Off Limits

Big dame deal: On Friday First Lady Wilma Webb added to her title--she now has an honorary doctorate in humane letters from the Colorado Institute of Art. This wasn't just her first doctorate: It was also a first for the CIA, which up until now hasn't granted anything grander than an associate's degree.

In January, though, the 45-year-old school will be adding a bachelor's program, and so when the CIA decided to ask Webb to be its December commencement speaker, it also decided to give her the "customary" honorary degree--after first checking to see if the school was qualified to do so.

"As artists," Webb told the crowd, "you possess the necessary qualities to change the world through your work."

Well, that depends. As the head of the Mayor's Commission on Art, Culture and Film, Wilma Webb once demanded that more work go to black artists. Is there a doctor in the house?

Murder, ink: "Denver Ain't Big Enough for Both of 'em," proclaimed a headline in Monday's New York Times, but here in the Mile High City, watching the newspaper war for one of the "richest, trendiest and fastest-growing markets in the country" is about as exciting as waiting for ink to dry. Since the big action last spring--when the Rocky Mountain News pulled back to Front Range circulation and the Denver Post added editor Dennis Britton--the skirmishes have been more stylish than substantial. Britton, whose last newspaper job was at the Chicago Sun-Times, land of Roger Ebert, acknowledges that he's trying to make the Post more upbeat--a move that included ousting longtime film critic Howie Movshovitz last month (Movshovitz has filed a grievance with his union and is currently a general-assignment arts reporter). "I'm not dumbing-down the paper," Britton said. "I am crime-ing it down and Pollyanna-ing it up, because I am looking for a positive spin on things--because I want people to read every page of the paper."

But the real truth in advertising award goes to News publisher Larry Strutton who, when asked about ad rates, responded, "There aren't any."

So far, the New York Times notes, the real winners in the war are the advertisers, who get cheaper deals here than almost anywhere else in the country, and subscribers, ditto.

The big media brawl in this town, though, remains the competition to cover the Oklahoma City bombing trial. With over three months left to go before Timothy McVeigh's trial even begins, the Oklahoma City/Denver Media Consortium is trying to smooth out differences in the wake of last month's threatened mutiny, when members of the press contingent were ready to secede from the TV types rather than subsidize a proposed $2,500-weekly salary for Wayne Wicks, the television production specialist who'd taken on the task as group coordinator.

Now Wicks has put off his starting date; Associated Press chief Joe McGowan, who's representing the newspaper members for the time being, says Wicks may agree to a pay scale based on billable hours. Whether or not the newspapers remain with the group will be decided in a meeting January 6.

But Wicks's salary is not likely to be the last cash item on the agenda--the consortium plans to build bleachers in front of the federal courthouse to improve camera angles (and avoid the fisticuffs that have ensued from pressing too many reporters into too small a space). The plan has the blessing of the feds, but only if the media is willing to handle security. In other words, the consortium may soon ante up for 24-hour-a-day rent-a-cops.

Speed chills: In Aspen, most of the fast workers show their best moves off the slopes. At a run opening this month in Snowmass, though, ordinary skiers can hit speeds of up to 80 mph. Go downhill fast enough, and there's no need for apres-ski.

"Sounds like a liability problem to me," laughs Paul Major, U.S. Ski Team athletic director. But before personal-injury attorneys set up shop at the bottom of the specially designed run, they'd better take a look at the waiver that all potential speed demons have to sign before testing the radar guns, which removes Aspen Ski Company from any legal responsibility.

Despite the high-speed hype, Snowmass officials say they're not going to let any Tommy Moe wannabe hit top speed until he qualifies at lower velocities; the end of each day will be reserved for skiers who've shown they can handle the higher speeds.

Although it may look easy on TV, "there's no difference between having someone jump into a Formula One car and go at these speeds on a track and having someone jump on a pair of skis and ski down a downhill course," Major warns. "You obviously need the skills if you want to be safe, but you can certainly do it if you have the desire." It's all downhill from here.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.