization titles. Glenn Spagnuolo of Re-create 68, also represented by several pseudo-names, felt the city brought the situation on itself. "I always play three or four dollars on the Powerball," he said. To find out which ponies paid off, go to blogs.westword.com.

 
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