Off Limits

Two days into the International Chamber of Commerce 34th World Congress, downtown Denver's streets were quiet -- proving once again that this is a town that only riots over sporting events.

"Hey, I just saw an actual person go by," said Jim Sprinkle, looking out on the 16th Street Mall Tuesday morning from his office in the Paramount Theatre. Sprinkle was supposed to be seeing a lot of little persons that morning: He'd booked three performances of Los Folkloristas, a musical troupe from Mexico, for the Paramount on May 7. Two of the shows, morning performances designed for kids, had sold out by last September, largely to school groups from across the metro area; encouraged by the interest, Sprinkle had later added an evening performance geared to high school Spanish students. And before adding that show, he'd checked with downtown boosters to make sure it wouldn't conflict with any international-confab activities.

But that was before -- long before -- the Denver Police Department alerted Denver Public Schools officials that buses would have trouble getting into downtown for any field-trip activities earlier this week. When the cancellation calls started coming in from DPS high schools Friday afternoon, Sprinkle canceled the evening show. Since the protesters weren't scheduled to start until 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, he initially thought the kids' shows might go on. But schools started canceling those reservations, too, and finally the Paramount gave up on all three shows.

Sprinkle tracked down Los Folkloristas and told the troupe that it could skip Denver -- the last stop on the tour -- and go home early. So much for international trade. And so much for the Paramount's own trade, since the theater lost "an unpleasant amount of money" on the canceled shows.

"Denver's dead," Sprinkle says. "People are staying the hell out of here. I could have a picnic in the middle of Glenarm Street."

Rebel forces: More than 500 Star Wars fans will celebrate Mother's Day in an unusual way: On Sunday, they'll be watching the newest film in the series, Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones, a week before the rest of the world gets to take a look. The screening, which is set for the Continental Theatre (our Best of Denver 2002 pick for the town's best place to view blockbusters), is one of only eleven early showings across the country. All eleven were set up by Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century-Fox as benefits for organizations dedicated to helping abused and neglected kids.

In Denver, that organization is the Kempe Children's Foundation. "George Lucas, back when they released Star Wars: Episode 1 -- The Phantom Menace, decided to open the film to benefit several children's organizations throughout theaters in the United States and Canada," says Kempe spokeswoman Catherine Worster. "Last time, it was Children's Hospital. This time, they wanted to branch out."

The tickets may seem a bit steep -- $250 for adults and $125 for children -- but the amount was set by Lucasfilm, and even at that price, the Continental showing is sure to be sold out. "Out of 520 tickets, we have 85 left to sell by Sunday," Worster says. "The avid Star Wars fans are really coming out to view this. We are the only premiere in the Rocky Mountain region. It should be a great event. This is a fun, out-of-this-world way to celebrate Mother's Day. This is a family movie and a time for families to be together." A number of giveaways, including an R2D2 Portable Cooler, a Mindstorm Dark Side Kit and a Boba Fett print, will lend to the party atmosphere, she adds: "We are very thankful that George Lucas recognizes that child abuse and neglect are an important issue in our community."

Apparently, Lucas also recognizes how important movie sound quality is to this community -- at least when it comes to his sound schematics, theater guidelines produced by THX, a division of Lucasfilm. Although most people go to see blockbusters at the Continental because of its giant-screen, 800-plus-seat main theater (this summer's other major money flick, Spiderman, premiered there on May 3), the May 12 Clones showing will be in a smaller theater.

"Apparently, [the main theater] is not up to Lucasfilm specifications," Worster explains. Specifically, THX. And while two of the six theaters at the Continental are equipped with THX sound, including the one where Clones will be shown, the big one isn't.

This Lucas power play could serve as a warm introduction to the world of Hollywood for up-and-coming movie mogul and Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz, who owns three movie studios and recently acquired more than half of the nation's movie theaters, including the Continental. (Anschutz's movie-theater company, Regal Entertainment, didn't return repeated phone calls from Westword.)

Phil, do not underestimate the power of the Dark Side.

Who's the boss: The legislative session ends this week, but its legacy will linger. And so will some hard feelings. Early in the session, Governor Bill Owens's deputy chief of staff, Mike Beasley, sent the following e-mail to more than twenty senior staffers within various state agencies:

"We continue to have a problem with some state agencies lobbying amendments, bills and budget issues without coordination and permission from our office. Your department needs prior approval of my office to testify or lobby on any amendment or bill to guarantee your testimony is consistent with the policies spelled out to us by the Governor," Beasley wrote. "It is disappointing and alarming that after nearly four regular sessions and two special sessions we continue to have this happen. I hope you will all keep in mind our desire to avoid mistakes during such an important election year."

Indeed. And especially in an election year like this one, in which the state's rocky financial situation has led to intense budget-cutting. Because the legislature has the constitutional authority to oversee the Colorado state budget, and because officials from state agencies are routinely summoned to testify before various legislative committees, the Beasley memo inspired grumbling from many department heads, who are already under enormous pressure to find ways to slash expenses.

"It takes control-freak behavior to a whole new level," says one Capitol Hill observer.

But Beasley insists that it's the same old level: The policy of having state officials clear any legislative actions with the governor's office dates back to the Roy Romer administration. "We've done this forever," he says.

And if the memo was especially firm in detailing the time-honored tradition, that's because the legislature was particularly hectic when he had his fingers on the keyboard. "On that day, there were four or five examples of people down here doing things that were not related to what the governor wants," Beasley says.

And what the governor wants most of all, of course, is to be re-elected.

It's my party, and I'll buy if I want to: The Colorado Republican Party fired the first salvo in this election season's advertising campaign two weeks ago, when it introduced an ad touting Senator Wayne Allard. Unofficially, of course.

The slick commercial (produced in Washington, D.C., with some help from the National Republican Senatorial Committee) didn't make any mention of Democrat Tom Strickland, Allard's opponent --again -- on the November ballot. For that matter, it didn't make any mention of the November ballot. Instead, it simply reminded Colorado voters of Allard's existence, offering patriotic words and pictures to prove he's been President George W. Bush's point man on military issues. "Senator Allard hasn't been on the ballot for six years," says Alan Philp, executive director of the state party. "We want to highlight his record."

And if in the process the party happens to bump Allard's showing in the polls, what's wrong with that?

The ad buy included stations in Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Grand Junction, essentially blanketing the state -- at a cost of $100,000 a week. Although Philp says the party hasn't decided whether to extend the "issue advocacy" buy, he believes the money's been well spent. "We think it will be reflected in people's understanding of Senator Allard," he says.

Although the commercial's disclaimer notes that the ads were paid for by the Colorado Republican Party, chaired by Bruce Benson (he returned to that post after Bob Beauprez dropped out to run for the 7th Congressional District), the phone number in the ad leads straight to Allard's Colorado office.

And staffers there report that they've been getting plenty of calls -- very surprising calls in the beginning, since they hadn't been briefed on the ad's content. Or the fact that it existed at all. "Since we didn't know the ads were running, that makes it a little tough," says Allard spokesman Sean Conway. "The first time I knew the ads were running was when I saw one."

Not that Allard's folks don't appreciate the assist. "The Republican Party decided to do these ads," says Dick Wadhams, who took a leave from the governor's office to run Allard's campaign. "I'm grateful for it. They bought a lot of time; it's going to be helpful. I would consider it a public service."


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