Hit parade: Even before Horace Mann vice principal (for now, at least) Ruben Perez gave the Denver Public Schools a thwack with the golden ruler, Denver was taking plenty of hits in the national press.

The Wall Street Journal took a swing at a familiar punching bag with its November 30 list of "10 Airports You May Not Want to Drive To." Rounding out the roster was Denver International, for the following reason: "Parking lots aren't open yet, but neither is the airport."

The November 13 edition of the Washington Post also hit home with the story "Violence Follows Some in Football Off Field." Exhibits B through I (A, not surprisingly, was O.J. Simpson) came from the Denver Broncos 1990-1991 team--eight members of which were charged with violent crimes against women (seven got plea bargains, one was acquitted). "A lot of guys on that team were basically thugs," current Broncos running back Reggie Rivers told the Post. "I was dirt," agreed former star receiver Vance Johnson, who dished plenty of it in his tell-all book this fall.

And then came last Sunday's New York Times magazine, which included Ken Hamblin in its symposium of seven black males discussing the question "Who Will Help the Black Man?" Hamblin, whose column was picked up earlier this year by the New York Times Syndicate, is described as a "nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist, based in Denver" (the Times doesn't mention that his column isn't running right now in Denver, where Hamblin's been suspended by the Denver Post) "who is also a pilot, photographer and fly fisherman" and who owns "two upscale sandwich shops." But Denverites would immediately recognize the Hamblin they know and love (or loathe, depending) by reading between the lines of the article. When filmmaker (Boyz N the Hood) and fellow talker John Singleton attempts to interrupt a Hamblin diatribe on the "black or brown trash element of the ghetto," his "please" nets this classic Kenny comeback: "I was on the street before you were born. Back off."

Almost lost in all the sound and fury is the work of Delbert Elliott, at the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado, whose ongoing research indicates that while white and black adolescents start out with the same rates of violence, within a dozen years black men are four times as likely to be involved in violent crimes. The difference is employment, Elliott tells the Times. "If you get a job, you quit your violence. If you don't get a job, you continue your violence."

And if you get a job as a talk-show host...

Catch a falling star: While the national media takes shots at Denver, celebrities continue to give Denver a shot. The latest is Dennis Weaver, formerly of Gunsmoke and McCloud, and now, by dint of his ecologically correct house in Ridgway, an expert working with the University of Colorado-Denver on a new environmental program. Weaver isn't the first star to offer his services here. Yaphet Kotto lived in Conifer briefly--but it was long enough for the Hollywood actor (Blue Collar, Homicide) to become an unlikely key advisor in Norm Early's disastrous run for mayor back in 1991. Before Kotto, of course, there was Gary Coleman, the pint-sized star of Diff'rent Strokes who bought the "Busy Woman's Dream House" in Highlands Ranch before moving on to Tucson and playing with guns instead of trains. And Ann B. Davis, who passed through town this fall in a Gershwin musical, put in some considerably less glamorous time as a housekeeper in a Denver religious community in the Eighties--a position she prepped for a decade before as Alice on The Brady Bunch.

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