Here Off Limits sits, in the belly of the beast, right across the street from Planned Parenthood headquarters, and not a peep from the Reverend Flip Benham and his traveling circus, Operation Save America, which launched its "Name and Shame Campaign" in Denver -- "ground zero," they call it -- this week, snarling traffic on I-25 and protesting at the Capitol and along the 16th Street Mall, but thus far ignoring the 900 block of Broadway.
In the blessed silence, an Off Limits operative reminisced about an earlier encounter with Benham, the man who's been both the titular head and spiritual bullhorn for America's most powerful anti-abortion organization since the ouster of Randall Terry. "This was six years ago in Buffalo," he recalled, "the year after an abortion doctor was killed by Army of God member James Kopp. Extra police had been brought on. People were expecting riots, mass arrests. But the funny thing is, none of that happened. I'd gone to Buffalo with a buddy of mine who ran some shitty little zine, and both of us were figuring on a war zone -- blood in the gutters and everything. And obviously, so had the national press, because everyone was there. All the heavy hitters. I sat at a bar next to Connie Chung."
After two days of what was scheduled to be a seven-day action by Operation Rescue/Operation Save America's pro-God, anti-everything-else forces, most of the major media left. But our operative stayed, and wound up tagging along after the pro-life side, talking with many of the OSA's top dogs, including Reverend Flip. "Scariest guy I ever met in my life," he recalls. "Friendly, absolutely charming, blue eyes like a sniper. He'd talk to people and always put a hand on their shoulder or make some little joke. Even when he was with his generals, making plans for sending 500 people to demonstrate at this clinic, a hundred people to some guy's house out in the suburbs, he had this big smile on his face like he was having the time of his life. But you look at him, and you could just see someone had thrown the freak switch. I got to talk with him twice face-to-face, for a good amount of time, but it didn't matter. Whatever anyone was saying to him on the outside wasn't nearly as loud as the voices in his head."
And now he's brought the party here. Operation Save America will be in town all week, waving signs and creeping out the locals. For clues on how to catch -- or avoid -- the Flip Benham show, check out denver.operationsaveamerica.org.
It's an ad, ad, ad, ad world: "Our image is to be the good neighbor," says Teresa Tuschoff, State Farm Insurance public affairs specialist, of the company's current billboard campaign. "Our agents are an important part of the community; we live where you live."
For these very reasons, State Farm plastered this city (as well as many others) with giant, beaming heads of its agents, smiling down on Denver residents. Each billboard features a different agent, their names and numbers, and a message to call them about car insurance, health insurance, life insurance, etc. Now if only State Farm sold billboard vandalism insurance. The campaign has drawn the attention of graffiti artists across the metro area -- and you didn't need to be an expert on the actuarial charts to predict that would happen.
The action has been particularly heated at Colfax and Fillmore, where a billboard devoted to State Farm agent Tammy Booth was placed directly above an easily scaleable house, with a high platform that's perfect for clandestine alterations. The first assault was by a cheeky vandal who blackened in a gap between Booth's teeth, giving her a distinctly Letterman-like appearance. State Farm responded by putting up a fresh billboard, which vandals promptly orthodontured again.
The game continued for several months until, in the most recent installment, the words "Fuck Face" were scrawled directly below Booth's head. Although State Farm's campaign doesn't conclude until the end of this month, Booth's billboard has already been taken down, replaced by a more generic State Farm advertisement.
"It's pretty unfortunate that there are small-minded people out there like that," says the besieged Booth. "For the first few months, I didn't have any problem with it. But this last one was pretty derogatory and vulgar, much worse than coloring in someone's tooth. It's clear that somebody doesn't want my picture there."
And that's not very neighborly.
Digging dirt: The man once touted as George W. Bush's brain, Karl "Blabbermouth" Rove, has got to be feeling buried these days -- but he should recognize the sensation. Back when he was a young lad growing up outside of Leadville, where his father worked as a mining engineer, he lived in the small town of Kokomo, a boom town founded on the west side of Fremont Pass during an 1881 silver strike that was booming again during the glory years of the Climax Molybdenum Mine.
But in the early '70s, when Rove was starting his climb to the top of the heap as the executive director of the College Republicans, mine managers came up with a brilliant way to dispose of waste from that mine: They buried Kokomo under a pile of tailings.
If only it were so easy to make Kokomo's most famous resident disappear.
Oops! Like Rove, we've "said too much."
Hot enough for you? It could be that last week's unprecedented heat wave was responsible, or maybe the finalists in our Denver's Hottest Service Employees Contest are so hot they simply fried all circuits. In any case, the contest ballot didn't make it to the Westword website until Monday, so we've extended the voting deadline to 6 p.m. Friday, July 22. Log on now to www.westword.com/hotties/ -- you'll find a whole latte love.
And while you're tuned in and turned on, go to www.westword.com/art/story/barf.mov and take another look at Ozzie, the pitbull puppy who died last week but left a lasting memorial captured on camera by Channel 12 during a filming of Colorado Inside Out Live in May. His barf was truly worse than his bite.
On the Record
When Hollywood wants to pick blueberries, it comes to Denver. Not only does Annasophia Robb, Violet Beauregarde in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, live here, but so does Denise Nickerson , the original Violet in 1971's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory . Off Limits called Nickerson and asked about her sweet side.
Q: How long have you been in Denver, and what brought you here?
A: I've been living here a little over four years. My company transferred me out here.
Q: What do you do?
A: Now I've just been promoted to a buyer.
Q: What do you buy?
A: Engineering things. We rent trucks and equipment and buy gravel and stuff like that.
Q: What advice to you have for the new Violet for handling long-running fame?
A: Well, I must tell you, it's been nothing but a fun ride for me. There's really been nothing to handle. I'm so honored to be a part of it. Anytime someone finds out I was involved, the first thing I see is a great big smile. Everyone loves this movie. None of the five of us ever thought that 35 years later we'd be on the phone talking about it.
Q: Where's the oddest place you've been recognized?
A: Probably in the dental chair. Somebody else was in the waiting room that I knew and was telling the receptionist. Meanwhile, I was in the chair and had my mouth open.
Q: Can Johnny Depp stand up to Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka?
A: I think so. I think he'll be extremely funny and do his own take on it. I'm very interested to see it. Veruca did see it as part of a screening, and she said that it's like going back to a house you used to own and the new owners had redecorated.
Q: You left show biz at 21. Do you ever regret the decision?
A: No. I'd done it from two and a half. Most of my growing years, I was doing a soap during the day and theater at night. I had reached a level of success that I wasn't reading for things anymore; they were just calling me. So I quit while I was ahead.
Q: Any funny memories from filming Willy Wonka?
A: The blueberry scene, where I was in a big Styrofoam ball. The Oompa-Loompas weren't as tall as I was high, and they didn't have their blueberry driver's licenses, and they would go to push me, and I'd get away from them, and I'd bang into the doorway. That was the last scene we filmed, and afterward I flew back to New York, where I was going to school. I walked into the classroom, and all the kids started pointing at me and laughing. The makeup had started resurfacing back through my pores! My neck, my face and my hands were turning bright blue. That went on for about thirty hours. That was kind of scary. I thought I'd be blue for the rest of my life.
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Q: When a movie is made from a book, are you a read-the-book-first or see-the-movie-first kind of person?
A: I like to read the book first.
Q: What does your son, Josh, think about having a famous mom?
A: It didn't used to impress him at all. We were in People about three years ago. He came home from school, and I said, "Josh, come look at this." He came and looked at it and said, "Oh, Mom, I know all that. Can you take me to Blockbuster?" But now he's dating, and girls think it's pretty cool.