Penny Parker, who was once among the most popular and powerful members of the local press as a columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, died Saturday at the age of 62.
At this writing, the cause of death hasn't been determined.
The Post's obituary of Parker notes that Parker joined the paper in the early 1990s as a features reporter before moving to the business department.
She was subsequently lured to the Rocky Mountain News circa 1999, during the height of the newspaper war, to pen the tabloid's "On the Town" feature.
Most readers referred to "On the Town" as a gossip column, but Parker saw what she did as reporting, pure and simple — and she didn't pull any punches, as we noted in a 1999 media column. Here's an excerpt from the piece about two Parker items and her description of the reaction to them, particularly from women readers.
On October 17, Parker chided irresistible but previously off-limits target Annabel Bowlen, wife of Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, for wearing "skin-tight sequined jeans, a cut-down-to-there top, and a faux leopard jacket" at a Girl Scout charity bash with the line "What was she thinking?" and in her October 19 missive, she teased Broncos backup quarterback Bubby Brister for puffing a cigarette at the Palm by writing, "Note to Bubby: Quit smoking! You'll need your wind if [Mike] Shanahan ever decides to make you the starting QB again." To Parker, these observations demonstrate the prime difference she brings to the Denver gossip table: a woman's perspective.
"There's a fine line when you write that kind of thing, because if people think you're making fun of them, they'll cut off your source supply," Parker points out. "So when I wrote about Annabel Bowlen, I made sure to talk about all the philanthropic deeds she's done in town. But with that outfit, I had to wonder what was going on in her head — and afterward, I got a couple of comments from women saying, 'No one else would have written about that, and I'm glad you did.' And with Bubby smoking, I had one woman saying, 'Write more about that, because they're role models.' But I also had a lot of people hating that item and saying that he deserved his privacy. But I didn't walk into his living room and catch him smoking; he was in a public place. Besides, writing about that kind of thing is my job."
The aforementioned obit notes that Parker rejoined the Post after the Rocky closed in 2009, serving as a business columnist.
At the time, in another Westword interview, Parker stressed that she and her onetime rival, the Post's Bill Husted, would be working together rather than competing — and they did.
But they couldn't defeat the changing economics of print journalism. Husted took a buyout from the Post in 2011, and the following year, Parker was laid off along with several other big names, including city columnist Mike Littwin. (The obit skips that part.)
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In the years since then, Parker has stayed in the public eye via online work for Blacktie-Colorado, which highlights her piece about Christmas events on its home page at this writing. The Post notes that she had also been working in a customer-service capacity for two department stores, Dillard's and Macy's.
Parker leaves behind her husband, Greg Henry, and innumerable friends, family, loved ones and colleagues. Our sincere condolences.