Off Limits

Getting soaked: The socialite crowd attending Ocean Journey's pre-opening gala last weekend had to be nimble to dodge the wet weather, but it's the general public that's going to get hosed when they hit the ticket windows next month. No expense was spared in building the much-hyped, special-effects-laden mega-aquarium, and the proof is in the adult admission price of $14.95. Management clearly hopes that sticker shock will drive the curious to purchase year-long memberships ($35 and up), but how many times does the average family want to go look at a bunch of trout, pike and bass making their way down a simulated Colorado River?

Sure, the adorable otters and Sumatran tigers will hook a fair number of patrons lured by anything flashy. But for the rest of us, an affordable alternative can be found in Denver's real-life waterways. Consider the following substitutions:

* Instead of standing in line for a glimpse of the elusive, vanishing humpback chub, don mask and snorkel and plunge into the murky depths of the Washington Park lakes in search of the fabled kitty-eating crocosaurus ("Crock" for short).

* Hitch a ride from the park to the South Platte to study indigenous river life--mutated carp, colorfully helmeted kayakers, hairy-lipped panhandlers--while taking in the sights, sounds and smells of an urban river habitat: grunting, sweaty bicyclists, ambient traffic noises, and the putrid tang emanating from the outdoor latrines found under every bridge and viaduct.

* Pause at points where the river abuts the highway to study the poetic interplay of water and crumbling concrete blocks, elaborately encrusted abandoned tires and shopping carts (the coral reef of tomorrow!). Note how the light catches the dazzling markings of the empty cola cans. Delight in the antic play of the jumbo river rats (vermin disgustum) as they bristle their whiskers and dart through the debris.

* Go home. Ask your neighbor to spray your kitchen window full-blast with his garden hose while you switch the lights on and off and clap your hands. Feels like you're in the middle of a flash flood in the desert, doesn't it?

Signifying nothing: It took six months, a couple of focus groups and one large committee to come up with Denver's new "branding statement." (Perhaps it was difficult to disassociate our once fair state from JonBenet Ramsey, skier deaths and the Columbine massacre.) The overblown, alleged sentence--all 48 words of it--was the creation of the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, which decided it would be a good idea for everyone who markets the city to use the same positioning statement.

Take a deep breath. "The Mile-High City's unique climate and location at the foot of the Rocky Mountains mixed with its colorful western heritage and culturally diverse population have made Denver an exciting, world-class city that is the economic, cultural, transportation and entertainment capital of the vast Rocky Mountain West." Wow--and to think that Virginia is just for lovers.

Although we asked the English department at East High School to diagram the new mission statement, teachers there regretfully declined. It's "diarrhea," says one. "I don't think it's possible to diagram it. It's a convoluted message that was not very clear, but it is typical of that whole kind of writing style that you see."

Denver's climate may be unique, its heritage may be colorful and its location may be exciting, but this mission statement certainly isn't. Then again, maybe it will keep some of those damn tourists out.

Speaking of tourists, Mexicana Airline's in-flight magazine, Vuelo, dedicated its entire January edition to Denver after a freelance reporter spent four days here last October. Oops. Mexicana recently announced that it will cease direct flights to Denver from four major cities in Mexico during the non-ski season.

Perfect casting, perfect ratings: Now that a CBS TV movie based on Lawrence Schiller's Perfect Murder, Perfect Town is in the works, Hollywood agents are undoubtedly scrambling to land their clients plum parts.

Westword originally suggested a wacky cast of characters for a JonBenet movie more than two years ago, when Lisa and Bart Simpson seemed perfect for the roles of JonBenet and Burke Ramsey (Worst-Case Scenario, February 20, 1997). But two years is a long time in Tinseltown--as it is in Boulder--and the hot properties of days gone by (we also suggested Tori Spelling as Melinda Ramsey and Tom Arnold as Barry Scheck) have virtually disappeared from the A-list of guaranteed ratings draws. Clearly, it's time for a new casting call. (Westword reserves the right to update this list in two more years, since the investigation is sure to continue that long.)

In the TV version of Perfect Murder, Perfect Town, Martin Mull plays bumbling district attorney Alex Hunter, continually foiled by former M*A*S*H medic Mike Farrell (currently a TV hottie because of his weepy antics on Friday night's Providence) as the wily John Ramsey. Delta Burke stars as Southern belle Patsy Ramsey, while Charlie Sheen makes a cameo as mild-mannered former Boulder police chief Tom Koby. Lily Tomlin plays the brittle Leslie Aaholm; Calista Flockhart delivers a moving portrayal of up-and-coming reporter Alli Krupski (before she collected $115,000 from the Boulder Camera, which had accused her of stealing her Ramsey files); Emilio Estevez pounds the pavement as Rocky Mountain News reporter Charlie Brennan, the legwork-logging patsy of brilliant author-extraordinaire Lawrence Schiller, rendered in a gritty performance by Al Pacino. Clint Eastwood and Kate Jackson are stunning as bitter former Ramsey friends Fleet and Priscilla White; Kato Kaelin makes a brief appearance as bat-wielding Pasta Jay Elowsky, and Santa Claus appears as both himself and the elusive Santa Bear. Elsewhere, Richard Dreyfuss as Denver Post columnist Chuck Green, Chuck Norris as the critical but lovable Peter Boyles and Brad Pitt as an aggressive Globe reporter dig ever deeper into the unsolved mystery, while the cast of Riverdance continues its private grand jury inquiry. And in a climactic, show-ending flashback, Macaulay Culkin appears as tabloid favorite Burke exchanging Christmas Eve wishes with JonBenet, played by exquisitely costumed Colorado-boy-made-good Jake Lloyd.

Broadcast snooze: Although Channel 9 canceled the showing of another TV movie, Atomic Train, last week to spare the delicate sensibilities of Denverites who, after the Columbine tragedy, might have been further traumatized to see their town blow up real good on network TV, it turns out we didn't miss much. In fact, Seattle residents are probably crying in their cappuccinos right now, since the area obliterated by a contraband Russkie bomb looked all lush and suspiciously like the Pacific Northwest (the Formerly Total Tower at Six Flags Over What Was Once Elitch's is not exactly the Space Needle). Still, there were a few ironies that only hometown folks could love. For example, looters found a treasure trove of worthy items at downtown department stores--yeah, right. And supposed Denver cop (loved that khaki uniform and leather topcoat) Esai Morales got to defuse a hostage situation at the Jefferson County courthouse--not the real building, but a little too close to Columbine for comfort.

Morales was most recently seen allegedly in these parts playing former Denver mayor Federico Pena in the made-for-TV weeper about runner/wife Ellen Hart Pena's eating disorders. At least this time he got to hold guns rather than heads. Meanwhile, Rob Lowe soldiered on to the promised land: Kansas.

And in Arkansas, horse owner John Ed Anthony was allowed to change the name of his three-year-old filly, Columbine Is Sad, in deference to the victims. The jockey club in Lexington, Kentucky, which registers the names of racing thoroughbreds, rarely allows them to be changed because of the potential for fraud--but club officials made an exception for this exceptional situation. The horse, which was originally named after the song "Columbine Is Sad," will now be called Dake.

Riding bareback: The aforementioned Mrs. Pena got a little face time--or back time--last week when she and Feddy showed up on the DIA tarmac to welcome Bill and Hillary Clinton to Denver.

While no photos were taken of the president hugging fresh-faced and vulnerable young ladies at any of the Columbine-related activities, an Associated Press photographer captured him tightly gripping the former First Lady of Denver, who was wearing a revealing little tank top despite the brisk weather that day. The photo, which graced page A-15 of the Washington Post, shows Clinton's hand firmly pressed against Pena's partially bare back. At least she wasn't wearing a beret.

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