Killing the Cowtown: The Denver Diatribe’s Ron S. Doyle talks live podcasts, local insults, “Dynasty”By John Wenzel | February 28th, 2012 | 1 Comment »
The idea of a live podcast may seem odd to some — particularly those who prefer to consume their aural treats alone with their earbuds — but the Denver Diatribe enjoyed a rollicking, boozy debate at its 50th episode recording session at Forest Room 5, so why not try it again?
This time the hosts will tackle Denver’s “cowtown” inferiority complex and how it’s been reinforced with depictions of our fair city in film, literature and music. The current verdict? It’s not good. So what else to do but kill it once and for all?
The guest firing squad includes Cory Casciato and Robert Rutherford from the Onion A.V. Club’s Denver/Boulder edition, DJ Alisha from OpenAir 1340, Westword cartoonist Kenny Bē, fantasy-horror author Mario Acevedo, Erin Barnes of the Donnybrook Writing Academy, members of Denver Film Society’s Reel Social Club and others.
It all goes down at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 29 at the Denver FilmCenter, and it’s free. It’s also promising “live music, drink specials, giveaways — and all the verbal revelry you’ve grown to expect from the Denver Diatribe.” Goodie!
We caught up with the Denver Diatribe co-host and producer Ron S. Doyle via e-mail to chat about the event, Denver’s raw deal in pop culture depictions and the most insulting Denver-related slight out there.
Denver’s been trying to shake its cowtown image for years. Is your event going to finally do just that? Is that even possible?
We think the classic Western, although certainly still a viable genre, has lost its former glory — it’s now only a narrow niche of the overall entertainment industry. And it’s just not who we are anymore. Some historians would argue we never were a cowtown in the first place, since mining is how we got started. “Killing the Cow Town” is necessary if we ever hope to gain new ground in film, literature and music. We hope to offer several alternatives to the cowtown image.
But no, Denver Diatribe is not going to kill a long-standing stereotype in one evening.
Honestly, we don’t know what will happen. We’re uniting a large group of writers, artists, and intellectuals — many from competing publications and different disciplines. Maybe half of them will show up arguing in support of our cow town image. Maybe there will be a cow-shaped piñata. #KillCowTown is the hypothesis, but we won’t know the results of the experiment until our panelists start speaking. That’s the beauty of a mostly unscripted live event with so many participants.
Doesn’t the process of addressing this have the potential to just give more power to the cowtown notion?
Perhaps, but that’s okay. We still think it’s an important conversation. Currently, the cowtown image is thrust upon us from the outside: filmmakers in Hollywood, publishing houses in New York, etc. If our cowtown image is worthy of more power, at least that power should belong to us.
What’s the most insulting depiction of Denver you can find in TV, books and music?
The co-hosts of Denver Diatribe unanimously feel insulted by “Dynasty,” the 1980s primetime drama set in Denver. Why? Beyond a handful of establishing shots in the opening sequence, not one second of that show was filmed in Denver. Colorado scarcely got a dime from the show but was depicted as a place packed full of morally-depraved, wealthy white people who keep losing their children and getting amnesia.
Worse still, Denver is scarcely depicted at all. We’re often just a stop along the plot line — think Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” the films “About Schmidt” and “Vanishing Point,” “Denvemolorado” from Atmosphere’s album “Seven’s Travels.” We’re the submerged city that Kevin Costner’s character finds in “Waterworld,” we’re the ruined city under a dome in the Scientology flop “Battlefield Earth.” It’s not mentioned in the lyrics, but I bet that John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” was written at old Stapleton Airport.
What about the most flattering depiction?
In Stephen King’s “The Stand,” the protagonists flee to Colorado — specifically Boulder, which is depicted as a spiritual Mecca — believing this is the ideal place to rebuild a new, enlightened, post-apocalyptic society. Colorado is portrayed as the center of the stage-cycling universe in “American Flyers.” Even though it’s set in the hyperfictional world of Greendale, Colorado, we think NBC’s “Community” is a surprisingly accurate, flattering, and funny depiction of metro Denver and its residents. And, although his twangy folk has a distinct cowtown feel, no one can deny that John Denver loved on Colorado in the most flattering way possible.
How did the idea for this event come together?
Denver Diatribe’s first live podcast, the Love & Hate Fest, was last October at Forest Room 5. While still riding the high after that event, Denver Diatribe started talking with folks at the Onion A.V. Club about a collaboration with their writers. Denver FilmCenter graciously offered us a venue. We tailored the event’s idea to the interests of our guests and our venue host. We added several more voices to the mix and an early proto-theme we called “Depictions of Denver” soon evolved into “Killing the Cow Town.”
We’d like to see the live events develop into a city-wide dialogue, an open forum for bright ideas that will make Denver better, a safe place for people to express their fascination or frustration with Denver. Or maybe one of those Japanese game shows where contestants strap raw meat to their heads and are chased by Komodo dragons. In that sort of scenario, everybody wins.
John Wenzel is an A&E reporter and digital media editor for The Denver Post and the author of “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” (Speck Press/Fulcrum). Follow him @johntwenzel and @beardsandgum.