Off Limits

Bear country: Flush with pride over the success of its Y2K @ DIA promotional flashlights ("Press Released," February 24), the public-relations staff at Denver International Airport moved on to its next moneymaking gig on Monday by selling $20 commemorative Air Bears as part of its fifth-anniversary "celebration."

True to bear marketing techniques made famous by Ty Company and its ubiquitous Beanie Babies, DIA kept its supply limited to 3,000. But on Tuesday there were still about 1,000 bears left, according to airport spokesman Steve Snyder. And while the flashlights made it -- briefly -- onto the online auction site eBay, where they reportedly sold for as much as $15 (three times their original price), the fate of other Colorado-themed Beanie-like bears suggests that the six-inch fuzzy Air Bears -- which are nattily attired in matching purple anniversary vests and carry airport baggage tags -- may not do so well.

Glory Bear, once the pride of Colorado's ursine clan, can now be had for a paltry $13 to $30, a far cry from the hundreds of dollars that addled collectors were paying shortly after 51,000 of the red, white and blue Beanies were given away during the July 1998 All-Star Game at Coors field. The tie-dyed John Elway bear, which could be expected to induce consumer fandemonium, fetches a mere $9.95. The Larry Walker bear -- did you even know there was a Larry Walker bear? -- costs only $2.99, and assorted bears honoring Broncos Ed McCaffrey and Terrell Davis and Denver Nugget Nick Van Exel, among others, range anywhere from $3.99 to $9.95.

One bear that has gained value is Columbine Bear, which is being sold by Columbine High School students and sisters Stephanie (who was injured in the attack) and Jennifer Munson. Although the bears can still be purchased from the girls for $10.95, at least three people recently paid $16.99 each on eBay. The bear has a T-shirt that reads "We are" on the front and "Columbine" on the back, and should not be confused with the Columbine Remembrance Bear (Off Limits, August 4, 1999), which businesswoman Virginia Davis sells from her two stores, Celebrations in Aurora and Dee's Neat Little Store in Littleton. These teddies come in a pair (one is blue and one is silver) that retails for $23.98. Like the Munsons, Davis donates some of her proceeds to Columbine-related charities.

But bears aren't the only Columbine-related merchandise that can be had for a premium on eBay. In recent weeks, magazines and videos containing news footage about the massacre have all been auctioned off to the highest bidder.

For instance, the May 3, 1999, Canadian edition of Time, featuring Columbine killers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris on the cover and 21 pages about the massacre, recently sold for $12.39, and the December 20, 1999, issue of Time -- the one that got Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone in so much holiday trouble -- went for $5.95.

But it doesn't seem likely that Air Bear will be flying through cyberspace anytime soon; as of press time, none could be found on eBay. Snyder says it would be silly to buy one online since they can still be had for face value by sending a check for $23 (that includes shipping and handling) to the airport.

Pay or play for Y2K: There wasn't any need for the flashlights at DIA anyway, since no Y2K-related computer glitches were reported there or anywhere else in Denver -- or so we thought. But even riot-ready Denver police, who patrolled the streets of LoDo on New Year's Eve with little more to do than stroke their big, manly batons ("Things to Do in Denver When It's Dead," January 6, 2000), couldn't have stopped the looting at one 17th Street business, since this Y2K caper happened months earlier.

The culprits include about half of the tiny-but-toned membership of the Oxford Club, who got an unexpected benefit in October: no bill. That's because, to prepare its software for the anticipated Y2K disaster that promised floods, famines and out-of-control StairMasters, the fitness facility upgraded its billing system in September. But according to a letter that club owner and developer/preservationist Dana Crawford mailed out last week, the conversion caused about $10,000 in revenue to "[fall] through the cracks." Crawford put the muscle on about 200 members and ex-members to come clean and cough up October's dues. "I have personally called several of the club members, who have been gracious enough to check their personal records," she wrote, and sure enough, "no withdrawal occurred on their credit cards." So far, all have been "very, very agreeable" to sending in their missing dues, Crawford tells Westword. Though she's happy about the new software, Crawford's thoughts on the hysteria surrounding Y2K are less flattering: "It was much ado about not too much."

Or, in her case, ten grand.

If you have a tip, call Jonathan Shikes at 303-293-3555, send a fax to 303-296-5416, or e-mail [email protected].

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