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Off Limits

 
John Johnston

We never did get a tally on Kenny Be's "Quick Poll: Who Wears the Sexier Underpants? Democrats or Republicans?" from his January 8 Worst-Case Scenario. But no matter. Republicans in the Colorado Statehouse know a good moneymaking scheme when they see one.

Using his imaginary camera phone, Be had captured numerous unauthorized images of state legislators in various states of undress in the legislative locker room -- from Senate Majority Leader Norma Anderson slipping on a very sensible-looking bra to Representative David Schultheis spraying Old Spice down his boxer shorts to Governor Bill Owens caught in an "Executive Chamber Nosepick Pix" -- and now those photos are being used to raise money for GOP candidates and causes.

In a classic why-get-mad-when-you-can-get-even move, Representative Mike May, seen scratching his tightie-whitie-clad butt cheek, asked everyone depicted to sign a photocopy of the more-than-slightly disturbing cartoon. He announced he would auction it off at the annual Douglas County Republican Lincoln Day Dinner on April 24. He is a CPA, after all.

"I've been having a good time with that," May says. "I've even identified a couple of the unknown pictures. Representative Ramey Johnson has fessed up to being the person on the staircase and signed it."

The most popular panels among May's colleagues have been those of Representative Debbie Stafford on the toilet graffitiing the stall wall, and Representative Keith King on his way to the showers, au naturel. However, May takes offense to his rendering by Be: "I think mine is identity theft," he says. "I don't wear briefs; I wear boxers."

Duly noted for the poll.

Quit yer bitchin' and get back to work: With this city's 300-plus days of sunshine, Denverites love to boast about how wonderful life is here -- and public opinion polls are constantly reaffirming just how happy, skinny, athletic and smart this city's residents really are.

But a study released last week doesn't paint such a pretty picture of employee satisfaction in the Mile High City. According to a January survey of 5,000 full-time adult workers in major U.S. urban areas, Denver ranks number one in terms of people who are "unhappy or miserable in current job," with 16.8 percent saying that they basically hate their jobs. This puts Denver ahead of Atlanta, Dallas, Charlotte and Cleveland, as well as the national average of 11 percent.

Conducted by Texas-based Digital Marketing Services and sponsored by America Online, the survey also reveals that when it comes to "highly stressed" workers, Denver finishes fifth, at 31.7 percent. That's behind Detroit, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas, at least, but above the national average of 28.2 percent.

And where do the most satisfied worker bees live? They may be stressed in San Francisco, but more workers there say they "feel appreciated" than anywhere else in the country. And 71.1 percent of Los Angeles laborers say they're "thrilled or happy with current job."

Visitors to Off Limits' neighborhood Diamond Shamrock station were far less enthused about their jobs, which ranged from Pepsi delivery-truck driver to television producer. Five of the ten people we interviewed claimed to be very happy with their current positions; three straddled the fence with a "don't love it, don't hate it, it pays the bills" mindset; and two admitted to being completely miserable on the clock.

"My job is miserable because my boss drives me crazy," says one twenty-something man who's indentured to a printing company.

As for stress levels, four admitted that their chosen professions pushed the envelope. A hairdresser's major stressor is that many of his regular clients are out of work. "A lot of my people have lost their jobs, been laid off, which makes it hard for me, because services like mine are easy to cut out of the budget," he explains.

Pretty accurate results for another decidedly unscientific survey.

The yuk's on us: Colorado may be the country's foremost provider of tabloid-TV fodder. Without the Kobe Bryant case, not to mention the scandals at the University of Colorado's athletics department and the Air Force Academy, MSNBC might have had to drop its news format and start airing old sitcoms. But this state has also turned into a reliable fount of satirical tabloid-TV fodder, as demonstrated by the March 30 episode of The Daily Show, hosted by Jon Stewart. One of the evening's reports featured Colorado spam king Scott Richter -- who was recently name-checked on Westword's cover ("Mr. Spam Man," January 29) -- telling correspondent Rob Corddry that he was providing a public service by flooding e-mail directories nationwide with unsolicited ads for ointment to stimulate the clitoris. Except that he pronounced this last word "cli-tor-ius." Apparently, Richter's been misspelling sex terms in spam subject lines so long that he no longer remembers what the hell private parts are actually called.

This is the second time in recent months that The Daily Show has gotten a good laugh at Colorado's expense. Last fall, "reporter" Samantha Bee described Denver as a "city on the edge" while needling activist Jeff Peckman about his "Safety Through Peace" initiative. In the segment's highlight, City Council member Charlie Brown declared that "Jeff Peckman is louder than a jackass in a tin barn," all to the accompaniment of "Peanuts" theme music. Peckman's proposal went down with a whimper.

According to The Daily Show's Dan Powell, who served as associate producer and booker for the Richter piece, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Joan Fitz-Gerald acquitted herself very well in the segment. (Fitz-Gerald was touting her proposed legislation to take $235,236 out of the governor's Office of Economic Incentive and Marketing to fight spam -- a plan killed two days after her appearance on The Daily Show.) But even though Richter came across as an undeniable doofus, he still called to compliment The Daily Show's staff after his bit aired. "We're pretty good-natured, and we try not to blindside anyone," Powell says. "The stories have a comedic bent, but they're real."

Colorado has miles to go before it becomes The Daily Show's top source for wackiness -- Texas, Florida and California currently lead the pack -- "but it's given us a couple of really good stories lately," Powell says. Is that because there's something intrinsically twisted about this state? "I don't want to say anything negative about Colorado," he responds. "I'll leave that to the joke-writers."

Or e-mail. Later that day, Powell sent an electronic update revealing that "an hour after I denied to you that Colorado stands out as having bizarre . . .stories," he'd come across an Associated Press item about officials near Steamboat Springs wanting to give historic designation to an outhouse.

Looks like a Colorado crapper had better get ready for its close-up.

The day the music died: Next fall, Denver Public Schools' Ebert Elementary will be transformed from a neighborhood school for kids -- many of whom come from nearby homeless shelters and low-income housing around downtown -- into a haven for Denver's gifted and talented students.

But Ebert's already lost of one its own great gifts: the Friday After School Music Club, a volunteer effort headed by Judy Brady, a neighborhood musician and mom. Funded by local musicians, Brady's program taught beginning piano to Ebert's music-minded youngsters. But class has let out early, because Brady's moving out of state to pursue a master's program in music. "Judy has filled a huge void," says Joan Wamsley, Ebert's principal. "I don't have a music teacher or an art teacher here."

On the program's final day last Friday, Brady's nine students said their goodbyes. "We'll miss you, Miss Judy," one child said, giving Brady a parting hug. The kids plinked through a final lesson, performed brief numbers for their classmates and enjoyed custom-made cookies courtesy of Tammy Davis, whose Sweet Rockin' Coffee a block away has provided treats and smiles for Brady's kids.

Brady credits older musicians with making her mission possible. "I just called on my friends and musicians, and they all helped out," she says. "Denver has a very proactive and caring music community."

The music community in Denver elementary schools has not been so blessed. When she started her program two years ago, Brady recalls, about half the city's schools had no music teacher. While she was encouraged by the recent passage of a ballot measure that put some music back into the DPS budget, she's not overly optimistic about the musical futures of her charges.

As they left their final class, Brady's students took with them CDs of Mozart piano music, personalized Music Club T-shirts, the $100 keyboards they practiced on all year and a message from their mentor. "If you want to keep playing music," Brady told them, "you've got to tell people about it. You have to take charge; you have to take responsibility to find somebody to teach you to play music."


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