Longform

Double Trouble

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As Rice tells it, he was at his day job (he works for MCI) when he learned about these assertions and was informed that Marvin had dared him to debate the topic live. Rice took the bait and phoned KHOW, much to his subsequent chagrin. "What I learned was, it's not about the truth," Rice says. "It's about entertainment, and it's about fueling the fire for a debate to make it a lively show. His technique is to ask you a lot of complex, rapid-fire questions that are really several questions in one. And if you start to answer them, he's like, 'Stop beating around the bush. You're acting just like a politician.' He insists on yes or no answers to questions that can't be answered that way."

On Marvin's show, Rice did not deny that the Glendale ordinance had been influenced by the NFLF document Marvin had cited, but he insisted that language from laws in Commerce City, Aurora, Lakewood, Denver and other cities across the country had also been folded into the Glendale plan. Marvin wasn't buying it: He called Rice a pawn of the Christian right and defied him to prove that the Glendale ordinance differed in any way from the one promoted by the NFLF.

Later that afternoon, Rice responded by dropping into KHOW's studio. But beyond a colorful exclamation from Marvin--"Get this bastard the fuck out of here!"--that was broadcast, reportedly by accident, to the community at large, what happened while Rice was there is in dispute. According to the version advanced by Marvin on his own program and during an appearance the next Monday on KHOW colleague Peter Boyles's morning show, Rice flew off the handle and began screaming into Marvin's face while a commercial break was playing. When it became clear that reasonable discourse was impossible, Marvin demanded that Rice leave, but the mayor refused to do so; he only left, Marvin says, after he heard Marvin describing him to a 911 operator. This part of Marvin's story was quickly seized upon by the folks at Glendale-based Shotgun Willie's Show Club, who put a message on the club's marquee that read, "TO REMOVE THE MAYOR, JUST DIAL 911."

Predictably, Rice's version puts the blame for the quarrel squarely on Marvin. "When I walked into the booth," the mayor says, "I went to shake his hand, but he slapped my hand away and said something like, 'I'm not going to shake your hand, you conniving son of a bitch.'" He adds that Marvin did not let him point out the contrasts between the Glendale and NFLF ordinances. Instead, Marvin threw down a stack of ordinances (an action that apparently switched on his microphone) and, in Rice's words, "started shouting at me, using all kinds of profanity. Now, when you're in that kind of environment, your voice does become more elevated than normal, but I was in no way screaming at him or flailing my arms. The only time I screamed at him was when he really went off on me: I yelled, 'You challenged me to come down here and prove what I was saying, and when I show you that you're wrong, you won't let me on the air, and I don't think that's fair. It's because you can't handle the truth.'" About this last statement, popularized by actor Jack Nicholson in the film A Few Good Men, Rice says, "That would have been a great line if it hadn't already been in a movie."

Off the air, Marvin says his faceoff with Rice has been overblown. But he continues to make sport of the mayor, whom he labels "a flat-out liar," on his show. He has a collection of cartridges on which he's recorded snippets of dialogue, like "Takin' it to the man" (delivered by actor Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction), and he uses them frequently. But the cart that's his current favorite is one simply labeled "Joe." At the push of a button, it plays Rice comments such as, "I'll prove it to you," "I have no agenda" and "Give me one question at a time" that Marvin uses as punchlines at the mayor's expense.

These jibes are hardly the most serious obstacles confronting Rice. A slightly altered version of the sex-business ordinance was approved by the Glendale City Council on March 17, but Glendale's two strip bars plan to appeal the decision. In addition, Rice's political opponents have formed a committee dubbed the Glendale Tea Party; if they prevail during an April 7 election at which three city council seats are up for grabs, the mayor's ability to turn his ideas into statutes could be severely restricted. But despite all the items on his plate, Rice still isn't willing to forget about Marvin's antics. He has a lawyer examining a recording of the February 27 broadcast with an eye toward taking Marvin to court for slander, and he also wants Marvin to deliver on a $1,000 bet the talk-show host made that the Glendale sex ordinance and the NFLF mandate are identical. Rice has earmarked the money for the Glendale Summer School Scholarship Fund and says, "I expect the check before the start of the summer term."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts