Denver is no stranger to economic upheaval. More so than perhaps any other American city, our short, 15-decade history has been an exhilarating, confounding, and unrelenting series of booms and busts. First gold, then silver, oil, uranium, and whatever else we could extract from our scenic landscape. When those ran out, we chased technology, telecommunications, and tourism. Again and again, we pursued our fortunes with the naïve faith that, this time, the good times would last forever.
You might think that these repeated economic thrashings would have left the city with a tough, cynical edge, but nothing could be further from the truth. Possibility remains Denver's chief selling point. Chicago may be the City of the Big Shoulders, and Philly may be the City of Brotherly Love, but Denver is undoubtedly the City of Fresh Starts. Where else could an out-of-work geologist open a couple of bars and 15 years later get elected mayor? Or, for that matter, where else could a vagabond journalist prove that a local magazine could thrive in city where so many had failed before?
It's that very sense of opportunity and possibility that fills the pages of our 150th anniversary salute to Denver, which begins on page 94. It's all there. From Baby Doe and Buffalo Bill to Elway's Drive and Obama at Invesco. But the Mile-High City comes to life most dramatically in the essays we commissioned from six remarkable writers. I'm guessing that in more than a few of their stories, you'll also see your own Denver.
Maybe you're a native and, like National Magazine Award winner Andrew Corsello, remember seeing the first Star Wars movie at the Cooper Theatre. Or like novelist Janis Hallowell you recall how the opening of the Eisenhower Tunnel changed our relationship to the mountains forever. Or maybe your first encounters with Denver were from afar, like contributing editor Eli Gottlieb, who read Jack Kerouac's On the Road and became infatuated with what he imagined to be "a giant Xanadu of a sort, lying on a pedestal high above the Plains."
Connecting to our history reminds us of the city's continuity, even through difficult economic times. No one can say how steep the rollercoaster's plunge will be this time around, but one thing is certain: We've been on this ride before and always emerged with our optimism intact.
More than a few smart people told me I was crazy to put Barack Obama on the cover of our Democratic National Convention issue in August. There are certain rules that govern the successful sale of city magazines on the newsstand, and we were breaking a bunch of them.
I'm happy (and more than a little relieved) to report that, this time at least, the rules didn't apply. August's Obama cover ended up selling more newsstand copies than July's Top of the Town issue, which is traditionally the year's bestseller.
Most surprising of all was the fact that Obama sold strongly not just in liberal Denver or groovy outposts like Whole Foods, but also throughout the Front Range, including (believe it or not) the year's best sales in Colorado Springs.
Does that reinforce polls that suggest Colorado is on the verge of a dramatic shift from red to blue? Or did readers put politics aside and simply embrace the historic nature of an African-American's presidential nomination occurring in a city that was once run by the Klan?
I guess we'll find out on November 4.
Editor and Publisher