Press corps partied cheaply, but still attracted a governor

While it wasn’t the legislative cocktail party to end all parties, the one thrown in 1969 by a few members of the Colorado Capitol press corps was a whopping success.

Mike Nolan, UPI Capitol reporter, broached the party idea, because he said the press corps always showed up at all the parties but never gave any of their own. The corps was small then — about a dozen men and women — and they were routinely invited to most lobbyist and legislator events.

While the Colorado Press Association held an annual legislative bash, and Preston Walker, then-publisher of The Daily Sentinel, had hosted a couple of parties for western Colorado legislators, no one could recall a party put together by the working press.

Mike enlisted Carmen, his UPI associate at the Statehouse; his apartment-mate, Terry, a downtown accountant; the late Marietta Benge of Grand Junction, who had been a Senate page the previous two years and still flew over occasionally to see what was going on; and me, The Daily Sentinel reporter living in Denver and covering the legislative session.

Marietta was considered one of Grand Junction’s better hostesses, and we were planning on her party smarts to get us through. She was to be in Denver for the actual party, but the pre-arrangements were left to the remaining four of us. When we planned the menu 10 days or so ahead, the two men insisted we had to have deviled eggs. Since none of the other three hosts had any idea how to make them, that job and three or four dozen eggs landed in my lap.

I can’t remember how much money we each contributed initially, but I think it was $50. (This was in 1969, when $50 meant a whole lot more than it does today). As I recall, the half-dozen lobbyists we invited told us they would furnish the alcohol, as they did for most of the parties hosted by individual legislators.

We couldn’t make room for all 100 legislators, a half-dozen major lobbyists, and several of Terry’s friends in Mike and Terry’s small 1920s-era Capitol Hill apartment. That meant we had to be selective in inviting the legislators.

After Mike met Democratic Lt. Gov. Mark Hogan in the hall one morning and impulsively asked him to come, we decided that politics dictated that we should also invite Republican Gov. John Love and his wife, Ann. Mike and I made an appointment with Love through his press secretary, went in to see him, and issued our invitation. Love said he’d talk to his wife and let us know.

We were quite surprised a day or so later when the governor informed us that they expected to attend the party.

All of the lobbyists’ parties (and there were two or three a week) were expensive catered affairs, held in Denver’s swankiest hotels or places like the Coors Brewery in Golden. But suddenly, our rinky-dink little apartment party with its menu of deviled eggs and delicatessen meats and cheeses became the “in” place to be. Legislators were waylaying us in the hall seeking invitations.

To add to our jitters, Marietta called from Grand Junction the day before to say that she wouldn’t be able to attend after all. We were on our own as hosts.

Late the afternoon of the party, invited guests, along with three or four legislative party-crashers, jammed into the apartment. The lieutenant governor was an early arrival, and, midway through the event, the Loves arrived in the governor’s big black car, driven by Will, the state patrolman who served as both the governor’s chauffeur and his bodyguard.

As the Loves walked into the apartment, one of the lobbyists exploded in amazement:  “(Expletive deleted). Nobody gets the governor and the lieutenant governor at the same party.”

The Loves’ arrival created a small crisis, since we really hadn’t expected them despite their acceptance.  Should we have invited Will? He was the governor’s chauffeur, but, on the other hand, he was also the governor’s bodyguard. I understood that somebody went out and asked him if he wanted to join the crowd and he said “No,” but later we heard rumors that he was a little ticked off that he hadn’t received a formal invitation.

The refreshment table was at one end of the room, near a big window, and the afternoon was warm. I was in the kitchen — probably counting the remaining deviled eggs — and didn’t witness one incident. But another host told me that, as Ann Love stopped by the table, she opened the window. I think it was Terry who noticed that some fine dust was drifting through the screenless window onto the deviled eggs, and he unobtrusively closed it. In a few minutes Mrs. Love reopened it, and Terry re-closed it. That time it stayed closed.

I don’t remember the party being particularly raucous. But, even if it was, who among the neighbors would call the police when the governor’s car was parked in front of the house?

The next morning, there was an excited call from Terry, who reported that one of the women invitees from his office was at home ill. We thought immediately of the deviled eggs and discreetly checked on legislators, the Loves and Hogan, all of whom seemed fine. But we continued to worry until Terry called later to announce that the woman had been suffering a bout of morning sickness.

That one attempt at a party was enough for us, and apparently none of the other members of the press corps deemed the effort worth their trying. So far as I know, we set a record that has never been equaled.


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