Off Limits

Bear hug: Impeachment-happy Republicans thought the timing was a mite suspicious, but the air strikes on Iraq proved an unexpected boon for Dave Liniger, the Re/Max International founder who's planning to sail around the world in a balloon shortly after Christmas, circumnavigating the southern hemisphere at an altitude of 130,000 feet--and becoming the first real-estate mogul to carry his logo into the stratosphere ("The Final Frontier," July 30). Renewed hostilities in the Gulf further set back three competing balloon teams already delayed by bad weather, improving Liniger's chances of snagging the $1 million prize that Anheuser-Busch is awarding the first balloonist to circle the world. (Another attempt led by Beaver Creek broker Steve Fossett managed to skirt Iraqi air space last week, however, and may beat Liniger to the record.)

At an emotional bon voyage party at the Hyatt Regency with several hundred enthusiastic Re/Max agents and execs last Wednesday, Liniger unveiled the latest promotional gimmick for the project, which has been a strange blend of high science and low hucksterism. Unable to secure the services of the original Magellan T. Bear, the Colorado-based teddy bear who traveled on the space shuttle and was then retired to the Smithsonian, Liniger introduced three other stuffed bears who'll be making the flight with him--the prototypes of thousands of such cuddly creatures that Re/Max agents will soon be distributing to clients. "One of these makes a nice closing gift," Liniger declared. "It's also quite a babe magnet."

And speaking of babes, although diehard Republican Liniger will miss some of the Monica Lewinsky-inspired impeachment action centering on William Jefferson Clinton, he hopes there'll be a few changes made while he's trapped in a pressurized gondola on the edge of space for two or three weeks. "That regime may be gone when I get back," he says. If he gets back...

Party hearty: No wonder Channel 4 couldn't afford a Christmas party--it hadn't come up with the clever way that Channel 9, "Colorado's News Leader," decided to stuff employees' stockings at no cost to the station. In a letter sent to local businesses last month, Alison Munn of the "9News Holiday Party Committee" noted: "Every year, 9News hosts a holiday party for our staff to celebrate the season and thank them for their hard work during the year. At this party, we give gifts to our employees that are donated by many of our community partners and vendors."

Are those the sort of gifts that keep on giving--say, with the news department giving kid-glove treatment to more generous corporate donors? It's station policy not to comment on the whole Christmas-party issue, says Munn, who does allow that the December 12 bash was "outstanding."

With big business ballooning through the atmosphere and snuggling up with Channel 9, it was only a matter of time before it officially invaded the Governor's Mansion. Local school districts aren't the only places where the cola giants are fighting for brand allegiance: Last week, Governor-elect Bill Owens told a rapt audience of reporters that his three children--Monica, Mark and Brett--will host a "Pepsi, Pizza and Politics" party at the Governor's Mansion on January 16 as part of the official Owens inaugural activities. While mom and dad can also ante up $150 to attend the guv's January 12 black-tie dinner, the 3P Saturday bash is a real bargain, with just $5 buying a family admission and all the soda they can swill--donated by Pepsi.

Only one shopping day left: December 25 is a big day, all right--the second anniversary of JonBenet Ramsey's murder. Penthouse has a retrospective in the works; ditto for 48 Hours (University of Colorado professor Michael Tracey says he's been talking with Dan Rather about his footage of John and Patsy). And Boulderite and best-selling author Stephen White weighs in with a few verdicts in his new book, Manner of Death. Hero-psychologist Alan Gregory's best buddy, Sam Purdy, is a cop who "was never assigned to the case and insisted he was 'untainted' by the resulting fallout." And former FBI profiler John Douglas comes in for harsh criticism after Gregory asks another FBI type about assisting the Ramseys: "With one unfortunate exception," she responds, "everyone who was contacted declined....That offer from the family was particularly easy to decline."

Maybe the family would have better luck with Roseanne. Next month, when she acts as guest editor of the National Enquirer--the tabloid that revealed she had given up a baby before marrying and moving to Denver, where she created her "domestic goddess" routine--Roseanne plans to solve the Ramsey mystery.

That puts her ahead of everyone else, including the grand jurors who'll probably be meeting until the millennium.

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