Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Colorado speaks for itself, according to a new ad campaign. If only.

"Colorado Speaks for Itself." That's the tagline of a new Colorado tourism campaign, a variation on the old "Let's Talk Colorado" that puts quote marks around pretty pictures of the mountains. But sadly, the campaign can't leave well enough alone.

A pricey two-page spread in the April 20 edition of the New Yorker features those pretty, silent mountains on one side — and then on the other, Mort Gerberg is again doing all the talking. (What, Colorado doesn't have its own comics?) This is the rare talent who appeared in the "Shari Lewis home video Lamb Chop in the Land of No Manners," according to his bio, and penned the classic "Dude Interlude," a quasi-story about a harried ad man that appeared in the New Yorker's travel section last year at this time:

I needed an extreme change of scene — and fast! But where? I'd already climbed Machu Picchu, skied Tuckerman Ravine, and bungee jumped in Zimbabwe. Maxed out, empty of ideas, my head ached. Then the kid from Imaging with all the hair gel Rollerbladed by with an iPod. "Yo, dude!" he yelled, and tossed a disk on my desk. "Your PDF revise!"

"Don't 'dude' me," I erupted. Then, with a jolt, I had a thought. According to Wikipedia, a dude is "a city person in the country." Bingo! I could go west and be a cowboy! What could be a more extreme change of scene for a city slicker?

What, indeed. The dude goes to the Cater-2U ranch, and within a week, he says, Ah don't rightly care that everybody in th'office thinks Ah talk funny. Or walk like mah legs are parentheses. No matter. Ah'm Cowboy Calm now. An Ah'm fixin' to git me back out soon to where the colombines grow to calm down s'more.

If Colorado were really able to speak for itself, it might have pointed out the correct spelling of the state flower.

The New Yorker's travel section last November featured another Colorado spread with the story of Gunther. No last name. No need. And no need to name the author: Gerberg again.

Surely you recognize me from cereal boxes. Blond hair, blue eyes, dazzling white smile, body like Adonis. Also you know my world records and ski techniques, which I invent and perform internationally.... Now also I am "Colorado Winter Smorgasbording, Ltd." Many winter recreations for clients, but I myself prefer skiing only. No question, it is best winter sport. No reason to do any different one.

No reason except Colorado's tourism campaign, and so after four-wheeling and dogsledding and ice-climbing, Gunther decides it is possible to teach old dog new tricks. Change is good.

But that's a message lost on the Colorado Tourism Office and MMG Mardiks, its Kansas City-based ad agency. MMG has an office in New York, too, but apparently no one there has been reading the New Yorker lately, because now Gerberg is back with the typo-ridden "Western Stimulus Package," featuring Barry and Mona, a value-minded tax-accountant couple,who learn from Ethel, the CPA Fairy Godmother, that they have won a designer vacation filled with wine tastings and rafting and fly-fishing and mountain biking.

"But where could we find all these amazing experiences in one place?" the accountants wonder. "In heaven?" "Very nearly," Ethel smiles. She points to her MultiBerry and COLORADO.COM appears on the screen. "You'll find everything you want right there. You could even make your own reservations. (Although, if you like" — she lowers her voice — "I'll do your bookings myself. You know, make a little commission on the side. It couldn't hurt.")

Oh, but it does.

On Monday, Governor Bill Ritter kicked off "Rediscover Colorado Month" at a rally at the State Capitol extolling the undeniable beauty of this state and thanking legislators for their support of Colorado's tourism industry. An industry that, even in these tight times, is supported by $16 million from the state's increasingly tight budget.

I know where they could make a fast cut.

Colorado speaks for itself?

If only.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun