Rocky Mountain lie: Even before Colorado broke a thirty-year stretch by executing Gary Davis Monday night, a kinder, gentler, sappier era had ended.
First came the news that John Denver, born Henry Deutschendorf Jr., had died in a plane crash off the California coast. (Earliest and, so far, most tasteless joke: He was "weaving on a jet plane.") With his sad passing came an equally lamentable resurrection of his songs, which put Denver on the charts in the early Seventies--and put Colorado on every wandering malcontent's map. Although the singer topped the Billboard charts twice each in 1974 and 1975, he hadn't cracked the Top Ten in the past decade--but he did crack up his car twice in Aspen, which resulted in two DUI charges and fingerprints on file with the cops, which made for fast identification of Denver's body.
At the same time Denver was singing Colorado's praises, author James Michener was chronicling them in Centennial, the hefty tome that came out in the state's Centennial year. Now ninety, Michener has decided to take himself off kidney dialysis, which means death could be near. (Earlier this month he donated most of his papers to the University of Northern Colorado, whose Greeley home had a starring, if slightly disguised role in Centennial.) As with his own life, Michener was able to provide a satisfying ending to his book on Colorado: The environmentalists rousted the developers.
Clearly, it was a work of fiction.
Reverend Mark Boyer, a Missouri minister, relied on fact last year when he wrote a 132-page analysis of the lyrics of every John Denver song. "I always thought there was an underlying spirituality in his music," Boyer said at the time, "something more than just the words themselves." Although Denver's death might seem to give Seeking Grace With Every Step: The Spirituality of John Denver a limited shelf life, Boyer is taking the long view. After all, he points out, since Denver didn't write any additional songs in the months before his passing, Boyer's book remains the definitive account.
By the time the Denver Post presses were rolling Monday morning, business writer Stephen Keating no doubt wished he could erase this lead: "Ron Deutschendorf once put together a head-spinning concert tour for singer John Denver: 57 concerts in 54 cities in 65 days, moving 44 people in three trucks and a plane.
"John Denver isn't doing too much touring these days."
Denver did, however, pass through his namesake town just last week, to watch the Broncos-Patriots game from the private box of Bronco owner Pat Bowlen. Also in the box were Wilma and Wellington Webb, who denied that his acceptance of Bowlen's invitation could prove problematic when it comes time to talk about the new stadium. But unless she was there performing some of those important First Lady duties, it's Wilma Webb who could actually have the problem: Protocol requires that federal bureaucrats (she had just been elevated to the regional head of the Department of Labor four days before) refuse gifts worth over $25.
Trick or treat: Charlie Brennan's voicemail announces that he's on an "extended leave of absence" from the Rocky Mountain News--he's got a contract to write a book about the JonBenet Ramsey case. Before he left, editors asked him to write a variation on Channel 7's "Web of Influence" story tying Ramsey attorneys Hal Haddon, Bryan Morgan, Lee Foreman et al., to just about everything under the sun, but Brennan declined, reportedly concerned that he might burn sources vital to his publishing project.
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The Haddon, Morgan and Foreman firm hosts an annual open house that's a notorious bash. This year's incarnation, set for later this month, invites you to the firm's Web site: "Come get entangled in our web, you'll witness things that you will dread. Food and drink and spiders too, Haddon will fool all of you." Apparently they're better lawyers than they are poets.
But poets get their chance to sound off, too. To mark the 25th anniversary of its Human Rights Ordinance, Boulder is hosting a kids' essay and art contest based on the theme "Free to Be..." "The Human Rights Ordinance," the contest announcement states, "is one way in which Boulder has led both Colorado and the nation in translating core democratic principles into daily life in American." Say what?
Looks like Boulder's Human Relations Commission has been reading the same copy of the Constitution that Boulder police chief Tom "Next Question" Koby was brandishing at last Friday's press conference.