Off Limits

Run for your life! Coming right up on ABC this Sunday: Dying to Be Perfect, the story of marathon runner Ellen Hart Pena's ten-year battle with bulimia, starring Wings' Crystal Bernard as the woman who brought a touch of splash to the office of Denver First Lady long before Wilma Webb arrived.

The movie, filmed in Denver this past summer, gets a plug in the current issue of People, in which Hart Pena notes that "Crystal did a really good job." (Such a good job, apparently, that the magazine couldn't tell the two apart, since it reversed their identifications in a photo caption.) Certain scenes, including depictions of Hart Pena's secret purging, "are hard to watch," she concedes. But TV Guide's Susan Stewart finds the show easier to stomach. Bernard is "utterly believable," Stewart says, adding that she "ate an entire bag of croutons while watching this nerve-racking TV movie." But better get the barf bag for this line: "Should I have listened to you in a better way?" asks Esai Morales, tagged by TV Guide as Hart Pena's "sweetly ineffectual spouse"--who in real life happens to be Federico Pena, mayor of Denver from 1983 to 1991 and Bill Clinton's Secretary of Transportation who resigned last week.

This is Denver's second stint in the national TV spotlight this week. Last Sunday the nation's viewing audience was subjected to Marilu Henner playing a bumptious Molly Brown--"They don't do things like that back in Deeenver"--who refused to go down with the Titanic. The two-part movie, however, should sink without a trace.

Gutter snipes: There must be something about discussing Denver's more gritty neighborhoods that sends people's minds to the gutter. After considerable discussion at Denver City Council Monday night, councilmembers approved rezoning a sixteen-square-block neighborhood northeast of Coors Field, between 20th Street and Park Avenue and from the alley between Market and Larimer Streets to Stout. But first, several landowners testified as to what those zoning changes might mean for the area. For example, wondered developer Eugene Tepper, what would happen to those who needed to heed the "call of nature" or were suffering from diarrhea? (Or maybe had just played an extra in the Hart Pena movie?) If zoning regulations limiting liquor stores went through, Tepper asked, where would such people find relief? But then, since few liquor stores feature public facilities, where do they find relief now? Perhaps inspired by the earthy turn the conversation was taking, council president Cathy Reynolds told councilmembers that if they didn't ask their final questions soon, they were "S.O.L.," then explained, "That's a term of art after nine o'clock."

Even before the zoning vote, the city had been making improvements in the area, including a streetscaping project along Larimer north of 20th that involves both old-timey streetlights and wider sidewalks. When the work crews reached the stretch outside the Silver City Cafe, at 2041 Larimer, one of the few true dives left from the area's skid-row past, workers put down a temporary walkway leading into the bar. But when you need a drink at the Silver City, you really need a drink--and several patrons chose instead to climb over the barriers and walk through the freshly poured concrete to reach the door. The city has since filled in their footprints.

That's life in NoDo--as Karle Seydel, director of the Ballpark Neighborhood Association, dubbed the area a few years ago because of its distinct lack of dough.

LoDo lowdown: Meanwhile, just to the south, the debate continues over who coined "LoDo," the popular nickname for lower downtown. In its November 15 edition, the Rocky Mountain News gives credit to the competition--Denver Post columnist Dick Kreck, who coined the phrase in the early Eighties.

Not so, according to former Postie Clark Secrest, now an editor at the Colorado Historical Society and author of Hell's Belles, a new book detailing the sordid activities of the soiled doves who used to populate this part of town. According to Secrest, it was Kreck's wife who came up with the phrase and is also responsible for Kreck's nickname. Secrest claims to have been an eyewitness to the moment when, during some holiday revelry, Kreck's wife turned to her husband and uttered the immortal words, "Don't you think you've had enough, Mr. Beer?


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