“I’m not shy” Deb says as she walks into a gourmet food store to sell for a dollar apiece cookies she baked less than an hour ago.
It takes guts, and perhaps a little gall, to walk into a food store to offer cookies for sale to the owner. But with an infectious smile and flirtatious winks that are instantly engaging, Deb can sell just about anything to just about anyone in Steamboat Springs.
Debbie Linthicum, known as Dancing Deb or Disco Debbie or simply Deb to just about everyone in town, often calls herself Big Momma. She is the oldest sibling in a family of four brothers and sisters and is especially close to her sister in Craig. Deb, who is 46, has worked with the staff at Horizons since 1977, learning slowly to live on her own and support herself. She has lived in Steamboat for 20 years in various apartments downtown.
Right now, Deb lives by herself in a “bungalow” behind the Utterback House, spending her days working, resting and cooking. She cooks chicken with tortillas and her favorite dish of liver and onions.
Today, on her downtown sales trip with her handful of $1 bills, she names herself “Big Bucks Debbie.” She advertises her cookies as “juicy” and apologizes for the fact that they have begun to melt in the early spring sun.
And nearly everyone she meets on the street she calls her “friend.” Walk with her for five minutes and she will begin introducing you as “my friend.”
“You know me,” says Deb, and people always seem to nod. The driver of a fire truck honks his horn at her as she waves. She engages instantly with people she has never met before, playfully telling one man who is on the phone to “tell her I said ‘hi.'”
Deb doesn’t downplay the love she has for the staff at Horizons, an organization that supports the developmentally disabled in Steamboat Springs.
“I’m very close to my friends here in Horizons,” she says.
A Horizons staff member helps Deb organize her life and her home, which is cozy and full of the magazines she has collected. But, definitely, Deb makes most of the decisions in her life on her own.
In between talking to her friends and selling cookies, Deb can’t stop talking about the sunshine or the St. Patrick’s Day dance she is going to the following night.
That, of course, is how she got the name Disco Debbie. Deb is a fixture at the front of the crowd during the summer concert series and can often be seen at clubs like The Cellar Lounge, letting loose on the dance floor.
“She loves to party,” said Roxane Miller-Freutel, adult services director at Horizons.
Deb dances to any kind of music and gets excited simply at the thought of dancing.
She balances her weekend pleasure with a variety of different jobs.
Though she is selling cookies today, Deb is a recycler by trade, picking up cans throughout Steamboat. Her can-collecting business is notorious throughout town, as she received the “Community Recycler of the Year Award” from Yampa Valley Recycles during Earth Week in 2000. She brings her cans to City Market to get a refund and help the community.
Horizons receives bags and bags of cans from people who know Deb or who know the work she does. The city police department leaves a bag of cans outside of its doors for Deb to pick up.
Deb also makes money by arranging promotional packets for Alpine Taxi. She has worked at the Steamboat Pilot, Pizza Hut and Colorado Mountain College as well.
She also likes to eat out at Steamboat’s restaurants. The wait staff at Johnny B. Good’s, in fact, knows just about everything Deb eats and drinks. She is, for instance, strictly a Pepsi drinker. They also know about her playfully flirtatious nature.
“Whenever she walks in the doors, I say, ‘Watch out boys, here comes Disco Debbie,'” said Kathleen Sotter, who works at Johnny B. Good’s.
The community of Steamboat Springs is always watching out for Deb. And Deb, it seems, is making the community a little bit better for it.
“I feel like I’m more reminded of what’s important when I’m with Debbie,” said Lisa Cutcheon, a counselor at Horizons who has worked with Debbie and known her for about a year.
“She’s part of the community. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t know her,” Miller-Freutel said. “We just kind of happen to go along with her.”
Horizons staff members can all recount tales of going to clubs or sitting on buses with Deb and watching her strike up conversations with strangers.
“Everyone knows me. I’m famous,” she says.
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Real estate transactions totaled $42,885,400 across 51 sales for week of Sept. 17 to 23.