At first I thought it was the Hamburglar in his new role as a Fox News correspondent. But, no, on closer inspection it was The Troubleshooter himself, Tom Martino, chasing after my car with a camera man in tow.
Apparently, Martino has some concerns about an article I penned last month looking into connections between him and a multi-level marketing company he had promoted on Martino TV and his KHOW radio show. He has met with my editor, Patricia Calhoun, who, I am told, is making efforts to address his many complaints. Otherwise, I personally have not heard a peep from the guy, which is why it was such a surprise to look into my rear-view mirror and see a Martino-shaped object hustling toward my car.
"Jared! Jared!," shouted the object. "Why won't you answer some questions?! Are you a coward?"
The reason why I'd come to the parking lot in the first place started about two weeks ago. I got a voice mail from "Brian" who said he had a story for me. I called back, as I do about a dozen times a week on possible tips. Brian's was about an "underground poker club" operating near Broadway and Colfax. He said he had been there and that a "state representative" was somehow involved. He didn't want to talk about it on the phone, however -- he made allusions to organized crime and drugs -- and he wanted to meet face-to-face. All right, I said, call me back tomorrow and let me know where. He never did and I quickly forgot about the whole episode.
Then, yesterday, the phone rang.
"Brian. Underground poker."
Oh, yeah. Brian said he had all the documentation ready for me. He said his friend could actually get me into this purported club. It sounded enticing, but also odd. Why would someone on the inside want to risk getting some random reporter into a place like this? What the hell did he mean by "documents"? Some official manual to illegal gambling venues in Denver? Still, it certainly couldn't hurt to meet with him. He suggested 1:30 p.m. today at place near his work: the parking lot of a McDonald's near Hampden and I-25. He said he drove a red Chevy pick-up and I told him the color and make of my car.
But as of 1:20pm, I was still at my office trying to finish a blog. (About the case of a woman who was run over and killed in a Burger King parking lot, ironically.) At about 1:40, I finally pulled into the McDonald's and spotted the Chevy at the far end of the lot. I pulled up and saw a guy sitting inside, talking into a cell phone earpiece. After I honked, he finally rolled down his window.
"No," he said.
I apologized and began to pull out. What a weird coincidence, I thought -- hoping the guy in the Chevy didn't think I was there to make a drug deal or something. That's when I saw Martino.
A mirage, perhaps? A hallucination? He didn't seem to be moving as quickly as the mustachioed Martino I remember watching on TV in the '80s when he could hurdle all manner of parking blocks and bushes in his pursuit of crooks and scammers. I briefly considered stopping, but thought better, despite even his hilarious attempt to play on manhood-fears by calling me a coward. I continued out of the parking lot and headed toward the highway. When I got near my office, I decided to drive past first to check out the scene. Sure enough, the red pick-up and Martino were standing outside.
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I decided to grab a cup of coffee. I am told that Martino approached the Westword front desk demanding to speak with Jared Maher. Instead, the receptionist's page was answered by our managing editor, Jonathan Shikes, whose look of complete bewilderment and confusion when he unknowingly opened the door to Martino's screaming spotlight was apparently one for the TV Confrontation Hall of Fame.
And to Tom Martino: My editor and I would be happy to meet with you when she gets back from a journalism conference next week. Just have Brian give us a call. UPDATE 8-14: Tom "The Hamburglar" Martino officially named Westword's "Shmuck of the Week."