Columns » Ranger Rich

Friends in high places

Ranger Rich

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The left hand of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper moved slowly toward me and rested on my right shoulder. His eyes were fixed on mine.

Ordinarily at moments like this, with elected officials and others I have written about, the hand continues to move until it finds my throat. Then it squeezes and colorful twinkly lights flash within my eyes and I find myself flailing around weakly before slumping to the floor. As the world goes dark I hear these words: "Who's laughing now, funny boy?"

But at the Cheyenne Village fundraiser in our own village last weekend, the governor did not attempt to strangle me. Instead, he then reached out with his right arm and, as he grinned, we shook hands and he said, "You're funny." Then he vanished into the night and darn it, I love that guy.

The event was a roast of longtime local builder, historian and philanthropist Chuck Murphy, honored for a lifetime of goodness or something or other by having his best friends — including the governor — make fun of him.

From local CPA Marvin Strait: "Chuck's parents wanted him to be a lawyer. That's how little they thought of him."

I was emcee of the event — the first 37 people they asked apparently had previous commitments — and set myself up for a good old-fashioned gubernatorial strangling by actually poking fun at the goofy, flamboyant bow tie that Hickenlooper wore in a video shown at the roast. The live, actual governor, seated just a few feet from the podium where I stood, just stared at me after the video when I mumbled into the microphone, "Well, at least now we know where Pee-Wee Herman's bow tie went."

Yes, I linked our state's popular governor with the odd, child-like character whose career, uh, stalled just a bit in 1991 when he was arrested while masturbating in a Florida adult movie theater. (This was known as Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.)

Hickenlooper, a geologist turned brewpub entrepreneur who later became Denver's mayor and in 2010 was elected governor, was a partner with Murphy 20 years ago in creating Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. here. From the governor, during the roast: "I couldn't have asked for a better partner in building Phantom Canyon. Well, I could have. I just didn't."

And again, as he gazed upon the Antlers Hilton room filled with 530 of Murphy's, uh, friends: "We all know how hard it is to get so many people in a room to agree on any one thing. The fact that you are all here tonight proves one thing — Chuck paid you to be here."

The event raised a load of money for Cheyenne Village, a 40-year-old local nonprofit that provides housing and services for adults with developmental disabilities. (Disclosure: Indy executive editor Ralph Routon chairs its board of directors.) That so many people showed up for the roast and opened their checkbooks for a wonderful cause reminds us that a community that can't seem to keep all its streetlights on still manages to show a very big heart.

It was also a tribute to Murphy, owner of Murphy Constructors, who in a lifetime of goodwill has piled up a very long list of accomplishments. But Hickenlooper stole the show with the video about their relationship, and as a live roaster, pointing out a few things not everyone knew about Murphy.

"Chuck has goats," the governor said, and he was not kidding. "A lot of goats. Keeps them at his home. He is an accomplished goat herder. So tonight ... I declare Chuck Murphy as the best goat herder in the state."

Later, as the program closed, the governor approached me on the stage and told me I was funny. I knew he was lying, but I liked it anyway. And as he turned to leave, I asked the question anyone would have asked in that situation.

"Governor, can I have your notes?" I asked.

"Uh, what?" he said.

"Your notes. About Chuck and the goat herder thing," I said. "Can I have your notes?"

He handed them over. Near the bottom of the page, in the governor's own handwriting, it says this: "Tenacious over injustice."

I have no idea in the world what that means. But I'm getting it tattooed on my neck. I love that guy.

rangerrich@csindy.com

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