Off Limits

An already incipient recession fueled by the September 11 terrorist attacks may have closed most people's pocketbooks to purchases of anything other than guns, flags and shares of defense-industry stocks, but apparently it hasn't affected those who pay top dollar to attend the theee-ater, particularly when the highbrow evening is marketed like a sporting event. So far, ticket sales for "VIP Evenings" at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts -- which, according to a promotional letter from Coors CEO and DCPA trustee W. Leo Kiely III, "offers the kind of 'skybox' indulgences we find at Denver's professional sports venues" -- are going as planned. "We really have not felt an impact yet," says Mary McGuire, associate director of development for the DCPA. "We have had no cancellations, and I can't think of one corporation that asked for their money back or said, 'No, we can't afford it.'"

A skybox-style cultural night out at one of these DCPA events -- all of them Broadway blockbusters -- includes complimentary cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, an "elegant catered dinner" in the Donald R. Seawell Grand Ballroom and, of course, orchestra seating. Individual tickets range from $150 per show (for A Christmas Carol) to $300 (for The Lion King), while corporate tables that seat ten Very Important Persons run from $1,500 to $3,000.

But who's complaining? These prices are a bargain compared to the cost of indulging in a skybox at Invesco Field at Mile High, where Mayor Wellington Webb and several cronies recently ponied up $85,000 for a sixteen-seat luxury suite for one season, which includes just two pre-season eight regular-season Broncos games. That comes to $8,500 per game for the box or, on a per-seat basis, $531.25 per game -- a hefty $231.25 more than the most expensive VIP Evening at the DCPA. Both venues even have the same caterer -- although grub isn't included in the cost of a stadium skybox.

"We liken it to the sports arenas because we provide the best seats in the house to those who attend," McGuire says. "Contrary to what a lot of people think, there are a lot of people who enjoy theater as much as, or more than, sports." Nevertheless, the DCPA stays away from making VIP offers on Sundays, with the exception of a production of Contact on October 21.

The Broncos will be in San Diego that day, of course, but they'll be home the following week. And on October 28, Lorraine Spargo, director of luxury-suite sales at the stadium, expects to see all 124 skyboxes filled, despite the faltering economy and the lasting effects of September 11. "It's been so difficult with this whole situation that some people are still wanting to have a life," she says. "The sports industry is a big one, and when Sunday comes along, people want a Broncos game. I haven't heard of anyone turning their tickets in. If corporations have suites, they are really using them now. People really appreciate being invited, because it takes their minds off of other things."

And at $85,000 to $120,000 a year for a box, those corporations had better be using them. While Spargo says a few people or corporations have asked about backing out of their lease agreements (which range from five to ten years), only one has followed through. "I have no idea what it will be like a year from now," she adds, "but I think right now, across the league, the stadiums are full."

Illegal use of hands: Invesco Field at Mile High may not be a cheap seat, but at least it's not the butt of all the cheap shots delivered by nationally televised sports announcers taking aim at Denver. No, that honor goes to Denver International Airport. On October 7, CBS broadcasters Dick Enberg and Dan Dierdorf called the Broncos-Kansas City Chiefs game here at home; this week, the duo was in Green Bay for the Packers-Baltimore Ravens game. After watching a replay of a Ravens player holding an opponent all the way down the field on a punt return -- an illegal maneuver that officials didn't notice -- Enberg quipped, "That reminds me of trying to get through the Denver airport last week."

What could he have meant by that? At Westword's request, CBS Sports spokesman Jerry Caraccioli asked the veteran sportscaster to expand on his remark. "He said he was in line for two and a half hours; people were getting frisked," Caraccioli reports. "It was kind of like they were in a holding pattern, with all the security that had to be done."

And was Enberg frisked?

"No," Caraccioli insists.

Are you ready for some football? Enberg should be happy his only problem in Denver was inconvenience. In the very thick novel The Sum of All Fears, published by Tom Clancy in 1991, Muslim terrorists detonate a nuclear bomb just outside Denver's football stadium while the Super Bowl is being played inside. So how does this scenario play out in the movie, which Paramount had set for release next summer?

Apparently, it doesn't. The studio guys had long ago changed the villains from Muslim terrorists to neo-Nazi terrorists, in response to a campaign by Muslim groups in this country who don't appreciate the way Muslims are depicted in Hollywood. Oh, and the setting is now Baltimore instead of Denver (it must be sexier at the box office). And now, in light of a reality more terrifying than anything Hollywood could dream up, Tinseltown reporters are questioning whether the $100 million movie, starring Ben Affleck (in the old Harrison Ford role) and Morgan Freeman, will ever be released. Paramount says it will make that decision early next year.

Eat it: Sure, Alfred Packer ate people -- but he didn't murder them. That's the conclusion of a group of Mesa State College scholars who've been studying the site where Packer and his pals spent a long, cold winter 127 years ago, with only Packer emerging alive. In the years since, the only thing more controversial than Packer's appetite was the spelling of his first name. His infamy only enhanced his status at the University of Colorado, though, where he served as inspiration for Alferd Packer: The Musical (note alternate spelling), produced by then-CU film students Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and is also commemorated at the school's Alferd Packer Grill.

Not all celebs are so lucky. Coach Gary Barnett may be having a winning season with the Buffs this year, but he lost his namesake restaurant at the Orrington Hotel in Evanston, Illinois, just blocks from Northwestern University, the school he ditched for Boulder. What had been Gary Barnett's is now known simply as Coaches.

How quickly they forget: Remember the shark hysteria this summer that had the national media in a feeding frenzy and vacationers afraid to set foot off beaches from Virginia to Florida?

The terrorist attacks had already stamped out coverage of more recent stories that once might have been considered big news; now they're even beginning to erase our memories. Submitted for your consideration, this correction printed in the October 14 issue of The New York Times: "An article on Sept. 16 about New York's resilience in the face of the attack on the World Trade Center, citing other incidents of unexpected violence around the nation, misstated the site of the 1999 high school shooting in Colorado. The incident, in which two students killed 12 students, a teacher and themselves, occurred in Littleton, not Littlefield."

And now for an update on FrankBenét Ramsey...


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