Monday, April 21, 2008

Denver Zoo Gets “Hypocritical” Label for Booking Rock Band

(Ed. note: Welcome aboard to Bob McBride, who will be publishing here at DenverDirect. Let 'er rip, Bob).

by Bob McBride

The Denver Zoo is being criticized from all sides for scheduling the rock band Starship for a fund-raising event at the Zoo in June. The Zoo’s rejection in December of the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) proposal for a summer music festival in City Park is cited as a major reason the festival was moved to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City. When plans for the April 20 “Green Apple Festival” in City Park became public in March, many people looked to the Zoo for its opinion on how the music might affect animals. The Zoo expressed no serious concern. Now, the Zoo itself has booked Starship to perform for the 18th annual “Do At The Zoo” event on June 19, top raise funds for Asian Tropics, a 10-acre exhibit devoted to endangered Asian animals. Zoo representative Ana Bowie said there is a big distinction between the music festival and the zoo event. She is quoted by Rocky Mountain News as saying: “We can completely control our sound levels and have the absolute ability to cut anything off at anytime if we are witnessing animal behavior that we think is inappropriate." In the 1990s, the zoo had amplified concerts on the grounds, staged by Chuck Morris, the Denver concert promoter who now heads AEG. News reporter Daniel Chacon also quotes Glenn Fee, a supporter of the music festival. “"For them to have a concert in the zoo itself, I think, is a little bit hypocritical,” Fee reportedly says. “If they're claiming, as they did with the event in City Park, that there was going to be stress on the animals, any music is going to cause stress on the animals.” The Denver Post mentioned the scheduling in a brief article, but several readers responded with negative comments. Some responses are actually directed against the zoo’s choice of performers. Cam Neely says: “How much money do I need to donate so they (Starship) don't perform? That's cruelty to animals.” Another comment, apparently from Fee, says: When an opportunity comes up to make money for (the zoo), they bring an awful retread nostalgia act. Good job on making yourselves out to be quite the hypocrites.” “Boycott the zoo,” says a respondent identified as Ho Ho Homes. In a heading for his on-line commentary, John G. Martin of Denver says “Somebody call PETA,” but comments seem more about the band selection. Festival opponents and some zoo supporters are asking why the zoo made such a decision, suggesting that scheduling a rock performance at the zoo is inconsistent with the zoo’s position on protecting animals.

Band formed in late 1970s The group Starship, led by Mickey Thomas, is the evolution of Jefferson Airplane, founded by Marty Balin in the mid-60s, featuring singer Grace Slick and guitarist Paul Kantner. In “Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock, and Soul,” author Irwin Stambler writes: “The original band had its roots in the rapidly evolving folk-rock music indigenous to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury during its hippie period.” Bill Graham of the famous Fillmore Auditorium managed the group playing a sub-genre of music called “acid rock.” The group is known for its first two LPs, “Jefferson Airplane Takes Off,” and “Surrealistic Pillow,” featuring “Somebody to Love,” and “White Rabbit,” a psychedelic reference to “Alice in Wonderland.” Jefferson Airplane disbanded in 1974, replaced by Hot Tuna with Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady from the original group. Kantner, Slick, and later Balin, carried on as Jefferson Starship. Slick left in 1978, Thomas replaced Balin, and Kantner left in 1979. After a legal dispute over using the name “Jefferson,” the band reorganized as Starship, with Slick returning for some vocal work. Kantner, Balin, and Casady formed KBC Band in the mid-80s. Grace Slick became known for her artwork. Starship had three number-one singles, “We Built This City (on Rock and Roll),” “Sara,” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.” According to his own web site, Thomas has “the soaring voice that propelled Starship through the decades of the 80s and 90s. With his soulful and compelling vocals, Mickey has established himself as one of Rock Music’s most recognizable stars.” ( None of the other current members of Starship were associated with the original group that formed in 1979. The “Starship starring Mickey Thomas” web site lists the performance June 19 at the Denver Zoo. Hudson Gardens in Littleton is also advertising a Starship performance on June 13, but that concert is not listed on the web site. Starship is represented by agent Jim Lenz of Paradise Artists of Ojai, California, 805-646-8433 or Zoo event popular “Do At The Zoo,” a major annual fund-raising event is scheduled for 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 19. The theme this year is “Silk and Spice,” with guests encouraged to wear “cocktail attire with a tropical twist.” No guests under 18 will be admitted. According to the Zoo web site: “Net proceeds will help construct Denver Zoo’s new exhibit Asian Tropics, a 10-acre conservation center devoted to highly-endangered Asian species including elephants, Indian rhinos and Malayan tapirs. All funds raised from the event will be matched dollar for dollar by zoo improvement bond funds thereby doubling the effect of each gift and contribution.”

Guests are invited to “dine on exotic dishes from around the city as more than 40 of Denver’s top restaurants serve their best menu items, while toasting spirits from around the world.” The promotional material says participants will “experience music, dancing and close-up animal encounters in the incomparable setting of Denver Zoo at twilight.”

Individual tickets are $150 for Zoo members and $175 for non-members. There is a “Junior Ticket” non-member admission of $125 for guests 21-29 years old. Patron tickets are $275.

“Do At The Zoo” is presented by Haselden Construction Company. Sponsors include the law firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber and Schreck, Scott and Katie Schoelzel, Hogan and Hartson, Taste of the Wild Zoo Catering, US Bank, and White Wave Foods. “Corporate Benefactors” are Butler Rents, EnCana Oil and Gas, and Wagner Equipment Company. For further information from the Zoo, call 303-376-4864 or email


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