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The Party That Never Was

Last spring, the announcement that hip-hop fashion mogul Marc Ecko (pictured) planned a graffiti festival in Denver resulted in major embroilment. But after months of halfhearted planning, a representative for Ecko says the fest is off.

"We will not be doing the event in Denver," writes Ecko's senior marketing manager Miryam Reinitz via e-mail. "But for no reason other than by the time the city was ready to start negotiating, we had so many other annual things going on that had to be tended to -- and not enough staff to manage every event."

On April 8, Ecko, the man behind brands such as Ecko Unlimited, G-Unit and the new graffiti-centric video game Getting Up, threatened the City of Denver with a lawsuit unless it pitched sections of its anti-graffiti ordinance that ban possession of spray paint or broad-tipped markers by juveniles. This law, wrote Ecko's attorney David Lane in a letter to the city, violated his client's First Amendment right to hold an outdoor art party where youths as well as national artists would produce graffiti on temporary walls. But the stunt reeked of publicity-mongering. After all, the New York designer hadn't even applied for permits for the festival, let alone initiated the most basic negotiations with Denver city officials. Moreover, local graffiti artists felt left out of the loop about Ecko's plans and fretted that all the ire he was earning from city council members would end up on the heads of homegrown writers in the long run ("Art of War," April 27, 2006").

In his response to Ecko, City Attorney Cole Finegan said that the anti-graffiti ordinance already allows underagers to possess spray paint "when under the direct supervision of the minor's parent, legal guardian or teacher," and the entrepreneur was welcome to begin the permitting process. But by mid-June, the originally stated date of the party, Ecko still hadn't applied for a permit ("No Show" June, 15). Back then, Ecko was basking in the glory of tagging Air Force One, a videotaped prank that was posted to his website, www.stillfree.com. The site also featured an incredibly masturbatory speech by Ecko pontificating about how spray-painting the president's airplane would "open a dialog" about free speech.

The whole thing turned out to be a hoax, of course. Ecko subsequently admitted that he had actually tagged a rented Air Force One lookalike. And the only real "dialog" created centered around Marc Ecko himself.

Just like Denver's graffiti festival. -- Jared Jacang Maher

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts