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Off Limits

Fashion police: Showcasing Denver's sartorial style on the 16th Street Mall.

Rant of the week: Quick, somebody call Jo Farrell!

It looks like this year's mayoral candidates aren't the only Denverites in need of a makeover. This city's been outed as, well, fashion-challenged by a recent visitor. Sure, the style here has always been more sporty than slick, less urban fashionista than Colorado Springs conservative. But who knew that the ramifications were more dire than Denver's A-list party-goers not being dressed well enough to make the pages of W?

Apparently, GMan did. A visitor from Broward County who is considering relocating, he wrote Off Limits to express his disgust with this city's lack of sartorial splendor (as though Florida, minus Miami, offered a bevy of fashion beauties). And frumpiness isn't our only flaw:

It was a struggle, to put it nicely, to figure out how a city with all the effort placed in revitalizing and the dollars poured in really has limited to offer when compared to other midsize cities. The first initial sign that you are being taken advantage of came when I parked my car downtown to feed the parking meter only find out just how far a quarter goes. The next observation is to do the one thing most travelers enjoy doing most and that is to people watch! The fashion style of Denver could use a serious makeover! I have lived in several cities, including Chicago, Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Cleveland, and I have never seen so many poorly dressed people in all my travels. The women appeared as if they just rolled out of bed and still had Mr. Sandman in their eyes. The men showed about as much excitement in their wardrobe as a John Deer [sic] salesman showing off a new tractor.

This is only just a suggestion but a little make-up for the ladies, as well as a new dress, would certainly not be disappointing to anyone. Gentlemen, I know baseball caps are fine for the ballgame but not when you're headed out for a night on the town.

Ouch! And he hadn't even seen the Wilma Webb dress memorial at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library. Or experienced the unexpected New York-style fashion moment an Off Limits correspondent recently gulped down at Java Moon, when an Amazonian blonde teetered in on at least four-inch-tall Christian Dior strappy sandals wearing low-rise -- we're talking no more than a half-inch above the subject matter -- gold lamé cropped cargo pants seen all over the Paris runways.

Is GMan right? Would a new dress "not be disappointing to anyone"? Do Denverites need to ditch their beloved baseball caps? Fashion an answer and send it to makeover@westword.com.

Thought police: We don't need Jayson Blair to make this stuff up -- in fact, we don't need to make it up at all. Even if we tried, we'd never come up with something as good as Thornton's Drought Management Plan, approved last August by that burg's city council and recently posted on the Web. Apparently, the good councilfolk didn't vet the document before they voted on it, because tucked into the fine print on page 13, under the heading "Droughts in Colorado," is this tidbit of trivia:

"While thoughts do not occur at regular, predictable intervals, they are inevitable, and in Colorado, thoughts are frequent events. According to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, 93% of at least 5% of Colorado is in a 3-, 6-, 12- or 24-month-long thought. A study done by the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University has shown that Colorado has had five severe statewide thoughts in the past century. The most recent one ended in 1978. Fortunately, most thoughts do not affect the entire state at the same time."

And we were so sure there were at least five severe thoughts in the last legislative session alone! Just for starters:

1. Redistricting.

2. Civics classes in high schools.

3. Pledge recitations in all schools.

4. Auto-insurance reform, Governor Bill Owens's pet project for the session that wound up putting an end to the dreaded no-fault and moved auto insurance into a tort system, where the even more dreaded trial lawyers hold sway.

5. Concealed weapons permitting. (By removing municipalities' right to make their own rules regarding guns, the legislature put the entire state under the same severe thought regarding concealed-carry, including Rick Stanley -- not that he's concealing anything. The 2002 Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate was arrested Tuesday morning in front of the Colorado Supreme Court building while openly bearing arms and protesting for his right to do so. He had appealed to the court over cases in Denver and Thornton, towns with severe-thought police who'd arrested him for wantonly wielding weapons; the justices refused to hear him out. Now Stanley's facing six months in prison -- where maybe he'll find a few more of the 998,633 sympathizers still needed to sign up for his Million Gun March.)

Groovy ghoulies: Last Sunday hordes of would-be Nosferati and patent-leather-clad Marilyn Manson fans led each other around downtown on dog leashes, called together by the eldritch forces of Cafe Netherworld, Club Onyx and Rock Island for an all-day gala of music, drink and fashion. A chartered bus ferried these wayward souls between Capitol Hill and LoDo for the Colorado Dark Arts Festival -- but it wasn't all black eye makeup and gloom. Also on board were two guys decked out in loud plaid and hippie wigs, handing out pink balloons tied to cute little red ribbons.

"Some of them were thoroughly receptive, but some of them were just pissed off. They were too goth for it," says Travis Nicholson who, along with friend and fellow Metro State student Zack Brooks, handed out over 200 pink balloons -- many of them emblazoned with incantations like "Hug me" and "I love you" -- to the minions of the undead. "Some of them wouldn't take the balloons because they knew they'd be the butt of our joke if they did. But those people were few and far between."

Among the unreceptive was local zombie performance artist Maris the Great, who only reluctantly accepted a balloon and agreed to pose for a photo before threatening Brooks's punk band, the Scott Baio Army, with extermination.

Looking like two rejects from a That '70s Show audition, Brooks and Nicholson withstood baleful glares from throngs of goths throughout the day, eventually winding up at the festival's blowout fashion show/dance party at Rock Island. By the end of the night, though, the lure of evil had become too seductive, and the two pranksters finally succumbed to the dark side of the force: "Zack and I got drunk," Nicholson says. "He wrote 'Goth as fuck' on his chest, and I wrote 'Child of Satan' on mine. Then we undid our shirts and danced."

Turning the page: Times are tight for the Tattered Cover -- and not just in the retail space, where things have been a little cramped since the basement of the Cherry Creek store and the third floor of the LoDo location were cleared out in March to save money. (Those floors are now being used as event space.) Last week, owner Joyce Meskis announced the second round of layoffs to hit the company since the beginning of the year. "It feels really, really, really terrible," she says. "We were right down to the wire with the cutoff. It's the worst thing that I have to do as a business owner. But community businesses of all kinds are doing what they can to continue to serve their customers -- and to stay in business, sometimes you have to make cuts."

In an e-mail circulated to TC employees last week, Meskis said she wished to "acknowledge...a group of people...who through no fault of their own find themselves having to leave the employ of the store to which they have given so much." And she hinted there may be more losses to come: "Even at this writing, the landscape is still changing enough where the cut-off is still uncertain."

Some employees on the intra-company e-mail server saw Meskis's memo as a chance to suggest their own systems for "saving" the Tattered Cover -- everything from trading in used books to unionizing employees, some of whom will now be required to put in extra floor time without a pay increase. Although the respondents differed ideologically, they shared a collective literary flair. In a message suggesting that the bookseller's low self-esteem, not a sluggish economy or competition from huge corporations, was at the root of Tattered's financial troubles, one employee wrote: "It's time to stop blaming Amazon for our own shortcomings.... The tired tirade against the chains is so worn out its feeble threads couldn't darn a sock." Another freshly canned individual piped in with a novel idea for cost-cutting: "Has nobody yet considered the prospect of keeping me on, and letting the rest of the staff go? Think about it: I am the one employee here who is fully trained for every position, who has read every book in the store and who can scale walls and heat soup with beams from my eyes."

Even Meskis joined the digital discourse, where shy employees were encouraged to chime in. "Please, others, feel free to express your ideas," one woman wrote. "My understanding is that Joyce does not moonlight as John Ashcroft."


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