Millions of bleary-eyed Americans were greeted this morning by the sight of a big blue bear -- a living embodiment of the iconic "I See What You Mean" bear statue on the side of the Colorado Convention Center -- waving cheerfully to them from their televisions. It was part of a Good Morning America segment recognizing Denver for being chosen for a holiday window display at the ABC studios in New York. While Mayor John Hickenlooper unveiled the display on the air, a camera crew filmed a "Mile High Pep Rally" at Union Station -- featuring, among other performers, a "big blue bear" mascot.
So what was this like for the bear? He's become one of the city's most beloved symbols, as shown by runaway sales of mini-blue bear replicas. But was he ready for national exposure? So silent, yet so expressive: What is it really like under that blue, blue exterior? To get to the bottom of it, Westword chatted with Tyler Wilcox, online content editor for VISITDENVER.com (yes, it's supposed to be all caps, he says, as if the web address is yelling at people) -- the man chosen to embody the big blue bear. Here's what he had to say.
Westword (Joel Warner): Why were you chosen to be the big blue bear?
Tyler Wilcox: It's actually funny, because I got an e-mail on Wednesday from my boss saying, "I hear you have an affinity for the big blue bear." I didn't know what that meant, because I don't have an affinity for the big blue bear. She was confused, it turned out. It was the other Tyler in the office who has an affinity for the big blue bear. He's done it before. It was a case of mistaken identity, really, but I jumped on it. I went with the flow.
WW: So you don't have an affinity for the big blue bear?
TW: Sure, I have an affinity for the big blue bear. But I don't have a special affinity for the big blue bear. I like him, don't get me wrong. He's kind of a neat icon. Of all the things that Denver could use as an icon, as its mascot, I think this is kind of pleasant.
WW: Better than, say, Saggy Boob Electric Penis?
TW: That would be good, too, probably.
WW: What would you have done if asked to be Saggy Boob Electric Penis?
TW: I think I would have been up to the task. You have to look yourself in the mirror and decide what kind of man you are.
WW: So what was it like this morning?
TW: There were all these other mascots. Winter Park Willy was there. He's a moose. There was the shark from the aquarium. Sharky, I think. Yeah, the shark. He was kind of impressive because he had a helper. I don't know if the person inside could see. There was a mascot from the Butterfly Pavilion. It wasn't a butterfly. It was a grasshopper kind of thing. There was something from the Boondocks Fun Center. I think that was a dog. I don't know if he had a name. There wasn't a dressing room for all the mascots to hang out. Which... was okay. I didn't get to interact with the other mascots. Maybe next time.
WW: What about Dinger?
TW: The Rockies guy?
WW: Yeah, the crappy Rockies mascot.
TW: Isn't he a dinosaur? Yeah, he wasn't there. It's the off-season, so he's probably in Florida.
WW: How did you prepare to be the big blue bear?
TW: It's kind of a blank canvas, a form to really work on the character. I watched a lot of movies about bears. I tried to get the mannerisms down. Just how a bear would wave at a camera. You can't really find footage of bears waving at cameras, but you have to put yourself in that frame of mind.
WW: Tell me about the bear outfit.
TW: Well, it's blue. And I can see through the eyes of the bear. I think Sharky was looking through the mouth.
WW: Was it smelly?
TW: It wasn't smelly. I was expecting it to be. I think maybe the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau washes it after every use.
WW: Did you have instructions on what to do?
TW: I was basically supposed to stand there. I was interviewed by a local weatherperson [before the big event].
WW: But you could only talk in bear.
TW: She asked me yes or no questions, and I nodded in response. She asked if I was excited to be there and I nodded. And she asked if I was excited to see the Denver Broncos cheerleaders. Did I mention they were there? I nodded yes, I was. Then she reported the weather. And I stood next to her. I may have waved.
WW: Did you find yourself slipping into character?
TW: It's funny. You put on that mask and you do feel very anonymous. And I think people forget there is a person inside. People will point at you and talk about you while you are standing there as though you are uncomprehending. It was from 5 to 7 a.m., so it was kind of surreal. But I didn't maul anybody.
WW: You didn't have the urge to maul anyone?
TW: I didn't feel the urge. No one ticked me off to that extent.
WW: So as the big blue bear, which would you be more afraid of: a tiger or Sarah Palin?
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TW: I would be more afraid of a tiger, personally. I would hope I could wave at Sarah Palin and she would get some of my human qualities and not gun me down.
WW: What did you learn from all this?
TW: People really do respond to the big blue bear. I think he's a good mascot. He's kind of a benign presence. Calming. Calming and blue. -- Joel Warner