Off Limits

Rocky Mountain Canada: John Denver.

Stunt double
Remember the movie Dumb and Dumber, with Jeff Daniels? How about 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain, with Hulk Hogan, or Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead, the Andy Garcia flick that was just about DOA when it hit movie theaters? Those are just a few of the state's starring roles touted by the Colorado Motion Picture and Television Commission, the state agency charged with promoting filmmaking across Colorado and assisting those production companies that do shoot here.

In fact, scarcely a week goes by "that you won't see Colorado at the theater or on television...and not a day goes by that someone isn't shooting in Colorado," boasts the CMPTC's Web site. "And it wasn't necessarily a feature film -- Colorado hosts a vast number of national commercials, television and cable shows, corporate video projects, documentaries and educational shows."

So why are two of Colorado's biggest and most personal stories being filmed in other states?

"It was just unfortunate that both were happening at the same time," says Michael Klein, director of the Colorado Film Commission. "The ultimate irony is that we were talking to the John Denver people about duplicating Boulder for Aspen and talking to the JonBenét Ramsey people about duplicating Aspen for Boulder."

No, the ultimate irony is that Colorado landed neither production, which helps explain why one local filmmaker calls Klein "the most unpopular person in the Denver film community, since he hasn't closed a deal in years." (But just in case he does, the local asked to remain anonymous.)

As it turns out, Take Me Home: The John Denver Story is being filmed in Vancouver because the money-crunchers at CBS decided it would be less expensive to film it there. The two-hour movie stars Chad Lowe as the soprano songbird and will be aired sometime early next year. "We were heavily into negotiations when they decided it was cheaper to shoot in Canada," Klein says, adding that Vancouver is now playing the part of Denver and Colorado more often than Utah. "I challenged them to prove it, and they did point out some areas where they got better breaks, but it was merely a function of money, plain and simple."

Aspen didn't work for either tearjerker. "I don't think it's a secret that Aspen is very particular about the kind of projects that come into the community," Klein reveals. "A great deal of people who live there are from the entertainment business, and they go there to get away from it, so they're probably not the most receptive community we have." Breckenridge, he points out, stood in for Aspen in Dumb and Dumber.

Although the JonBenét movie -- also a CBS production -- will be partially filmed in Boulder (mostly standing shots of the Ramseys' former house, the Pearl Street Mall, courthouses and police stations), the majority of the four-hour, two-part TV flick, which is based on Perfect Murder, Perfect Town, by Lawrence Schiller, will be shot in Utah. "The producers were much more concerned about the sensitivities of the Boulder community and didn't want to run into any locals who would be upset with the nature of the film," Klein explains. "The biggest issue was the lack of cooperation from the police department, who said it was an active investigation. The producers just didn't want to hear that."

CBS's "sensitivities" about the JonBenét movie are made perfectly clear by the following revealing interview with CBS spokeswoman Susan Marks:

What is the shooting schedule, and when will you be in Boulder?

"We are not in production now in Boulder. We have no comment on our shooting schedule."

Why aren't you shooting more of the movie in Boulder?

"I have no comment on that."

Did you work with the Colorado Film Commission?

"I have no idea if the film commission was worked with."

Is it cheaper to shoot movies in Utah or Canada?

"We don't discuss production costs. Well, then, I think we've answered all of your questions."

Not hardly. But let's cut back to Klein.

Although Colorado has been the setting for a number of big stories just begging for translation to the screen -- Columbine, of course; the Timothy McVeigh trial; the skiing death of Michael Kennedy; the massive manhunt of the three men who killed a Cortez police officer near the Four Corners -- no movies about any of these subjects are currently in production. As far as Klein knows, that is.

The Cortez manhunt did inspire Tony Hillerman's new book, Hunting Badger, which got Klein's hopes up. "The fugitive one -- I always thought we would get phone calls, but no one picked up on it," he says. "There was too much sensitivity over Columbine, and no one has called us on that. But you never know what is going to make for a story and what isn't."  

Early snow could bring out the studios this year, he says optimistically. "Everybody has been looking for snow this year, so I'm in a particularly good mood. The industry is very cyclical that way. Some years it's deserts, some years it's snow. I expect the phone to start ringing this week."

Bah, humbug
Just in time for the holidays, the Denver Pavilions has decided to quit validating parking stubs for its underground lot. "It was a one-year program we were testing to see how it worked, and we decided it wasn't working the way we wanted it to," says Susan Cantwell, general manager of the upscale downtown mall, which celebrated its one-year anniversary last month.

The problem?

You, you loitering jerk.

That's right. Pavilions tenants complained that people were coming into their stores and restaurants only wanting to have their stubs validated -- and never dropping any dough. "It didn't make sense for them financially," Cantwell says, adding that each business establishment has to pay to be a part of the parking-validation program. "It was being abused, but they didn't want to offend people by saying no. It was creating more ill will for them than it was worth."

But some merchants complain that it doesn't make sense to end the program right around the holidays. (In fact, for boneheaded timing, it's right up there with the city deciding to extend downtown parking meters until 10 p.m. -- a move it postponed until after January 1 after members of Downtown Denver complained.) "I think we need parking validation to attract local traffic," one Pavilions tenant says, "and I'm in favor of it, but I want them to do it like it was last year." That's when the Pavilions' management charged by square footage of the store or restaurant rather than per validation.

Only about seven businesses were part of the program last year, Cantwell says, including the Hard Rock Cafe, Cafe Odyssey, the Sweet Factory, Breaking the Mold Candle Company, Sky Scraper Kites and the Colorado Baggage Company. And Milicia Faleh, who manages the Sweet Factory, says she's just as happy to see the validation deal end. "We didn't get anything out of it," she says, "and it's less headaches for me."

Although Cantwell says it's possible that the situation could be "revisited," bring your change in the meantime. Or plan to take in a movie when you're downtown: The United Artists theater at the Pavilions still validates parking stubs.

Post mortem
Former Denver Post editor Dennis Britton -- who was so despised by many of his employees that several of them conspired to create a "Dennis Britton Go Home Page" on the Web -- has now resurfaced as the editor of a Chicago-based Internet news service known as ChinaOnline. The company's Web site ( specializes in business news about China, but some ex-Posties at first thought Britton had gone to, a news site that featured a lead story on a UFO sighting over Shanghai. A story like that would have been a welcome read compared to the yawners Britton put on the Post's front page, including the awful "Snapshot of Colorado" buscapade around the state last year. Even more surprising is Britton's debut in cyberspace, since he reportedly once told Post staffers that "the Internet is the CB radio of the Nineties."

Meanwhile, the editor Britton replaced in 1996, Neil Westergaard, has also come back to journalism. After a stint with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Colorado, Westergaard was named editor of the Denver Business Journal last week, giving that weekly another well-respected journalist to follow in the steps of Henry Dubroff.

Say it isn't ho
A real-estate agent working in the hot, hot, hot northwest Denver housing market recently proposed, in print, a new and perfectly horrible moniker for the Highland and West Highland neighborhoods: HiHo.

In a November 24 article in the Rocky Mountain News, Thomas Moore of Old Denver Homes explained that the proposed nickname would stand for those parts of Highland just north and west of LoDo, formerly -- and reasonably -- known as lower downtown. Okay, that explains the "Hi" part. But what about the "Ho"? Doesn't it make you think of the seven dwarves? Or is it a reference to the sluttish behavior of some residents of that area, specifically several Westword editorial types?

With any luck, the name won't stick (then again, a bunch of optimistic condo developers just announced Monday that they're building an "urban resort" in the Platte Valley -- shades of that alleged "retail resort," Park Meadows, an unabashed mall where parking is free, at least). But if it does, the residents of HiHo won't go down without taking a few other neighborhoods along with them. Some other terrible nicknames for Denver neighborhoods:  

Five Points -- FiDo
Wash Park -- WaKo
Montbello -- MoJo
Baker Neighborhood -- BoNo
Downtown -- DoDo
Golden Triangle -- GoDo
Sloan Lake -- SloDo
Crestmoor -- CreMo
That's enough. Now it's off to work we go.

If you have a tip, call Jonathan Shikes at 303-293-3555, send a fax to 303-296-5416, or e-mail Jonathan Shikes

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