Hall of Shame
The "B" in Willie B. Hung must stand for "butthead," because the KBPI morning DJ, whose real name is Stephen Meade, can't seem to stop doing idiotic things. He and fellow DJs Darren McKee (D-Mak) and Marc Stout made a big splash in September when they led an illegal and destructive four-wheeling expedition through a private meadow. The day before, the three men had discussed plans for the "mudfest" on the air. Although KBPI later said the DJs were simply discussing their weekend plans and didn't intend for all those people to show up, others have pointed out that you don't discuss weekend plans on the air when thousands of people are listening unless you expect at least some of them to join you. As a result of his antics, Meade was charged with criminal mischief and conspiracy -- both felonies -- and defacing property, a misdemeanor; McKee and Stout also face conspiracy and defacing charges. But Meade had already showed his true feathers back in February, when he was involved in an on-air stunt that entailed dropping a chicken from a third-floor balcony at the station. As a substitute for Groundhog Day, he also encouraged listeners to bring chickens to the station so they could be released on I-25; if the chickens survived, he said, there would be an early spring. Meade's trial on charges of animal cruelty in connection with that incident is set for January. But our verdict is already in.
United Airlines has always been a pain in the ass. It controls at least two-thirds of the flights going in and out of Denver, and that domination is reflected in its rising ticket prices. In years past, the airline has raised the number of frequent-flier miles needed for a free trip, limited the size and number of carry-on bags, decreased leg and arm room until only Tara Lipinski would feel comfortable on board, raised the fee for changing a ticket, and ripped off a beautiful Gershwin tune. This year, all that bad karma came back to bite United in the behind. But although the airline is suffering, its customers are the ones bearing the brunt of the problems. The trouble started in May when United's pilots, angry about the slow pace of labor negotiations and the company's failure to ask them about the planned purchase of US Airways, began refusing to work overtime and instigated an unofficial and covert operational slowdown. As a result, thousands of flights were delayed, or canceled altogether, across the country. United blamed the weather, but customers stuck in airports for hours, even days, knew better. The airline's stock price took a dive, and United became the deserved whipping boy for the entire industry's problems. In July, Mayor Wellington Webb asked Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater to intervene in the labor negotiations. In August, United admitted that it had canceled more than 23,000 flights since May and that less than half of its flights were landing on time. Things began to return to normal in September after the pilots finally reached an agreement with the company, but then the mechanics and flight attendants began their negotiations -- and guess what? United is delaying and canceling thousands of flights all over again. In November, the Chicago Tribune reported that United CEO James Goodwin, who was booked on a United flight to Hawaii, jumped planes at the last minute and instead flew on American Airlines, one of United's main competitors.
Unless things improve, hundreds of thousands of United passengers may do the same.
J. Shelby Bryan
On November 14, ICG Communications, once one of the country's most promising telecom companies, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The announcement wasn't a surprise, but Denver-based ICG's dramatic descent over the previous two months had been. In September, the company confessed that it was going nowhere, and its stock, which had been at nearly $40 a share in March, plunged to 31 cents before trading was halted. About 300 employees were laid off. Lawsuits were filed. The national media used the company to symbolize the entire decline of the telecom industry. Analysts predicted the end.
And where was ICG's former chief executive, J. Shelby Bryan? Planning a pheasant-hunting trip in jolly old England, of course. Or at least, that's what was reported in the New York Daily News, where Bryan's name has been seen more often than it has in Wall Street reports. A wealthy Texan with a flamboyant lifestyle, as well as a Friend of Bill, Bryan made the gossip circles buzz in 1999 when he left his wife of seventeen years for Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue magazine. CEO at ICG since 1995, Bryan had resigned in August, when the company's troubles first came to light. But his $6 million severance package is now part of the bankruptcy. "Just because he might be down to his last million is no reason for Shelby Bryan to give up the high life," the Daily News reported this month. He and Wintour "rented out the super-exclusive Badminton House (where the game was invented), as he has for the last several years...Word is it costs around $150,000 or so for a weekend. For that, you get Prince Charles as a neighbor...Wintour and the Duke and Duchess of Beauford (who own Badminton House) were Bryan's guests. Maybe he isn't as broke as they say."
Oh, and then there was this from the New York Post: "The semi-dormant feud between Talk Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown and Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour appears ready to explode...Sources say that Tina has commissioned a hard-hitting piece in her magazine on J. Shelby Bryan -- the ousted chief of bankrupt Internet firm ICG Communications -- who is also Wintour's boyfriend... When Wintour found out that the hit was in from Tina, sources say she tried mightily to get her countrywoman and one-time colleague in the media empire of S.I. Newhouse Jr. to kill the story. The two reigning British editorial divas had always publicly denied talk that they were rivals either on the social scene or in the Newhouse empire...Sources say the piece is expected to run in the February or March issue."
We're sure that ICG's laid-off workers will be the first to pick up a copy -- to read in the Denver unemployment lines.
Sure, he's Canadian, but Colorado Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy is still allowed to be innocent until proven guilty in this country. On the other hand, he's already been convicted of causing this town some major embarrassment. Two days after Mayor Wellington Webb renamed Auraria Parkway "Patrick Roy Boulevard" to honor Roy for his record-setting 448th career victory, the star hockey player was arrested and charged with criminal mischief and destruction of property committed during an act of domestic violence. The dramatic turn of events started when Arapahoe County deputies responded to the Roy household in Greenwood Village in the early hours of October 22, after someone there had called 911 and then hung up. Roy and his wife, Michele, told police they had been arguing about their in-laws, of all things. Roy admitted to angrily tearing two doors off their hinges; although no one was injured or bruised, Colorado law requires that an arrest be made when there's probable cause to believe domestic violence may be involved. On November 7, Roy pleaded not guilty; a trial has been set for March 5. If he is convicted, he could theoretically be deported.
Fortunately, Patrick Roy Boulevard flows into I-25, which leads north.
The Victoria's Secret Rapists
In late September, local police asked the press and the public to help officers find two people -- a man and a woman -- who had kidnapped and raped at least three women and attempted to do the same to twenty more. Although the police often seek the public's aid in solving crimes, the details of the case were astonishing. The rapists' ruse went like this: The woman, posing as a saleswoman for Victoria's Secret, would roam the 16th Street Mall, inviting women to a special lingerie sale. She'd get their phone numbers, then call them later and arrange to pick them up in her car. But instead of taking them to a lingerie sale, she took them to an apartment complex in Aurora, where her boyfriend raped them at gunpoint. With help from one of the women who'd been approached, police finally found enough clues to lead to two arrests. Melissa Marie Todd, 22, was apprehended by FBI agents on October 4 in Illinois and charged with sexual assault, second-degree kidnapping and conspiracy. Her boyfriend, James Harry Gipson, 26, was arrested later that month in Iowa after a multi-state manhunt; he has been charged with rape and burglary.
Amy Van Dyken
Sure, swimmer Amy Van Dyken brought home the gold again, but her performance at the Sydney Olympics will best be remembered for what she left behind -- specifically, a glob of saliva, which she hawked into the lane of Dutch rival Inge de Bruijn. The incident, caught on camera and commented upon by NBC swimming analyst Rowdy Gaines, made national -- and international -- headlines; Van Dyken, who won the gold in the fifty-meter freestyle in 1996, lost to de Bruijn in the finals and was labeled an Ugly American with a bad case of sour grapes. The trademark expectoration wasn't anything new for Van Dyken, however. She'd been quoted earlier in the year as saying that she always spits into competitors' lanes. In fact, she said she was proud of it. After all, spit happens.
C'mon, Amy. We know you donate your time to sick kids; we know you were inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in December; we know you and your fiancé, Denver Broncos punter Tom Rouen, make the cutest couple ever. But seriously, Amy, spitting is gross. Maybe that's why your tiny hometown of Lone Tree has yet to hold a parade for its favorite daughter.
With cigars in their mouths and strippers' names in their phone books, Mike Dunafon and Chuck Bonniwell look like they'd be a lot of fun to hang out with. But whether they should be running a city, even a little one like Glendale, is another matter entirely. The two made a name for themselves in 1998 when they founded the Glendale Tea Party in an attempt to oust Mayor Joe Rice and overturn the regulations on strip clubs that Rice had championed. Dunnafon and Bonniwell, along with Dunafon's girlfriend, Debbie Matthews, who owns Shotgun Willie's, quickly got three of their supporters elected to the city council and did manage to overturn those disputed rules. But Tea Party supporters eventually tired of big ideas and bluster, and they turned on their buddies. This past April, the Tea Party lost all but one seat on the city council, and Dunafon lost the race for mayor to Rice. The election, which inspired a record turnout, was the most expensive in the tiny city's history and was marked by bitter rancor, threats, lies and personal attacks -- all typical of Glendale politics since the Tea Party came to town. Although the group staged one last power play, attempting a recall of city council members Jay Balano and Chris Perry, residents voted to keep them in office. These days, the Tea Party is reported to be interested in Central City, a town with its own crazy politics.
But Glendale doesn't need the Tea Party to give it a bad name. The town's been rocked by a police scandal that started in 1999, when attorney John Conrad Schaefer was arrested for a DUI and beaten by several officers. Three officers were fired, and two were criminally charged for their involvement either in the beating or the subsequent handling of a police videotape that captured the incident. In the wake of the allegations, several other Glendale residents came forward to say that they'd been the victims of police abuse as well. Several lawsuits are pending. (Schaefer died of a stroke on October 29 this year, but his family has said that his death was not related to the beating.) In December, a citizens' panel that had been meeting for most of the year made several suggestions for improving the police department, including providing training in how to diffuse situations with words instead of violence. Of course, that tactic hasn't worked in Glendale's political realm.
Although he was smiling, sort of, on the cover of the December/January issue of 5280 magazine, Qwest Communications CEO Joseph Nacchio's image in Denver is more as a garrulous grump than a congenial cover boy. In only one year, this part-time New Yorker has gone from a nobody (albeit a rich nobody) to the head of a multibillion-dollar operation. He's managed to make a lot of people mad along the way, including former US West CEO Sol Trujillo, thousands of Qwest customers who have yet to be impressed by better phone service, numerous members of the local media and 3,000 laid-off employees. Perhaps worst of all during the holiday season, Qwest has decided that the former US West Foundation will cut its funding of charitable organizations.
Life is bitter here.
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