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Son, friend revisit Russert memories

DENVERLuke Russert and Mike Barnicle took a sentimental journey on Monday.

Russert, son of NBC’s "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert, who died suddenly on June 13, and Barnicle, longtime Boston columnist and best friend of Tim Russert, took an early morning walk to Coors Field, retracing their steps from Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game in 1998.

Barnicle said the walk around Denver included Blake Street, the route to Colorado Rockies ballpark, and to the Westin Hotel, where they stayed.

"It was as vivid as the day we were here," Barnicle said.

Tim Russert was the godfather of Barnicle’s son, Timothy.

Luke Russert is working the Democratic National Convention with NBC.

THE FACE IS FAMILIAR

Scott Fickling has a face that never fails to get the Secret Service’s attention.

The longtime Denver restaurateur is a Bill Clinton look-alike, as some startled Secret Service agents learned on several occasions.

With 40-some Democratic senators staying across the street this week in the J.W. Marriott hotel in Cherry Creek, Fickling already has had the Secret Service check out his steakhouse, Prime 121, several times in advance of the Democratic National Convention.

Fickling’s face isn’t the only one causing some double takes. His Prime 121 manager, Todd McMahon, could pass for John McCain.

Fickling was running the Palm restaurant at the Westin in Denver in 1996 the night after former Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas won the Republican presidential nomination.

When Dole showed up, "he walked me around to all the tables and said, ‘Meet my opponent, Mr. Clinton,’" Fickling recalled.

But Fickling wasn’t laughing during Dole’s dinner, when the power went out.

When lights came on, "all the Secret Service guys were covering up Dole," Fickling said.

When Clinton recently showed up in Denver for a fundraiser, some of his protection detail sat in SUVs behind Fickling’s restaurant. When Fickling delivered some tenderloin sliders to the SUVs, the surprised agents thought it was Clinton schlepping platters of food to them, Fickling said, with a laugh.

His favorite Secret Service story occurred during the 1997 Group of Eight summit, when leaders from the top industrialized nations met in Denver.

One of Fickling’s best customers, a long-haired young man who resembled a cowboy, left the Palm for a two-block walk to the Embassy Suites, now the Ritz-Carlton, where he lived.

As he walked across the street in front of the hotel, his timing couldn’t have been worse.

Around the corner came a caravan escorting Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Seemingly out of nowhere, Secret Service agents jumped the Palm patron and took him to the pavement.

After initially doubting his story, the Secret Service finally released him "because the only thing they could get him for was having lobster on his breath," Fickling said.

THE SCENE AND HEARD

We hear disgraced Democratic Sen. John Edwards had planned to be at a private event Wednesday at the Wynkoop Brewing Company, formerly owned by now-Mayor John Hickenlooper.

SIGHTINGS

George Stephanopolous, chief Washington correspondent for ABC and anchor of the network’s "This Week With George Stephanopolous," having lunch at Dixon’s on Monday. Asked for his highlight so far in Denver: "Working out in the gym today and meeting Tony Bennett."

THE PUNCH LINE

"Are you sure the Pepsi Center is in Colorado." — A member of the media covering the DNC, on the long hike, because of the security fences surrounding the arena, to the main convention venue.

Norm Clarke can be reached at (702) 383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find additional sightings and more online at www.normclarke.com.

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