At ten before six on Sunday evening, the last of the Fourth of July weekend's heat wave blazed over the shiny, happy shoppers braving the third and final day of the Cherry Creek Arts Festival. Sipping four-dollar lemonades in souvenir cups and pushing babies in designer strollers, they perused the annual bric-a-brac bonanza's orderly rows. Four-figure price tags and a pervasive aesthetic of shlock inspired one accidental observer to suggest the event be rechristened the Cherry Creek Overpriced Crap Festival.
Twenty miles away, in the expansive upper parking lot of Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a far more feral species of open-air market was just under way. The Dead were in town, playing Red Rocks for the first time in fifteen years, and their Sunday-night show was the first of five marathon performances scheduled to stretch through Friday night. Long before the first concert started, three generations of Deadheads, numbering 10,000 strong, had convened outside Red Rocks for the requisite Dead Show Parking Lot Bazaar, where incense and pot smoke mingled in the breeze, hand-painted school buses outnumbered hand-waxed SUVs, and scores of stinky hippies proved once again that patchouli oil does not mask days upon days of unwashed body odor.
The contrast between what basically amounted to a pair of food-and-crafts fairs was a study not only in order versus chaos and mainstream versus counterculture, but also the relativity of the almighty greenback. One dollar at the Cherry Creeks Arts Festival would buy you jack shit. One dollar at the Dead Show Parking Lot Bazaar, however, would get you a cold beer or a grilled-cheese sandwich or a refreshing head-to-toe misting with jasmine-scented ice water.
Of course, a single dollar is hardly enough on which to base a truly complete, fair and meaningful analysis of these two holiday-weekend cultural phenomena. Fifty bucks is a much better baseline. So here, then, is a consumer's report on five fifty-dollar half-hour shopping sprees, with the Cherry Creek Arts Festival going head-to-head with the Dead Show Parking Lot Bazaar.
Cherry Creeks Arts Festival (CCAF): One poorly rendered pseudo-impressionistic watercolor of a big, fat pig ($45) and one large beer ($5).
Red Rocks Dead Show Parking Lot Bazaar (DSPLB): Two hits of ecstasy ($40), one lentil/black-bean/basmati-rice burrito ($3) and one hacky sack ($5).
CCAF: One lonely pewter salt shaker ($50).
DSPLB: One dog, black and white, breed undetermined, friendly, though exhibiting odd "snapping at imaginary flies" behavior indicative of repeated canine LSD dosing, with food bowl and handwoven hemp leash decorated with beads ($30), five sage smudge sticks ($10), two tamales ($4) and three shots of iced Jägermeister ($6).
CCAF: One nightlight with pile of tiny wood logs and flickering Christmas-tree-bulb flame ($50).
DSPLB: One high-quality tie-dyed Jerry Garcia shirt ($20), five strands of Mardi Gras beads ($5), five glow sticks ($5) and five Ziploc bags filled with Maker's Mark whisky duct-taped to your back and inner thighs for sneaking into the concert ($20).
CCAF: One hand-carved bronze chicken with word-balloon letters reading "Boc, Boc, Boc!" ($35) and one leather fortune cookie containing a slip of paper reading "Never eat more than you can lift, Ms. Piggy" ($10).
DSPLB: One saxophone, dented, in case ($20), one hand-blown marijuana pipe ($25), one tamale ($2) and one vodka-cranberry cocktail ($2).
CCAF: One official 2003 Cherry Creek Arts Festival poster reduced to postcard size, under glass and framed ($50).
DSPLB: Five carnival balloons filled with nitrous oxide ($10), two dips of a licked pinkie finger into a bag filled with "Molly" -- MDMA powder -- ($20), one twenty-minute massage from a team of dreadlocked masseuses advertising their services with a hand-lettered placard reading "Yes, even your nasty dirty feet" ($10), one joint of KGB -- "Killer Green Bud" -- ($5) and one enthusiastically off-key a cappella rendition of Mötley Crüe's heavy-metal anthem "Shout at the Devil," performed by a quintet of wild-eyed vocalists identifying themselves as the Mendocino Barbershop Space Vixens ($5).
Sadly, it seemed the only precious item that was unavailable for purchase in the Red Rocks parking lot for fifty bones or less was an extra ticket for the sold-out show. A network of vicious scalpers working the I-70 exit ramps -- camouflaged in tie-dye and holding "I need a ticket" signs -- were buying tickets for fifty bucks ($2.50 less than their face value) from unsuspecting motorists who believed they were doing fellow Deadheads a favor. But the scalpers had couriers ferrying batches of tickets to hawkers in the parking lot, where they charged $100 a ticket -- a cold, hard profit margin of nearly 100 percent.
By Monday night, some fans had caught on. Just prior to the second show, a ring of Deadheads circled a scalper in the parking lot, pointed at him and chanted, "Greed! Greed! Greed!"
"I'm just trying to make a living," he shouted back. "This is America."
"Not tonight, man," drawled one Georgia boy in Guatemalan garb. "This is the People's Republic of Red Rocks."
Come on, dudes. What would Jerry do?
Call someone who cares: Shortly before the fatal shooting of Paul Childs, a tragedy triggered by his sister's call to a 911 operator last Saturday night, the Denver Police Department was complaining that its 911 system was so overloaded by misdirected calls that it was having problems doing its job properly (and how, as it turns out).
Callers with real emergencies were having trouble getting through, the DPD said, because others were using 911 as though it were directory assistance (hey, Denver residents do pay for the emergency line on their Qwest bills), filling the line with questions about phone numbers and directions. As evidence of this overload, last week the DPD released a tape of 2003's greatest hits (so far). Of course, just a few days later, Ashley Childs's call moved to the top of the charts with a real bullet; DPD chief Gerry Whitman played the tape of her conversation with a 911 operator at a hastily convened news conference on July 7.
The contents of that conversation were deadly serious -- and provided a grim contrast to the usual fare that clogs the emergency line. Have a malfunctioning cell phone? Call 911. Need a worm vanquished from your home? Call 911. Want your neighbor to trim her trees? Call 911.
Need a break? Read these edited-for-space transcripts of recent 911 calls to the DPD.
Caller: I lost my wallet at Cougar Run Elementary in the Porta Potti in the park.
911: Okay. You dropped your wallet down the Porta Potti?
Caller: That park right next to it.
911: But did you drop your wallet down the Porta Polly...Potti?
911: Uh, was it right on the school?
Caller: Pretty much.
911: Let me give you the number for DPS security, because we're not going to go retrieve -- you know, we can't go in there.
911: Is there a number on the Porta Potti?
Caller: Uh, yeah, there is a 1-800....
911: Call that number.
Caller: Yeah, but they're closed, so what was the other number?
911: Okay, I doubt they're going to go in there. The DPS security are not going to climb in; I can tell you that right now. There's a way to empty and sift through. Just call that number; keep on trying. I assure you no one is going to take it -- it's safe there.
Caller: I want you to connect me with somebody that can.... My wife, my fiancée, has just taken food out of bleach.
911: Let me connect you with the paramedics, sir.
Caller: No! I don't...okay. I just want to....
[Connecting to the paramedics.]
Caller: How much bleach can a man eat?
Caller: How much bleach can a girl eat?
Paramedic: I don't understand what you're asking. How much what can they eat?
Caller: Well, I had my teeth soaking in some bleach.
Caller: Yeah, my false teeth.
Caller: My fiancée come home, and then she ate some turkey out of it. She put turkey in it, thinking it was water or olive oil or somethin', and she ate a bunch of it, and she's been coughin', and I talked to Poison Control, and the girl would not tell me how much bleach a person can consume without being in trouble. And then she wouldn't even give me her name.
Paramedic: I can't give you that information either, sir, because I don't know it. Poison Control is the one who knows that. Um, how much was in the cup?
Caller: Aw, well, it was, uh, full.
Paramedic: And did she drink the whole thing, or did she...?
Caller: No, no she just soaked her food in it, and then...
Paramedic: She soaked her food in the cup of bleach?
Caller: I want to know how much bleach a person can consume....
Paramedic: I don't know. The only person that has that is Poison Control.
Caller: Can't never could do nothin'. Give me back to the girl who could give me to you.
911: I'm on the line. Paramedic, what's the advice then?
Paramedic: I can only tell him if he's having some trouble breathing, coughing, then the paramedics should come out and look at her.
Caller: She's coughing.
Paramedic: Okay. Do you want the paramedics to come out and look at her?
Caller: No, I just wanted to know....
Paramedic: Does she want the paramedics to come out and look at her?
Caller: No, she says she's fine.
Paramedic: Call this number. Are you ready to write it down?
Caller: No, I want you to connect me.
Paramedic: I can't connect you. I can give you the number to call.
Caller: I don't have a pen.
Paramedic: Well, I don't know what to tell you then, sir.
Caller: Give it to me.
911: Hi. Somebody there called 911 and hung up?
Callee: Yeah. Who's this asshole in the helicopter flying around here at treetop level?
911: Probably the police.
Callee: Do they have to fly that low at this time of night?
911: Um, they might be looking for somebody in the area.
Callee: Tell them to use a squad car.
911: They can't see as well from a squad car.
911: They can't see as well from there. Do you want the phone number for compliments and complaints on the helicopter?
Callee: What good is flying around and shining a light on the ground gonna do?
911: Would you like the number or not, sir?
Callee: I don't need the damn number.
911: It doesn't do that much good to dial 911 for this problem, either.
Callee: I'll tell you what....
911: People call 911 when they have an emergency.
Callee: You call the number, and you tell them I'm a Vietnam veteran....
Callee: And helicopters bother me a whole lot....
Callee: And I'm going to sue this fuckin' city for more money than it ever had.
911: You want the phone number, then, or no.
Callee: I don't need the damn phone number.
911: All right.
Callee: You'll be hearing from my attorneys.
911: Denver 911
Caller: Sorry, I hit it with my butt.
911: (Laughs) Okay, everything's okay?
Caller: Yeah, we're in the elevator. We're good.
911: Okay. Thanks.
No, thank you!
Without a hitch: Rooster's will get you laid, the Blue Bonnet will find you a wife, and the Snake Pit will make sure you're married good and proper.
Tracy Heter and Terry Overbrook are about to celebrate the two-month anniversary of their nuptials at the Snake Pit; theirs was the first wedding ceremony ever held at the seven-year-old club.
"At first I kept going back and forth about what I wanted to do, but then I realized this was going to be something that everybody would remember," says Heter, who renewed her acquaintance with Overbrook last November (after a fourteen-year hiatus) when she found him tending bar at the Snake Pit.
The bride and groom wore crushed velvet, and Denver District Judge Frank Martinez (yeah, the same guy outed on Channel 4 last week for comparing prosecutor Phil Parrot to Adolf Hitler in his courtroom), sporting a blue Hawaiian shirt, performed the ceremony on the dance floor, under the disco ball and before a crowd of nearly 200. The bar was filled with family and friends, as well as a few curious strangers who partook of the festivities (particularly the André Cold Duck, a favorite of the bride's) after reading about the upcoming ceremony on concert-style fliers distributed around town.
Listen up, Regas Christou: You can already drink, dance and dine in one of your many establishments (and soon you'll be able to work out in one). Perhaps it's time to complete the circle of life by introducing a special wedding package at The Church. Or should that be a funeral deal?
It's not always easy finding an appropriate venue for life's biggest -- and sometimes saddest -- moments, as people organizing the June 26 memorial service for beloved restaurateur Doug Fleischmann discovered. Location after location turned them down; as it turns out, though, the problem wasn't the nature of the event, but the size of the crowd that might turn out to remember Doug. His facilities couldn't hold more than 250, notes Tom Williams, director and curator of the Phipps Mansion and Tennis Pavilion, and when he heard that the estimates for the Fleischmann memorial called for 300 people, he had to turn it down -- reluctantly. Phipps maxes out at 250, and while it's hosted other memorial services, that's only when attendance is guaranteed to be far below that number, he says. Because, unlike at weddings and conferences, where guest lists are finite, memorial services don't require guests to RSVP.
And it's a good thing, too. Fleischmann's memorial was ultimately held at the Pinnacle Club, at 555 17th Street, and it was filled to bursting by the more than 500 people who turned out to remember him.
Yankee strudel dandy: Disaster -- or maybe just a very hungry car-parker -- struck last Wednesday, when Ginger Perry left her car with a valet at Denver International Airport while she ran in to pick up the Theo Jorgensmann Quartet, a German band bound for a gig at Dazzle, the jazz club at 930 Lincoln Street. As a welcoming gift for the musicians, Perry had six genuine German strudels -- which aren't easily found in this town, Dazzle manager Donald Rossa assures us -- in the back seat.
The valets started salivating when they saw them, she remembers, and she advised them to keep their mitts to themselves. "When I came back, one of the strudels was missing," Perry says. She complained to the valets, who told her it was her own fault.
"The day that strudels are no longer safe in your possession -- even when you valet your car -- is a crazy day," she concludes. "And this is that day."
Had Perry followed official airport procedure, however, she could be snacking on a replacement pastry right now. According to DIA spokesman Chuck Cannon, if you notice that an item is missing from your previously valeted vehicle, you need to complain to the concessionaire that runs the service, AMPCO System Parking. Cannon checked with AMPCO and, he says, "She didn't file a missing strudel report."
Or maybe the report itself is missing! That would be the icing on this cake. Welcome to America.
Light makes right: When Playboy lands at Jillian's next week looking for gals with major Rocky Mountains to feature in the pages of its fiftieth-anniversary issue, the Coors Light Twins -- Diane and Elaine Klimaszewski -- might want to be front and center ("The Light Stuff," January 23). Sure, they've already graced the pages of Maxim and Flex magazines, starred as lovable caricatures of themselves on Sweet Valley High, and even filmed a cameo for this fall's most eagerly anticipated release, Scary Movie 3, but they've never been Playmates.
And then their own sugar daddy, Coors Light, jilted them for the cover of the beer's 25th-anniversary commemorative cans, released just this month. For its silver celebration, the Silver Bullet went with four odes to hip-hop rather than pushing the two looking-ready-for-a-threesome goldilocks.
But Hilary Martin, group manager for corporate communications at Coors, says the company had no intention of dissing the 26-year-old twins -- it was just looking for something else that had come of age over the past 25 years. "We were sort of looking back, and it seemed as though it was a time that hip-hop was starting to branch out more," she says. "It was being taken out of the Bronx at that time. It's a genre that has grown tremendously over the last 25 years. It's a fun celebration of Coors Light and commemorating hip-hop."
This isn't Coors's first foray into rap and hip-hop, either. At the same time the squeaky-clean twins were winning hearts and groins -- and pissing off mothers of adolescent boys -- to a song based on Tom T. Hall's country classic "I Love," Coors also had a popular commercial featuring Dr. Dre.
Contrary to recent reports that a local artist designed the cans, the 25th-anniversary campaign was developed by a San Francisco-based branding agency, which explains that it selected "four 'icons' of hip-hop: B-boyz (dancing), DJ (spinning), MC (rapping) and Art (tagging)." Gee, and we remember when Coors Light was all about women's baseball, because guys were too embarrassed to drink the light stuff. (We also remember that when Coors Light was going after the Hispanic market, its "Turn It Loose Tonight" slogan was roughly translated into "Take a Dump Tonight.")
But in terms of following the money, Coors is going after the right demographic. The company filled the coveted niche of males aged 21 to 25 with the twins, and now it's tuning to the urban market. Exposure of African-American Youth to Alcohol Advertising, a report released last month by Georgetown University's Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, quotes an anonymous "co-founder of an urban market research firm" as saying, "The best way to get white kids into a product is to get black kids to buy it."
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And the best way to get black kids to buy it: Use hip hop. "A content analysis of 1,000 of the most popular songs from 1996 to 1997 found that references to alcohol were more frequent in rap (47 percent of songs had alcohol references) than other genres," according to the report. And while exactly zero of those rap references involved Coors, the company probably didn't mind. When a music video showed Kid Rock -- star of another popular Coors commercial -- buying a six-pack of beer that was clearly Coors Original, the brewer asked him to remove the Coors product and replace it with a generic version.
Coors doesn't even rate in the report's "Top 15 Alcohol Brands Overexposing African-American Youth in Magazines, 2002." Crown Royal is the top offender, with Jack, Jim, Jose and the Captain following close behind and Miller Lite sitting solidly in the middle. Coors scores much higher in radio, though, taking the bronze for "Brands With Largest African-American Youth Audiences on Spot Radio"; it places just behind Bud and Michelob.
But it was Coors Light's whiter-than-white "Why do we party? Because we can-can-can" TV ad that got Tim Seaman, an Arvada real-estate developer and father, concerned enough to complain to the national Better Business Bureau -- which convinced Coors to pull the spot. "I guess those commercials are just kind of like a two-by-four between the eyes," Seaman says. "I've got a couple of kids, and it's tough watching anything on TV these days, because you gotta grab the mute button. There are certainly a lot of humorous beer commercials, and I'm not opposed to beer or beer commercials, but these show no responsibility. Whoever is in marketing seems to be in the same kind of mindset as the people who started the XFL, and, of course, they went out of business after about a year."
Suddenly the twins are looking pretty good, aren't they? See for yourself on "Love Song Summer," a Coors Light commercial featuring the girls and now playing on a TV near you.