THE YEAR IN REVIEW
part 2 of 2
Young people apparently had a bit more trouble relating to the Denver Public Schools, which began the school year with a week-long teacher's strike. The district never stopped learning, though, bringing in replacement teachers to show movies in the gym and dodge spitballs. State officials later determined that the district illegally paid 580 substitutes who never provided college transcripts.
The school board shelled out $40,000 to find a new superintendent, even though it didn't have to look any further than its own personnel records. Irv Moskowitz, a former DPS administrator, quickly established who was in charge in the district by overturning Horace Mann Middle School vice principal Ruben Perez's suspension of 97 alleged troublemakers. Perhaps the disciplinarian Perez was inspired by the University of Colorado's sweeping new firearms resolution, which forbade devices designed to "intimidate, harass, injure or otherwise interfere with the learning and working environment of the university." Among other things, the "resolution" made it possible to expel students for bringing slingshots to campus.
Unfortunately for CU president Judith Albino, the new rule didn't say anything about outlawing hunger strikes, which came back in style this year as quickly as disco music and bell-bottom pants. A coalition of minority students at CU staged a five-day hunger strike in an effort to get the school to form an ethnic-studies department that would hand out undergraduate and graduate degrees in minority affairs. Apparently lacking the stomach for a fight, Albino gave in.
And college students weren't the only ones hungry for knowledge. Angry about the state of Hispanic education in Denver, activist Nita Gonzalez lost 35 pounds in 27 days on her new Protest Diet. Eight hundred Hispanic kids themselves walked out of class in September, a move that lost some of its fizz when three times as many Hispanic students decided to just take the day off.
Life wasn't always a bed of roses out in the suburbs, either. Littleton high school officials blushed when one parent complained that co-ed showings of educational films on self-testing for breast and testicular cancer constituted "sexual harassment."
An even bigger stink loomed at Campus Middle School in Greenwood Village after a student brought an odiferous piece of tropical fruit to show-and-smell. The Castlewood Fire Department dispatched fifteen units to the scene after pupils reported being physically repulsed by the stench that emerged from the exotic durian sliced open during a geography lesson. The student body escaped unscathed, though two youngsters suffered anxiety-induced asthma attacks linked to the sewerlike aroma.
In a July episode of TV's Jeopardy, host Alex Trebek quizzed contestants with this answer: "Denver International Airport, which opened in 1994, replaced this airport." The question "What is Stapleton?" was good for $500, which Denver officials could have used to help pay for DIA's rapidly ascending delay costs. Also spotted in July: an electric sign at Stapleton advertising DIA's opening two months earlier.
Out at DIA iself, officials celebrated the arrival of the airport's 1 millionth visitor--a tourist who had come out to wander through the vacant terminal.
The local media did its best to pretend that DIA was open anyway. Channel 9's special DIA guide had already been distributed to area Burger King restaurants when Mayor "Whopper" Webb announced he was further postponing the airport's opening in March. The Post issued its own special section on March 6; the wily Rocky Mountain News backed out just in time, but got caught when it released a DIA tri-bute on May 8 featuring advertisements such as this one from Hensel Phelps Construction: "World Class Construction in World Record Time!"
Eight separate investigations raged at DIA, probing everything from cracks in the runways to allegations that the city failed to fully inform investors who bought the billions in bonds that financed the project. But after the smart-mouths at the New York Times dared to make fun of DIA in a mocking editorial, the Denver Post felt compelled to stick up for its hometown. "Yes, that's right, DIA is a modern wonder," retorted the Post, "and airport engineers expect the baggage system to be fully functional in the not-too-distant future." Later in the year, Webb announced the city would spend millions to build a low-tech baggage system as a backup to its still-not-working modern wonder.
Airport officials also had trouble debugging a giant water sculpture in the terminal that had been designed to shoot out jets of fluid in the shape of the Front Range Rockies but hadn't been designed with a drip pan. However, Post reporter Alan Katz was happy to serve as a backup. While on assignment measuring how long it took to reach DIA by cab from different parts of the city, Katz heard the call of nature and, discovering that the new airport's attri-butes include a location miles from the nearest Porta-Potty, asked his cabdriver to pull over on Pena Boulevard. He was ticketed by a cop shortly after christening the thoroughfare.
Former KNUS talkmeister Ken Hamblin hung up his local mike to pursue a career sticking out his tongue at a national audience--but not before a female co-worker accused him of pinning her down on a bench and simulating a sex act during a holiday party. Hamblin later accepted Lakewood prosecutors' offer of a deferred prosecution on a misdemeanor harassment charge, which will be wiped off the books if the Black Avenger can keep out of woman trouble until January 10. Also busted for plagiarizing a Rocky Mountain News article in his column for the Post, Hamblin announced he was writing a book on lazy Negroes and other social problems titled Please Don't Feed the Blacks.
In an unrelated outburst of racial harmony, pithy KOA radio host Steve Kelley met Jesse Jackson's rhetorical barbs about CU's hiring of football coach Rick Neuheisel head-on, noting, "Jackson should just shut his black mouth."
The talk-show scene was even rowdier in Colorado Springs, where Francisco Duran allegedly spent much of his time listening to the political commentary of conservative firebrand Chuck Baker before shooting up the White House. When Duran had called Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell's Colorado Springs office and threatened to "go to Washington and take someone out" two months earlier, the threat wasn't even reported--because it was so similar to other obscene calls generated by Baker's program.
Most local media types were more successful in steering clear of controversy. Reporter Kevin Flynn of the Rocky Mountain News was feeling so mellow one day that he filed a story detailing a janito-rial stakeout he conducted at Stapleton International Airport. Included were descriptions of Flynn watching a candy-bar wrapper for ten minutes until a janitor picked it up, as well as detailed reports about his personal inspections of the facility's bathrooms, elevators and moving sidewalks. The newsman concluded that the janitors appeared to be doing their job.
Other Denver journalists got a little more excitable, especially when it came to chasing scoops. Channel 4 was off and running with a hard-hitting ratings-month series on pantyhose, while News men's columnist Curtis Eichelberger penned a thoughtful essay on a man who, after having sex with a woman he'd met in a bar, left $7 in cash on her dresser. "It was all the money he had left, but the idea of making her feel like a whore was worth the seven bucks," wrote Eichelberger, normally assigned to the sports pages.
The level of discourse was only slightly higher over in the News newsroom, where reporter Fawn Germer, who last year wrote about how she single-handedly touched off a heat wave among male legislators by slipping into a hot red dress, again held forth on her wardrobe and its relation to sociopolitical issues. In a rare journalistic double play, Germer wrote a news story covering a speech by Gloria Steinem and accompanied it with a gushing personal column in which she admitted to asking her heroine for an autograph and feeling chastized for wearing a pair of "the least comfortable pumps I own" to the interview. "`You shouldn't wear pumps, you should wear sensible shoes,' she told me," wrote the fawning Germer. "Right, Gloria. I know. I should have taken your advice fifteen years ago. I should take it now. Forget the rules."
That's apparently what the Rocky did the day after Channel 7 aired an interview with Washington Park rapist Theodore Castillo. Throwing aside the pesky tradition that says you admit it when someone has scooped you, the News went ahead and billed its own interview with Castillo as an "exclusive." The paper did get one genuine scoop, though, when it reported that a man pictured in a recent issue taking young News carriers on a hayride was a convicted sex offender.
Up Colfax a few blocks, the Post wasn't above taking credit for its own highly unexclusive "exclusives." A front-page story in one Sunday edition trumpeted the fact that the paper had "recently obtained" tax documents that provided "the first-ever public glimpse" at the finances of the Winter Park Recreation Association. The only problem was that a breakdown of the ski resort's finances had been provided in print the year before--by the Post itself.
Editors at the paper could only be glad they didn't suffer the fate of their peers at the Boulder Daily Camera. As part of an office renovation, Camera editors were informed they would be expected to paint the walls.
Police suspected a disgruntled city employee after then-Denver Manager of Safety Beth McCann was sent a package containing a dead fish with a live bullet in its mouth. But the really high-class political treachery appeared elsewhere.
The campaign for sheriff in Adams County turned fowl when incumbent Ed Camp questioned challenger Bill Shearer's attachment to a stuffed pet chicken named Colorada. "Hating that chicken is like hating someone's teddy bear," complained Shearer, who went on to win the election hens down.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick Sargent was feeling anything but cuddly when he kicked off his campaign by calling Governor Roy Romer a "socialist" and a "boot-licker."
GOP big gun Bruce Benson fired off a few choice phrases himself after weaseling out of a series of debates with Romer. Benson gave the incumbent governor a bowling trophy, which he said honored Romer's well-honed skills as a "Master Debater." And he wasn't the only candidate handing out abuse: Soon after Benson backed out of the debates, a duck began stalking him at campaign rallies. An enraged Benson supporter reportedly responded by slapping the duck and screaming, "Pluck you!" The duck later went undercover, perhaps to compare notes with the chicken that had shadowed Benson during the GOP primary. Rival candidate Mike Bird denied any connection to the stunt, as did Colorada.
The campaign's almost animalistic climate of fear culminated when Romer and his state trooper driver were allegedly chased by a mysterious red Chevy as they sped to a campaign appearance in Fort Collins. Under fire at the time for allowing state troopers to do plumbing chores and other odd jobs for his wife, Bea--and for using tax money to lease a new Chevy Caprice for the First Lady--the governor was happy to have a hot set of wheels under him as he and trooper Steve Stevenson shot down the freeway at speeds of more than 100 m.p.h. The phantom Chevy and its occupants described by Stevenson--the governor was on the floor for much of the chase--were never located, despite a massive dragnet conducted by the state patrol.
It was unclear whether troopers investigating the incident questioned Lakewood City Councilman Mike McFadden, who, it was revealed after his election, had served time in prison following a drag-racing accident in Iowa. McFadden's skeleton in the closet caused a ruckus on the Lakewood council, but nothing like the brouhaha that broke out in Wheat Ridge after Councilman Vance Edwards called Mayor Dan Wilde "an unethical son of a bitch" and Wilde slugged him--all live on cable TV. Wheat Ridge councilman Dennis Hall later got into the spirit, resigning after citizens began circulating petitions calling for his recall. Said the avuncular councilman, "You can take these petitions and shove them, because I quit."
Arvada City Councilwoman Joanne Conte, the area's only politician known to have undergone a sex-change operation, made headlines again by filing a workers' compensation claim arguing that a staph infection in her right elbow may have been caused by excessive leaning on her desk during council meetings. Conte didn't get her money. Jefferson County Democrats suffered a similar rebuff when they asked a judge to allow votes to be counted for Tom Kaufmann, a candidate for the state legislature who died a month before the election.
The happy-go-lucky Cherry Creek Republican Women, however, had a ball answering telephones during a Channel 6 fund drive. The organization later reported that one of its members was offered a left testicle as a pledge, while another woman was offered $100 to strip down and tap dance nude. "The group had fun," added the CCRW, "and will return for the winter membership drive."
In the end, if anyone was qualified to sort out the year's events, political and otherwise, it was Stew Webb, Denver's leading conspiracy theorist. This year, Webb actually began telemarketing his labyrinthine theories of international intrigue, selling a $25 video that featured, among other items, his contention that while vice president, George Bush personally molested thirty children after having them spirited out of orphanages with the help of fellow perverts in Congress. Alas, Webb was arrested by Las Vegas police--after he went to that city's police station to pick up a copy of a national crime computer report on himself.
end of part 2
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.