Off Limits

Denver is the ninth-best city in the land for living the single lifestyle, or so says a recent survey conducted by America Online. But it also has some of the worst traffic congestion in the lower 48, according to a study by the Texas Transportation Institute. All of which makes this cuddly cowtown the perfect place for environmentally active singles to get together, flirt and talk about how to replace SUVs with bicycles and light-rail lines: Embrace the Earth; now embrace each other!

Welcome to the Sierra Club's new singles circle. It was formed a couple of months ago, says the group's chairman, Steve Bortz, as a way to recruit new members to Sierra's Rocky Mountain Chapter -- and to have fun.

"The Sierra Club has been around for something like a hundred years, and there are 15,000 Colorado members," Bortz points out. "So finally someone said, 'There's enough energy out there for a singles club.' Whether you are involved in the environmental-protection movement or just want to make friends or want to get hot and heavy, mainly it's just for people to have fun." Couples who compost together stay together!

"The difference between this and other singles groups is that this one has a purpose," he adds. "You know that the people do the things that you do -- outdoor stuff, recycling, writing letters to senators, etc." Talk about romantic!

Bortz, who lives in Boulder and has led hiking and snowshoeing trips for the Sierra Club for years, says there are already 150 people on his singles e-mail list and that the group's recent events have attracted anywhere from twelve to forty people. Modeled on Sierra Singles groups in other states, Colorado's version (which can be found online at mainly draws people in their thirties, forties and fifties.

Examples of upcoming fun: On February 16, an evening at the Mercury Cafe includes instructions in ceili, which is similar to Irish step dancing (the Sierra Singles promo reads: "Guys, the gals REALLY like men who like to dance, so make like Michael Flatley and step on down to the Merc!"), and on February 23, there's a seven-mile snowshoe hike near Mount Evans. On February 14, the group plans to hold a Valentine's Day dinner at Las Margaritas.

So, has anyone gotten lucky? Well, there's the woman who begged off the e-mail list after meeting the man of her dreams at a Sierra Singles event. "They're honeymooning in Florida right now, I think," Bortz says. Oh, and then there's Bortz himself. Yes, even the group leader met someone. "We've been dating for a little while now," he admits.

Happy trails!

In our sights (a Westword public service for the gossip-deprived, now that both Penny Parker and Bill Husted are in Salt Lake City): One of the more interesting, and unheralded, sightings of the holiday season was former governor of Nebraska (and former senator from the same state) Robert Kerrey at the bash thrown by Brownstein, Hyatt & Farber -- aka The Firm. But it turns out that Kerrey, who's currently the president of the New School University in New York, wasn't in town just for fun and games. A clue is contained in the invitation to "Outlook 02," an "exclusive event brought to you" (well, if you happen to be a Somebody) on February 21 by Brownstein, Hyatt & Farber, where invitees can "discuss key issues affecting companies today with America's policy makers." And not just any policy makers, but Senator Pete Domenici, the New Mexican Republican; Senator Richard Shelby, Republican from Alabama; House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt; political pundit Charles Cook, and Kerrey.

Under Kerrey's name, though, along with his past political offices and his current NYC job, is another curious title: "Strategic Advisor to Brownstein Hyatt & Farber."

Just what, exactly, is a strategic advisor to The Firm? "A strategic advisor is one who advises strategically," firm partner Steve Farber says helpfully. In fact, Kerrey, whose relationship with Brownstein, Hyatt & Farber will be formally announced at Outlook 02, will be "helping corporate clients in terms of policy, and offering other sage advice," Farber explains, "whether in Washington, D.C., or elsewhere." Kerrey will be based in New York, where he'll continue as president of the New School.

And all of those other names on the invitation -- are they strategic advisors, too?

"They're strategic friends of the firm," Farber says. "FOFs. Or FONs -- friends of Norm." By which, of course, he means politically connected partner Norm Brownstein.

Another unexpected sighting popped up last week in a Rocky's Autos ad. Yes, that was John Ashton, writer (including a memorable staff gig at Westword in the '80s), radio talk-show host, actor (currently starring in Sylvia) and theater producer, wearing red tights and starring as the Devil. The commercial was actually filmed a year ago, but it recently resurfaced on late-night TV. (The ad was Ashton's second for Rocky's; his first, in which he played a lawyer who got to grill the Shagman on the stand, remains one of the car dealership's most popular.)

Hmmm...was it a stretch to play ol' Beelzebub? "It was damn hard. It was freezing," Ashton replies, then warms to his audience. "I had to draw from something deep inside me that I knew was there."

What won't be there much longer is his Avenue Theater, which will lose its home (for the past fifteen years!) on 17th Avenue at the end of June. Ashton's having a devil of a time locating a new space, but he still has hopes that he'll "find some very generous landlord."

Our last sighting comes from Salt Lake City itself, where President George Dubya Bush may hopscotch around in Air Force One, but the regular people travel by bus -- RTD bus, that is. As part of a Utah Transit Authority (UTA) effort called Drive for the Gold, which recruited buses and drivers from around the country to shuttle athletes and fans to and from the different sports venues at the Games, RTD has lent thirty brand-new forty-footers to Olympic organizers.

"The nation's public transportation systems from across the country are showing support by proudly donating 905 buses and providing 1,000 operators from 43 states to Salt Lake City," reads an announcement issued by the American Public Transportation Association, which is helping the UTA. But only the RTD buses received prime-time exposure in a February 10 NBC story about how fans get to the top of Park City's steep slopes to watch skiing events; the network aired footage of a convoy of RTD buses motoring up the hill, the word Denver blinking on each one.

Aside from publicity, though, not much is free in this deal. The drivers had to use their own vacation time to achieve Olympic busing glory, although they are being paid a stipend by the UTA. "This was done at absolutely no cost to RTD," says district spokesman Scott Reed, who notes that RTD lent about a dozen buses to Atlanta for the 1996 Summer Games. "The Olympic host committee and the host city pay all of the transportation costs, all the costs of maintenance and operations, and they are responsible for bringing the buses back up to their original condition.

"Hopefully, the hockey team doesn't get ahold of them," he adds.

That's right: Denver's taxpaying, fare-subsidizing, gum-chewing bus riders -- who will get to see the new buses only after they've done their Olympic best -- deserve the right to trash those vehicles themselves.


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