Two hours and change before the first gleam of dawn will glisten off the snowy Rockies, and the white-haired jogger is already out plodding Denver's streets. As he runs, he's listening on his Walkman to a cassette of Bruce Catton's Civil War trilogy. As he listens, he's thinking about tomorrow's lecture in the college course he's teaching. He's stewing over the next script for his weekly stint as a local TV newsman; he's mentally rewriting the text of his five-part mini-series on the history of the West; he's pondering his publisher's request for a new novel.
Suddenly, the jogger stops in his tracks. From out of nowhere, he's been hit with a completely new idea.
Richard D. Lamm, the man of a thousand projects -- author, teacher, TV reporter, lecturer, futurist, national prophet of gloom and doom, and, almost incidentally, governor of Colorado -- has just thought up another project.
"I was out running one morning," the unfailingly energetic governor related recently, recalling the moment of inspiration. "And all of a sudden . . . I really got this passionate desire to tell the story of the West and use music, like Aaron Copland's 'A Lincoln Portrait,' or 'Peter and the Wolf,' to offset it.
"So what I'm doing is . . . I have found a symphony by Virgil Thomson called 'The Plow That Broke the Plains' and I am trying to put words to that as the experience of the West."
Lamm doesn't claim to be perfectly suited for this task -- "I'm not a poet," he says. "I can't read music." He has no idea whether anyone will ever perform the Thomson piece with his narration. But such concerns hardly matter to a man who jams every corner of his life with projects, projects, projects.
"I am almost obsessive," the 50-year-old Democratic governor says. "I am so Type-A -- which I control through exercise. I sit there and strategize how I can make best use of my time.
"I schedule in my family . . . I stopped even watching the nightly news on television because I find National Public Radio is a much more efficient way to get news -- because of the absence of commercials. I go down and sit on a beach and I start getting twitchy if I have nothing to read."
This ferocious drive to fill the unforgiving minutes helps explain why the governor of Colorado has not one, not two, but three new books -- from three different publishers -- in bookstoresip, right now, why his columns and articles can be found in journals from Playboy to The Christian Science Monitor, why he has become to television talk shows what Mary Lou Retton is to television commercials.
The candid, blunt politician Coloradans have long known as "Governor Gloom" has emerged as America's national Cassandra, predicting a baneful future for the nation and pouring out provocative ad-libs on issues ranging from hospital patients with terminal illness ("We've got a duty to die and get out of the way") to victims of AIDS ("There are two kinds of AIDS patients: Either you're dying or you're dead").
Lamm readily concedes that he enjoys the attention and recognition his far-flung endeavors have garnered. He likes doing the "Donahue" show and banging out op-ed pieces for The New York Times; he's delighted that reporters show up in his office all the time to write about his ideas, his projects, and of course his gloom.
But now this sweet notoriety may be threatened. Lamm fears he will soon be whisked off the national stage. When his third term as governor ends next January, Lamm will leave politics -- temporarily, at least.
The implications are bothersome.
"Yesterday's politician is like yesterday's newspaper," he says. "I could write a scenario that what I will do is drift back into obscurity. And I'll tell you -- that's a real mind trip for me.
"I write for Playboy because I'm a sitting governor. I don't know that, you know, they would accept me as a nongovernor. That's the problem . . . for a lot of these people, the attractiveness is that you've got a governor."
This is not to suggest that Gov. Lamm turned into Gov. Gloom just to place some articles in national magazines. To the contrary: Richard D. Lamm was gloomy long before anybody outside of the Colorado Legislature -- where he began his political career in 1966 -- had ever heard of him.
Like many present-day Coloradans, Lamm is a midwesterner by birth who came here searching for the wide-open spaces and the wide-open professional opportunities the Rocky Mountain West provides. He grew up in Madison, Wis., studied accounting at the University of Wisconsin, and then went to law school at the University of Colorado.
He arrived in Denver in 1962 and set up a law practice. A hiker, skier, and mountain climber, the young attorney also found time for politics; he was elected to the legislature from an upscale district near the University of Denver. In the statehouse, he began speaking out about the effect of growth and development on the state's natural beauty, and it was State Rep. Lamm's bleak view of the impact the winter Olympics might have on Colorado that prompted him to join a grass-roots movement resulting in a statewide referendum in which voters told the International Olympic Committee to move the 1976 winter games somewhere else.
The success of that effort carried Lamm to the governorship in 1974. His first inaugural address, characteristically, warned of problems ahead for the state and nation. He's been beating the same grim drum ever since, growing more dour all the time.
Today, completing his third term -- he ranks second only to Alabama's George Wallace as the nation's senior governor -- Lamm is adamant, absolutist and unrelenting in his gloom.
Tell Lamm that he's out of sync with the American people, that opinion surveys show Americans to be much more confident of the future than they were 10 years ago, and he's undaunted. "They're wrong!" he shouts. "They're WRONG!
"Ronald Reagan has given us confidence at the expense of reality!" he continues, leaping out of his chair to make the point.
"My gloom reflects the new gloomy prospects of America," he insists. "We've got the lowest productivity growth of any developed country! We've got the lowest rate of savings! We've got uncollectable debts out there of $600 billion! Our education system is practically collapsed! You know, I mean, on and on it goes!"
All over Colorado, armchair psychologists have a plethora of theories about what makes this healthy, energetic, happily married, eminently successful man sink further and further into the depths of gloom.
One view holds that Lamm turned sour after years of battles -- several of which he lost -- with a conservative, Republican, Lamm-hating legislature. Another theory says Lamm decided to become the national grouch to counter the unremitting cheerfulness coming from Ronald Reagan.
A third school of analysis suggests that there has been a correlation of sorts between Lamm's increasingly grim view of the nation's future and the increasingly bleak state of the Lamm family's personal finances.
Although Lamm gets a free house, car, chauffeur and office from the state, plus an expense account and a salary of $60,000, he has complained repeatedly about the "financial sacrifice" he's made to stay in office. He has gained a reputation here as a penny pincher par excellence.
Three Christmases ago, for example, the governor decided to take his wife and two teen-aged children to San Francisco for vacation. Unwilling to pay a hotel bill, he contacted one of those "home-swap" agencies and traded houses for a week with a San Francisco architect.
Lamm lived in the architect's house free. The architect and his family moved into the Colorado governor's mansion; the state chef prepared their meals and a state trooper served as their chauffeur.
When news of this mansion-swapping ploy reached the local papers, there was a small volcano of political reaction. Lamm said he'd done nothing wrong: "It saved him a lot of money," his press secretary explained.
Lamm says he is in tough financial straits today because of "self-inflicted wounds." When he moved into the governor's mansion in 1975, at the age of 39, he sold his house in Denver and his vacation home in Vail and invested the money. The investments, he says, were "a disaster."
"We've been out of the house market during all of the great inflation," he says. "We'll probably never be able to afford to go back to the life style that I had at 39."
"It is very scary," Lamm adds, sounding genuinely scared, "to get out of office with two kids going into college and you don't even own a house. You don't even own a house! I was a fairly well-off 39-year-old lawyer. I'm endcol getting out of office and I'm, it's nothing."
The need to replenish family coffers will necessarily influence Lamm's decision about what to do when he leaves office eight months from now.
His job search is not simple because he needs a particular situation: one that will bring in money, provide a national forum for his ideas, leave time to write books, and let him fulfil a promise to his family to stay in Colorado for the immediate future.
Lamm teaches a University of Colorado course called, characteristically, "Hard Choices," and several other universities have made him offers. He says he'll probably take a six-month lectureship at Harvard, Dartmouth or Stanford immediately after he leaves office, but then he will head back to Colorado.
The governor had thought for a while that running a think tank might be a congenial occupation, but when the Aspen Institute offered him its top spot, he turned the job down. "They really need a great convener, somebody who can get Weinberger and Les Aspin to come," Lamm says. "But I would really like to make my own intellectual contribution."
Another option Lamm has considered is becoming a full-time author. Even with his unusual energy, though, it's hard to imagine that Lamm could turn out more books and articles than he now produces in his spare hours.
In fact, the three current Lamm books caused some difficult moments at last year's convention of the American Booksellers Association.
An executive from E.P. Dutton, which had "The Immigration Time Bomb: The Fragmentation of America" (coauthored by Lamm and Washington lobbyist Gary Imhoff) on its fall nonfiction list, was surprised to see Lamm at the Houghton-Mifflin booth promoting "Megatraumas: America in the Year 2000," which was on its fall nonfiction list.
Neither publisher had known about the other book. And neither knew about a third volume, "1988," a political novel cooked up by Lamm and his Denver media adviser, Arnold Grossman, which St. Martin's Press had on its fall list.
The governor says sales of all three are respectable, if not spectacular. The reviews, as he notes, have been "very mixed." There's no question that Gov. Gloom has more books in him, and there's certainly no doubt that he'll find the time to write them whatever else he's doing -- "You don't realize how much time there is in a day," he says. But like countless other authors, Lamm has discovered that writing books will not pay the bills. "There's a little bit of money, but . . . it's not enough. At my level on nonfiction books . . . I'd do better to go out and sweep a floor some place."
All of which leads Lamm somewhat inexorably to the conclusion that he will settle back into a law practice in Denver sometime next year. "But the idea of going back and practicing law full-time, you know, I don't think would allow me the kind of reflection that I'd like," he says reluctantly.
There is, of course, one other course open: a continued career in politics. And it is wide open.
Whatever nasty things people elsewhere might be saying about the "duty-to-die" governor, Lamm's energy, honesty and engaging manner have won him pervasive popularity in Colorado. In fact one of few Coloradans who can match Lamm in the popularity standings is his wife Dottie, a friendly outspoken woman of non-gloomy demeanor and strong liberal views. Dottie Lamm's weekly column in the Denver Post -- where she fights a continuing campaign for freedom of choice on abortion and other feminist concerns -- is one of the paper's two or three best-liked features, says Post editor David Hall.
"There is almost nothing you can do to him in a campaign," says Howard "Bo" Callaway, the Colorado Republican Party chairman and a veteran participant in efforts to undermine the governor's astronomical status in the opinion polls.
"In our last campaign against him in 1982 ," Callaway recalls, "we had pollster Robert Teeter do a poll to find out what issues will work against Dick Lamm. And he came back and said, 'If you criticize the governor on anything, the people will just get mad at you for criticizing him.' "
The Democratic governor's stature in this increasingly Republican state resembles that of another famously outspoken politician, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). Many North Carolinians who disagree with Helms' positions express real admiration for his willingness to speak his mind. Coloradans feel the same way about Lamm.
One noontime this winter, for example, Lamm trekked into the glass and concrete caverns of downtown Denver to make his annual speech to the Denver Rotary Club, an organization heavily populated with Republican businessmen who share Ronald Reagan's rosy outlook on the future.
The governor laid out his dismal picture of an America beset with third-rate schools, spendthrift government, swarming illegal aliens, and a wasteful health care system that spends exorbitant sums on "a terminally ill patient in the last year of life" but little on preventive care for the young.
He recited an updated version of the 23rd Psalm: "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall find no end of life; For thou art with me, thy respirator and heart machine sustain me."
He left his business audience with the cheery assurance that "Our economy is living on borrowed time and borrowed money."
The response was an enormous standing ovation. A long line of Rotarians formed at the head table to shake Lamm's hand and congratulate him for "telling it like it is."
Among the congratulators was a dapper young businessman named Terry Considine, a Republican who is committing large sums of his own money to a campaign for the U.S. Senate this year.
"You're a great role model for a politician," Considine told Democrat Lamm. "You tell the truth. I was just asking my consultants yesterday if I could tell the truth about Social Security in this campaign, and they said, 'Oh, no -- not this year.' "
"See -- that's the problem," Lamm said later. "All these politicians claim they want to tell the truth but their pollsters won't let 'em. And people wonder why I'm gloomy!"
Asked about his comment later, Considine said, "It would be a mistake to conclude that media consultant Roger Ailes in some sense dictates what I say."
Lamm, in contrast, is one politician who can presumably say anything he likes without frightening his pollsters. "The more controversial I get," he points out accurately, "the higher I go in the polls."
Nonetheless,sk,3 Lamm rejected party leaders' pleas that he run for reelection or for Colorado's vacant Senate seat this year -- though he would have been a strong favorite in either race.
"I got lots of friends saying, 'Lamm, you're crazy!'," the governor laughs. "But I want to raise my kids in Colorado." Anyway, he adds, the Senate is nothing but "a big-head trip. They've got these endless boring hearings . . . They've got the illusion of power.
"It's time to move on," he says, almost as if he's trying to convince himself. "I am reconciled. I'm trying to get my head on right about it."
And yet, and yet. There will be other Senate races, other political possibilities. The Denver columnists are already pushing Lamm for president in 1992 (here in Colorado, 1988 is considered Gary Hart's year). And Lamm readily concedes that this prospect, at least, does not provoke gloom.sk,2
"The national politics is a very tempting way to go, there's no doubt about it," he says energetically. "Very tempting . . . Yes, I think about it. You know, I have a lot of energy."