Everyone's selling something for the Democratic National Convention. Are you buying it?
The flier being passed around at local churches isn't advertising Bible study — but anyone who gets involved may need to pray as they go. "Democratic National Convention Outreach Training," it advises. "An estimated 40,000 prostitutes will be brought into Denver for the Democratic National Convention...Find out how you can help reach out to them!"
Among the suggested ways: 24-hour outreach, hotline, personal intervention teams, safe house, long-term placement in programs — and remember, "24 hour prayer support is essential!" So is attendance at two mandatory three-hour meetings "if you want to help with this outreach!" the flier says. (But don't make the mistake of confusing outreach with outcall.) "We must be well informed and well trained to reach these women without putting them or ourselves in danger."
The woman listed at the bottom of the flier as contact for further information declined to provide further information, since "we don't want to have anything in the media that will talk about the specific agencies involved," she said. So we're withholding names to protect the innocent.
The very innocent.
Forty thousand prostitutes? Many adult businesses enjoy a spurt during conventions, but no official has ever mentioned a number anywhere close to that in connection with the DNC. "They must be renting rooms by the hour, because we don't have that many rooms available," laughs Rich Grant of the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Buttoned up: At high noon, the 16th Street Mall is packed. And if it's jammed now, just imagine how crowded it will be when the Democratic National Convention is in town — unless, of course, people are frightened by the notion of 40,000 prostitutes chasing after a fraction of that many delegates. Greenpeace is out in force, offering us a chance to save the polar bears (and heaven help those critters if they're out in the 90-degree heat). A few steps away, the Jesus Saves crew is a better bet for helping those bears reach salvation. The night before, a member of the 9/11 Truth Squad was holding down the same corner, wearing a "We are change Seattle" T-shirt.
While the mall is loud and noisy and fun, inside the Denver Pavilions it's cool and quiet. Especially in the store that opened just last week, with a sign outside that pronounces "Official Democratic Convention Merchandise" and a shelf-life that's decidedly limited. Because inside, the place is stocked with nothing but political souvenirs — all union-made and all official, although only the ones that bear the mark of the Democratic National Convention are approved in advance by the Democratic National Convention Committee. "We licensed our logo to the merchandiser, Financial Innovations," says the DNCC's Natalie Wyeth. "They do DNC meetings, state conventions. We just sign off on the convention-specific products."
Which means that DNCC officials probably haven't yet seen the T-shirt with "Obama" in a cool, AC/DC-like design on the front, or the big button that says "Democrats are sexy — who has ever heard of a good piece of elephant," or the lapel pin with a donkey doing an elephant. But those items — and so much more — are available right now, and will also be for sale at the Pepsi Center, the Colorado Convention Center, perhaps even Invesco Field at Mile High once the convention gets under way. And any minute now, the shop is expecting another shipment, this one with mugs and more T-shirts and more buttons.
The big sellers? "I've been told buttons, buttons and more buttons are traditionally the most popular item at conventions," says Wyeth. Our favorite (thus far): "One Nation Under Surveillance."
Around the corner, at the much more permanent Best of Denver shop — where Broncos paraphernalia is already 50 percent off (lose one pre-season game and see what happens?) and sweatshirts made in Pakistan hype a Denver founded in 1861 (either 1858 or 1859 is acceptable) — the souvenirs get a little more rowdy. But many of these are official, too, since they're from a merchandiser who has the blessing of the Denver 2008 Host Committee. Here you can pick up packages of Republican Elephant Poop (red candies) or Democratic Donkey Poop (blue candies), as well as more buttons and T-shirts and water bottles and hats and playing cards. Host-committee authorized items are also available at www.denverdncgear.com, a couple of airport shops, the Denver Broncos Team Store at Invesco, local Conoco outlets and several other souvenir stores.
But for the really raucous and thus eminently collectible items — the Obama bobbleheads and the good Bush/bad Bush T-shirts (you can guess the illustrations) — you have to hit stores and carts up and down the mall doing a booming business in unauthorized souvenirs. While the Obama and Bush names can't be trademarked, the DNCC does watch out for unauthorized use of the logo. "There is some policing," Wyeth says. "We can't go into details."
One Nation, Under Surveillance.
One for the road: Lakewood resident Barbara Dodge followed politics closely for more than forty years — right up until her husband, 74-year-old Earl Dodge, "stepped from Denver International Airport into heaven" on November 7, 2007. "The day he died, it's like none of that stuff was important to me anymore," she says. "Earl was the most important person in my life. That's why I liked to cook and take care of the home. The party was important to him, but not to anyone else."
By the party, she means the Prohibition Party. Founded in 1869 as part of the temperance movement, the Prohibition Party has pushed a non-alcoholic America as its top — and sometimes only — platform point for 140 years. For more than 25 of those years, Earl Dodge was the prohibitionists' presidential or vice-presidential nominee. And even though he'd led a faction that broke off from the national Prohibition Party in 2003 after a bitter internal feud, Dodge still planned to run for a seventh nomination this year — with Howard Lydick, of Texas, as his running mate. (To read about other Coloradans who have sought the Oval Office, log on to blogs.westword.com/Demver and click on the President Precedent link.)
It was a ticket that wasn't meant to be.
Earl Dodge's views weren't popular (he got only 208 votes in 2000), but he was a dedicated historian and he had a slick sense of humor, his widow says. And he left behind a huge collection of political memorabilia, which Barbara is now in the process of selling off — everything from buttons (including those he'd made for his own planned 2008 run) to photos, ribbons, books and postcards — on her eBay store and Earl's website, www.buttonsbydodge.com. "He specialized in Calvin Coolidge," Barbara says. "He had quite a bit of that."
But she's not selling everything — at least not online. Next week, a couple of hundred items related to the temperance movement around the world will be picked up by Larry Bird (not that Larry Bird), a curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, who's coming to town to collect memorabilia from the Democratic National Convention. (Through Smithsonian spokeswoman Laura Duff, Bird declined to discuss his buying habits — but judging from what Off Limits has found on the 16th Street Mall, he should have plenty to choose from.)
As for the hullabaloo in Denver over the DNC, Barbara thinks Earl would have enjoyed watching the show. "He probably would have had some good things to say," she says. "He had a pretty good wit."
Definitely a dry one.
Fade to black: Colorado lost two popular and very different performers in recent months: Johnny Schou, the 22-year-old bassist for Tickle Me Pink, and Don Becker, 53, a longtime comic, poet and playwright who was the subject of Adam Cayton-Holland's June 19 cover story. Over the past few days, the coroners in Larimer and Denver counties have released reports on the deaths; tragically, drugs were involved in both. To read more about Schou's death, log on to Backbeat Online; for more on Becker, go to The Latest Word.
Judgment day: On Monday, just in time for the DNC, civic boosters turned on SkyNet. Don't worry, you can keep your end-of-the-world weapons stockpile locked away; we're not talking about Skynet the scary computer defense system that takes over Earth and spews out Arnold Schwarzenegger robots in the Terminator movies. We're talking about SkyNet the 32-by-44-foot outdoor LED screen developed by Centennial-based ADTI Media Incorporated that will grace the side of the Colorado Convention Center over the next few months, broadcasting videos, news segments and ads — minus sound.
The screen's name refers to its web of hundreds of light-emitting diodes that stretch across the sides of buildings and display videos much like pixels on a computer screen, said project manager Steve Cook while he tweaked the technology at the convention center the other day, uploading new fifteen-second ads. Still, the screen's more ominous connotations haven't been lost on passersby — especially attendees of the World Science Fiction Convention last week, Cook added. "I asked them, 'What do you think?' and they said, 'I'm looking for the Terminator.'"
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