Colorado’s newspapers periodically run features in which they ask “local celebrities” various questions, such as this article in Monday’s Rocky Mountain News which asks “local stars” what websites they frequent (“Outta site! Where local stars hang out on the Web”). I always find the collection of “famous” people that they come up with for these pieces a little comical. The article included Carmelo Anthony (His favorite site? www.carmeloanthony.com) and Ace Young (the Boulder singer who is among the finalists for the current American Idol), both of whom I’ve heard of, so I guess they qualify as “stars,” but are the Rev. Rusty Butler of Arvada’s United Methodist Church and KBCO DJ Bret Saunders really “stars”? I grew up in Denver and love my city fiercely, but I think the time has come to admit that just about the only true “star” that Denver has ever had is John Elway—and even though the man has long since hung up his shoulder pads, you can still count on him to turn up regularly in the gossip columns. Without Elway sightings, what else would Penny Parker and Bill Husted write about? Readers must be interested, as Elway-related stories continue to fill local papers, such as this weekend’s Rocky article about Elway’s ex-wife, Janet (“Still on the home team”).
Often these “celebrity” articles are fleshed out by rounding up the opinions of a few local TV anchors—In this case, 9News’ Kim Christiansen and CBS 4 News’ Stephanie Riggs were profiled. But these people don’t really count as celebrities, in my book—their faces might be familiar, but that’s only because they are TV reporters, and the faces of whoever did their jobs would soon become recognizable to the public. There’s nothing they’ve done that merits fame besides sitting in the appropriate desk. The same principle applies to the men who happen to be filling the jerseys for the Avs, Rockies, Nuggets, and Broncos during a given season—sure, Coloradoans are bound to recognize their names and faces, but until the Rockies bring home a pennant, I just don’t think we can call any of them “stars.” What about stylist Charlie Price of Click Hair Salon, Designer Lin Lee, and “club queen” Paulina Szafranski, all of whom are highlighted in the Rocky article? Sorry, but I’ve never heard of them.
Denver’s lack of celebrities is in some senses a geographic problem—many of the fields that one would have to work in to become a true star are based in New York or California. And on occasion there are a few Denver-raised people who rise to prominence, such as Academy Award-nominated actor Don Cheadle (who attended Denver East), and NBA Championship MVP Chauncey Billups (who attended George Washington High School). Plus, there’s Michael Winslow, the guy who made all those noises with his mouth in Police Academy movies, and happens to be the most famous graduate that my DPS high school, Thomas Jefferson, ever produced. (When pressed, my 10th grade history teacher confessed that she was frequently victimized by Winslow’s simulated fire alarms in her classroom.)
And then there are all the reality TV celebrities that Colorado has produced or attracted, including the aforementioned Ace Young and Trista Renn of The Bachelorette (who moved to Colorado to marry her TV sweetheart, Ryan Sutter). There’s sure to be more of this type of “star” surfacing soon, as MTV has decided to film the next season of The Real World in downtown Denver. But I still don’t think these people really count—the whole point of these shows is to make a bunch of nobodies famous by simply televising them every week.
So let’s admit it Denver, we don’t really have any “local celebrities,” and there’s nothing wrong with that.