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Paul Conrad/Aspen Times WeeklyBest Columnist: Mary Eshbaugh Hayes

She may not be the most controversial or the most feisty, but readers say Mary Eshbaugh Hayes is Aspen’s best columnist. Certainly Mary is the grande dame of Aspen scribes and a dearly loved community member. Nobody knows Aspen and its postwar history better than MEH, whose “Around Aspen” column of photos and tidbits about local events and personalities has been an Aspen Times staple for decades.Nearly every other columnist in town, and a few nationally syndicated personalities, got at least one vote, but the only one to come close to MEH was Alison Berkley, who writes “The Princess’s Palate” for The Aspen Times.Several respondents apparently didn’t know the difference between a columnist and a reporter, and chose reporters from both the Times and the Aspen Daily News.

Aspen is a town of loyal barflies, voting for their favorite drink pourers in droves, which is why almost every liquor establishment in town got at least one vote for a friendly face behind the bar. But leading the pack was Bryan Sax at Jimmy’s, the bartender whose face is a local legend because of newspaper ads that give him a wild hairdo, from mohawks to medusa snakes. Not only is Bryan friendly, attentive and competent in the oft-crowded bar, but if you mention the ‘do of the day, you get a free tequila shot, and it’s hard not to love him for that.Bryan’s 10 votes edged out “Mike at Matsuhisa,” who garnered nine votes. Sorry, Mike – expensive sushi is great, but not as great as free tequila.

This was another category in which seemingly every respondent voted for their buddy, spouse, relative or the person who helped them find a home. The votes were spread thinly across literally dozens of real estate agents, who garnered one or two votes apiece. Only a handful were able to draw a few more. We suppose it reflects a surfeit of real estate agents and the valley’s biggest and most competitive industry.Dale Potvin of Peak Properties in Aspen took first place with 12, BJ Adams was close behind. Carrie Wells also came out several votes ahead of the pack.

This was another where every drinker in town got a token vote or two, but a few die-hards somehow bubbled to the surface. Are they just perma-pickled? Especially loud and noticeable? Or just friendly?We don’t know, but something made Jimbo Stockton stand out. Congrats, Jimbo. We weren’t able to locate you for a photo, but we assume you’re having fun out there. Same goes for runner-up Anna Hodgkinson (or is it Hotchkinson? Voters didn’t know …).One voter asked “Is there such a thing?”Interestingly, several elected officials made the list, including Aspen City Councilmen Torre and Jack Johnson, and Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis.

Again, a whole lot of Aspenites got one vote on this one. But several local favorites clearly emerged: Chris Davenport, Casey Puckett, Klaus Obermeyer and little ripper Bridger Gile. Davenport, the well-known free-skier and cliff-hucker, came out on top, but it was nip and tuck right up to the deadline. Bridger may not have Davenport’s notoriety and endorsements, but Aspenites sure like him. He was one vote behind Davenport, with Puckett and Obermeyer following.But how do you really compare any of these skiers? Are any of them really “better” than the others?Perhaps the reader who really hit the nail on the head was the one who wrote “Too many to mention.”

Forty-nine teachers from Basalt and Aspen received votes in this category, but the vast majority had just one or two votes. There was a handful of three-voters – Seventh-grade language arts teacher Chris Keleher, Fourth-grade teacher Lynn Parker, Aspen Elementary writing teacher and assistant principal Betsy Ann Anastas and retired Basalt High English instructor Warren Anderson – but the clear winner was Aspen fifth-grade teacher Kellie Schenck with 15.Was this an organized effort on the part of Schenck’s students? We may never know, but clearly she has some dedicated fans. Congratulations, Kellie, and keep up the good work.

Cross-country state champ. Nordic star. Track standout. According to Aspenites, AHS senior Christy Severy is Aspen’s best high school athlete, thus adding more fuel to the debate about the best athlete in the Severy household. That dispute may have to wait to be decided at Thanksgiving dinner at the Severy home this November. Christy’s older brothers, Christopher and Jon, were both all-American runners at AHS and her older sisters, Robin and Elizabeth, also had decorated prep careers. And, watch out for youngest sibling Pat.Severy edged out fellow AHS senior Teddy Karlinski, the best golfer on the AHS varsity team and one of the best snowboarders in the valley. Other athletes to collect multiple votes were Karlinski’s younger sister, Jordan, who was named to the C Team for U.S. Snowboarding last spring, and AHS graduate and golf star Kristin Walla.

A whole host of Aspenites received votes in this category, which is natural in a town that practically runs on volunteerism and civic involvement. There were perennial volunteers and charity donors, politicians, nonprofit directors, business owners and locals from all walks of life. Several respondents, apparently finding themselves stumped, wrote “many unsung heroes.”In the end, Steve at Aspen Ambulance received the most votes, and we’re guessing he’s a guy who has helped a lot of locals in their hour of need. Thanks, Steve.Others who received a number of votes were Boogie Weinglass and Ron Morehead. Also a couple of politician/barflies: Jack Johnson and Torre.Trivia item: More were nominated in this category than any other, people or otherwise – 57 people got at least one vote.

There were 48 nominations in this category, which probably goes to show that Aspen has a lot of socialites. On the other hand, most of the socialites on the list got one or two measly votes, which goes to show that there are dozens of social circles and not so much overlap.Anyway, the No. 1 socialite is a local politician, the one-word wonder Torre, who obviously knows how to get his name and face out among the people. Coming in a close second was Lita Heller. After those two, it was a long trickle of one- and two-vote recipients.One reader said this entire category was an “oxymoron,” and another asked “Who cares?”

When it comes to celebrity status, it was all in the family. Actress Kate Hudson led the pack and mom Goldie Hawn held her own. Sorry, Kurt, you only collected a couple of votes.Death apparently did little to undermine Hunter S. Thompson’s star power. Fellow Woody Creeker/former pop star John Oates was also in the running.Actor Kevin Costner popped into the picture, but we also collected one ballot for “not Kevin Costner.”Incidentally, none of these folks are actually Aspenites, strictly speaking. The Hawn/Russell household holes up in Old Snowmass; Woody Creek is, well, Woody Creek; and Costner has a home east of town, in unincorporated Pitkin County.

This was an interesting race. Late in the game, it looked as though former GrassRoots TV host Andrew Kole had this one sewn up, and we gambled and contacted him for a picture. Then pool advocate/Burlingame opponent/political gadfly Toni Kronberg staged a last-minute sprint and overtook Kole by one vote.So Kronberg, who certainly did more than her share of agitating this year, won the honor. But she and Kole had lots of company. Want to hear a few?There was politician-turned-prosecutor Tony Hershey and his ex-boss, District Attorney Colleen Truden. There was former mayoral candidate Bert Myrin and several local newspaper columnists, including Su Lum, Jon Busch and Alison Berkley (the Princess).Personally, we liked “anyone who complains about dogs” and “Butcher Block customers.”

Hmmm. Fifty-one people got votes in this category, but many of them aren’t even Aspenites (Johnny Depp) and some aren’t even human (Waldo the dog). Something about sex just scrambles the ions, we suppose.Several narcissists chose “me,” and we saw a bunch of bashful answers like “Boogie’s salesgirls” or “blue-eyed bartender at 39 Degrees.” See why we love doing this every year?Either way, Jeff Novak was the biggest male vote-getter with seven, and Sarah Hemme was judged the sexiest female with 14 votes. Sarah isn’t listed in the phone book and we couldn’t find her for a photo. Guess that’s our misfortune.