Spotlight COlorado  

Have You Met?

Patty Calhoun is a moveable feast of information. She can name every judge on the Colorado Supreme Court in one breath, and in the next, give you the run down on just about every story, scandal and happening in the history of Denver. She can talk turkey on topics from books to bars to politics and people and yet she’s completely modest and unassuming. Whether dining with heavyweight politicos and intellectuals, or bellying up to the neighborhood bar, Patty feels equally at home.

Her vast knowledge comes from her day job of running Westword for the past 25 years, and from a reading habit she picked up as a child growing up the second oldest of five siblings, in Glencoe, Ill. Currently, Patty burns through about three books a week. When she went to college, she worked for the independent school paper and upon graduating in 1976, she and a friend founded SandPaper, a still thriving weekly on Long Beach Island, N.J.

While she enjoyed running the SandPaper, “the timing was all off” she says, ”It was the era of Watergate and a weekly, resort paper just wasn’t the place for investigative journalism.” So she and a friend headed west and within a year started Westword Magazine in Denver, and 25 years later, Westword still captures the heart of the Mile High City. Its 110,000 faithful readers, who range from college students to congressmen, snatch it up the minute it hits the stands.

In addition to overseeing Westword each week and writing her own column (which won the national Golden Quill award for editorial writing), Patty is also a regular panelist on “Colorado Inside Out,” the weekly public-affairs roundtable on Channel 12. She is also the immediate past-president of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, a trade association representing 129 alternative papers in North America. So, what are her plans for the future? “To write more,” she says, “and of course, I’m always looking for the next big story.”

Patty Calhoun

Favorite Clothing Stores: Rockmount Ranchwear in Denver and the Western Shop in Concourse B at DIA. 

What gives a woman/man style:  Honesty and individuality. “To thine own self be true” and if you can figure out who your “self “is and dress accordingly, you’ll have some style.

Favorite Restaurant:  Trixi’s Antler Saloon, in  Ovando, MT, where coincidentally, I ran into Dick and Dottie Lamm last August.

Which social event is your favorite? The Coors Western Art Exhibit at the National Western Stock show.


What are your volunteer activities? Working with kids and school newspapers.


Who is the most interesting celebrity you ever met? Ralph Nader because he’s very funny, smart and unbelievably dedicated in ways you couldn’t imagine.


Who is your hero and why? Nellie Bly, the crusading journalist from the 1800’s and as a kid, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott.


If your life were a movie, who would play your part? Terry Garr, although lately I’ve been feeling more like “Granny” from the Beverly Hillbillies.

Saturdays are likely to find you: At Benny’s, meeting friends for breakfast. 

Where can you be found at midnight? Too often in a bar.

Do you have any pets? No, I have writers.

When you move, what will your home tell its next owner, about you? That I didn’t quite get that landscaping project finished.


What words describes you best? Interested, verging on nosy.


What word would you like others to use to describe you? Mysterious.


What was your first job?  Babysitting at age 9.


What word or expression do you use too much? “Where’s your story?”


If there were one thing you would change about yourself, what would it be? Every morning, I’d take 5 minutes to organize the jumble of notes and papers stuffed in my pockets from the day before. I refer to these notes on napkins and scraps of paper as “the wad.”  I’d like to conquer the wad. 


What is your greatest indulgence? Reading.


What is the best gift you ever gave? For my mother’s 70th birthday, I organized all my siblings and we wrote down 70 great memories about our Mom on strips of paper and put them in a glass jar.  She unrolled and read each and every one.  We did it again for our father on his 75th birthday.


What is a favorite childhood memory? Our parents put on plays and musicals in the basement and my brother and sisters and I were cast as extras. I remember playing a prostitute in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” when I was 10.

What or who is the greatest love of your life? The thing I love most in the world is synchronicity and coincidence, when I’m surprised by a synchronicity of events, sort of a variation on fate.

When and where were you happiest? I’m happiest when I’m floating in an inner tube on a lake in Montana, reading a book.  

Which talent would you most like to have? To be a great artist.

What is your current state of mind? Foolishly happy, happy against all odds.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Publishing an issue of Westword in which nothing makes me cringe, and I’m not sure if I’ve ever gotten there.

What is your most treasured possession? My grandmother’s desk.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? To have an hour of free time on my hands and no book to read. 

What is your favorite occupation?  Astronaut

What is the quality you most like in a man?  A sense a humor.

What is the quality you most like in a woman? A sense of perspective and the ability to roll with the punches. 

Who are your favorite writers?  Norman McLean, John Dos Passos, and whoever I’m reading at the moment, who happens to be Jonathan Katzenbach.

What is your favorite book?  Lonesome Dove, for sheer indulgence. I reread it every year in Montana in the inner tube on the lake. 

What is the best advice you have ever received? My father told me, “When you lie down with dogs, you get fleas.”


What is your greatest regret? Not taking more risks.

What is your motto? The Calhoun clan motto is “If I can,”  but my personal motto for this year is “More fun than 2001”.

What is your favorite quote? “I don’t dance because I don’t want anyone to steal my moves,” from a kid I met this morning.