Smoked Out

As the clock struck twelve last Friday, smokers in restaurants and bars across Colorado snuffed out their cigarettes and stogies.

All in all, the atmosphere was very civilized -- particularly compared with the puffed-up behavior exhibited a few days earlier by a rowdy crew on the patio at the Tavern Lowry. Governor Bill Owens was seated at the head of one of the tables, and after he left, the revelers proceeded to get lit in more ways than one. An Off Limits' informant and his companion had gone to the Tavern to enjoy dinner outdoors, and the big cloud of cigar smoke didn't add to the ambience. When their server was unable to find another table for two far from the puffing crowd, they moved inside, where another waitress told them that she didn't think cigars were allowed on the patio. But how, exactly, do you tell the governor's party that it's breaking the rules?

"I thought it was really rude," says our informant. "And I'm not a government-basher. I work for the government." In fact, he's a longtime police officer -- which means that this week he'll be taking training classes in how his particular municipality plans to enforce the smoking ban.


Smoking ban

After he got home that night and caught the local news, our informant realized why this particular crew was on fire: Owens's team had just trounced a group fielded by Denver mayor John Hickenlooper in a June 27 softball challenge.

Reel world, Denver: The state's new eco-devo measure, which includes a half-million-dollar incentive for film-production companies, also kicked in July 1, but Colorado Film Commission director Martin Cuff didn't stick around long enough to get shown the money. After less than a year in the job, he returned to his native South Africa in May, leaving Kevin Shand as interim director. The commission has written rules and regulations for how crews can apply for the funds, he reports, "and they go before the State Economic Development Commission on June 14. They'll be the ones issuing the checks back to the production companies."

But Academy Award-winning documentary maker Donna Dewey isn't waiting to get shown the money, either. On Sunday, she wrapped filming on Skills Like This, a feature shot around the Denver area -- and in just seventeen days. "It went smooth as silk," she reports. "Everybody on the crew said they'd never worked on anything like this. Everyone was in a good mood." Although the crew went all over town, much of the action focused on Arvada, where the set on Grandview Avenue convinced some people they'd stumbled into a bank robbery -- or at least a new Mexican restaurant. "We needed a bank, and we needed it with the right proximity to a Mexican restaurant," Dewey explains. "So we built a Mexican restaurant in an upholstery store and made it into Señor Burrito's. People came in to apply for jobs and everything."

Arvada mayor Ken Fellman wasn't fooled. He has a bit part in the picture, "and gets run into by the bank robber as he's taking a parking ticket off his car," Dewey says.

Looking for Sunday, the movie Dewey made last year in Denver, has just been cut and is now going to potential distributors. As for Skills Like This, "I really predict the best for this one," the filmmaker says. And not just because her son is starring in it: The project landed with John Sloss of Cinetic Media, and "he's the agent who sold Napoleon Dynamite," Dewey notes. "It's what every independent filmmaker is looking for."

But some Colorado cash wouldn't hurt. "That's two features in a row within the last year," she concludes. "I'd like to keep doing it."

And the rest is history: The Ballad of Baby Doe is drawing big crowds to Central City this summer (see review, page 44), and Jim Prochaska, executive director of the Gilpin History Museum, hopes they'll stick around to drink up history as well as cocktails in the famed Teller House bar. Before gambling was introduced, the museum averaged 6,000 visitors a year; last year that number dropped to 1,500. "Even though there's gaming, we're still here," Prochaska says. And how: The museum has set up both a small exhibit in the Teller House that features the Tabor triangle -- Horace and Augusta Tabor and that minx Baby Doe, who moved to Central City from Wisconsin with her husband, Harvey Doe, before moving on to Leadville and in on Augusta's husband -- and in the museum itself, where Baby Doe: The Final Years, is devoted to the 35 years Baby Doe lived on without Horace, and in poverty.

But there's a wealth of items in this show, many never before displayed. "We have about fifteen artifacts that people got when they ransacked her cabin outside the Matchless Mine after she died and just stuck them in their houses in Leadville," says Prochaska. "I'd heard some rumors, and went up and knocked on doors and talked to people." And he found things that hadn't been seen in seventy years, including a love seat, a coin purse, "and even the pencil and string attached to the wall of the shack that she wrote all her notes on," he says. Also displayed are copies of those notes -- some mystical, most loony, and all matchless.

Scene and herd: The opening night of Baby Doe was also the night that the Central City Flower Girls were presented -- and in the crowd this year were cable heir Gary Magness and Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, both of whom had daughters making their debut.


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