Off Limits

When Roy Romer was hired last week as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District -- or what L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan refers to as "the most dysfunctional bureaucracy in the history of the world" -- a few school-board members questioned whether he had enough experience. Romer may have been governor of Colorado for twelve years, but he's never held a job in education, they carped.

The 71-year-old Romer probably didn't help matters much when, after being introduced at a June 8 get-to-know-the-people of L.A. luncheon and delivering a few opening remarks, he started talking about his upbringing in the eastern Colorado town of Holly, where, he told the crowd, "I used to herd sheep. I am the only governor in the United States who was a certified sheepherder."

Governor...chairman of the Democratic National Committee...sheepherder. The folks on the left coast may have been surprised at that detail left off of Little Bo Peep's resumé, but Coloradans familiar with Roamin' Roy's past know that school superintendent may be the only job he hasn't held. "I am the living embodiment of somebody who can't keep a job," he once told the Rocky Mountain News, and he meant it. Aside from serving as state treasurer, state rep and state senator, Romer has been a lawyer, a land developer, the operator of a flying school (where he got teaching experience instructing future pilots, Romer told his L.A. critics), a truck driver, a real-estate broker, and the owner of both a ski area and several John Deere farm-equipment dealerships in Colorado, Virginia and Florida.

Romer's business history garnered him no respect from Jay Leno, however, who targeted Romer in his June 7 monologue, skipping right over the respectable parts as he headed below the belt. "We have a new superintendent of schools here in Los Angeles," Leno said. "The head of L.A. schools is former Democratic Party chairman and former Colorado governor Roy Romer. Do you know him? Interesting man. Two years ago he admitted he'd had a sixteen-year affair with his assistant, a woman named B.J. Thornberry. I'm not even going to ask how she got that name...B.J. Thornberry. She must have been a hell of an assistant. Oh, B.J., could you come in here? Have you met the president?"

Too bad Leno didn't know about the sheep.

Gone but not forgotten: Remember Jim Leyland? No? That's okay -- almost nobody else does, either. Leyland was the much-hyped chain-smoking washout who fled from his job as manager of the Colorado Rockies last year after only one season. In fact, the only people who still remember Leyland could be the folks at the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police and a few formerly goody-goody teens.

As part of a project sponsored by the CACP, the Rockies and the Decker Foods supermarket chain, since 1994 Colorado police and other law-enforcement officials have handed out baseball cards to kids under fifteen years of age with whom they have "positive contacts." But this year's cards (100,000 sets) were late getting from Decker's printer to the assorted agencies that use them. In fact, the 2000 cards didn't arrive until June 2, which meant that officers were handing out many, many outdated ones during the first two months of baseball season, in the process turning their "positive contacts" into potential juvenile delinquents. After all, if you can't count on a cop to stay current on baseball, what can you count on?

Although the Rockies lost ten players over the winter -- including Vinny Castilla, Darryl Kile, Curtis Leskanic, Kirt Manwaring and Dante Bichette -- their cards lived on, offering the kiddies such useful advice as Bichette's "When in doubt, ask an adult -- they have been where you are." (P.S.: When in doubt, Dante, don't let someone name a restaurant after you and then leave town.) Leyland, too, proved himself a real card with this message: "Do the twist and hook your seat belt before the car moves."

And then get the hell out of Denver.

"There should be new faces on the cards now," promises Donn Hopkins, CACP president and chief of the Colorado State University Police. "They do try to get current players."

Food fight: Last month, lawyers for Englewood-based Chef America Incorporated -- inventors of the lovable snack food Hot Pockets -- filed suit in Denver's U.S. District Court against Luigino's Incorporated -- inventors of the not-so-lovable snack food called Taco Pockets. In the lawsuit (pay close attention here), Chef America accused the makers of Taco Pockets of trying to take a bite out of Hot Pockets by purposely "creating the false and misleading impression that [the Taco Pocket] is affiliated, connected or associated with [the Hot Pocket] or have the sponsorship, endorsement, or approval of [the Hot Pocket]." Chef America's lawyers meticulously detail the rise of Hot Pockets and how they quickly became, to paraphrase doughboy rapper Ice Cube, the wrong Pocket to mess wit'.

A brief synopsis: In 1982, the original Hot Pocket, born in the South, debuts as simply a "stuffed sandwich that consists of meat, cheese, fruit and/or vegetable fillings wrapped inside a layer of dough." By 1984, the Hot Pocket is satisfying so many Southern tummies that it gets "distributed on a national basis," and a "low-calorie version," the Lean Pocket, is created. In 1986, the Breakfast Pocket hits the shelves, followed by Pocket Meals and the Lunch Pocket in 1992 and, finally, the Croissant Pocket in 1995. Their product has achieved "a high degree of recognition, fame, and distinctiveness throughout the United States, including the District of Colorado," the lawyers assert. "By reason of their excellence, reliability and quality, products provided under the POCKET family are in high demand throughout the U.S.," the suit claims, with sales exceeding "$500,000,000 over the past three years."

A trial date has yet to be set. Before we get a taste of courtroom reaction, expect plenty of motions and discovery -- including whether the plaintiff or the defendant has deeper pockets.

All wet: Last week, we reported that a Colorado Lottery ad was hyping Jackson Lake State Park's liquid assets even though the reservoir was off limits to recreation enthusiasts because of a dispute between the state and the owners of the water. Oops. What a difference a few days make: Although the ad was made months ago, the dispute was settled just before Memorial Day. Everyone into the pool!


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