Off Limits

To people standing in the hot sun on the morning of July 1, Mayor Wellington Webb's final State of the City address seemed almost as long as his three terms as mayor. By the time the Denver Municipal Youth Band had played (twice, including the Rocky theme "Eye of the Tiger"), and Webb's grandchildren had recited the Pledge of Allegiance (so far, the Ninth Circuit Court has not called to complain), and a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe had sung "The Star-Spangled Banner," and members of the Zion Baptist Church had sung "America the Beautiful," and one reverend had read from the Old Testament, and another had read from the New Testament, and someone had turned on John Denver's recording of "Rocky Mountain High," and, oh, yes, Webb delivered his speech, ninety minutes had passed -- and some in the crowd were close to passing out.

Aside from its We Are the World lineup, the ceremony included a few hot scoops. Johns TV, for example -- a new show on the city's Channel 8 that promises to be steamier than a 99-degree day when the sprinklers by the Millennium Bridge at Riverfront Park are running in defiance of new Denver Water rules -- will debut on July 25, with a cast that includes actual prostitutes along with johns convicted of soliciting their services in Denver. The show may not clean up Colfax Avenue, but it could clean up in the ratings.

And while Webb will leave the job of actually building a new justice center to his successor, he confirmed that a leading site is the $22 million building now occupied by the Rocky Mountain News, just a block from both the Denver courts and the Denver Police Department's headquarters. (The probable new home for the News, the Denver Post and the Denver Newspaper Agency, the outfit created by a joint operating agreement to oversee the business side of both papers, is the Legacy Building now under construction on 15th Street, a stone's throw from the Millennium Bridge, where Webb delivered his address.)

A stadium by any other name: "We did what we should have done a long time ago," says Denver Post editor Greg Moore of the paper's decision last week to begin referring to Invesco Field at Mile High as, well, Invesco Field at Mile High.

In other words, by its official name.

"Just that," Moore says succinctly.

The front page of the Post's June 26 sports section included a box with the headline "Editor's note," along with these words: "Beginning today, The Denver Post will refer to the new Broncos stadium by its official name, Invesco Field at Mile High."

Moore, who termed the announcement "no big deal," says that when he arrived in town a month ago, he was unaware of the Post's quirky, and awkward, editorial practice of referring to the facility as the "new Mile High Stadium" -- despite the fact that Invesco Funds had ponied up $55 million for the naming rights to the Broncos' new home last year.

The policy was handed down shortly before the facility opened by then-Post editor Glenn Guzzo, who defended it as recently as January 13. In his column chastising an "array of Denver-area media" who "threw public temper tantrums five months ago" when the Post announced its Invesco-free decision, Guzzo noted that 80 percent of the public's reaction had been favorable, as had almost all of the comments in the national press, including pieces by Mitch Albom, Frank Deford and George Vecsey.

But apparently Guzzo's courageous stand didn't make an impression at the Boston Globe, where Moore was managing editor until Post owner Dean Singleton picked him to be Guzzo's successor. The issue didn't hit Moore's radar screen until he had "three or four people ask me what we were going to do about it," he says. And once he found the time to look at the politics behind the policy and discuss it with a "couple of editors," Moore knew what he had to do. "I wasn't going to engage in that level of behavior," he says.

So the Post surrendered publicly and joined ranks with the rest of Denver media -- nearly a year behind the curve.

Thus far, no one seems to be throwing a temper tantrum.

Water you lookin' at? Facing the driest summer on record, Denver Water officials turned on the creative faucets.

A few weeks ago, Jane Earle, Denver Water's manager of community relations, asked Denver-based Sukle Advertising and Design to come up with a clever, inexpensive campaign that would raise public awareness about the drought among Denver Water's 1.1 million customers. The company's copywriters soon spit out humorous slogans, according to president Michael Sukle, and a staffer wearing a sandwich board then took a trial run at Coors Field to see if anyone swallowed the idea. The test catchphrase, "Brush Every Other Tooth," ran above the water department's new motto: "It's a Drought. Do Something."

When the creative concept soaked up praise, Denver Water authorized a $75,000 campaign that includes several billboards (donated by a media company), a mobile signboard and about a dozen different sandwich-board-wearing individuals who descend on selected big events. "We had to capture people's attention quickly," explains Sukle. "We don't have a lot of time, so we had to be memorable." And legal: Although the Denver City Council banned panhandling and sign-waving on public rights-of-way a year ago, Earle says the signboards don't violate any local ordinances.

They may violate some people's sense of propriety, however. Sukle acknowledges that a few observers may not think slogans such as "Spraypaint Your Lawn Green" and "Real Men Dry Shave" are "serious enough." But he's also realistic. "This weather is not that unusual for this type of climate," he says, "so you don't want to alarm people and say, 'You're all going to die.' We just need to work together."

So far, only one sign has been yanked -- after an alert caller notified the water department that the slogan "Pets Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Plants Tuesdays and Thursdays" might result in pets being given drinks only on selected days. More typical was the reaction of senior citizens who climbed off their tour bus so that they could have their picture taken in front of a "Shower in Groups" sign, Earle says.

Meanwhile, although Denver Water Manager Chips Barry is known for his dry wit, his troops aren't above borrowing a cup of sugarcoating. After reading the term "sod squad" in Westword's profile of their boss ("Liquid Assets," June 13), they appropriated the phrase to describe their own water police. But Barry has countered with a fluid phrase of his own: He's pledged that his agency will not engage in "vegetative profiling" of overly green lawns.

Take a breather: The weekend warriors who slogged up Mt. Elbert last Sunday could have done their lungs a favor by forgoing an ascent of Colorado's highest peak in favor of a more healthy undertaking, such as snorting lines of coal dust.

Above the treeline at 12,000 feet, the trails to Elbert's summit were shrouded in a bluish haze that reeked of pine tar, a reminder of the Wyoming wildfires then blackening the forests upwind. Just after dawn, when most of the climbers were setting out, the smog colored the setting moon an ominous blood red. By midday, as most of the aspirants were working their ways up the massif's tantalizing series of false summits, the air was so fouled that hacking coughs chorused with the whistles of pikas and the cackles of Canadian jays. One climber likened the experience to working out on a Stairmaster while chain-smoking Russian cigarettes. And once the group finally reached the roof of the Rocky Mountains, the normally majestic view from Elbert's 14,433-foot summit proved a scant reward. Distant peaks in the Sawatch, Sangre de Cristo and Elk mountain ranges were reduced to amorphous shadows, like battleships in a pea-soup fog.

"I'm on top of Colorado, man!" one out-of-state visitor bragged in a cell-phone call to friends in Miami. But then he confessed: "No, I can't really see a damn thing."


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