Linda Chavez lost her chance to serve as George W. Bush's Labor Secretary when the news broke that she'd once sheltered an illegal alien. But, since she dropped out of the running for the position on January 9, the onetime Denver resident has been cashing in -- or trying to, anyway.
Chavez, who heads Washington, D.C.'s Center for Equal Opportunity think tank, supplements her salary by delivering lectures, and in the January 23 Washington Post, she boasted that her speaking fees have zoomed skyward since Bush left her twisting in the breeze. And she may experience a similar income bump when it comes to her gig as a syndicated columnist. After Chavez announced her withdrawal, Richard Newcombe, president of Creators Syndicate, which disseminates her column and those of clients such as Ann Landers, predicted in the Chicago Tribune that the number of papers picking up her work would balloon from fifty to 400, thanks to additional name recognition. And while the numbers haven't hit those heights yet, they're on the upswing. Despite serious ethical questions surrounding Chavez, including her admission that she acted as an adviser to Georgie's campaign without informing either Creators Syndicate or the publications reproducing her jottings, Newcombe says that Chavez's base has grown to 71 papers, with more to follow. "We're finding substantially increased interest," he notes.
He may be right, but Bob Ewegen, deputy editorial page editor of the Denver Post, which has featured the column for years, has other reasons for sticking with Chavez. "We try to put together a diverse page, so Linda is something of a four-for-one for us," he says. "She's female, which we're short of. She's Latina, which we're short of. She's a conservative, which we're short of. And she has strong Denver ties, so we can almost palm her off as being local." (Chavez's family moved to Denver when she was in the fourth grade, and she later attended the University of Colorado.)
Still, these attributes don't mean her every column is worth grabbing. The Post reintroduced Chavez to its readership on January 28 with "Bush's Order of Business," only after passing on January 15's "As It Happened," an account of her Labor travails that Ewegen calls "a whiny, pity-me thing. It was really wretched."
For the most part, though, Ewegen regards Chavez as "a pretty crisp writer," and he expects that she'll turn up in the Post from time to time. "To some extent it sounds cynical," he concedes, "but you don't want an all-male page or an all-white page -- so having an articulate Latina conservative is a useful part of the mix."
Thin ice: Denver Post sportswriter Woody Paige capped his January 17 column, "Note to Webb: Tear Down Old Mile High, Already," with a rather puzzling paragraph. "On April 26, 2000," he allowed, "I wrote that John McMullen, who purchased the Colorado Rockies hockey team in 1982 and moved the franchise to New Jersey, left behind 'considerable unpaid debts.' After researching the Post's archives for the source of my memory, I have found no proof that McMullen did not pay off the Rockies' debts. I regret and apologize for the mistake."
On the surface, this reference is cryptic; after all, most corrections appear immediately after an error is published, not nearly nine months later. But it makes perfect sense, given the situation to which it alludes. You see, McMullen is suing Paige and the Post over the April 26 piece, which was headlined "Mr. Stan Man, Make Us a Dream Team." In the article, about Stan Kroenke, who had just purchased the Denver Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche, Paige expressed distress that John Elway and Pat Bowlen had failed in their bid to buy the teams -- but said he wasn't saddened that McMullen, their partner, had been "spindled, rejected and humbled." He went on to dub McMullen a "swamp-swill salesman" who had grabbed the Rockies and run "like a thief in the night," leaving the aforementioned debts in his wake.
McMullen reacted by filing a lawsuit on June 20, stating that the debt allegation "is completely false and without any basis whatsoever," and resulted in defamation and "false light invasion of privacy." The suit requests no specific penalty, arguing instead that McMullen has been "damaged in an amount to be proved at trial."
Tom Kelley, the attorney representing Paige and the Post, points out that the January 17 item "was not part of a settlement of some kind; no demand for a correction was made. But after looking into it, Paige and the editorial staff felt it was warranted." Meanwhile, Paige suggests that the delay between the Kroenke article's publication and his apology can be explained by his schedule; stories such as the Summer Olympics kept him on the road for weeks at a time, making it difficult to investigate McMullen's charges. "But I did months of research," he notes, "and then I did what I've done throughout my career. If I have been unable to find any information that supports what I wrote, I correct it."
Nonetheless, Sean Gallagher, McMullen's Denver-based lawyer, doesn't think the apology will have any effect on the case. The matter is slated to go to trial in Denver District Court on June 4, Paige's calendar notwithstanding.
The Hooligan rises again: In my November 9 column "Zine But Not Heard," John Reidy, the man behind The Hooligan, which is among the most singular Denver zines ever, said nasty things about the biweekly publication Go-Go, not the least of which was, "If Go-Go is around for seven years, I'll eat a turd." Afterward, he was bombarded with e-mail attacks from Go-Go supporters questioning everything from his punk credibility to his sexuality.
But instead of crawling away to sulk, Reidy responded by revving up his unruly creation again. The Hooligan, which has consisted mainly of intermittent Reidy essays for the past year or so, is back online at thehooligan.com in the most complete version since its mid-'90s heyday; features include Reidy's trademark rants and "The 20 Second Film Review," in which movie critiques are based entirely on trailers or commercials. Reidy promises regular updates, and he even claims that he'll say nice things about Go-Go types if they "actually put out something good," which apparently hasn't happened yet. "But in the meantime, I have the right to say whatever the fuck I want."
He's ba-a-a-ack: Last year, Denver Post columnist Chuck Green vigorously defended his right to wax sentimental about inhabitants of the animal kingdom ("The Dogfather Speaks," July 6, 1999), but for months afterward, he failed to exercise the privilege. In January, however, he dipped his toe back into the pet dish with three blurbs about a Dumb Friends League telethon; in the last one, he highlighted Bobo, a poodle and "adorable cuddlebug." Then, on January 31, the dam broke, courtesy of a piece called "Murphy a Devoted Friend."
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After a lead that noted "a few folks have mentioned that, over the years, I tend to write too often about household pets," he refuted the charge. "Too often I write about people," he declared, adding, "I prefer to write about dogs, and this is one of those days that I will indulge myself, not my critics." And indulgent he was, declaring that at the time of Murphy's purchase sixteen years back by "a schoolteacher," the mutt had "soiled his shoe-box sized carrier on the way home" because he was "so enthralled by his good fortune." In subsequent years, Murphy was always there for his owner ("As she shed tears watching a movie on the Romance Channel, he understandingly rested his chin in her lap"), but old age brought with it arthritis, cloudy vision and deafness. Finally, the schoolteacher "accepted the inevitable" and spent a final "teary-eyed night with her hero." But today she believes that Murphy "is chasing butterflies on the clouds...His ears are no longer deaf, and he hears her prayers."
Two days later, in a sterling example of egotism and laziness, Green offered a follow-up column consisting entirely of letters from shlock fanciers grateful for this serving of treacle. Not included was more background on Murphy -- namely, that the dog actually belonged to Green's wife, Susan. But Green insists that the information wasn't left out because he'd plowed the same field back in 1998, when he penned a multi-part eulogy for another of his departed canines, Gus. Murphy was mainly Susan's dog, he says, and he didn't want to "intrude on their relationship" by inserting himself into the tale: "It wasn't about me. It was about them."
Will Green resist making similar tributes when each of his surviving pets, including parrot Reggie, who already knows how to play dead, shuffles off this mortal coil? Doubt it -- because after a long absence, the Dogfather has been unleashed! Give that dog a bone!