By Alan Prendergast
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Former senator Gary Hart, who might have been elected president in 1984 were it not for superdelegates of the sort that Democratic candidates have lusted after for months, announced his support for Senator Barack Obama way back in January. But in an extended Q&A accessible at blogs/westword.com/demver, he concedes that he's got a soft spot for Obama's presumptive Republican opponent, Senator John McCain.
Hart first encountered McCain in the late '70s, when the latter was the Navy's liaison to the Senate. McCain also served as the escort officer on trips that Hart took to the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, among other locales. "You get to know people very well when you travel with them, and I liked John a lot," Hart says. "I had great respect and admiration for what he had done." The feeling was mutual, and when McCain married his second (and current) wife, Cindy Hensley, in 1980, he asked Hart to perform groomsman duties at the ceremony.
So does Hart feel any conflict over his decision to oppose McCain's White House bid? "Not at all," he says. "I think he's a terrific human being and American. I just don't want him to be president."
Be true to your school: East High School has more than its fair share of famous or near-famous people who've walked the halls. Some — like Academy Award-winning actress Hattie McDaniel, actor Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Olympic gold medalist Jerome Biffle — have died. Others — like actors Don Cheadle and Pam Grier and singers Judy Collins and Philip Bailey, of Earth, Wind & Fire — took classes decades ago. And fresher faces — like actor T.J. Miller (a comedian who starred in the movie Cloverfield earlier this year) and Flobot Jamie Laurie — can probably still remember their locker numbers.
Although Daniel Walker Howe graduated from East 53 years ago, he still remembers quite a bit: the names of his favorite teachers, his role in the class play. But then, Howe has a thing for history. In fact, his 928-page What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 just won the Pulitzer Prize for history and added him to the list of East elite. Published last fall, the book is part of the Oxford History of the United States and covers the period from the Battle of New Orleans to the end of the Mexican-American War — just 27 years before East opened.
Were the seeds of his writing talent planted at East? Let's just say that isn't the first thing Howe — reached in New York last week, shortly after receiving his award — recalls when he hears the word "planted." For that class play, Howe played Arthur Winslow in the then-popular The Winslow Boy. His co-star was Marilyn Van Derbur, who went on to become Miss America in 1958, and during the course of the play, Van Derbur, who played Catherine Winslow, planted one on Howe's cheek. "So for the rest of my life, I've been able to say I've been kissed by Miss America," Howe says.
Howe grew up in Park Hill and attended Park Hill Elementary and Smiley Junior High before moving on to East. He left Denver after graduation, though, and for most of his life, he has lived in the Los Angeles area, where he taught at UCLA. He's also taught at Yale and Oxford. Howe and his wife, Sandra, were last back in Denver in 2005 for his class's fiftieth high-school reunion and to see friends like ad exec Lew Cady, who was a classmate.
"What was particularly fun was going up into the tower and seeing all those exhibits of the history of East," Howe says. "What made it especially neat was that, during the years we were students at East, no one was ever allowed to go up there."