If 1997 had been a peak year for the state--which attracted international attention with its flawless handling of the two Oklahoma City bombing trials; its smooth, if bumpkinish, hosting of the Summit of the Eight; its ham-handed approach to the JonBenet Ramsey murder case--then 1998 flat-lined. Sure, there were periodic bumps and blips: The Denver Broncos' fifth trip to the Super Bowl was a real high, while half-million-dollar houses sliding off Jeffco hillsides hit a new low. But generally speaking, to see any upbeat action this year, you needed a stiff dose of Viagra.
If Colorado was the center of the universe in 1997, in 1998 it barely registered on the national radar.
That wasn't entirely our fault, however. This past year, most of the nation's attention was focused on a very particular piece of territory, a small bit of turf somewhere just below the Beltway in Washington, D.C. And when it comes to things unimpeachably sleazy, if not completely sexual, Colorado is a Johnny-cum-lately compared with President Bill Clinton and all the congressmen currently being outed. For chrissake, Lakewood ranked as our "most romantic city" in a national survey. Even Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, who in October placed a full-page ad in the Washington Post offering million-dollar bounties for tales of close encounters of the worst kind with politicians, wasn't looking for any sordid stories stemming from our state. His offer didn't apply, he explained, to tales of flings with "a freshman congressman or an unknown from Colorado."
By then, of course, Colorado already had one very public embarrassment. On Super Bowl Sunday, Roy Romer--part-time governor of Colorado and chair of the Democratic National Committee--had suited up in a turtleneck and bomber jacket and prepared to defend Clinton, and maybe do a little Bronco boosting, on national news shows. The president had gone on record declaring that he "did not have a sexual relationship with that woman," and--hey!--Romer believed him.
Two weeks later, Romer's own eighteen-year relationship with former aide B.J. Thornberry went public in a big way--D.C.-based Insight magazine posted on its Web site pictures of a six-minute smooch between Romer and Thornberry, captured by a private investigator outside Dulles Airport in 1995. Although Romer had denied for years that any such relationship existed, he now took advantage of a sympathetic ear at the Denver Post and told editor Dennis Britton almost all in an "exclusive" that sounded like an ad for Geritol. (But then, Viagra had yet to hit the market.) "I needed an infusion of spirit and energy," Romer told Britton by phone. "It was a professional relationship that grew into a supportive personal one." And a smoochy one--but the guv swore that sex wasn't involved, since he "was not a very sexual person."
The next day, at a peculiar press conference at Centennial Airport, Romer kept confessing. "It's a very strong relationship," he said of his marriage to Bea Romer, who looked shell-shocked in the background. "Solid. We have a very strong extended family. In the course of 45 years in many marriages in this country, different attitudes develop in a marriage. About 50 percent of them end up in divorce; they can't work them out. But in those who remain married, there still are times in which there are different feelings and different interests, different relationships. In the course of this, about sixteen years ago, I began to work with a person who became a very close professional colleague and a very good personal friend, in a very supportive personal relationship...I was open with Bea and my family about that all that period of time. In that process, there is a working-out of how you related. In this particular family, that working out was that my marriage, our marriage, was always first. This relationship was secondary. This relationship had limits."
Then, taking a cue from his fearless leader's own semantic ramblings, Romer continued: "Let me say it straight. This is not a sexual relationship; it is a very affectionate relationship. And I'm not trying to define when affection ends and sex begins, okay? That's as straight as I can be."
Close, but no cigar.
When Clinton visited Aspen in July, he was welcomed by "Moan-ica" the "blow-up doll"--a sex toy with a gaping oral hole, set up on the side of the road.
Not surprisingly, by late fall other politicos were getting tired of all the smoke-blowing. As New York representative Charles Rangel, finance chair of the Democratic National Committee, said of Romer, "What damn credibility has he got as governor of Colorado? He just should shut up. Is it like the whole world is waiting to see what's going to happen in November based on the governor's evaluation of congressional seats? Give me a break!"