X Marks the Spat

A few final words on the most overblown Colorado story since Bob Dougherty got his butt stuck to a Home Depot toilet seat. Within hours of Jay Bennish's post-State of the Union address getting airplay on Mike Rosen's March 1 show, the Overland High School teacher was the focus of gabfests across the country, culminating with a comment last Friday by President George W. Bush, whom Bennish may -- or may not -- have compared to Hitler: "Look, there are some certain basic freedoms that we've got to protect. The freedom of people to express themselves must be protected. The idea of being able to express yourself is a sacred part of our society."

Especially if it drives radio-show ratings.

But one thing became clear during those talky ten days: Bennish is a heck of a geography teacher. Look how he put Colorado on the map!

Snap judgments: Making our state look much better is Jack A. Weil, who's also been having a big month. On March 3, the founder of Rockmount Ranchwear was profiled on CBS News. Shirts from Rockmount were featured in Brokeback Mountain -- where those snap-button closures invented by Jack sixty years ago sure came in handy -- and one worn in the movie recently sold for more than $100,000 at a charity auction. And on March 28, Jack will turn 105.

He practiced celebrating at a St. Patrick's Day lunch at McCormick's, located right across the street from Rockmount's once-and-future home at 1626 Wazee Street, where Jack still goes to work every day, now joined by his son Jack B. and grandson Steve. On his birthday, that block will be temporarily renamed "Jack Weil Way." It's only temporary -- officially, at least. For lovers of the West -- the West that Jack captured so well when he came up with the slogan "The West is not a place, it's a state of mind" -- that block will always belong to him.

Asked by CBS how he'd like to be remembered, Jack replied: "I don't give a damn."

Colorado represent!

Revenge of the Brokebackers: As creator of the "Ultimate Brokeback Forum" ( forum), the largest fan website devoted to the film Brokeback Mountain, local freelance writer Dave Cullen was absolutely certain that the Heath Ledger/Jake Gyllenhaal starrer would be named the year's best picture at the March 5 Academy Awards ceremony. So when presenter Jack Nicholson opened the evening's final envelope and read what Cullen refers to as "the wrong name" -- Crash -- "I was in shock," he admits.

Cullen wasn't alone. The Ultimate forum currently boasts a membership of approximately 3,000 people from around the world, most of them apoplectic about the Oscar loss. The most brokenhearted began brainstorming a response to what Cullen sees as a "snubbing" by the cowardly Hollywood establishment and quickly settled on purchasing an advertisement in Variety, the movie industry's top trade publication. Cullen set up a PayPal account that collected more than $27,000 from over 800 donors in two days' time, and helped pull together the ad. Coming up with text acceptable to everyone wasn't easy: "It was writing by a committee of a thousand," he notes. But the completed version, which thanked the myriad other film-awards organizations that did name Brokeback best picture, caused quite a stir when it appeared in Variety's March 10 edition, and stories about the unprecedented uprising have appeared on most major movie websites, as well as in the New York Times and Newsweek.

The Variety ad cost around $15,000, and Cullen -- whose manuscript for a book on the Columbine High School killings is due to his publisher any second now -- thinks the leftover cash will probably be used to run the ad again in another major publication, perhaps USA Today. He's proud that his band of Brokebackers found a positive way to express their displeasure. "We channeled our anger into something good," he says, "and it took away all the bad feelings."

That's how to survive a Crash.

I wish I could quit you: There's another collision course Coloradans would be advised to avoid. Rabid preacher Fred Phelps is once again heading west from his base in Topeka on March 26, bringing three teams of evangelists to picket ten Denver churches and warn everyone that "America has become Brokeback Mountain, incurring the irreversible wrath of God." Find out more at, or use the website to tell Phelps to simply stay at home: Didn't Kansas have enough to handle with Capote?

Scene and herd: Forget the Fray (yeah, as if Dave Herrera -- who got a shout-out from the band at the Paramount last Friday -- would let you!). Other Coloradans have made big noise on the national music scene before, and many of our most vocal locals were back in town last weekend. First, Boulder's favorite bad boy, Jello Biafra -- born Eric Boucher before he reinvented himself as the frontman of the Dead Kennedys -- returned to his home town for a spoken-word show last Thursday at the Boulder Theater. The Subdudes, once the subject of media attention almost as frantic as that now focused on the Fray, played the Gothic on Friday. And before she landed at the Paramount on Saturday, East High grad Judy Collins was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame.

Who knows where the time goes?

Colorado's famous folk know how to get down at lunch. Last week, Senator Ken Salazar was spotted dining at the original Las Delicias. A few days later, former Bronco Tyrone Braxton proved that he was bullish on the even divier El Toro.

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