For years, Andrew Novick has been delighting Denver with his curious collections and oddball entertainments (he's about to celebrate his 300th visit to Casa Bonita); his artistic endeavors have been celebrated around the globe. Still, he was surprised when he got an email from a National Enquirer reporter a week ago.
The contact was inspired by Novick's film, JonBenet's Tricycle, which examines the issues of obsession, tragedy and how media coverage can alter our perception of events. "As much as it is about this murder, it's also about pop culture and media and the fascination we have with unsolved crimes," Novick told Westword shortly before the film premiered at the 2017 Denver Film Festival. "People have always been fascinated by cases like these. Even back in the days of Charles Manson, people followed that in the media. But this was nothing like the cases in the ’90s, with the news cycle and constant attention. ...
"The news was just constant. And if you ever wanted to find out anything, you could turn on one of the news channels, and they have to just keep repeating things, finding any little tidbit to report on. It’s this media frenzy that just keeps getting crazier as time goes on,” he continued, and with the Ramsey case, Novick noted, “it just seemed to always be just under the surface. It pops up every year or two. Tabloids always seemed to keep it alive. ‘New information!’ and then you read the story, and there’s absolutely nothing new in the story.”
But now there is: Alerted to the existence of JonBenét's actual tricycle through coverage of a recent screening of JonBenet's Tricycle at the Sie FilmCenter, Enquirer reporter Douglas Montero contacted Novick. He was one of the reporters who'd covered the December 26, 1996, murder of the six-year-old beauty queen in Boulder, Montero told Novick, and as they talked, he asked if the tricycle was for sale.
This was something Novick had never really considered. After the Denver Film Festival showing, he'd tried to get the film into other festivals for about a year, and "that was a waste of time," he says. So he recently put JonBenet's Tricycle on Blu-ray (with plenty of additional material that shows just how vast the artist's interests really are), and he's planning to tour the country with both the film and the pink tricycle, which he picked up in the alley outside the Ramsey's Boulder home after the family moved out.
If he sold the tricycle, he couldn't tour with it. But the Enquirer reporter kept pushing for a price, Novick says, and so he started musing out loud, thinking about the crowdfunding campaign that had helped get the film started and the tens of thousands of dollars he had committed to the project, and somehow the number $100,000 came out.
Now Novick's alleged interest in peddling the trike is suddenly being reported around the world, including a January 3 "exclusive" on Radaronline.com: "JonBenét Ramsey Memorabilia Collector Selling Murdered Tot’s Tricycle For $100,000."
Turns out, Novick's conversations with Montero had led to stories in the Enquirer's many sibling publications. "All my Google alerts start going on fire," Novick says.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
But while a couple of those stories focused on Novick's interest in selling the trike to the highest bidder (and earned him some nasty comments from people who accuse him of profiting off a murder), it turns out that the Enquirer itself might be interested in buying the tricycle, Montero told Novick, but $100,000 might be a little steep.
Since Novick really doesn't intend to sell the tricycle anyway, no sale is no problem. But the concept has gotten him thinking. "Say I sold it for $100,000, but I also sold enough copies of the movie," he muses. "I could donate the money from the sale, and I'm not a creep. But I really don't want to sell, because I want to take it to screenings."
At the moment, he's waiting for the Enquirer to make the next move: not a check for the trike, but ideally a story published in the supermarket tabloid that his mother can clip and save, documenting what she calls the "media-whore weirdness" of her son. "I'm not going to do anything until I see it in print," Novick says.
And that will bring this saga full circle, demonstrating how a tragic murder became a media event that still grabs headlines more than two decades later. "The tabloids are all over the movie," Novick notes. "The movie isn't really about the murder; it's about how we've related to it culturally."