As governor, Dick Lamm made national headlines when he pronounced that we all have a "duty to die" and get out of the way. But today the former Governor Gloom is only 65, which means he may have another twenty, or even thirty, years left before he fulfills that duty. Then again, he might get hit by a truck tomorrow.
Death is tough to predict, which is what has made the groundbreaking (get it?) local public-television program The 11th Hour such a gamble. The show, created by producer Sam Safarian and co-produced by KBDI-Channel 12 and Denver Center Media, asks the famous and/or notable to confront their own mortality by delivering what they would like to be their final message to the world -- on camera in front of a live audience, usually at the Paramount Theatre. The original concept was that the speech would then be aired after the clock ran out for that particular luminary.
As of late last month, only three of the 46 people whom Safarian had taped since the show debuted in 1991 had kicked the bucket: author Leo Buscaglia, beat poet Allen Ginsberg and lawyer William Kunstler. But Channel 12 has hit the jackpot in the last few days: Comedian Steve Allen -- taped in 1993, when he was 68 years old -- died on October 30 (his words will be aired Thursday at 9 p.m.), and environmental powerhouse and former Sierra Club director David Brower died at 88 years of age on November 4 (Safarian is still trying to set a time to show Brower's episode).
Despite this fall's high mortality rate, the majority of 11th Hour subjects -- which include Lamm and fellow Coloradans Gary Hart, Patricia Schroeder, Baxter Black and Marilyn Van Derbur, as well as such national-scene heavyweights as Jerry Falwell, Jane Goodall, Scott Hamilton, Jack LaLanne, Bobby Seale, Roger Ebert (too bad Safarian didn't get Gene Siskel, too) and Jesse Ventura -- could hang around for decades. And although Safarian insists that "people don't always die of old age" and points out that "it could happen to anyone, it doesn't matter how old you are," he still has a lot of unseen film sitting around. As a result, he's decided to take the advice of feminist author and 11th Hour presenter Betty Friedan, who "told me their messages are as important now as they will be when they pass away," Safarian says. So beginning next year, fifteen episodes of The 11th Hour, including those featuring the five dearly departed, will be distributed to public-television stations across the country. The stations will run the segments periodically for two or three years, Safarian says, and then KBDI will release another fifteen episodes.
Safarian acknowledges that some people may see the program as being a touch morbid. CBS newsman Eric Severeid, for example, turned Safarian down, saying he could call back when Severeid had one foot in the grave -- and ironically, Severeid died shortly thereafter, in mid-1992. But most of the 11th Hour stars are honored by the chance to say a few last words -- even if they utter them far in advance of their actual passing.
"It doesn't have as much to do with death," Safarian concludes. "It has everything to do with life...Jack LaLanne sends me a Christmas card every year."
May the best party win: For those who are more interested in poppin' parties than political parties, there were still plenty of choices on election night. Democrat Ken Toltz may have had the swankiest location -- his campaign got down at the Cool River Cafe in Englewood. The Second Count! committee, dedicated to prohibiting traffic circles in the People's Republic of Boulder, partied hearty at Jose Muldoon's in that city. But for those looking for the biggest bang for their buck -- or at least their parking meter -- LoDo was the place to be. Diana DeGette and Colorado Democratic Party (breaking away from its typical choice of union hotels) co-hosted a bash at the Soiled Dove, while members of the Protect Families Protect Choice Coalition gathered at the nearby Splinters. The Libertarians, who were shut out of the Rocky Mountain News's election guide last month, also found themselves shut out of their original Tuesday-night party pick of Wazoo's, which has closed (for details, see this week's cover story). Fortunately, they were able to find an opening at the new Bella Ristorante location at 1939 Blake Street. A few blocks away, Ralph Nader's local raiders took over the Mercury Cafe, a spot they've been haunting all election season.
And where were the Republicans? Boogying at the Marriott in the Denver Tech Center.
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Six million, and all I got was this lousy ad? Our vote for the Coloradan who's most relieved now that the election is finally over: Julie Miller, the woman who made all those wide-eyed grimaces as she tried to absorb the 2,000 words of Amendment 24's fine print -- and in the process hogged endless amounts of TV time in the weeks leading up to Tuesday's balloting.
While Miller is, indeed, an actress who took cash money for the gig (although just a fraction of the almost $6 million that anti-24 foes raised to combat the growth-control initiative), she pulled from experience for her role. "I am an actress who chooses to have integrity in my work and daily life," she wrote in a letter to the Denver Post defending her work. "I read about Amendment 24 and made my decision to vote 'no' even before I auditioned for the commercial role. As a resident who appreciates the privilege of living in Colorado, it was of vital importance to me that I sincerely believe in whatever I endorse."
After all, Miller says, she's not only a mother of two, but a fourth-generation Colorado native. "My parents are Denver natives, as were my grandparents on both sides," she revealed. "My great-grandparents were Colorado immigrants."
Keep that sprawl in the family!