Let them eat tulips: The Central Platte Valley has suddenly become the destination for Denver's society crowd. The dusty railyards that used to provide a swell home to hobos, drunks and river rats are becoming just a memory, and civic boosters can't stop yammering about it. The city's patrons and matrons were still agog over the gala opening of Ocean Journey when they had to suit up again for last week's splashy soiree for the Pepsi Center. On their way to the courtside feed, Denver's elite -- including ber-lawyer Steve Farber, beer magnates Peter and Marilyn Coors, heiress and catering mogul Sharon Magness and moneybags arena owner Donald Sturm -- discovered that even landscaping now has corporate sponsors. The Denver Post Fanway, a 1,700-foot walkway that runs through the parking lot and features aspen groves and rock formations, leads to the Coors Meadow, a pile of fake rocks and a gusher designed to look like the mountain waterfall featured for years on cans of Golden's famous brew.
Even the city is getting in on the valley's makeover. During their European vacation, Denver mayor Wellington Webb and his wife, Wilma, were so taken with the gardens at Versailles -- the onetime palace of French kings -- that they decided Denver should have something similar. Faster then you can say "off with their heads," Webb added $500,000 to the city budget to create lavish new flower gardens at Centennial Park, which sits next to the transplanted Six Flags Elitch Gardens. People who grew up in Denver still remember the lovely gardens that the original Elitch Gardens in northwest Denver was known for before the amusement park concept transformed it into a high-tech mosh pit. Families used to take picnics into the old park and spend hours talking to each other under the elm trees; now Elitch's is talking about doing away with its large picnic space altogether. Andrew Hudson, the mayor's spokesman, says Webb hopes to restore some of the original charm as a tribute to the old park's founding mother: "The mayor wants to keep alive the spirit of Mary Elitch."
So far, Denver politicians haven't sold the naming rights to the flower beds, but give them time.
While cleaning up the banks of the Platte to make the area safe for development and society hobnobbing has been a priority, what Denver officials haven't managed to accomplish, a serial murderer might. In September, four homeless men were found dead in the Platte Valley and adjacent Ballpark neighborhood; Denver cops are considering the possibility that a single killer is at work. In the meantime, gadfly J.T. Colfax is getting the word out. Fresh from a two-year stint in the Boulder County Jail for shenanigans connected to the JonBenét Ramsey case, the performance artist-turned-dishwasher is now working just across the Platte and walks through the "the netherworld of trails under Speer Boulevard" every night to catch the RTD shuttle in LoDo. "I give these fliers to the homeless and dash off before they can ask for spare change or a cigarette," he says. "I live a paycheck away from homelessness myself and have been there/done that before."
The fliers alert homeless and hobos alike to the frightening fact that a serial killer -- Colfax is calling him The Plattypuss -- could be at work. "Too bad The Plattypuss doesn't talk loudly on cell phones," reads one. "Oh, the uproar we'd hear then."
Super marketing: Yes, that was Representative Diana DeGette at the Safeway at I-70 and Chambers Road two Saturdays ago, and at the King Soopers at Colfax and Havana the Saturday before. In fact, for the past year, DeGette has been spicing up the town-meeting concept by hosting grocery-store get-togethers throughout her district. "She loves it," says DeGette's chief of staff, Lisa Cohen, who adds that the "storefront speakouts" are a good way for DeGette to hear what "real people" have to say.
But DeGette may have another reason to cruise the aisles: to stock up on canned goods, bottled water and batteries, as she recommends in Y2K: A Preparedness Guide for Consumers, a twelve-page booklet -- prepared by her staff at taxpayer expense -- that was recently inserted into more than 100,000 copies of the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News. DeGette, it seems, is using the end of the world to cook up a little face time.
The guide begins with a smiling mug shot of the congresswoman. "As a service to my constituents, I have collected information from local, state and federal agencies, as well as companies, that I hope will assist you in understanding and preparing for the coming new year," she writes. Accordingly, the pamphlet offers tips about financial precautions, household compliance concerns, air travel and supplies.
In fact, the booklet has many handy uses. It'll make especially good kindling when the lights go out on January 1.
If you have a tip, call Jonathan Shikes at 303-293-3555, send a fax to 303-296-5416 or e-mail email@example.com.