Off Limits

Fans of John Travolta are causing a run on pre-registrations for Starfest 2000, a massive science-fiction convention to be held this weekend at the Holiday Inn DIA. Along with Kate Mulgrew (aka Star Trek Voyager's Captain Kathryn Janeway), Travolta is the featured star power at this year's big bang. And while it might seem odd that the oh-so-hip Travolta plans to spend the weekend hanging out with 10,000 sci-fi geeks (perhaps he'll even get to witness one of the traditional Trekkie weddings), it's a perfect opportunity for him to promote his new movie Battlefield Earth, based on the L. Ron Hubbard bestseller.

"The conventions are not just run-of-the-mill science-fiction shows," says convention coordinator Steve Walker. "They've developed into an industry thing, where people can find out about the movies coming out. We were approached by the studio because we've had Francis Ford Coppola and Tom Cruise; we've had Dean Devlin, the producer of Independence Day, the Godzilla movie and Stargate."

Travolta has devoted the last fifteen years of his life to bringing Battlefield Earth to the big screen, and because of his devotion to Hubbard's Church of Scientology, Walker imagines Travolta has "a personal stake in the film and wants to make sure people understand it and go see it. There might be some sort of a Scientology tie-in, but that hasn't been presented to me at all. It's a science-fiction movie -- that's why it's at our convention."

Also guaranteed to be there is Laurie Marie Muha, aka Shelvis. The Denver entertainer known for her Elvis Presley impersonations also does Vinnie Barbarino, Danny Zuko, Tony Manero and Bud Davis. She calls Travolta one of her "biggest idols."

"I do the Grease skit and do 'Greased Lightning,' 'Summer Nights,' 'Sandy' and 'We Go Together,'" Muha says. "It's uncanny -- if you saw me do him, you'd think we were related -- that's how good I do John Travolta. In the past I have done Urban Cowboy -- in the '80s I'd dress up like Bud Davis and do the whole John Travolta cowboy dance. When he did Saturday Night Fever I'd get into the white jumpsuit and do that whole thing. John's gonna be...I think he just turned 48 on February 18, and I've pretty much followed him throughout his career."

And John isn't the only Travolta she's followed, hoping to get close to the man himself. "He didn't live too far from me when I was a teenager in New Jersey -- he was in Englewood, and I lived in Irvington. I used to send a lot of newspaper clippings about me impersonating him, and his sister June Travolta used to run his fan club, and she would write letters to me saying John's doing really great and he appreciated my work. I got to meet Joey Travolta, his brother -- he was in a play in Atlantic City. He was a real nice guy. I gave him my resumé, but it was kind of hard to meet the family because they were so busy." Muha continued her efforts to break through, however, eventually earning a rebuke from family representatives: "I wrote a letter to his home address in Daytona and got a letter back asking me not to write to this address because it was a personal address. It probably had to do with his wife, Kelly Preston, because they're very private people. I don't think he liked having fan mail sent there."

Like the contingent of anti-Scientology protestors who are certain to picket the convention, Muha plans to get there early. "I hope I get to meet him. I'll bring a biography of him, a Vinnie Barbarino doll I got off the Internet for $75, intact -- now it's worth about $500. I have a baby picture of him that somebody gave me, posters from all his movies, autographed pictures that June sent me.

Those fans who don't get to see Travolta at the Starfest might find consolation if they can wait until July 21, when Muha will present her one-woman show, "Laurie Marie Muha As Her Legendary Boys," at the Holiday Inn at Centennial Airport. "I'll do all my characters -- Buddy Holly, Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond and Tom Jones. John Travolta's a big part of that show. It's very different from any entertainment here in Denver. I don't think there's any females in town doing what I do. I do Shelvis, but I'm really an all-around entertainer, and this one-woman show shows all of my talents. I come out as myself, play my drums, strip on stage until I come out to be me: Laurie Marie Muha. People who don't know I'm a woman get blown away by the show. I'm not blowing smoke, you know -- I'm just trying to be honest about my talent."

A page from the playbook
Spring must have sprung, because Columbines keep popping up all over. After a sermon at the Arvada Community Church on Sunday, former CU Buffs football coach and current Promise Keeper prez Bill McCartney revealed to a group of worshipers and a Rocky Mountain News writer that he knows people are ignoring God because "when Columbine happened, within a month there were 6,000 similar incidents around the United States. Evil was provoked."

Hmmm...6,000 similar incidents would equate to a death toll of 90,000 -- which we've somehow missed. Perhaps coach Mac meant that within a month of Columbine, there were 6,000 similar stories published about the incident. Pulitzers were provoked.

Also caught opining about Columbine recently was the Reverend Al Sharpton, coming to Denver at the end of the month to speak at a Denver Black Police Officers Organization banquet. Sharpton's reputation, which makes the Denver Police Department's recent bad press seem like a valentine, was quoted in Tuesday's News saying harsh things about the Denver area: "I'm coming to a city where you have young people that are part of a 'Trench Coat Mafia,' and you have others who are wondering whether a guy who goes to jail for nonviolent marches is controversial. I'm the one who should be worried."

Okay, Reverend, except outside of the media, there never really was a Trench Coat Mafia -- certainly not a gang that included Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Maybe Sharpton's thinking about the Blue Suited Mafia and its leader, Jim Nicholson, a Denver lawyer/developer who's been chairman of the Republican National Committee for the last several years (and remains there, despite George W. Bush now stacking the deck with three of his cronies). Responding to the Washington Post's description of Sharpton as "a civil rights leader," Nicholson wrote a letter to the paper last month calling Sharpton "a hate-monger, an anti-Semite and a racist." Two weeks later, Sharpton stood outside Nicholson's Washington, D.C., office and announced that he was slapping the RNC and its chairman with a $30 million libel suit -- an announcement that prompted Nicholson to repeat his assessment of Sharpton. Double or nothing.

Colorado Republicans are talking big these days -- and none bigger than Colorado governor Bill Owens. Although he's stayed silent on the JonBenét Ramsey case since he took on Barbara Walters late last month, he's rarely reluctant to share his opinion on other topics. Including what passes for journalism in this town. Caught at Monday's baseball game by a couple of allegedly on-duty reporters, Owens reminisced about a brief daily column-writing stint for the Denver Post back when he was in the Statehouse. When you realize a deadline's looming about 2 p.m., he confided, you realize it's time to start making stuff up.

So what's more difficult? Governing Colorado or writing a column? "Writing a column, definitely," he responded.

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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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