Off Limits

Out of Focus: You'd never mistake Peter Boyles for a member of James Dobson's Focus on the Family broadcasters. Although the KHOW talk-show host boringly believes we all must take responsibility for our actions--he makes no secret of the fact that he's been sober for well over a decade--Boyles is much too fun to be one of those holier-than-thou folks down in Colorado Springs.

Exhibit A: the bumper sticker "Focus on the Ramsey Family," a 1999 Best of Denver winner that reminds KHOW listeners that the murder of JonBenet Ramsey has been one of Boyles's obsessions for the past two and a half years. But clearly the attorneys at Reed & Brown, a California law firm representing Focus on the Family, aren't tuned in. Last week they sent the following to KHOW:

"As you may know, 'Focus on the Family' is a registered and protected trademark under the laws of the United States. Your unauthorized use of the name 'Focus on the Family' even with the inclusion of the name 'Ramsey' represents an infringement of a registered trademark. Many individuals who see these bumper stickers will undoubtedly be confused and disturbed that the Focus on the Family name is being misused by your station. It also seems clear from your own station advertisements and promotion of the bumper stickers that you knew in advance that it was in violation of the Focus on the Family trademark. Your advertisements refer to the bumper sticker as 'soon to be banned,' evidently in recognition of its improper use of a registered trademark. Accordingly, we demand that you immediately cease the distribution of the bumper sticker or any variation on the bumper sticker which includes the name 'Focus on the Family'; that you implement at once a process by which to recover all bumper stickers which have been distributed by your radio station to distribution points such as car washes, automobile dealers, schools, convenience stores, and the like; and that you agree in writing that you will not in the future infringe or otherwise misuse the Focus on the Family trademark."

"We will return the one sticker that's left," promises KHOW program director Jeff Hillery. As for the 4,999 already distributed at a giveaway ten days ago at the Fire House car wash, "If Mr. Dobson is willing to come to the car wash to help peel them off, we're willing to give it a try."

If he wants to go that route, Dobson should try recruiting manpower from Bill McCartney's Promise Keepers, since they're eager to polish their image and will be in town this weekend for a conference at McNichols Arena. For the first time ever, PK has been running ads touting the free event on TV and in the local dailies, as well as buying ten-second spots during traffic reports and talk shows on radio stations owned by Chancellor Media Corporation.

Although direct mail is still the group's primary advertising method, PK spokesman Stephen Ruppe says the "image ads" are an attempt to fight the public perception that the Denver-based "Christian men's ministry" is on after-life support. "The ads we are running are to let people know we are here and will continue to be here," he vows.

Since all of the advertising money is donated, PK makes its buys very carefully, Ruppe says. So far, the budget has stretched to cover an ad in USA Today, as well as TV and radio spots in Detroit and Indianapolis.

"We're not looking to run a huge number of ads," Ruppe adds. "We're trying to reach adults, with an emphasis toward males and with a good ethnic mix. We bought newscasts in this market and metro traffic reports here and in other markets during news talks with a strong male orientation and on a mix of African-American and Hispanic stations.

"We even bought some rockers and stations you wouldn't expect to see us on, but as part of an overall buy, the deal was good, and our message of Jesus Christ is for everyone."

But such outreach does have its limits. Certainly, Promise Keepers doesn't plan to become a sponsor for Colorado Out Spoken, Channel 12's gay and lesbian newsmagazine formerly known as The Lambda Report. The long-running show's first broadcast under the new name will be at 11 p.m. this Sunday; Lambda Report producers say they could no longer tolerate having the same name as a national publication put out by anti-gay writer Peter LaBarbera.

During the first half of this decade, LaBarbera's Lambda Report was dedicated to monitoring "the homosexual agenda in American politics and culture" and offering "practical advice on how to combat the gay agenda." According to gay advice columnist Dan Savage, who wrote one early expose on the Lambda Report's tactics, LaBarbera employed "scare stories about S&M, child molesters and the threat AIDS poses to mainstream society (one story implies that straights can contract AIDS by sharing pillows on airplanes with gay men)...LR apparently adopted the name 'Lambda Report' in order to infiltrate gay and lesbian events. No queer organization would turn away a reporter from something called the Lambda Report, nor would a gay man or lesbian fear speaking to a reporter from an organization with Lambda in the title." (Lambda is a symbol in the Greek alphabet adopted in the Seventies by the gay rights movement.)

Denver's Lambda Report--which aired for ten years--began fighting with LaBarbera two years ago, says Rusty Dodson, one of three Colorado Out Spoken producers. "It used to be that when you did a Web search, you'd find their name before you found our Web page." (A Westword Web search found no active Lambda Report site, but LaBarbera's writings were reprinted on several religious-right sites; Savage speculates that the publication is defunct.) "We attempted to get them to quit using the name, and they weren't willing to do it without a court fight," adds Dodson. "We decided that even though we would probably win the court fight, we didn't want to spend the money and take the time."

While the producers decided on the new name a year ago, it's taken this long to implement the change. "We've been trying to update the look and feel of the show, and certainly, this is going to start a process of improvements," he says. "Adopting the new name basically indicates our stance that we're trying to be outspoken on gay and lesbian issues."

But Colorado Out Spoken is not to be confused with Channel 12's non-gay Friday night public-affairs show, Colorado Inside Out, hosted by the aforementioned Peter Boyles. The yakker would, however, help COS come up with some snappy bumper-sticker ideas.

How about "Focus on the Ramses family," the better to promote condom use and safe sex?

League of their own: It's no wonder the Colorado Rockies have been so lame over the last few years--the team's owners spend more time in the courtroom than they do at the ballpark. Some call these legal troubles a curse; others say they're bad luck; we'll just use the words of one of the offenders and leave it at that: "Without trying to make any excuses for myself," this owner was quoted as saying, "I want to sincerely apologize for how this...has affected my family, friends, business associates, and others who have had faith in me."

Now for the fun part. Pair the current or former team owner with his legal, um, foul. (Answers at the bottom of this column.)

1) Jerry McMorris
2) Oren Benton
3) Charlie Monfort
4) Mickey Monus

A) This onetime owner was forced to sell his stake in the team just before he was convicted of embezzling $350 million from Phar-Mor, the Ohio-based discount drug store chain he founded. He's now doing twenty years in prison.

B) The current chairman, president and CEO of the team, this trucking magnate's piece of the Blake Street Bombers wasn't affected after his company, NationsWay Transport, went bankrupt, leaving thousands of former employees bitter and unemployed.

C) A 23 percent share of the Rockies is still tied up in court two years after this former owner--a uranium trader and investor--filed for personal and professional bankruptcy to the tune of $800 million.

D) Arrested last month in Greeley and charged with driving drunk, police say this current owner and vice chairman had a blood alcohol level of .209, more than twice the legal limit. His next court date is July 27. (The Rockies play the Houston Astros at home that day).

Answers: 1-B, 2-C, 3-D, 4-A.

Off Limits is compiled by Jonathan Shikes.

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes

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