It doesn't have the Hollywood hook of The Lion King, the critical acclaim of Tantalus or the Big Apple bite of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change!, but Almost Heaven: Songs and Stories of John Denver -- the story of the late John Denver's life and work, told in song -- has something else: hometown appeal. "It's so Colorado-specific," says Chris Wiger, spokesman for the Denver Center Theatre Company, which is producing the musical. "I can't imagine it opening somewhere else. People are embracing it simply because he was so Colorado."
(Even if he was born Henry John Deutschendorf in Roswell, New Mexico, on December 31, 1943.)
But Almost Heaven has also generated a huge advance buzz in Europe, where there are almost as many fan clubs devoted to JD as there are in the United States. "We have at least six fan clubs that are flying in from outside of Denver to see the show, one from Copenhagen," Wiger says. "There are ten people in that group. They are staying here three days and seeing it each of the three days they are here."
A sampling of other far-flung fans: Australia's John Denver Music Appreciation Society, founded in 1975; Germany's Music and Communication, which will hold its annual two-day event, Denver Days, in September in Sinzig at the Rhine (near Bonn) before a small contingent heads to Aspen to commemorate the anniversary of the singer's death on October 12; Japan's Sunshine on My Shoulders; the Netherlands' World of John Denver; New Zealand's Song of the Wind; and Britain's Friends of John Denver, which also sends members to Aspen every October.
And even if they don't make it to the Mile High City for the show, JD's German fans will soon learn every detail, since Heike Schmidt, a Denver-based reporter for the German Press Association and an admitted John Denver fan, plans to attend the March 28 premiere of Almost Heaven.
"He was someone I always knew and listened to, and if I heard a song on the radio, it would stay with me all day," Schmidt says. Still, despite all the interest in John Denver over in Germany, she had to resort to extreme measures to convince her editors by phone that the premiere was worth a story. "I threatened to sing 'Country Roads,' and I started humming it, and they said, 'Okay, ja, do it.'"
Full of it: Although the People's Republic of Boulder has been accused -- often accurately -- of aggressively trying to impose its will on the rest of the free world, including Denver, city spokeswoman Jana Petersen had to deny that Boulder was at it again this month.
In a press release titled "Pooper letter not penned by city of Boulder," Petersen advised: "A prankster apparently has faked city of Boulder letterhead to send messages to residents of the Denver metro area encouraging them to pick up after their dogs. The fake letters contain several misspellings, including the following signature: 'I.M Sorry, Supervisor, Pooper-Scopper Department, City of Boulder.' The letters instruct recipients that they have violated city of Boulder ordinances regarding dog excrement and asks them to call the Boulder City Council office to make an appointment to 'clean this mess up.' The city discovered the fraud when one of the letters was returned as undeliverable to the City Council office."
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Although the fraudulent letter even quoted Petersen, she applied an even hand to her own (legitimate) release: "We hope that the humorous tone of the letter makes it evident to anyone who receives it that it's a prank. Although we do encourage folks to pick up after their pets, sending a letter home is not an approach we would take."
Petersen says the city has no leads on a suspect and doesn't plan to pursue the matter further. A likely culprit would seem to be Patrick Murphy, who's launched a highly publicized one-man crusade to rid Boulder of dog poop (he recently rated an appearance on cable's Comedy Central), but he denies that he did the deed. "It seems like a stupid idea to me," says Murphy, who uses GIS maps to pinpoint piles of dog poop and has presented those maps to the Boulder City Council on a number of occasions. "It sounds like it's coming from someone who is pretty frustrated by dog poop, and rather than trying legal approaches, they just got too desperate."
Murphy, meanwhile, believes he's made progress in getting Boulder to crack down on people who don't pick up after their pets -- and by using legal, civic methods, too. Methods that might come in handy in Denver, which isn't exactly poop-free either, he points out.
"I've been to Sloan Lake, and it's pretty horrendous," Murphy says. "The goose poop I can live with, even it does make me sick. But I can't live with it when it's someone who is not taking responsibility for their own animal. In that case, there needs to be action taken."