All in all, though, 1996 was a real bombshell. So put down that "Tickle Me Elway" doll, cancel that Macarena lesson, and remember to surrender all jewelry and pocket change before you pass through the metal detector. Then join us as we blast through the year that was.
LAW AND ORDER
Chamber of Commerce types couldn't help bursting with pride when the Oklahoma City bombing trial was relocated to Denver last year, again confirming the city's status as the Center of the Known Universe. The city quickly set up a Downtown Trial Task Force in anticipation of the rush, and Bill Mosher, president of the Downtown Denver Partnership, announced that the trial would provide "opportunity" for retailers, though he added that it was "really about hospitality." Perhaps worried that visitors might hop on the wrong welcome wagon, the ever-vigilant Rocky Mountain News installed concrete barricades at its Colfax Avenue headquarters.
Most of the reporters in town to cover the trial wiled away the hours sniping at each other and fighting over the 37 chairs available in the courtroom. But that wasn't the "media hysteria" McVeigh defense attorney Stephen Jones had in mind when he asked a judge for permission to conduct "off-the-record, pre-interview" screenings of selected journalists. Jones and McVeigh wanted to find just the right reporters to help them fashion a more positive image for the accused mass murderer. The Rocky Mountain News and Denver's three network-TV affiliates jumped at the chance to make ga-ga eyes at the Boomer.
Nichols, though, was occupied with other matters, most having to do with his digestive tract. He immediately started kvetching about the food, declaring that he'd been fed substandard whole-wheat bread that upset his stomach. According to a complaint filed by Nichols's lawyers, jailers responded by "punishing" their client. "Instead of being treated like a respected 'whistleblower' who saved the government money and identified abuses by a government contractor, Mr. Nichols has been disciplined under procedures that violate basic rights," wrote the attorneys. Among the cruel and unusual treatment to which Nichols was subjected: Guards refused to let him eat microwave popcorn, which he claimed was a necessary component of his high-fiber diet.
Hell was the only thing a-poppin' up in Steamboat Springs last August, when hundreds of Hell's Angels blew into town for an annual confab. Perhaps angry that the Bloods and the Crips have stolen their thunder as society's outcasts, the frustrated bikers frightened women and small children, threatened news photographers and generally re-enacted The Wild One, ruling the town for the weekend and commandeering the Iron Horse Inn for their headquarters. When police in the laid-back ski town arrived to check out reports of a shooting, they were forced to "negotiate" with the Angels, who blocked the door until all evidence had mysteriously disappeared.
They also had a devil of a time down in Colorado Springs, where disgruntled construction worker Kerry Dore took four employees hostage in the offices of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family. The gun-toting Dore, angry that he'd been injured while building the far-right group's headquarters and received nothing but a bouquet of flowers in return, engaged police in a four-hour standoff. Said one hostage, after Dore stripped to his waist and strapped on a vest that contained phony explosives, "He had red writing on his chest, but I was afraid to try and read it because his language had been so bad."
The voters made a few choice comments of their own this year. Fountain city councilman Mike Skerik was kicked out of office after the feathers flew in a feud over whether to allow chickens in a local subdivision. Said a bloodied but unbowed Skerik to his supporters after being fried extra-crispy in the recall election, "I fought as long and hard as I could."
Of course, the populace wasn't always so picky. Nobody seemed to hold it against Aurora mayor Paul Tauer when he missed a city council meeting because he'd fallen asleep on a Mexican beach and gotten a sunburn. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell avoided impeachment despite his decision to pose astride his Harley-Davidson motorcycle for the Banana Republic clothing store. In what may have been cosmic punishment for his part in the spring fashion campaign, Campbell later fell off his banana seat during a joyride and broke his arm. A similar fate befell Governor Roy Romer, who busted his leg after rolling his three-wheel ATV at the family ranch near Holly. But at least Ramblin' Romer was one up on Adams County Commissioner Guillermo DeHerrera, who couldn't get rolling at all. DeHerrera had to surrender his driver's license after chalking up repeated speeding violations. "I'll be very honest with you," DeHerrera told a reporter. "I wasn't very diligent in taking care of this."