Norm Clarke's Diary: The Lost Pages

Editor's note: Last Friday, legendary Denver Rocky Mountain News gossip columnist Norm! Clarke announced his departure from this toddling town for the neon jungle of Las Vegas. The next day, several notes on cocktail napkins, allegedly scribbled by Norm! himself, were brought to our office by a Sing!Sing washroom attendant. Despite intricate questions of provenance, we snapped up exclusive rights and tipped him handsomely.

Wednesday, 1:44 p.m.: Lunch at the Palm. Prime rib a little fatty today, but what the hell -- I ain't paying. Seen: Annabel Bowlen, Dan Caplis, Larry Mizel and some troll who could be Truman Capote. (Must check and see if Capote is still alive; can't afford any more dead guys in the column.) Heard: "Youse are all a lost generation." This from a waiter named Gertie. I slip him a sawbuck for letting me quote him, then duck into the men's room and plant a row of urinal cakes imprinted with Bill Husted's face.

Wednesday, 5:22 p.m.: Drinks at the Denver Press Club. Seen: Bill Johnson, Thom Wise and a little man in a beret who insists he's Walter Gerash. Heard: "Put me in your column and I'll put you in mine." (Fat chance, Wise!) Obscene: My bar tab. Lucky I ain't paying. I get out a Denver phone book and work on funny names for my column. Two hits -- a doctor named Fink and a lawyer named Heckler. Hoo-ha. Too bad there isn't a deadbeat dad named Scumsucker or a nun named Hooker. Maybe in Colorado Springs?

Wednesday, 7:14 p.m.: Dinner at the Denver ChopHouse. Big mistake. The brisket is tough, and the only name in the joint is that blasted Husted. I get on my cell phone and start working my spies. Vinnie the Valet reports legal eagle Franklin Azar at Morton's. Hostess Hailey has Paula Woodward at the Cheesecake Factory. Other sightings: Brian Griese at Ruth's Chris, Bubby Brister at the Black-Eyed Pea, Bill Romanowski at Healthy Habits, Jay Marvin (isn't he out of here?) at the Unique Burger, beloved Western movie star Andy Devine at Casa Bonita. In your face, Husted.

Wednesday, 8:20 p.m.: Dessert at Dixons interrupted by huge scoop -- and we're not talking ice cream. A local private dick slaps me on the back and hands me a crumpled printout. At first I'm thinking this is another trick, like the time the boys at the Press Club tried to get me to stare at those 3-D optical-illusion drawings, but on closer inspection it turns out to be a suicide note by John F. Kennedy, Jr. Investigators never found it, my friend explains, because while they were searching for clues in the wreckage, it was on the Internet the whole time! I call the office and tell them to stop the presses: Norm! is on his way! Can you spell Pulitzer!?

Wednesday, 8:55 p.m.: Okay, okay, so the John-John note was bogus. So Andy Devine has been dead for a while. That doesn't mean they have to chew my ass like that. Not even Larry Walker bats 1.000, you know. I'm thinking seriously about the Vegas offer.

Thursday, 1:33 a.m.: Drinks at Jax, Enoteca, Gabor's, Garbo's, Garbonzo's, Wahoo's, Wazoo's, Wazee's and finally the It'L Do Lounge. Seen: Chip and Piper, two CU frat boys who say they're close personal friends of Patsy Ramsey; a chanteuse named Brandi who I'm thinking might be a guy; and the Denver CARES unit. Heard: "Hey, Norm! Wasn't that patch on your left eye last week?" This from bartender Peg. I explain about pseudo-Norm!, the impostor who's been running around town passing bad checks, pinching bottoms at Hooters and wearing the patch on the wrong eye.

Thursday, 9:45 a.m.: Breakfast at Denny's. Too much gristle in the sausage patty. Seen: A young couple in the next booth named Felix and Rosa. Heard: Their screaming brat. Got to get out of this burg.

Thursday, 1:20 p.m.: Lunch at Wolfgang Puck's with the scout from the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He paid. We're still far apart on the numbers -- they're busting my chops on the expense budget, insisting I stick to the cheap buffets at the Strip casinos. Another sore point is which way the exclamation point should tilt in the graphics. By the end of the meal the dude is staring at me, and I ask him what's wrong. "I thought the patch was on your right eye last time," he says.

I tell him about pseudo-Norm!

"You mean you have a doppelganger?" he asks.

"Absolutely not," I say. "It's just an infection."

Thursday, 2:40 p.m.: Broke it to the newsroom about my new gig. Tears and hearty congratulations all around. Seen: James Meadow, my would-be successor, trying on a fedora and a fake dueling scar. Heard: "Don't let the door bump you in the butt on your way out, pal." This from some malcontent on the copy desk.

Friday, 4:45 p.m.: Snacks at DIA. Not enough salt on the pretzel. Seen heading for the planes: Dennis Britton, Sam Riddle, Bob Gebhard, Jay Marvin -- and yours truly.

In keeping with the wholesome image of modern Las Vegas -- a family town, not a Family town -- they want to call my column "The Regular Guy!" I have agreed to change my name to Guy!, too. Call me Norm L. Guy!, the Regular Guy! Hear me roar!

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