Bad Santa

Over the past three Saturday mornings, the Children's Museum of Denver has hosted "Snack With Santa," where kids noshed, chatted and got their photos taken with Ol' St. Nick.

But at the most recent event, moms got something extra with their price of admission: Santa Claus was encouraging them to sit on his knee for photo ops as well. Cookies and MILF, anyone? Museum marketing manager Zoe Poltawec says Santa was just doing his job. "It doesn't seem very weird to me," she explains, but adds, "I don't have a lot of experience with Santas. I'm not sure what proper Santa etiquette is." She got a little recently — experience, that is: Poltawec herself took a seat on Santa.

"I also sat on Santa's lap," admits Amy Burt, the museum's senior manager of external affairs — and she doesn't see anything wrong with that. "You sit on Santa's lap for a photo opportunity or if your child is nervous. I don't think it's unusual," she says.

While there are no specific rules about what Santa should or shouldn't do, the event was monitored for inappropriate activity, Burt adds. As for the Santa's active encouragement of the ladies — even when their children weren't nervous — Burt notes, "Everything we do is about engaging the parents in the activities. We want the child to come in and have an educational experience, but we also want the parent to be engaged and involved." In her case, Santa — whose personal information she declined to release — didn't just single out moms. "He offered to have [my son's] father sit on his lap as well."

"Santa Tim" Connaghan, who teaches hundreds of prospective Santas the tricks of the trade each year as president of the Los Angeles-based International University of Santa Claus, is skeptical of the practice, however. "If it was not the policy of the museum to have Santa invite all the women to sit on his lap, Santa was probably out of line," he says. "Santa probably should not have been asking moms to sit on his knee."

After all, as last weekend's well-reported arrest of a women who allegedly groped Santa at a Connecticut mall shows, anything can happen to the man in the jolly red suit.

Put this Santa down on the naughty list.

Coffee mock: Walking into Mutiny Now!, the coffee shop-slash-book-slash-record store-slash-subversive chest of wonders at 2 South Broadway, Aaron Mersmann saw a painting he just had to have. It read "I'm Tired of Sputniks Shitty Coffee," and then, in smaller letters, "Sputnik Comere Caca Comida e Muerto. You know I am right." A bartender across the street at Sputnik, Mersmann sprung for the $50 that prolific pop painter and Mutiny Now! owner Jack Jensen was asking for the oil painting. It now hangs behind Sputnik's bar.

Jensen says he found his muse for the piece, which shows a hand and an overturned coffee mug, in the voice of a patron he overheard in his own shop bitching about the quality of the java produced by his neighbor. "I'm a pop artist. I'm inspired by my neighborhood," he says, adding that the owners didn't want the painting until he explained that there was no animosity and that he was simply promoting a mock coffee rivalry.

It's unlikely that Starbucks would have the same sense of ironic appreciation for a similar expression about their product, but the folks at Sputnik jumped at the opportunity. And besides, "We've always had good coffee," says bartender Paul Croft. And Jensen (who signed the piece "And I'm tired of your shitty service, too") says he agrees.

Scene and herd: This holiday season, there's something missing from the bluffs overlooking I-25. That's right: The Christmas lights that once graced the Chile Pepper and Baby Doe's — the worst restaurants this side of Casa Bonita — are no longer there. And that's because the restaurants themselves are gone, wiped clean off the map to make way for no doubt lofty developments.

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