Silverman: Hick’s biography more revealing than most political memoirs

Hickenlooper and Gold DomeI recommend Governor John Hickenlooper’s book, The Opposite of Woe. It is an ideal Father’s Day gift especially since the most compelling parts are about fatherhood. According to his ex-wife, the author Helen Thorpe, when John Hickenlooper’s father died, half of his heart cauterized, and, she said, “while the half that was left was wonderful and lovely, it simply didn’t pump all the emotion sometimes needed.”

Everybody referred to the Governor’s late father as Hick, including his four children. John was the youngest sibling and only eight when Hick died and his mother widowed for a second time. As a teen, John Hickenlooper lashed out and withdrew. He shoplifted, smoked pot and banged up the family home. But with the wise guidance of his loving mother, Anne Doughten Morris Kennedy “Shrimpy” Hickenlooper, he always bounced back.

When his heart breaks in college, young John overreacts as do so many. Serious depression was experienced and is discussed. So are therapy and lithium. Various Hickenlooper romances go awry followed by lots of introspection. In the end, this protagonist succeeds spectacularly on a professional and personal level. And we root for him to do so.

The Governor does us all a service by discussing mental health challenges. Some of it revolved around his failing marriage to Helen Thorpe, the mother of his precious teenage son, Teddy. Other parts concern his self perception as “the geeky dork, with acne and the Coke-bottle thick eyeglasses.”

The author delights us with his geographic and career moves. The geology part was boring so it turned out to be a blessing for this extrovert to escape to a more personality-based endeavor. It is hard to conceive of a time when brewpubs were novel, but that was Denver in the mid-80s. The lower downtown (Lodo) area of Denver was somewhat decrepit when Hickenlooper and his partners had the smarts, vision and hard work to create The Wynkoop.

The start of the book is fun with the White House, Obamas and Kennedy Center involved. Unbeknownst at the time to most, and the D.C. hotel which gave them a room with one bed, the Hickenloopers had by December 2011 been long drifting apart, but they handled the lone bed and divorce with aplomb and good grace. Helen Thorpe, Teddy Hickenlooper and Colorado’s new First Lady, the former Ellen Pringle, were present at The Wynkoop for Thursday night’s well attended book launch party. That celebration was the opposite of woe.

While the book accomplishes its mission of explaining John Hickenlooper’s journey to politics, it falls short when covering major issues affecting his terms in office. There are zero mentions of controversies surrounding the Chinook Fund, the murder of DPD Officer Donnie Young, racially motivated Lodo assaults that were hushed up, and the deal Colorado almost made to release Colorado prison inmate Homaidan Ali Al-Turki back to Saudi Arabia.

But that is the beauty of an autobiography. You need only put in what you want to reveal. John Hickenlooper shows more of his human side than we see in most political memoirs. With the help of co-author Maximillian Potter, Governor Hickenlooper’s personality shines through. Here is a man with a nice new wife, big ambitions and lots of ideas in his head. The next chapter could be quite interesting.

Craig Silverman is a partner in the downtown Denver law firm of Silverman & Olivas, specializing in personal injury law, criminal matters, and problem solving. He served for sixteen years at the Denver District Attorney’s Office where he was a Chief Deputy District Attorney. Craig has appeared hundreds of times on local and national media on many wide-ranging topics and stories including the JonBenet Ramsey case, Columbine, the Oklahoma City Bombing trials, the Kobe Bryant case, and the Aurora movie theater massacre.  He currently hosts The Craig Silverman Show on Saturdays (9-noon) on 710KNUS.


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