Guitar-maker Scott Baxendale couldn't believe what he was seeing -- or hearing: a new commercial for Qwest service, with "Got to Get You Into My Life" as the soundtrack. "At first I was just appalled because it was such a lame version of the song," he says, "but then I started thinking about it and thinking about how they were using this song of Paul McCartney's to sell cell phones." And not just any song, but one McCartney had written as a tribute to his love of smoking pot.
Then Baxendale thought some more, about how Michael Jackson now owns the entire Beatles collection and "no doubt sold the rights for the commercial to either pay his legal fees or to support his current harem of little Indonesian choirboys. I was literally screaming, I was so mad."
So the next day, he called Qwest and asked the person on the other end of the line if the company knew what it was doing. Maybe so: That anonymous Qwest employee transferred Baxendale to the technical department, where he was put on hold for thirty minutes, then cut off.
That night, Baxendale shared his outrage in an e-mail sent to friends. "To have today's kids thinking of that song as a lame cell-phone commercial should be considered as criminal as it would be to take Babe Ruth's bat he hit number 600 with and cut it up into commemorative popsicle sticks," he wrote. And Baxendale knows all about criminal: More than a decade ago, he went on a two-year, crack-fueled crime spree that could have earned him ninety years in jail if a judge hadn't given him a second chance and sentenced him to just two years in rehab and eight years' probation.
Baxendale isn't about to show Qwest the same mercy. "I understand the pros and cons of using classic music in commercials," he says. "But the Beatles were adamant about not having their music used for commercials, from the days of Brian Epstein up until today. Now when you pay your Qwest bill, you're paying for Michael Jackson's sexual deviancy. That just drives me crazy."
But Qwest wasn't thinking about enriching Jackson -- or smoking pot -- when it authorized the commercial, which debuted last month. "We love it because it's an upbeat, popular song that shows how you can connect," says Qwest spokeswoman Kate Varden. "Our services fit all aspects of customers' lives."
Not including Baxendale.
Wheelin' and dealing: It ain't roller derby without a fight -- on or off the rink. And while a recent tussle within the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls, the league that brought the derby back to Denver ("Roller-Rama," August 24, 2004), may have given the sport a slight black eye, it also gave rise to a second local league of rough-and-tumble skate babes, the Denver Roller Dolls.
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The RMRG is taking a ladylike approach to the split. "I don't want people to lose sight of the fact that we skate eight hours a week and bust our tails," says Catherine Mabe, aka Jayne Manslaughter. "When we first started, we couldn't even get a practice rink. People don't realize that it was a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get this thing going."
But all of those bodily secretions set off a stink. "The board of directors were responsible for everything that was going on in the league," says Erin Blakemore, aka Audrey Rugburn. "And it was like, well, when are the rest of us going to have some say? And so we thought that the best decision was to petition the board to have democratic elections so that every girl had a voice. We just wanted to feel that we had some representation in the league. After that, practices were canceled, and then they called us to a meeting and basically told us that we were no longer considered Rocky Mountain Rollergirls."
The ousted skaters banded together and started recruiting new teammates. Today the DRD is 37 femmes fatales strong, large enough for the league's two teams -- the Green Barrettes and the Bad Apples -- to meet for a debut match March 17 at the Denver Coliseum. But the upstart league is still a rogue as far as the exclusive Women's Flat Track Derby Association is concerned. The WFTDA calls the shots for thirty derby leagues across the country -- and so far, it has not recognized the DRD. "They have an unofficial policy that if there are two leagues in one city and the original league disapproves, then the new league will be denied membership," Blakemore says. "And, of course, RMRG hasn't been helping us at all."
Instead, Denver's original derby league is focusing on its own April 1 season opener, when the 5280 Fightclub faces off against Sin City Rollergirls' Neander Dolls. (Tickets go on sale March 10.) "At the end of the day, I'm not interested in anything but that the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls are a bunch of chicks who wanted to bring derby to Denver -- and we did," says Mabe. "And if other people are benefiting from what we started, then we wish them the best."