Actor Wes Bentley got Game.
Actor Wes Bentley got Game.

Off Limits

Is billionaire Phil Anschutz crying poverty?

That's the subtext of an e-mail sent to youth soccer organizations about The Game of Their Lives, an Anschutz Film Group movie that tells the true (or close enough) story of an American team that upset an English squad in the 1950 World Cup. The note, signed by one Ben Correale and sent before Game opened April 22 in a very limited release, declares that "in most markets, including the Denver area, we do not have the resources of traditional advertising. Without television trailers, newspaper ads or billboards, the film will have to rely exclusively on word of mouth and a grassroots effort." Two weeks from its opening, Correale's missive continues, Game "will close in most markets and the powers that be will assess whether or not to release the movie nationally." To help kick the flick to the next level, Correale invites members of "local soccer associations" to support the movie.

The e-mail omits any reference to local businessman Anschutz's vast fortune, not to mention his ownership of five major-league soccer teams in this country and Millennium Dome, a stadium/soccer venue in London. He also possesses newspapers in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. -- can't he afford his own ad rates? -- and is the largest owner of movie theaters in the country. (If he wanted Game to play forever at his Colorado Center complex, where the film had its Denver debut, he could easily do so without being pressured by an uprising of soccer moms.) But the e-mail does include a phone number and e-mail address for Correale, who writes, "I look forward to hearing from you, and working with you to bring this wonderful story to your members."

If so, he has a funny way of showing it. Off Limits received no response to multiple e-mails, and calls to Correale's number triggered the voice mail of a Game booster named Jason, who didn't return numerous messages. But then, the movie hasn't generated much in the way of returns, either. Made for an estimated $20 million, The Game of Their Lives has collected just $300,000 from a total of 64 theaters over the past ten days, according to industry estimates, with the second weekend's gross falling more than 50 percent.

With receipts like those, Anschutz might have to cry poverty for real -- in three or four thousand years.

The mogul did get a little more love from the Atlantic Monthly, which, in a May article titled "The Apocalypse, Rated PG," asked, "Can a socially conservative Christian Republican succeed in Hollywood?" Anschutz himself isn't telling -- but then, he never gives interviews. The closest that author Ross Douthat came was an interview with Anschutz spokesman Jim Monaghan, "an avuncular man in his fifties," who met him at a Denver bar and "held forth genially on the subject of his mysterious employer. But even Monaghan, with his potbelly, checkered shirt and graying whiskers, seemed more like an anti-PR man."

Who didn't return Off Limits's phone calls, either.

Swat team: Speaking of socially conservative Christian Republicans, Focus on the Family ran two ads on Monday night's episode of ABC's Supernanny, both hyping, Focus's "child-rearing website" that offers advice from James Dobson, the Family founder whose doctorate is actually in child psychology, not divinity. And speaking of "rearing," here's what the good doctor has to say about spanking in the chapter called "When You Feel Like Calling in the SWAT Team":

"The young mother of a defiant 3-year-old girl...told me that one day they happened to see a copy of my book The New Dare to Discipline on sale in a local bookstore. They bought the book and learned therein that it is appropriate to spank a child under certain well-defined circumstances. My recommendations made sense to these harassed parents, who promptly spanked their sassy daughter the next time she gave them reason to do so." The next morning, the parents found Dobson's book floating in the toilet, where their daughter had flushed it.

The dueling protests this past weekend at Focus headquarters in Colorado Springs didn't have much luck flushing out Dobson, who was reportedly out of town. In his absence, our Off Limits operative offers this alternative to Dobsonian discipline: Simply watch Supernanny with your kids, and discuss with them the bad behavior that Supernanny Jo Frost has been brought in to tame. Without spanking.

Zoneheads: We're not in the habit of feeling sorry for developers, but there were moments last Thursday when we would have preferred stepping on kitties to looking at Len Goldberg, owner of Mile High Construction and Development.

Goldberg's company recently purchased two properties just south of Colfax Avenue along Madison Street and was doing asbestos-abatement work there when residents spotted the activity. Denver City Council representative Jeanne Robb quickly called a neighborhood meeting and asked Goldberg to come outline his project.

There isn't a scarier group to appear before than Colfax Avenue neighbors; they could give a smackdown to even those toughies in West Wash Park. These residents know their zoning code better than most people know their children, and they know what they want for Colfax -- particularly in the areas labeled Colfax A and Colfax B in the city's Blueprint Colfax plan. They want beauty. They want genius. Instead, they got Goldberg, with an architecturally bland proposal that calls for 32 condos and some retail along Colfax -- and tearing down two turn-of-the-last-century structures.

"We are in the ninth month of gestation, and one of the large pieces is the consideration of stable neighborhoods," said Jim Peiker, owner of the Castle Marne B&B and chairman of Capitol Hill United Neighbors' Historic Preservation Committee. "You have violated one of those principles by moving into one of those stable neighborhoods, not an 'area of change.' You have got the right, yet I think you have a responsibility to the people of Denver. We want you here more than you can imagine, but I don't want you in here raping us and taking our heritage away from us. Please, please consider what you're doing."

At that, the audience burst into thunderous applause -- and Goldberg exchanged a what-the-hell-did-we-walk-into look with his assistant.

And hell suddenly got a lot hotter when a couple in the audience gasped. On a posterboard display of Goldberg's previous projects, they'd spotted the row house where they now live. "It's very poorly done," the woman said, revealing that she can't even get shelves to hang because the walls are so bad.

Just the 'fax, man.

Hack to the future: "You have lied to the American People over and over again," read the surprising message at last week. "You attend The Fifth Hope and spread your wicked ideology there. Expect more of this. American Imperialism is non-existent. Our soldiers are dying over sees to give men, women, and children a taste of freedom and you call them imperialists. You are nothing but pigs. You are not against Bush you are against Republicans, you are against anyone who has a different opinion and way of thinking than you. Your box got rooted for lying to the American people."

Colorado Independent Media Center, the group that runs the five-year-old website, is all about open access and independence -- but this posting from Clorox was too much even for them. Particularly since in the process of hacking into the system, Clorox and his stripped away five years of archives. "It's really not a big deal, because there's a group called that has the Waybac Machine that archives the entire Internet every month," says [deproduction] executive director and COIMC volunteer Tony Shawcross. "But it was a lot of work, and it's all volunteer work. Thousands of hours of people's work have gone into creating the site, and it's going to take hundreds of hours to find it all. But this is galvanizing our support, and hopefully we'll be able to put it back together better."

What to do with Clorox is another matter. Turns out he's really Brett Chance, a fellow at Collins County Community College in Texas who attacked numerous indymedia sites last fall, changing them to reflect pro-George W. Bush and anti-John Kerry sentiments. "We magnanimously agreed not to disclose it or pursue action against him as long as he would agree not to attack IMC sites in the future," says Ryan Kaldari, editor of the Tennessee IMC. "He broke that agreement this week, however, so we decided to finally turn him in."

Although Chance's takes responsibility for the October attacks, he has yet to confess to the Colorado caper. And has only this to say: "We are assuming that you are here for one of the following reasons. You have heard of us and you are curious or you have been directed here by some other means and you wish to know what the hell is going on. If you are here for the first reason then all we can say is you may remain curious. There is no info here nor will there be. We are not here to satisfy you nor grant you anything. If you do not like that answer then oh well, that is your problem. If you are here for the second reason. Then please read the response for the first reason and add, 'You deserved it' on the end of it."

On the Record

When Off Limits saw the headline "Middle School Bans Hugs" in the Boulder Daily Camera last week, we knew we had to talk to the principal who'd reportedly put the kibosh on canoodling at Centennial Middle School. So we left an urgent message asking Cheryl Scott to give us a call. Five minutes later, we instead heard from a Boulder Valley School District official, who said she was faxing us the letter that the district had just sent home with Centennial students, rebutting the Camera's hugging-hate allegations -- and answering most of our questions.

Q: How could you ban hugging?

A: For the record, we did not discuss and/or verbalize the banning of hugs at Centennial. We think Centennial is a great school and we take great pride in our strong academic reputation as well as the fair and respectful treatment of our students.

Q: Isn't hugging a middle-school rite of passage?

A: As always, we will support developmentally appropriate displays of affection among our students, while monitoring for excessive displays. Academics will always come first at Centennial.

Q: How did the Camera get the idea that hugs were banned?

A: On Wednesday, [assistant principal] Becky Escamilla visited sixth-grade classes to discuss the number of tardies to class they are experiencing at the sixth-grade level. During the discussion, several reasons for arriving late to class were brought forward, including lingering at lockers, walking each other to class, horseplay and long goodbye hugs.

Q: So you decided to pick on hugs? Why not ban horseplay? We all know what that can lead to.

A: We want to make it clear that there has been no new policy surrounding hugging at Centennial Middle School.

Q: So there was an existing policy.

A: We DO NOT have a no-hugging rule or policy.

Q: Okay, okay, so what happened?

A: Many sixth graders picked up on the hug portion of the conversation and began to spread a rumor that Centennial was banning hugs. In the lunchroom on Thursday, students began to sign a petition they called "Hugs, not Drugs."

Q: You blame the students?

A: We are a school that focuses on high academic standards; we take actions to support our staff and take pride in having a quality school program. Addressing spring behavioral expectations with our students is something we will continue to do.

Q: So you're not a bunch of anti-red-blooded American hippie freaks up there?

A: Thank you for your continued support of Centennial.


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