Simla, Colorado: Tuesday, September 3, 1974
The cook squinted
at the ticket on the wheel facing him, pretending to be
deciphering the handwritten
language is that?” he asked softly.
“English,” said the perky teenaged waitress, pointing at the ticket with her
“Can’t you read?”
“No, I mean—”
“I know what you meant,” she said impishly, nodding almost imperceptibly
her shoulder, in the direction of the man and woman conversing in
a window booth. “German,
I think. Or maybe Spanish.”
Though her platinum hair unmistakably was dyed, the woman looked to
be in her early
sixties. Her smart pantsuit and haughtiness made her seem
unwilling to concede anything
beyond mid-fifties, even to herself. On the
other side of the table, the skinny young
man with shaggy blond hair was
deferential, sipping his coffee as the woman animatedly
made a point with
both hands and a Teutonic torrent. Werner Vass had just turned thirty
he was accustomed to listening.
The only customer at the four-seat counter, a middle-aged regular who
owned the Simla Grocery next door, devoured the final bite of a hamburger
and wiped his mouth with the paper napkin.
“Kristy,” he called out to the waitress. “Half cup for the road, will ya?”
As she poured the coffee, he told her bitterly, “It’s German, all right. I
hope I made her a goddamn widow.”
Kristy sneaked a look at the booth, where the woman continued her
The grocer raised his cup, took
several swallows, and then slammed it
down. He dropped four one-dollar bills on the
As the cook finished assembling the Germans’ sandwiches and slapped
them on the plates—there were no “presentation” issues at the Simla Café—
a stocky man in a dark suit, with a chauffeur’s hat tucked under one arm,
entered and approached the booth. The Germans made no move to make
up,” he said.
woman responded in clipped and accented English. “How long will it
take us to
travel to the Denver airport?”
“About two hours, ma’am.”
Werner Vass looked at his watch and rattled off something in German to
the woman. She
nodded emphatically. Turning to the chauffeur, Vass said,
“After we finish here,
we would like to tour the area a bit more before leaving
“Yes, sir. I’ll be outside.”
Kristy delivered the food, sliding
the plates in front of them. Then she
stepped back, put her hands together and smiled.
“Is there anything else I
can get you?”
The woman’s return smile wasn’t warm; it was a formality. It was
offered in accompaniment with a request. “Perhaps some information,”
said. “How long you have lived in Simla?”
“All my life,” Kristy said. “Except
last year at CU . . . at college.” Self-conscious,
she added, “I’m
taking this semester off. Going back next . . .”
The woman cut her off. “Are you or the cook aware of Glenn Morris?”
“The Olympics guy, right?”
“Well, Eddie just moved
here a couple of years ago. So I don’t think he
does. But there’s a display
case about him at the school and they always cover
him in Modern American History.
Won a gold medal in something at the
Olympics in the twenties somewhere in . . .”
Kristy’s pause was momentary,
but something was clicking.
“ . . . in Germany.”
“Berlin,” the woman said, scolding. “The decathlon. And 1936.”
“I guess that’s why I only got a ‘C,’” Kristy
Kristy squinted. “Didn’t he just die, too?”
“In January,” the woman said flatly. “In California.”
“Did you know him?”
“Ye-e-e-e-s.” The woman drew out the word, as if she was deciding
whether it would be the final one or she’d keep going. She didn’t keep
going. Kristy interpreted the awkward pause as an excuse to leave and let
When Kristy dropped off the check, Vass perused it and said, without
looking up, “You
say there is a display honoring Glenn Morris at the town
“Outside the gym.”
“Where is this school?”
The waitress pointed north. “A block up
Caribou, right on Pueblo, up
the hill and you can’t miss it. Gym’s the
first thing you come to. School just
A few minutes later, Vass stood back as the German woman, transfixed,
looked over the glassed-in display. A bell rang and students scurried past. A
sign in school colors, blue lettering on yellow background, stretched above
Olympic Decathlon Champion
Pictures from his youth established that Glenn had been a student leader
and star athlete, both at Simla High and Colorado Agricultural College in
Fort Collins, and handsome even then. Front pages from Colorado newspapers
of Morris’s Olympic triumph (“GLENN MORRIS CAPTURES DECATHLON
and his tumultuous welcome home to Colorado. The woman
lingered at each.
A front cover of a German tabloid showed Morris, dark-haired and lean,
yet chiseled, wearing a USA sweatshirt, smiling slyly at the camera, resting
on one elbow as he lounged on grass. He was featured so prominently, his
even covered up part of the newspaper name. The editors apparently
believed their readership
didn’t need to be reminded of the title, but wanted
to see the American star.
Finally, she came to a newspaper
picture of Morris in a dark USA pullover
sweater, and a white collared shirt underneath,
sitting on the edge of a bed
and writing a note on the adjacent tiny desk. A framed
picture of a prim
her hair tied back, was next to his writing pad. The picture’s
headline and caption
REMEMBERS GIRL HE LEFT BEHIND
Glenn Morris, the Colorado boy who is America’s hope in the decathlon,
time out to write his girl back home.
The German woman lingered.
Vass solicitously placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Er sollte bei mir übernachtet,” she snapped.
She pulled away from his hand and moved toward the school doors.
They hadn’t noticed that three boys had stopped behind them. It was as
a pedestrian looked up at the sky. These kids wanted to take a closer look
was drawing the strangers’ interest.
Starting in pursuit of the woman, Vass bumped one boy. “I’m sorry,” the
said. “Excuse me.”
The kid pointed to the woman storming off. “What
did she say?”
and turned. Backing up, he told them, “She said . . . ‘He
should have stayed
* * *
With no orders pending
and only three customers in the cafe, the cook
poured himself coffee, gathered up a
couple of sections from the Denver Post
by the cash register, sat at the counter, lit a cigarette, and started reading.
the front section, he skimmed pieces summing up the early days of
the Gerald Ford administration
and Richard Nixon’s hermit-like existence
since his resignation. In sports, he
checked on the status of Denver Broncos
quarterback Charley Johnson’s wobbly
knees. On the cover of the Rocky
Mountain West section, he read of the freshman cadets
reporting to the
Air Force Academy fifty miles away in Colorado Springs and laughed
pictures of hair shorn as barbers showed no mercy. He opened the section,
flipped a couple of pages and came to the beginning of the “Entertainment and Arts”
The lead story startled him. Above the headline were three face shots of
who a few minutes earlier had been sitting in the booth behind
him. All three were
from the same interview session. In the first, she smiled.
In the middle, she was pensive.
In the third, she decisively was making a
point with her hand.
The cook read the story twice.
“Nazi” Controversy Mars Telluride Film Festival
By Steven Garrison
Western Slope Bureau
most standards, the inaugural Telluride Film Festival at
the historic Sheridan Opera
House in this southwestern Colorado mountain
town was a spectacular success over the
weekend, drawing marquee names,
producing overflow crowds, and establishing itself
as a can’t-miss stop on the
Talks from acclaimed “Godfather” director Francis Ford Coppola and
iconic actress Gloria Swanson were popular, but the appearance of German
filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, noted and criticized for her connection to Adolf
and the Nazi Third Reich, drew the most attention.
Showings of two of the famed director’s works—“Blue Light,” a 1932 drama
Riefenstahl also starred in, and Part 2 of “Olympia,” a documentary about the
1936 Olympics in Berlin—were respectfully, even reverentially, received in
the showcase evening’s session. Many “Olympia” viewers were surprised to
note that Riefenstahl placed a spotlight on a photogenic Coloradoan, American
decathlon gold medalist Glenn Morris.
Riefenstahl was given thunderous standing ovations after both films, and
when she was awarded a silver medallion as one of the festival’s main
Her reaction was akin to those of prima ballerinas or opera sopranos,
with her blowing
kisses, repeatedly mouthing “thank you,” and accepting
A showing of her most famous film, “Triumph of the
Will,” the documentary
about the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg, was slotted
for 1 a.m.,
drew a smaller crowd and surprisingly little reaction—positive or
During the weekend, security was tight. However, protesters numbered less
than a dozen and their actions didn’t disrupt festival events.
Festival organizers, as they had earlier, noted that
Riefenstahl never had
been a member of the Nazi party.
Riefenstahl, still a striking woman at age 72, consented to interviews with
individual reporters in her suite at the Manitou Lodge before the festival began,
reiterating her claims that her films were the work of an artist and that she
was neither philosophically nor politically aligned with Hitler and the Nazis.
“I am independent, always,” she said. “Hitler said about me that ‘Leni
stubborn as a donkey.’”
She denied she ever had been romantically involved with the Nazi leader.
“Because I am a woman and because he admired my work,
people who were
jealous or were looking for a good romantic story say I was his lover,”
stated. “I was never Hitler’s lover. We talked a few times on artistic
Never politics. He didn’t talk politics with artists.”
Pointing out she was a successful actress and director before turning to documentaries,
she asserted she made “Triumph of the Will” only after much convincing
from Hitler, who told her that if his propaganda ministry oversaw the
project “it would bore everybody.” She said she told Hitler she was ignorant of
the inner workings and militia designations of the Nazi Party, but that Hitler
saw that as a positive, not a negative. She scoffed at the notion the film was
“It is a documentation, a newsreel
done artistically,” she claimed.
the star of film’s silent age, especially seemed incredulous that
Riefenstahl’s presence deserving of criticism. “Why?” she
“Is she waving a Nazi flag? I thought Hitler was dead!”
The cook called Kristy over, gestured
at the stool next to him, slid the
section over on the counter
to be in front of her, and asked, with eyebrows
“Sure is. Read it.”
The cook returned
to the kitchen. Soon, Kristy poked her head next to
“Okay, I’ve read it,” she announced. “And it figures.”
asked, “How’s it figure?”
“She left a quarter tip.”
The grocer burst in, brandishing
the same Post section, opened to the
“See!” he demanded, slapping the page with his free hand. “See!”
“Matter of fact, we did,”
the cook said dryly.
was guessing she was a Nazi bitch, all right,” the grocer said. “Like all
others. We buried our buddies, we liberated the camps, we saw the
then we heard about the Kraut bitches saying they had no
goddamn idea what Hitler had
in mind so give ’em and their kids food and
feel sorry for ’em! But man
. . .”
shook his head.
Then he continued, “This is The Nazi bitch. What did we do to deserve
The cook shrugged. “Wish we could ask Glenn Morris,” he said.