Off Limits

First Zippy the Pinhead, now this.

No sooner had Lawrence Argent recovered from the honor of seeing Bill Griffith feature "I See What You Mean," the forty-foot blue bear that has been standing guard over the Colorado Convention Center since July, in his August 22 "Bear Market" Zippy strip, than a live version of the bear showed up right by Argent's sculpture. And the city's arts office -- which is in the process of drafting a deal that would let Denver use the bear's image to promote the city -- was just as surprised as Argent. "Whatever the artist believes is respectful of his work, we want to agree to that," explains John Grant, who oversees the city's public-art process.

Turns out that the group pushing the November ballot initiative Tourism Pays! -- which would raise Denver's lodging tax and use the increased revenue to market Denver tourism -- is using a human-sized blue bear to promote the measure. Not that there's anything wrong with that, both Argent and Grant agree -- but still, it would have been nice if someone had asked before a bogus blue bear started putting the squeeze on city council representatives Elbra Wedgeworth and Charlie Brown.

"From my side, being an artist who does a lot of studio things, having a work that's been so affectionately received -- even in Zippy! -- it's really exciting," Argent says. "I can't believe it. I'm full of humility. It's something I hadn't envisioned."

But others had no problem with the envison thing. "The blue bear will ultimately be one of the great icons of the city," says Rich Grant, communications director for the Denver Metro Conventions & Visitors Bureau, which presided over the campaign event last Wednesday where the blue bear -- secured from a local mascot company -- made its debut. Bear mascots have good political karma in Colorado: A polar bear mascot helped push through the initial Scientific and Cultural Facilities District tax back in 1988. And Grant and company are hoping for no less from their bears, which will pop up at assorted events around town until the November 1 election.

With Argent's belated blessing, at that. "We're just trying to prevent things like the NRA Photoshopping in firearms," he explains.

Blow dried: The devastation from Hurricane Katrina took a terrible toll on people and property -- not to mention Phil Keating's hair.

During his years here as a correspondent for channels 9 and 31, Keating was widely recognized for his fabulous coiffure. He won the award for "Best Hair on a TV Personality -- Male" in Westword's 2001 Best of Denver edition, and earned the "Best Hair on a Departing TV Personality" prize in 2004, just as he was heading to Texas for a job with Fox News. Since then, a national audience has gotten to experience the hoodoo that his 'do does so well, and, predictably, many Foxy ladies have locked onto his locks.

On a page devoted to Mr. K by, which advertises itself as the "Opinion Network," one confused individual flayed his follicles. "He's a little too old to have the ridiculous 'new' messy style the kids have," wrote Divaevelyn. "I hate to say it, but it looks like a bad toupee." Much more common, though, were comments like those left by Sexy Tiffany, who declared, "I love his hair...and he is hot! Yum." Houstonhm offered this: "I work at the hotel he stayed in before, and he got his hair done at our salon. I guarantee he spends at least 20 minutes on his hair."

And Keating's efforts paid off when Katrina, then a category-four hurricane, approached the Gulf Coast on August 28. Keating covered the storm from such New Orleans locations as the Superdome and the W Hotel, giving viewers an opportunity to track the progression of the disaster by observing his tresses. Category one: Despite worsening conditions, the product kept doing its job. Category two: The situation was getting hairier by the moment. Category three: With the wind and rain escalating, Keating's gel hung on for dear life. Category four: The mousse was on the loose!

But as noted philosopher Maureen McGovern once sang, there's got to be a morning after. And early on August 30, as Keating provided updates from the French Quarter, it was clear that his hair had survived this brush with catastrophe -- even if the rapidly flooding New Orleans may not.

Unclean! Unclean! There wasn't a swarmy fotonovela in sight at last weekend's record-breaking Denver Public Library used-book sale, but one intrepid Off Limits operative still felt the need to shower afterward -- and not just because of the dust that covered many of the offerings (as well as the people snapping them up). He'd been on a mission to ferret out filth that had somehow escaped those prudy-pants talk-show hosts who'd managed to get more than 6,000 Spanish-language comics pulled from the shelves -- and, boy, did he find it.

An early edition of 1972's The Joy of Sex, the self-professed "cordon bleu guide to lovemaking" edited by Alex Comfort, featured not just illustrations of filthy hippies "doing it," but several pages devoted to bondage -- and never mind the questionable stains on the cover and certain instructive pages. But that volume was far from the most obscene item on sale. No, for the biggest offense to public decency, we have to go with a copy of teeth-squeakingly clean-cut John Denver's 1975 album Windsong.


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