The Centennial State is known for more than a few things: great skiing, the beauty of the Rockies (the mountains, certainly not the ball team), the current Super Bowl-champ Denver Broncos and, yes, legalized pot, to name only a few. What Colorado isn’t widely known for is a relevance to serious pop culture; as unique as our state might be, we don't rate high in cool points. But we should. In honor of Colorado's 140th birthday, we've been rolling out lists of some of the things that make this state seem like Coolorado. Here are ten top pop-culture references to the 38th state:
10. Charles Schultz in Colorado Springs
The inimitable cartoonist lived in the Colorado Springs area back in the early 1950s, and even painted a Peanuts-themed mural on his daughter’s nursery wall. (That wall was donated to the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California, and still sits on proud display there today.) The Peanuts brand is 66 years young this year, and the cartoon is over fifty; Colorado is lucky to play a part in that story. Speaking of which, bonus fun fact about Charles Schulz in the Springs: His neighbors were the Van Pelts and the couple had two kids, Linus and Lucy. No word on whether Linus owned a blue blanket.
9. Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead Finds Things to Do in Denver
No, it's not a Denver ghost story, but it is probably the most famous movie set in town. With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 33 percent, this 1995 noir thriller didn’t end up thrilling too many critics — but the audience score is a respectable 73 percent, so that’s something. (The movie took its title from a Warren Zevon song, which is plain cool in and of itself.) Check out the movie for any number of reasons, not the least of which might be seeing Union Station in its pre-renovation state, as filming took place in and around Denver in August 1994. Which means you can also look at all that still-affordable real estate.
8. The Sleeper House
In 1973, filmmaker Woody Allen made a sci-fi comedy called Sleeper, which did boffo box office (making almost ten times its budget) and helped continue Allen’s successful run of movies in the Me Decade. The house where that movie was set has remained perched atop Genessee Mountain ever since. It was last sold for 1.5 million back in 2010, only four years after it had sold for twice that price. Maybe the cool factor doesn’t translate to sales price (though 2010 wasn’t a great year to be selling a house, even in the Denver area), but the “Hey, look, it’s that house from that movie!” reaction remains priceless.
7. Episodes of Here’s Lucy filmed at the Air Force Academy
In 1969, comedy legend Lucille Ball opened the second season of her series Here’s Lucy by taking on no less than the Air Force Academy with a show filmed extensively on location at the base in Colorado Springs. Lucy exhibits her usual comedic genius, misunderstandings happen, wacky hijinks ensue...and the path is successfully laid for Three’s Company to borrow the formula in the next decade.
6. Ice Castles Makes Everyone Cry
If you were a kid in 1978, then you probably saw Ice Castles, a teen tearjerker with Robby Benson and Lynn-Holly Johnson, about a star skater who goes blind and then overcomes her sudden and tragic disability. Filmed on location at the Broadmoor World Arena and featuring skaters from the Broadmoor as extras on the ice, the movie made the most of the sports environment in and around Colorado Springs. Oh, and emotional manipulation.
Keep reading for five more pop-culture references to Colorado.
5. Stephen King’s The Shining (finally) filmed at the Stanley
Not the theatrical movie (suck it, Kubrick!), but the television version from 1997. Steven Weber (TV sitcom Wings) and Rebecca De Mornay (the film Risky Business and the dreams of most teen boys in the 1980s) filled the Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall roles, and the film was a whopping six hours, which helped capture the novel in a way that made author Stephen King happier. Being filmed at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park? Icing on the gory cake.
4. Mork & Mindy in Boulder
Admittedly, very little of this crazy-popular 1978-'82 sitcom was filmed in Boulder (mainly exterior shots and Mindy’s house, which is still standing), but the supposed Boulder setting was mentioned so often, it was almost as though the town itself was one of the characters. (At the very least, the inhabitants of Boulder were shown to be sincerely weird — and if you’ve ever visited Pearl Street, you know that isn’t a stretch.)
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
3. Wargames at NORAD
NORAD is one of the places that draws filmmakers to Colorado — or at least the concept of Colorado, whether or not they choose to film here. This classic Matthew Broderick/Ally Sheedy 1983 flick is partially set in Colorado, as Broderick’s character infiltrates the facility in order to take on and (spoiler alert!) eventually defeat the supercomputer WOPR (War Operation Plan Response) by proving that when it comes to nuclear war, the “only winning move is not to play.” If that’s not a 1980s sentiment, I’ll eat my Rubik’s Cube.
2. Jack White’s Music Video at the Cruise Room
Singer-songwriter Jack White filmed his video for “Would You Fight for My Love?” at the Oxford Hotel’s Cruise Room in the summer of 2014. The song, the second single from White’s album Lazeretto, didn’t make it past the 38th slot on the Alternative charts, but it’s a gorgeous reminder of the classic cool that Denver still has to offer.
1. South Park...in All its Incarnations
Truly a Colorado creation, this now-legendary TV cartoon series is not only set in the titular Colorado town, but creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker are both home-state boys. They met in a film class at the University of Colorado Boulder, and struck up a friendship that would culminate in the South Park series (just about to start its twentieth season and scheduled to run at least through 2019), several films and the Tony Award-winning Broadway play Book of Mormon. Seriously cool, and all Colorado.