Hard to Swallow

Cockroaches love lettuce. That's the word from Six Flags St. Louis, which just got its first shipment of live cockroaches for the company's annual Fright Fest, says Brooke Brasher, spokeswoman for Six Flags Elitch Gardens. Even though Denver has yet to receive a single cucaracha, she's been dreaming of the "creepy critters," she says. "They've invaded my whole mind."

They've invaded the Borg-esque mind of PETA, too, which has launched a national lobbying campaign asking Six Flags parks across the country to spare the "gentle, complex, sensitive animals" instead of encouraging patrons to eat one in exchange for a front-of-the-line spot at their haunted houses. Although PETA hasn't popped Denver yet, Brasher knows that could change on September 29, when the month-long scarification starts -- complete with cockroaches. "We ordered them from a place online, and they were raised in a sterile environment," she says. "And we'll be getting fresh shipments weekly."

Yum. "I'm eating one right now," she jokes. "With Tabasco."



Hey, that's cheating. The rest of us shlubs have to go sauceless when swallowing.

Who's sorry now? So right now, Nayyera Haq, aide to Congressman John Salazar, is taking some time off -- after sending an e-mail to a Rocky Mountain News reporter criticizing Congressman Tom Tancredo, a person who "has always been articulate in expressing his hatred of Islam and immigrants."

For that, Salazar's opponent, Scott Tipton, has said that Salazar and Haq should both apologize to Tancredo. They haven't.

Nor has Tancredo apologized for what set this spin-inducing sorry-go-round in motion: the letter he sent to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on September 20, asking him to resist calls for an apology because he cited this quote from fourteenth-century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

"It is not surprising that your statements prompted such a visceral reaction in much of the Islamic world, where the free exercise of religion is largely proscribed," wrote Tancredo. "Whether we want to admit it or not, the western world is locked in a struggle against radical Islam, whose practitioners and adherents are inextricably linked to terrorism."

Tancredo, who's known for shooting from the lip, didn't just toss off that letter to the Pope. "We had to do some research on the protocol," says spokesman Carlos Espinosa. Who knew, for example, that the Pope should be addressed as "Sir"? And while they didn't write the letter on sheepskin in calligraphy, they did use paper that was "100 percent cotton," he explains, and sent it to the Embassy of the Holy See in Washington, D.C.

So far, Tancredo's staffers haven't gotten a response from the Pope, or even from the Embassy. They did get that roundabout response from Haq, of course, which prompted them to ask Salazar not for an apology, but whether he agreed with his spokeswoman's statement and whether he approved her using her position at his office to make it. They haven't heard from Salazar, either.

"I've made some outrageous comments," Espinosa says, "but always speaking for Tom Tancredo -- although sometimes he'd prefer I say it a different way." And Espinosa could probably say the same for many of the statements issued by his boss, whose office he just returned to in August, after a year and a half away. "It feels like I just walked right back into it," he says.

No kidding.

Rebel yell: One thing Espinosa walked right back into was guffaws from the political peanut gallery after Tancredo found himself speaking to an audience that included members of the League of the South earlier this month. But Tancredo didn't have to travel all the way to the Palmetto State to bask under the glow of the Confederate battle flag and whistle "Dixie." He could have just moseyed on up to Lafayette, where Mac King Aston would have tipped his rattlesnake-band hat to the congressman, handed him a cool glass of Southern sweet tea and explained just how, exactly, the South will rise again. Aston's the chairman of the LOS's Colorado chapter -- and he has the $500 Confederate uniform to prove it.

Aston considers all the hubbub in the press over Tancredo fraternizing with a "hate group" a lot of rabble-rousing poppycock. "The League of the South is just another organization at which a politician will speak," he explains. Yes, the LOS advocates for Southern independence. But a hate group? Come on. Aston himself is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

And while he would never consider himself a racist -- "I myself grew up with Mexicans. And I don't mean Mexican-Americans. I've always had a deep kinship with Latino culture" -- Aston can understand Tancredo's concerns about illegal immigration. "If I were in his shoes, I would be shocked that the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces has done nothing to secure the border in a time of war," he says. Of course, from Aston's perspective, the border should have been secured from 1865 on, because the way he sees it, the Civil War -- make that the War Between the States -- never ended.

But Aston won't be rallying the troops anytime soon, descending on Denver with a rebel yell and hoisting the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia over the Capitol. The Colorado LOS is actually just a handful of Southerners who get together at Aston's suburban spread, eat fried catfish and potato salad and reminisce. "Sometimes I think it serves more as a get-together for Southern folks who are somewhat out of place in the West," says Aston. And Tancredo would surely fit right in, even if he was born in Colorado.

Just look at Aston: He's from California.


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