The beds they made: At least one person in Denver thinks it's ironic that 300 black mayors, members of President Clinton's cabinet and other dignitaries--in Denver this week for the annual convention of the National Conference of Black Mayors--are staying at a hotel that has been repeatedly accused of racism and discrimination.
After six months of working at the Adam's Mark Hotel, a bellman, who asked that his name not appear in Westword, was passed over for a promotion and eventually fired on February 9. He says he was canned for complaining about racist attitudes and for speaking out about the hotel's lack of black employees.
"They don't like sharp black people," says the man, a 39-year-old transplanted New Yorker who worked at the hotel to supplement his career as an artist and interior designer. "I would bring it up at company meetings. They knew I was outspoken about what was going on."
What was going on, according to his March 10 complaint to the Denver office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, was a pattern of racist behavior--the same pattern for which the St. Louis-based hotel chain has been in trouble in Denver and other cities.
In 1996, eight other Adam's Mark employees accused the hotel chain of race, age and gender discrimination. Their complaint was backed by the EEOC and the National Labor Relations Board. Earlier that year, the hotel chain's parent company, HBE Corporation, lost a $4.8 million discrimination suit filed by two former employees of the St. Louis Adam's Mark. Witnesses in that case accused CEO Frank Kummer of being a racist.
"They treat their black employees terribly," says the Denver man. "The hotel has six bars and not one black bartender; they only have one black manager; and I was the only black bellman. They have all the blacks as doormen and all the white boys inside. Their excuse was that because of their [racist] reputation, no qualified blacks will apply."
Adam's Mark general manager Andre vanHall disagrees, saying the employee was fired because he abandoned his job. "I'm afraid there is absolutely no grounds at all to this."
But the ex-employee agues that he never abandoned his job. He says he was sick for a few days and the hotel used it as an excuse to fire him. He first complained to the NAACP, but nothing was resolved. The man then complained to the mayor's office. Finally he complained to an EEOC employment investigator who advised him to settle with the hotel. However, he says, "It's so much discrimination that's going on, I'd rather do something than take $4,000 or $5,000 and forget about it. I don't need the money that bad."
Local NAACP president Menola Upshaw told Westword she will have no comment unless she talks to Mayor Wellington Webb first. Webb spokesman Andrew Hudson also had no comment for Westword about the allegations, the previous complaints, the hotel chain in general or whether Webb is even aware of the situation. He said the decision to use the Adam's Mark for the mayors' convention was made by the NCBM (of which Webb is second in command). An NCBM representative did not return Westword's phone call.
As far as the Adam's Mark is concerned, vanHall says he has a clear conscience on the issue and would love to hire qualified black employees. "We are so desperate for people--housekeepers, stewards, front desk people. If you think we would get into a practice like that, it would be just stupid."
VanHall adds that he's "not losing too much sleep about this charge." How well the black mayors will sleep in his hotel may be another question.
Calling Martha Stewart: Hysterical preservationists are on the prowl in LoDo, and they've found an unlikely target: The LoDo Inn, at 16th and Wazee, a building that was renovated last year into a bed-and-breakfast.
LoDo Inn owner Tom Broemmel decided to paint the trim of the building with gold leaf, an expensive endeavor at $6 an inch. That didn't sit well with some members of the Lower Downtown Design Demolition Review Board, which has veto power over all new construction and renovation in the historic district. The LoDo Inn's paint job was attacked as "historically inaccurate," and one boardmember wanted to make the B&B paint over all the gold leaf.
The board eventually agreed to a compromise. The LoDo Inn gets to keep some gold in its sign but has to paint over much of the gold on the columns that frame the building.
Last year the board got into a dispute with P.F. Chang's over the restaurant's desire to remove some "historic stucco" from the facade of the former pool hall. "What's next?" asks one local architect. "A mandate for color-coordinated bathroom tiles?"
Sugar high: Denver Post owner Dean "Sweetie" Singleton might have once described a newspaper as being "like a candy bar" that needs attractive packaging (Off Limits, March 18), but Sunday's two-page ad in the Rocky Mountain News overdosed on self-promotion. The ad heralded recent figures compiled by the Audit Bureau of Circulation, showing that the News circulation had gained an average of 33,748 copies daily and 26,152 on Sundays. Those numbers, according to the ad, show that the paper "has the recipe for success." The spread featured cutting-edge graphics such as a rolling pin ("Rolling out a better paper"), a picture of eggs and a whisk in a mixing bowl ("The News is really cooking") and a list of "ingredients" such as Dilbert and TV listings. "Our latest circulation numbers are the icing on the cake," the paper proclaimed.
By comparison, Tuesday's full-page ad in the Post looked like a concession. The paper boasted higher overall circulation--537,048 on Sundays and 383,360 daily, compared to the News's 461,103 Sunday and 359,068 daily--and claimed that readers actually "pay for" the Post. But the ad's tone remained gloomy: Above the silhouette of a solitary man looking at a rolled-up copy of the paper, its stark headline read, simply, "You're looking at the best paper in Colorado history."
The News might take issue with that claim, though, since it continues to remind readers, as it did in a Sunday article on the circulation figures, that the News "dominated" the Colorado Press Association awards "for the fourth year in a row." However, even that bit was sugarcoated, since the News had no competition for those awards: The Post hadn't entered the CPA contest.
What's really driving up the News circulation? Maybe the secret ingredient is its syrupy coverage of Ulaq and Berit, the cuddly-wuddly baby polar bears at the Denver Zoo who have earned themselves a weekly diary called "Bear Facts" that treats readers to such details as when the cubs began eating solid food and how they learned to swim.
The cubs make such good copy that their names have appeared in the News seventeen times since January 1, according to Westword's calculations. By comparison, Mayor Wellington Webb's two main challengers in the upcoming election, Gill Ford and Stephannie Huey, have appeared sixteen times each.
Still talking: Loquacious talk-show host Sebastian Metz may be unemployed, but he still has his sense of humor.
"I'm not a bitter and twisted ex-talk-radio alcoholic," says Metz, who was fired from his 7 to 9 p.m. shift at KHOW-AM (630) on April 8. "The story is the ratings, of course, which is the only reason they make any move in radio. If you don't get the numbers, you don't get the ad revenues. It was a very difficult time slot to get people to listen. People want to get home and have lives and eat, and who wants to listen to some jerk from New York? You tune in to talk about people's dysfunction, and you have to be dysfunctional yourself to be listening at that time. If you had a blow-up doll, even, you wouldn't be listening."
Metz is a Guardian Angel who moved to Denver in 1996 and took the job with KHOW in early 1998. He moved up through the radio ranks from KLTK to KOA and eventually landed the weekday evening shift on KHOW.
"I had no idea why they were paying me to do this. I'm just a guy talking here, but I worked at it, and as I got better, I was disappointed that the numbers didn't show. Maybe it's because of the politics and that I'm a liberal. Maybe people who are listening to talk radio want tax tips and to bash Bill Clinton and make penis jokes, and I don't do any of those three. Maybe if I talked more about alien abductions, I'd still have a job."
Metz doesn't know who will replace him, (KHOW has promised to make an announcement soon), but he wishes whoever it is good luck. "I'm not under any real crunch; I won't be starving out in front of 7-Eleven. People still love me in Denver, and Denver is a wonderful place. I'll stay here," he says. "I have public-speaking skills and hockey playing skills, so maybe I could be Patrick Roy's stunt double."
Off Limits is compiled by Jonathan Shikes. If you have a tip, call him at 303-293-3555, send a fax to 303-296-5416, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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