Proof of the dumbing-down of the news--or at least its alleged gatherers--arrived Saturday in an announcement from Colorado Public Radio that the station had "temporarily removed" Tia Marlier from the news department, where she worked as announcer for the popular All Things Considered and Weekend Edition news shows. Her sin? Appearing as an unnamed spokeswoman on a TV ad singing the praises of a new Broncos stadium. In the spot, which first aired during last Sunday's Broncos-Eagles game, Marlier is seen standing in front of Coors Field and the City and County Building cheerfully extolling the virtues of using tax money to pay for the stadium--a bit of civic largesse the commercial suggests not only would provide the Broncos with a high-tech playground but would give the entire metro area a warm, fuzzy feeling in its nether regions.
Of course, Marlier isn't the first local media personality to shill for the stadium tax. Nearly every sports columnist in town has already beat her to the punch on that score, and those nostalgic promotional spots now running on Channel 4 (in which the team's history is stirringly recounted in inspirational tones) smell an awful lot like a political endorsement dressed up as a program note. Instead, Marlier, who's never identified by name or profession in the commercial, was simply the first Denver journalist to anonymously bleed orange and blue--and to take her pay not in free tickets, exclusive interviews or press-box hot dogs but in cold, hard cash. Which, ironically, is what got her into trouble.
The dulcet-toned announcer, who moonlights as a freelance actor and voiceover artist, said in a station press release last week that she saw the commercial as "just another acting job"--even though the spot was paid for by CFANS, the pro-tax group that has been funded primarily by the Broncos and others who stand to benefit from a subsidy. CPR news director Kelley Griffin didn't take such a charitable view and yanked Marlier off the air.
"It poses a huge conflict," says Griffin, who's getting to be an old hand at defusing awkward situations. Last year, former CPR reporter Lesley Dahlkemper resigned after Griffin balked at her plan to report statehouse news while simultaneously being married to lovable legislator (and failed gubernatorial candidate) Mike Feeley. Griffin says Marlier will remain off the air at least until after the November 3 election and adds that the station is in the process of "reviewing" all of Marlier's other acting gigs to make sure there aren't other conflicts waiting in the wings.
Marlier now admits that the commercial "was a bad call on my part." She says she's in complete agreement with Griffin's decision to take her off the air, notes that she doesn't want to cause the station any further embarrassment and adds that the whole experience has, like, really opened her eyes. "I saw this as two separate roles--the news-host role and the acting role," she says. "This is obviously making me very aware of the fact that I cannot separate those roles."
Pat "The Great Patsby" Bowlen had better hope the voters are as slow on the uptake as Marlier. With news judgment like that going around, we can next expect to see radio yakker Jay Marvin pitching the medical-marijuana initiative (assuming Secretary of State Vikki Buckley doesn't figure out a way to screw it up more than she already has), Mike Rosen arguing against letting the state government keep Colorado's record tax surplus, and JonBenet airplay pig Chuck Green throwing mud at corporate hog farms.
Never mind. The family-farmer faction is already represented by former Channel 7 reporter Dave Minshall.
Chick-a-boom: If political spin doctors are really looking for a happening babe to arouse the local electorate, maybe they should throw a few greenbacks at B-movie queen turned cult confection Pam Grier. After all, she's an official member of the Denver power elite now that Mayor Wellington Webb has named October 13 "Pam Grier Day" in honor of her bodacious screen presence--and the fact that the East High grad is the bomb-diggiest star expected to actually show up at this week's Denver International Film Festival.
As usual, Wellington's artistic instincts are right on the money--no surprise, given his long association with First Lady Wilma Webb, known far and wide for her firm grasp of cultural and cinematic issues. It's about time that the city paid tribute to the hometown girl who will always be remembered as the bad-ass nurse with a chip on her shoulder--along with a gunbelt--in 1974's Foxy Brown. Who could forget Grier's timeless performance in Scream, Blacula, Scream, perhaps the only blaxploitation flick ever to speak the plain truth about being young, gifted and black--and a vampire!--in the Honky States of America? And didn't we all swell with pride when she made it all the way back with her starring role in Quentin Tarantino's Seventies-revival film Jackie Brown? (Dig accompanying photograph with sexy smile and large-caliber handgun.)
Had the film festival been less inspired and a lot less funky, it might have dragged in other hometown anti-heroes such as Trey Parker and Matt Stone, whose Baseketball dribbled out of the theaters but whose South Park animated series on Comedy Central is still going strong in year two. Or maybe Rick "Not Ricky" Schroeder, the beefy former star of Lonesome Dove who's leaving his Western Slope ranch for the mean streets of NYPD Blue. Or, in a pinch, festival organizers might have invited Rick Rosner, a roller-skating, loincloth-wearing local bar bouncer who in 1985 took an Omni magazine IQ test and rated in the top four brains in the country. This month Rosner will prove his smarts by producing a TNT movie version of yet another Seventies classic, the TV cop show CHiPs.
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Yes, the festival could have gone in those lame old directions. But Webb's long-awaited recognition of Grier proves that it's never too late to recognize genius. No word yet on whether city work crews will carry through with plans to festoon the 16th Street Mall with giant publicity photos from Grier's 1973 landmark Coffy, another avenging-nurse tale chock-full of naked chicks and jive junkies getting slapped upside the head.
Unfriendly skies: KOA traffic cop Al Verley can always be counted on to call 'em like he sees 'em from his seat on the station chopper. But the Flying Hun really outdid himself last week. When a new tollbooth opened on E-470, leading to massive backups from motorists who didn't have exact change, Verley spoke for commuters everywhere--or at least those stuck on the highway--when he cranked open his mike, gunned his engine and fumed, "I'd like to take a Stinger missile and blow the hell out of that building."
Get that man some ammo.