Top of the Town

July 2007
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Our who-to-know list for 2007.

Politician to Vote Out of Office

The irony, of course, is that if Terrible Tommy were simply a man of his word, he wouldn't have to keeping winning this category (year after year after year). When first elected in 1998, the longtime supporter of term limits pledged to serve no more than three terms in Congress. He reneged on that promise in 2004, and because his district remains overwhelmingly Republican, he continues to make Colorado a national laughingstock.

Loudmouth in Need of a Muzzle

Way back in 1998, 5280 dubbed Jon Caldara the "anti-Slick Willie" and described him with words like "affable," "smart," and "charming." Sadly, in the wake of 9/11, this once intellectually honest conservative (currently on 850 KOA) has gone the way of so many other popular talk-show hosts (left and right) who rely on bullying, buffoonery, and outright lies to claw their way to the top of the radio ratings. A few Caldara lowlights from the last year:
1. After a South Dakota senator suffered a brain hemorrhage, Caldara joked about his condition and declared, "Republicans are just praying that the guy kicks it."
2. Debating Denver's smoking ban, Caldara opined, "We should be encouraging smoking because smoking saves tax dollars because it gets stupid people to die sooner."
3. Caldara claimed that a state legislator's e-mail criticizing charter school supporters was "more embarrassing" than the sexually explicit text messages sent to underage pages by disgraced Rep. Mark Foley.
4. Explaining Sen. Joe Lieberman's primary defeat, Caldara wondered, "Or is it just that the Democrats hate Jews?"

A perennial winner in this category, Tom Tancredo is now taking his personal Crazy Bus national with a quixotic bid for the presidency. The Littleton Republican's biggest gaffe of the year? His statement that Miami has become a "Third World country," which he later tried to defend on CNN by claiming that a Miami newspaper poll showed that 70 percent of the city agreed with him. No such poll exists.


Now in his second decade as the face of the Rockies franchise, Helton has been the epitome of consistency and class, quietly producing every year even when most of his teammates, well, haven't. He handled the recent trade rumors with all the dignity local fans have come to expect from a guy who simply leads by example. (Honorable mention: the Nuggets' Eduardo Najera, a perennial fan favorite who's built a long NBA career on little more than hustle and guts.)

Having just completed his 18th season in a certain Hall-of-Fame-worthy career, Sakic is still on top of his game. This year he racked up his highest point total since 2001 and became the 17th man in NHL history to reach the 600-goal plateau. He's done it all with one franchise (in Denver and Québec before the Avs arrived), and though he's famously shy with the media his work on the ice has always spoken volumes.

Up and Comer

EDITORS' CHOICE Taylor Phinney
Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of genetics wouldn't be surprised by the rapid ascension of 17-year-old Taylor Phinney as one's of America's most promising young cyclists. The son of Olympians Connie Carpenter and Davis Phinney (who also won two stages of the Tour de France and is the winningest American racer ever), Boulder-based Taylor is now turning heads as a member of the TIAA-Cref/5280 developmental squad. (Full disclosure: As the name suggests, 5280 sponsors this team.)

Though the season ended out of the playoffs, our readers have ratified the choice made by coach Mike Shanahan in November when he gave rookie Jay Cutler the job as the Broncos' starting quarterback.


EDITORS' CHOICE Elbra Wedgeworth
Next summer, when Denver takes center stage in the national spotlight, thank Elbra Wedgeworth. More so than any other individual, it was the former Denver City Council president who brought the Democratic National Convention to the Mile-High City. Term limits forced Wedgeworth off the council; here's hoping she'll return to elected office soon.

READERS' CHOICE Mayor John Hickenlooper
If December's snowstorms didn't end the city's honeymoon with Hickenlooper, it's hard to imagine what will. The popular bar-owner-turned-politician recently cruised to re-election, which gives him another four years to advance such key initiatives as his campaigns for the homeless and the environment.

Radio Talk Show Host(s)

EDITORS' CHOICE Caplis and Silverman, "The Caplis and Silverman Show," 630 KHOW
A JonBenét suspect. A murdered Bronco. A high school shooting. The Dems booking Denver for '08. It was quite a big year in Denver news, to be sure. And on any given afternoon commute, you could count on Caplis and Silverman—the trial-lawyer-cum-talk-show wonder twins—to be discussing and dissecting each story (if not sometimes ad nauseam). Since 2004, the duo has become the afternoon-drive talk show for Denverites in the know, and by keeping their show lively with thought-provoking questions, guests, and callers (plus frequent forays into national news as "resident experts"), they've made us listen. Psst: Before Bob Schaffer threw his hat in the ring, Caplis was pondering a run for the Senate. So stay tuned.

READERS' CHOICE Jay Marvin, "The Jay Marvin Show," 760 KKZN
Mornings with Jay Marvin—the blue-collar-championing, tirade-loving, left-of-center host of Boulder's Air America affiliate—is always good for getting your blood flowing early in the day, particularly during his hour of open phone lines—featuring a steady stream of callers that either make you want to roll down the window and shout "Right on!" or slam your steering wheel and scream "Could you be more wrong?" Marvin's got more than 33 years' experience in the radio biz, but you can expect his voice to really make waves as Denver gears up to host the Dems next summer.

Sports Trade of the Year

EDITORS' CHOICE Jake Plummer to Tampa Bay Bucs for '08 Draft Pick
This was a win-win situation for the Broncos. After struggling through the first part of the season with a passer rating of just 70.5—14th among 15 AFC quarterbacks—Plummer was unceremoniously benched in favor of strong-armed rookie Jay Cutler. Of course, that meant Denver had a very expensive (and surly) second-string quarterback riding the pine. In a brilliant move, the Broncos' front office sent Plummer packing in hopes of gaining a middle-round draft pick, knowing that no matter what happened (i.e., Plummer retires instead of approving the trade) they were rid of old Jake the Snake—and his salary.

READERS' CHOICE Andre Miller and Joe Smith for Allen Iverson
While the full potential of this trade may not have been realized in the '06-'07 season (after all, the Nuggets tanked in the first round of the playoffs), our readers are still optimistic that AI is the Answer. As the second-highest scorer and the No. 1 assist man on the team, Iverson adds much-needed offensive power and competent ball-handling skills. But something still isn't quite right...here's hoping Karl can figure it out over the off-season.

Newspaper Columnist

Unlike most columnists who spout partisan soap-box drivel (e.g.: Vincent Carroll's recent defense of local radio shock jock Gunny Bob's anti-Muslim statements), the Rocky's Tina Griego actually gets off her butt and reports. Take, for example, her yearlong series "The North Side" and "Border Street." For each, Griego spent a year writing about two very specific Denver cultures to illustrate universal social problems. In the former, she followed students and teachers in Denver's predominately Hispanic North High School to show why so many Hispanic students don't graduate from Denver schools. That piece earned her a Print Journalist of the Year award from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in 2006. Write on, sister.

Our readers must have missed Denver Post sports columnist Woody Paige—he's only been back in town for seven months after a yearlong hiatus at ESPN's "Cold Pizza," but he ran away with our best-columnist category. Welcome back, Woody.


It's not just his two books (Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure and Citizen Coors, A Grand Family Saga of Business, Politics, and Beer) that make Dan Baum a literary heavyweight. Baum, a Front Ranger and New Yorker staff writer since 2003, is one of the finest nonfiction authors working today, locally and globally. Check out his New Yorker features on soldiers returning from Iraq, or his reports, in that magazine's "Talk of the Town" section, from New Orleans during the aftermath of Katrina—short, fly-on-the-wall stories that are thoroughly reported, understated in their prose, and as memorable (and human) as anything the magazine publishes today.

This native-Iowan turned resident-Boulderite made a splash a couple of years back with Beneath a Marble Sky, a historical novel about the creation of the Taj Mahal, circa the mid-1600s. Written in the first-person voice of a contemplative princess, the book has been hailed by critics, adored by book clubs, and optioned by Hollywood for feature-film treatment. Whether the movie gets made before Shors' next book is finished (he's hush-hush on the title) remains to be seen.


EDITORS' CHOICE Patrick Marold
Leave it to a Denver artist to harness the wind to power his artistic statement. Marold, a 32-year-old artist and graduate from Wheat Ridge High School, specializes in using the environment as a catalyst to art, and this time he drew on the wind to light up nearly 3,000 twinkling windmills on Vail Mountain. The result: a breathtaking starry-night installation, framed by darkness. Marold's creativity and the success of his work (which ran as part of Vail's Art in Public Places program from late March to May) might have already netted him a larger-scale project in Santa Fe in 2008.

Radio Music DJ

EDITORS' CHOICE Mike Casey, 99.5 The Mountain
We fancy our tuneage at the hands of a true craftsman, someone who possesses encyclopedic knowledge yet isn't too impressed by it. Those traits come to life weekdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. during Casey's forays into album rock. Why this guy isn't doing the morning show confounds us.

READERS' CHOICE Bret Saunders, 97.3 KBCO
For the 84th year in a row, our readers have overwhelmingly endorsed Saunders' part breezy, part cheesy way of easing them through the morning commute. He marries the good (holding up his end of chats about football, politics, or the environment quite admirably) with the bad (schlocky bits like "The Sage") in a most palatable way.


EDITORS' CHOICE Dwight Long, My Brother's Bar
2376 15th St., 303-455-9991
When we waltzed into My Brother's Bar and asked for a whiskey, Dwight Long talked us into trying a rye. When the patron next to us started getting loud about his love of illegal substances, Dwight talked him down from his tirade. He remembered our name, loved recommending good booze, and had one coworker saying that working with Dwight is "like being on vacation."

READERS' CHOICE Rich Wisniewski, Stadium Inn
1703 E. Evans Ave., 303-733-4031
The Stadium Inn is the bar of regulars—$2 Jim Beam specials, FHM magazines on the wall, and comfy vinyl booths, perfect for eavesdropping on the DU crowd. Rich handles it all in stride, keeping easy conversation going with his diverse clientele. And though he laughed at our request for a dirty martini—they don't have any martini glasses—he made us an old fashioned to remember.

Comeback Kid

He was last seen watching the Virginia senatorial campaign go up in flames after his candidate George Allen's regrettable "Macaca" moment. Now Wadhams, viewed by many as the heir apparent to Karl Rove, has returned to his native Colorado to run the state's GOP just in time for the Dems to descend on Denver in 2008. Is he nervous? Hardly. The prospect of playing the foil to the "left-wing sideshow otherwise known as the Democratic National Convention" has this bulldog licking his chops.