The name is the thing, Aurora. Just ask Issur Demsky or Peter Hernandez.
While you can never be sure, you might not think Hernandez is as an amazing a talent as you probably do if you hadn’t heard him sing as Bruno Mars, his professional name. Same for the legendary Demsky, who’s racked up endless credits as Kirk Douglas, and none as Issur.
While these talents realized that their lackluster names were probably a hindrance to the fame they’ve gone on to acclaim, other people and companies have left monikers behind that were liabilities. Philip Morris snuffed their name a few tears ago to become Altria. After a particularly nasty Everglades plane crash in 1996, ValueJet Airlines saw the value in renaming itself Airtran Airways.
And bad news brings us back to Aurora. As 2016 sputtered and choked, it took a dive right into a favorite Colorado target: The Town Center of Aurora Mall, and the city itself.
Several hours into the second-busiest shopping day of the year, the day after Christmas, the Twitterverse lit up with reports of a melee at Aurora’s beleaguered shopping center. Some kind of rumpus opened up in the food court, police shut down the mall and video posts of cops wrestling teenagers to the ground in the parking lot did the trick. Before you could say “millions of dollars of free bad publicity” the region was all talking about how much they hate the mall, Aurora, Interstate 225, the letter “A” and anything to do with one of Colorado’s oldest and biggest burgs. Again.
While mall officials tried to put anything that wasn’t the worse spin on the story, they’ve been here before. The mall has had a couple of shootings over the years and has been embroiled in a handful of controversies over racism.
In all honesty, a close look shows the mall is as safe or safer than any other mall in Colorado, but it’s reputation, and that of the city, precedes it into each new cause célèbre. In fact, trying to leave behind its decades-long repute, mall owners changed the name from Aurora Mall to Town Center at Aurora after they and the city poured more than $100 million into a massive remodeling job. Word is that the mall was itching to get away from any mention of the A-word in their new name, but city officials wouldn’t have it, seeing how A-word taxpayers were dumping millions of dollars in tax credits into the thing. And so, try as they might, each kerfuffle at the mall is spread word of mouth and via tweet as yet another slam against the Aurora Mall.
Aurora has suffered such unfair flings from the western and southern neighbors for generations. Long have the bigger and richer city folks sniffed at our town. And elected and highly paid leaders have long pushed back with facts, rebuttals, marginal memes and a ton of cash. You can guess how effective it’s all been. It’s hard to get people to understand this really — no, really — really is one of the safest, coolest, most successful and innovative places in the country. Sniff all you want, it’s home of one of the top medical schools and university research centers on the globe. We are the spy-satellite nerve center of the country and much more at Buckley Air Force Base. We are Cherry Creek Schools, and all the “oooh-factor” and property values that elicits. We are the city that kicked Denver’s ass to the curb in trying to monopolize the state with water woes and have their way with us and everyone else in building Denver International Airport. But despite that and a world-class political boxing match over the Gaylord of the Rockies hotel-a-palooza — that ended in a knock-out in the final round — we’re still, “Aurora.”
We’re synonymous with gang-fights and three-story Hardie-board shanty-hoods, while our Marilyn Monroe is trying to get past our Norma Jean. And it’s not just us: in a weird coincidence that doesn’t seem weird at all compared to the 2016 presidential election, there was, almost simultaneously, an identical brawl at the mall in Aurora, Illinois, a similarly much maligned suburb of Chicago, while teens were asphalt dancing with local cops here. The event caused another universe of confusion on social media, and made it clear from the reaction of people in both regions: Aurora sucks.
So this is it, A-Town. Change the name, folks. We need a fresh new moniker for our fresh new scandals. Think big, now. They say, “It’s the pits.” I say, “Cherry Stone.” They say, “Value Village.” I say, “Moorehauston.” I say go for broke and rename the place, “Booger.” Just kidding. But that makes my suggestion of “Coloradical” sound pretty good.
And now I’m wondering if I should change my name before this goes to press, I’m outta here.