Mel Blumenthal
Second View
Snowmass Village, CO Colorado

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April 24, 2012
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Mel Blumenthal: Memories of a working airport

It took me three days last week to finally get out of Aspen via our state-of-the-art airport - apparently not soon enough for many locals I ran into who seemed surprised and disappointed to keep running into me days after my announced departure.

After a good deal of prodding, airport personnel eventually fessed up to the true reason for all the recent flight cancellations. The ever-faithful bad weather excuse was being thrown around quite liberally by United desk clerks and phone center personnel. But when confronted with evidence of clear blue, sunny skies above and around the airport, they went for cover and consulted a higher authority who eventually came forward with the dreaded faulty localizer excuse that we've been hearing quite frequently ever since they installed the new navigational equipment last year at the end of our recently extended runway.

Apparently Pitkin County and the FAA bought a lemon that they haven't been able to keep consistently operational since its installation. Fearing the spread of bad PR concerning the true condition of our airport's unreliable navigational systems, the powers that be jumped to the old reliable bad weather excuse. Why panic the tourists and possibly scare them away to Vail or other locations that have safer and more reliable navigation systems?

If "uncrowded by design" is no longer our strategic goal, I'd suggest exchanging this lemon for a more reliable piece of navigational equipment; hopefully our county and FAA geniuses were smart enough to get an extended warranty with a liberal return policy.

And now a walk down memory lane ...

For those of us growing up during the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s, we lost one of our spiritual leaders last week who was instrumental in getting us through our teen years relatively unscathed.

For most of us trying to deal with our parental rebellion issues, Dick Clark was a safe and sane voice that kept us mostly out of trouble every afternoon while we were glued to our TV sets and "American Bandstand." During my television career days, I was fortunate to work with Dick on several industry projects and can personally attest to the tremendous influence he had on all of us and the entire television industry.

I know there are many great stories out there that will be recounted in remembering Dick, but none more interesting than the story told by our own local Snowmass Club spinning instructor extraordinaire, Bianca Ostrander, in her own words:

A frequently asked Trivial Pursuit question, "Who is Earnest Evans?" The story goes like this...

"Bandstand" was at its very early arrival in Philly, and Dick wanted to showcase some of the talents of the local kids in the area (as Dick was always looking for something new). He asked the kids who came to audition to imitate their favorite singer or band to see if they could do it better or just as good as the person they were imitating.

My dad got behind the small piano in the studio and began to sing "I Found My Thrill on Blueberry Hill" by Fats Domino in front of Dick and his wife at the time ... his rendition was so convincing that Dick's wife said, "Oh my, you sound just like Fats Domino, but you're like a Chubby Checker" (board game, get it?) and the name stuck.

My dad went on Bandstand to do his rendition live as Chubby Checker and after that he was signed by Cameo-Parkway Records (Bobby Rydel, The Dovells, Dee Dee Sharp, etc.) which released his first 45rpm record titled "The Class," which didn't get much air play at the time. But the label then asked him to re-record "The Twist," originally written and recorded by Hank Ballard.

My dad loved the song but wanted to put a new spin on it so he invented the dance the Twist to go along with it. The song was initially a small hit but what sent it flying off the charts was when Zsa Zsa Gabor was photographed at New York City's historic discotheque, The Peppermint Lounge, dancing the Twist to my dad's song. It was all over the papers and newsreels around the world that Zsa Zsa was getting down with the Twist. My dad then went on Bandstand to perform the song and from that moment on history was made and my dad went on to become Cameo's No.1 hit maker.

My dad and Dick remained close and dad went to see him last fall. Even though Dick was in a wheelchair and had limited speech capability due to his stroke, Dad said he still had that spark in his eye and was still looking for something new.

Another bit of related history comes from Bianca's friend Bobby Kennedy Jr., who told her that his mom, Ethel, and dad would have "Twist Parties" at his boyhood home, "Hickory Hill" in McLean, Va. He said his dad would always get a mean side stitch from doing the Twist too hard because he loved that song and his mom would totally "out twist" his dad ... good times! And yes, for you Trivial Pursuit, fans Chubby Checker's real name is Earnest Evans.

If you have any similar poignant memories of this joyous era please pass them on to me at

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The Aspen Times Updated Apr 24, 2012 05:18PM Published Apr 24, 2012 05:11PM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.