Nearly three weeks before 28-year-old Desmond Howard Derrick scaled the Pioneers Monument statue near Civic Center Park on October 14, claiming to be armed with dynamite and forcing the evacuation of nearby buildings and the closure of Colfax, Lincoln and Broadway streets during rush hour, he'd invited "all Westword journalists" to come to his house "and hold vigil...at 7 p.m., Monday, Sept. 27th."
Derrick, who eventually surrendered to Denver police officers posing as a CNN camera crew, had faxed a typed invite bearing the same convoluted message he passed out to bystanders before last week's antics: "I have been chosen by the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons) to serve as their endtime Son of Man. In their belief at the endtime they must themselves LITERALLY CRUCIFY their Son of Man in order to travel, along with their resurrected ancestors, to their three-tiered concept of heaven. Everyone else goes to hell. I value all life, including my own, and DO NOT wish to die under this sorcery. Please tell this to all Christians you know especially Christian pastors. They may very well understand."
The Christian pastors may have understood, but we didn't -- or at least we all professed to have other pressing engagements on September 27 (hastily concocted commitments perhaps inspired by the handwritten note on Derrick's fax, which read "This could possibly be the biggest story since newsprint...And no I am not a crazy!").
Derrick, who told police he just wanted to be on TV, apparently doesn't know how to work the media.
Not only did Westword ignore his original fax, but last Thursday, Channel 7 continued its 4 p.m. broadcast of Oprah Winfrey's show rather than cut to live footage of the unfolding situation at Civic Center Park. Oprah's topic that day was "Do one thing differently" -- and if only Derrick had been watching, he'd have known that "by deciding to do just one thing differently and then following through with it, you can change your outlook or situation for the better."
In fact, Derrick couldn't have chosen a worse time to try to get the attention of both national and local news outlets, which were busy capturing Boulder DA Alex Hunter's interminable press conference on the JonBenét Ramsey grand jury, followed by Boulder police chief Mark Beckner's interminable press conference on the same grand jury. "In the end," Beckner said, "all of the media attention doesn't matter."
Had Derrick been watching Beckner instead of shouting his proclamations to those stone pioneers, he would have felt better Monday when not a single reporter showed up for his arraignment in Denver County Court. The only journalist in sight was a Westword reporter there to cover another case, who did double duty watching Derrick read a small book (it's not easy turning pages while wearing handcuffs) as he waited for Judge Celeste C de Baca to order him to to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. On Tuesday he was charged with possession of a false explosive or incendiary device and refusal to leave premises. Bond was set at $10,000.
Derrick's demonstration wasn't the only police intervention in the Civic Center Park area that day. It wasn't even the most interesting. A bike messenger who sped through the police barricade, saying he was on his way home, was tackled and arrested, witnesses say. And one block away, at the Central Library, the cops were called to investigate a truly foul situation.
Library employees have dubbed the incident The Stinkbomb.
"Sometime after 4 p.m., our guards were alerted that there was some filth in one of the bathrooms, and they went to investigate, and there was a man who was stripped down and washing at the sink. What he had told our guards is that he had [long pause here] lost control," says a library spokeswoman who was happy to get to the bottom of the situation for Westword. "He was given a plastic bag and a change of pants. The police were called, because initially we weren't sure what the situation was...We thought it was vandalism at first. The police delivered a warning and a lecture on respecting public property. I guess it was on the floor and some on the walls, but I wasn't there.
"That's the full poop," she adds.
Art for the common fan
Public property has also been on the mind of the Metropolitan Football Stadium District, whose Public Arts Advisory Committee has been meeting in private to figure out how to spend money on artwork to be installed at the new stadium for the Denver Broncos. So far, the only decision that the nine-member committee has made, says MFSD operations manager Kelly Leid, is that a statue of John Elway will not be part of the mix.
The committee, which began meeting behind closed doors in May, consists of a representative from each of the six counties in the stadium district, a neighborhood representative, a Broncos representative and an arts professional, Denver Art Museum director Lewis Sharp. It will be the committee's job to select where the artwork goes, what its theme will be and who will create it, Leid says. "At present, the committee's view on the building is that it makes such a strong statement by itself that they have moved away from art on it," he adds. "The art will be on the site or in the building."
Some time next year, the district will put out a call to artists, soliciting bids and designs. And that call will go to artists from all over the country, not just Colorado. "That's all part of the discussion," adds Leid, "but we are still very much in the talking process." The district has given the committee $217,000 to work with, but committee members eventually hope to raise another $1 million to $2 million for the project by selling paver bricks, seats from Mile High Stadium and other souvenirs.
So what kind of artwork does the true blue-and-orange, beer-swilling Broncos fan like?
"We'd direct an artist to buy into a theme of achievement or sport," Leid says, "but this committee is looking at all angles. We want types of art that don't get lost or take away from the grandeur of the building."
The Broncos are such an important artistic institution that the Denver Art Museum bond campaign, which is trying to pass a $62.5 million initiative on November 2, will be holding a big pre-election fundraiser (contribution: $25 per person) on October 21 in the locker room at Mile High Stadium, where art is in the jockstrap of the beholder.
"The reason that the rally is at the Broncos locker room," says a museum spokeswoman, "is because we are sort of playing on, well, a) that it's a pep rally, but b) we already know that Denver is a great sports town, and the citizens have funded the building of Coors Field and the building of the Pepsi Center and the new Broncos stadium, and in order to make Denver a world-class city, we need to start paying some attention to the cultural facilities to make it a world-class place to live. The mayor has often talked about how when you visit other great cities in the world, Florence and Paris, you don't go to watch their baseball games, you go to visit their great cultural institutions."
Would someone please hand Shannon Sharpe a fig leaf?
Country-music fans were on high alert earlier this month when it was reported that Garth Brooks and his wife, Sandy, were looking at a $5.5 million, 21,000-square-foot mansion just north of the city. The Nashville superstar is apparently in the market for a second home in Colorado. But if Brooks decides to start making mortgage payments in Longmont, they will be on top of the rent he already pays in Denver.
Brooks is the co-founder of -- and covers all of the overhead expenses for -- the Touch 'em All Foundation, a nonprofit charity with a six-person staff that works out of an office at 1400 South Colorado Boulevard. The foundation's name refers to the baseball expression for a home run, and Brooks, a well-known baseball fan, has signed up about seventy players -- including the Colorado Rockies' Larry Walker, Mike Lansing, Mike DeJean, Jerry DiPoto and Curtis Leskanic; former Rocks Walt Weiss, Eric Young and Ellis Burks; and all-around All-Stars Tony Gwynn, Roger Clemens and Ken Griffey Jr. The players have all agreed to cough up cash based on their on-the-field performances in specific categories: $1,000 for a home run, $200 for a stolen base, $500 for a double, $100 for a base hit, $300 for a save, and $100 for a strikeout. Celebrities like Brooks, or corporations and other nonprofits, then match the donations, which go to good causes. But so far, the foundation hasn't signed up many celebrities, says executive vice president Don Johnson (no, not that Don Johnson).
"We told the players we weren't going to publicize [who gave how much], because some guys give more than others in specific categories. Larry [Walker] is great, though. Larry sent half of his halfway through the year."
So far, Touch 'em All has only collected about half of the $831,000 that's been pledged. No matter: The foundation has yet to decide what charities to donate to, although "we've committed to [the players] that 100 percent of the monies they raised will all go to kids' charities," Johnson says.
Johnson doesn't know anything about Garth's Colorado house-hunting, but he does know that Garth's foundation is in Denver -- rather than Nashville or even San Diego, where Brooks roped himself a six-week stint playing left field for the Padres during spring training -- because of the singer's partner and foundation co-founder, Bo Mitchell. "Garth just didn't want it in Nashville, and it being a national foundation, it was just convenient, since Bo lives in Denver," Johnson says.
Mitchell is a former University of Colorado athlete and minor-league baseball player turned motivational speaker and chaplain for the Denver Nuggets. He met Brooks five years ago while Mr. Friends-in-Low-Places was in Denver for a concert. "Garth wanted to take batting practice with the Rockies, and one of the guys in the band knew Bo, and he called and asked if he could help out," Johnson explains. Mitchell not only got the strapping, 220-pound Brooks a day of batting practice with the Rockies, but he also called Johnson, at the time the vice president of marketing for the San Diego Padres. Johnson, a former Denver Nuggets employee, ditched San Diego for a job at the new Denver-based foundation, but not before he was able to help Brooks secure his spot on the Padres' spring-training lineup this year. "He loves baseball," Johnson says. "He has had a passion for it all of his life."
Although Brooks only got one hit in 22 at-bats, he got plenty of publicity for the foundation. In fact, Time Inc. decided to make the Touch 'em All Foundation one of nine charities to spotlight this year in full-page ads in Time, People, Sports Illustrated and Fortune. "Kids are the last picture of innocence, and that's what charity should be about," Brooks says in the ad. But his three children won't need any charity if they move to Longmont, where the mansion in question comes equipped with 54 fenced-in acres, a pond, a theater and a 1,000-gallon aquarium.
When Time isn't fawning over celebrity charities, it occasionally reports the news. But its interview with Unabomber Ted Kaczynski in the October 18 issue made headlines, mainly because of the nasty things Ted has to say about his brother David, whose suspicions put him in the pokey. The piece, penned by Stephen Dubner, also opens a barred window on Florence's Supermax prison, where Kaczynski's pad is one of eight cells collectively dubbed "Celebrity Row" in honor of the prison's superstar residents, among them terrorist Ramzi Yousef, of World Trade Center fame, and, until recently, Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. "These people are not what you would think of as criminal types," insists Kaczynski, who gets to hobnob with his neighbors during ninety-minute recreational periods several days a week. "I mean, they don't seem to be very angry people. They're considerate of others. Some of them are quite intelligent."
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McVeigh, now under lock and key in Indiana, even loaned Kaczynski the book Tainting Evidence: Inside the Scandals at the FBI Crime Lab. "I knew from my own experience that they were crooked and incompetent," Kaczynski says of the tome. "But according to this book, they're even worse than what I thought." Less diverting is the TV at his disposal, which neo-Luddite Kaczynski claims not to watch much (too high-tech?), or his gift subscriptions to the Los Angeles Times, the New York Review of Books, the New Yorker and National Geographic.
Kaczynski might have a blast talking to Desmond Derrick, though, should Denver decide to trade the country's least successful mad bomber to the Feds. Civic Center's Unbomber could certainly benefit from the Unabomber's expertise in arming bombs -- and defusing the media.
If you have a tip, call Jonathan Shikes at 303-293-3555, send a fax to 303-296-5416, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.