Where are they now?
Ryan Summerlin April 16, 2010
ASPEN – Aspen has long been a transient place. Workers stream in and out of town with the seasons, second-home owners stay for brief intervals of time before leaving again, and many professionals seem to come to town, make a splash and then move on to other ventures in other places.In the newsroom, we often find ourselves asking, “What ever happened to so-and-so?” Recently we assembled a list of Aspenites who had an impact at one time, but seemed to have vanished from the scene. We tracked down a few of them and wrote down what they told us.Of course, we reached dead ends with a number of others. Perhaps they’ll return our phone calls later, or drop in some time. As you’ll hear from the people we did find, Aspen tends to stay with people, in one way or another.Enjoy.
By Carolyn SackariasonFormer Aspen Schools Superintendent Tom Farrell has traded the frigid weather of the Rocky Mountains for flip flops, sunsets and ocean views in Taiwan.Farrell, who left Aspen in 2003 after 15 years in the community, moved to Taiwan two years ago to be the director of Kaohsiung American School in Kaohsiung City.In between Aspen and Taiwan, Farrell spent five years in his home state of Maine, where he was the superintendent of schools in Kennebunkport.He thought that would be the end of the run, but he was convinced by a group of fellow educators during a work trip in Turkey to apply for an international job.Farrell got the job within a week of applying. He mulled it over briefly with his wife, Debbie, and they made a quick decision to go international.”I said, ‘Debbie, get a map out, where the hell is Taiwan?'” he said from his 26th floor apartment in Kaohsiung, a major port city in Southwestern Taiwan. Farrell said the sunsets are spectacular and the temperature is typically in the 80s, and never falls below 60 degrees.He has views of the ocean, is within minutes of several beaches and islands, and places like China, Japan and Cambodia are reachable with a short plane ride.”I thought I was going to retire and have a good life,” he said. “I never thought I would be here.”But it’s a real hoot,” Farrell added. “As soon as we got off the plane we fell in love with the place.”He and Debbie enjoy every bit of life in the city of 1.8 million people, most of whom are hard-working individuals putting in 15- to 16-hour work days six or seven days a week, Farrell said.His students take their educational careers just as seriously. The K-12, tuition-based school has 400 students and nearly all of them are Asians who plan to attend Ivy League universities in the United States.”These kids are very committed,” Farrell said, adding all of them are bilingual. “There has not been one discipline problem here.”That’s a far cry from Aspen, where students sometimes fall into the party culture or are distracted by recreational opportunities.Prior to Farrell’s departure, he was the target of two women who had organized a campaign to get him fired because they felt the district’s academic standards weren’t sufficiently high. But community-wide support was on Farrell’s side, and he now looks back at the experience with a different perspective.He said Aspen’s hard-edged political scene, and the newcomers who attempt to inject their opinions, is the polar opposite of the predominantly Buddhist and always respectful Kaohsiung community.”To me, it’s much more peaceful,” he said. “Some of the people with that hatred, I don’t miss that, but Aspen will always be a special place for us.”A part of Aspen is with Farrell in Kaohsiung – he hired former Aspen High School principal Kendall Evans to be the principal of the elementary school firstname.lastname@example.org
By Stewart OksenhornUpon his arrival in Aspen, in 1992, Paul Levine sought to change the world – or at least one small, high-altitude corner of it.Levine, 22 at the time, was the ringleader of a group of young, motivated people who ushered in the Howling Wolf era – an artistic/social/political movement centered around a funky, bustling Hopkins Ave. caf. The music was jammy, the food was often good, and the politics were liberal but based on the concept of preserving Aspen’s offbeat character. Hunter Thompson was a fan; Lyle Lovett played two memorable, late-night gigs in the space. An offshoot of the Wolf was the Aspen Harmony Festival, which, over three years, brought Widespread Panic, Bob Weir’s Ratdog and String Cheese Incident to the base of Buttermilk.Levine is still serving up music, food and festivals in a distinctive setting, but the revolutionary spirit has become more of a side dish. Levine is a founder and director of the Bear Creek Music & Art Festival in Live Oak, in northern Florida; Bear Creek’s third gathering, in November, will feature Umphrey’s McGee, Maceo Parker and numerous other bands from the funk-groove universe. The festival grounds – known as the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, and with incomparable camping, according to Levine, who refers to the venue as “kind of the Red Rocks of the South” – are also home to this week’s Wanee Music Festival, which includes the Allman Brothers Band, Widespread Panic and Gov’t Mule. Apart from running Bear Creek, Levine is employed by Suwannee, helping manage the on-grounds restaurant and working on other concerts and events.”I came to the Southeast to become part of a community down here and to help a music scene grow,” said Levine, whose road from Aspen to Florida included stops in northern Virginia, West Virginia and South Carolina – all places where he helped launch music festivals – and Austin, Tex., where he decided the music scene was already sufficiently saturated. “And it’s been really worthwhile. It’s different than Aspen, though. The Southeast is a different mentality, politically speaking.”In Aspen, Levine was the most visible and vocal part of a group seeking to have a political impact. The Howling Wolf held rallies against the expansion of the runway at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, and their actions did as much as their words to maintain the town’s funky character. Halloweens at the Wolf were legendary; concerts in parking lots and out front were common; and the backstage scene could get wild. It proved unsustainable, however, on the business side: Levine and his partners sold the Howling Wolf. The club, after moving to a different location, shut down in 2001, leaving behind a small trail of vendors and former employees howling to get paid.Levine, though, says the legacy he left behind was overwhelmingly positive.”We did something that was special and important at the time,” he said, chalking up the business shortcoming to inexperience. “I look back and wish we could have done things a little differently, been a little smarter. It was a place that could have been a part of Aspen for a long time.”email@example.com
By Scott CondonTwenty-three years after he resigned as president and CEO of the Aspen Skiing Co., Jerry Blann looks back on his 17 years with the company fondly and offers his perspective on the tumultuous events that led to his departure.Blann, 61, is now president of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, a ski area famous for its black-diamond terrain. He’s held the position since 1995 and enjoyed considerable success. The ski area has topped 400,000 skier and rider visits for five straight seasons and enjoyed its best season ever two winters ago.One of Blann’s biggest accomplishments in Jackson Hole was replacing the iconic aerial tram a few seasons ago. He also left a similar mark on Aspen Mountain, overseeing approval and construction of the original Silver Queen Gondola for the 1987-88 season.He felt his biggest accomplishments in Aspen were helping to secure the first direct flights from Los Angeles, upgrading chairlifts and other infrastructure at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass, overseeing a successful 40th anniversary celebration and getting the Little Nell Hotel approved, despite the challenges of development in a small community.But Blann is probably best remembered among old-timers for his role in the furor over the Skico’s pricing policy of 1987-88. The Skico decided to charge more for Aspen Mountain that season. It felt a higher single-day lift ticket price of $35 was warranted for Aspen Mountain (Snowmass and Buttermilk charged $33) after completion of the gondola, he said. Plus, the company wanted to reduce crowds on Ajax.The staff recommended the pricing and it was approved by the ownership. Miller-Klutznick-Davis-Gray Co. of Denver had the controlling interest in the company at the time; the Crown family owned 49 percent.Blann said he warned the owners that the pricing would spur an uproar. “I told them, ‘When the release comes out, crawl in your foxhole,'” he said. But he urged them to stay the course and it would blow over.He was right about the uproar. Ski bums held protests at Cooper St. Pier. Politicians, such as then-Mayor Bill Stirling, vowed action to reduce prices. Lodge operators said the pricing was a slap in the face of middle-class customers.Despite vowing their support for the pricing, the majority owners got cold feet. Friends of Marvin Davis, Tom Klutznick or both, lobbied them to intervene, Blann said, and Klutznick, the managing partner, called a community meeting.Blann said he warned Klutznick that holding the meeting would undermine his authority as president and CEO: “If you do this, I’m going to be incapable of managing this business.” Klutznick ran the meeting, Blann said, and Blann himself said very little as speaker after speaker fumed.The Skico stuck with the $35 lift ticket for Aspen Mountain but adjusted the season pass pricing. Feeling like a scapegoat, Blann resigned a short time later. He was inaccurately quoted by some media as touting “Mercedes-Benz pricing.” Blann said he never used the phrase.The Crowns eventually became 100 percent owners of the Skico, which Blann said was very good for the company and community.Blann remained in the ski industry after leaving Aspen, first serving as president for five years until 1993 at Bear Mountain in California, then leading development at Lake Catamount Joint Ventures in Steamboat Springs for a short time. He later landed his dream job in Jackson Hole, which also benefits from strong owners, he said.Blann said the lessons he learned in Aspen have served him well.”It was a great educational process,” he said. “I still have a lot of friends there.”firstname.lastname@example.org
By Janet UrquhartFormer Aspen Mayor Stacy Standley ran for office on a growth-control platform, but longtime Aspenites might remember him best as the mayor who poised nude for a local calendar.When he shows the calendar (it was sold as a fundraiser for the National Organization for Women) to friends now, they can’t figure out which photograph is Standley’s.”We all thought it was great fun,” he says of the experience.Standley, 65, calls Las Vegas home these days, but spends time in India, where he’s involved in two different business ventures. He and his stepson are distributors for a Kansas company, supplying engine-cleaning chemicals to the two largest automobile manufacturers in India, and he’s a technology consultant to businesses looking to set up in India, primarily in the environmental and telecommunication realms.In 1969, however, Standley had just finished graduate school and moved to Aspen full-time. Hippies were clashing with the establishment and, a year later, Hunter S. Thompson would run for Pitkin County sheriff on the “Freak Power” ticket. In the early ’70s, Standley and a group of like-minded individuals would decide to run for office in the city and county with the goal of putting the brakes on development.”We were all kind of young turks. We all watched buildings like the Aspen Square Hotel and North of Nell go up and said, wait a minute, we’ve got to do something,” Standley recalled. At the time, the city had a rule that candidates must have at least three years of residency in Aspen before they could seek office, according to Standley. Among the activists, only Standley qualified, so he ran for mayor in 1973, serving three terms before leaving office in 1979.In 1978, Standley joined a group of locals on a trip to India for a Himalayan ski expedition and fell in love with India in the process. He split his time between Aspen and India from 1984 to 1997, and married an Indian native, Chand, in 1994.A stint as international director of the World Wildlife Fund took him to Switzerland for three years, starting in 1997. Chand never really took to downhill skiing, and commuting between Aspen and India was difficult, so the couple settled in Las Vegas after the WWF assignment. There, Chand found a robust Indian community and Standley enjoys bicycling and other outdoor pursuits. He is also director of the Nevada World Affairs Council and a member of the Department of Energy-Citizen Advisory Board to the Nevada Test Site Environmental Program. The couple spent last summer in Aspen, though, and visit regularly. Meanwhile, the sorts of development pressures that led to Standley’s political involvement three-plus decades ago have remained an issue, off and on, for Aspen ever since. The mass and scale of buildings are still hotly debated.”They’re kind of the seminal issues of Aspen,” he said. “I guess they will never change.”email@example.com
By Scott CondonJim and Merrilee Auster feel it was fate that guided them from one piece of paradise near Aspen to another nearby.Their 30-year history in the Hunter Creek Valley nearly ended as a story of paradise lost.Jim Auster started living in a tepee in Hunter Creek in 1969, when he worked out a land lease with the late Fritz Benedict and eventually irrigated and controlled weeds on Benedict’s land.Merrilee lived in a tepee in a different part of the valley starting in 1972.Jim and Merrilee got married in 1985 and each brought two kids to the union. They were living in a tepee near the mouth of the valley when Benedict sold the property and they were forced to relocate when their lease ran out in 1987. They were desperate not to leave the special valley they loved, and out of that desperation grew opportunity.Their research indicated the Hummingbird patented mining claim was the last piece of developable land around the valley. The stunning piece of high ground overlooks the valley floor at the entrance to Van Horn Park. They bought three interests, then undertook the laborious quiet title process to extinguish any other possible claims to the land. Mining claim ownership is typically convoluted because interests traded hands and often broke into fractions.The quiet title action was one of 12 legal cases they fought to stay in Hunter Creek during a turbulent time from 1987 to 1997. Pitkin County government sued to boot the Auster family from the Hummingbird, on the grounds that the tepee was a non-conforming structure under the land-use code.”They were leaning on us big time,” Jim said. “They wanted us out.”They went to a jury trial on the county’s eviction attempt and they prevailed, but the county filed a condemnation lawsuit and submitted a lowball appraisal on the valuable property. The Austers earned the upper hand in that dispute as well, and a settlement gave them the right to exceed the county’s 15,000-square foot house-size limit.The legal battles saddled the family with debt, so they tried to settle with the county. The sides never came to agreement, however.The Austers placed the Hummingbird on the market for $5.2 million. They received an offer for $5 million but didn’t sell because they weren’t satisfied that the buyer would limit development. They ultimately donated half the value of the land in a sale to the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Program.”We made probably one of the largest open-space donations in the county,” Jim said. The deal closed in January 1998.Throughout the decade-long ordeal, the Austers were also central characters in a bitter fight over access to national forest lands in Hunter Creek Valley. Private land owners wanted to partially close access between Red Mountain and Hunter Creek. The Austers were aligned, ironically, with Pitkin County and a citizens’ group to maintain access. A settlement preserved access after a long, costly court battle.The Austers said their sale of the Hummingbird didn’t make them rich but made them feel good that it remained undeveloped and went into public hands.”Hunter Creek has always been in our hearts and remains in our hearts,” Merrilee said.They maintain ties to Aspen. Jim is in charge of maintenance for the Red Mountain Ditch Co. They also have a ditch excavation and piping company.Once they sold the Hummingbird, they looked for a new home. They bought a place in California to be closer to ailing members of Merrilee’s family, but kept searching for the right place in Colorado. They purchased 40 acres on the western side of McClure Pass in 1999, and added an adjoining 112 acres two years later, making an old homestead whole. The land is surrounded by national forest. A creek runs through it. The Ragged Mountains dominate the view.They designed their own house and live off the grid, thanks in part to a micro-hydro project.The fantastic attributes aside, they knew they’d found home when they checked out the property.”We have a million hummingbirds there. It’s really ironic,” said Merrilee.Thus the name of the property: Hummingbird Ranch.firstname.lastname@example.org
By Carolyn SackariasonFormer Aspen mayoral candidate Bonnie Behrend has moved on to big city life and enjoys bicycling around Manhattan – when she’s not looking for work.Behrend moved from Aspen in September 2008, when her mother fell ill and eventually died.”I came here not thinking I would stay, but now it’s a transition period in my life,” she said from her apartment on the East side of New York City. “When I’m in Aspen, I miss New York and when I’m in New York, I miss Aspen.”Behrend, 55, said as beautiful as Aspen is, it became too small for her taste, both personally and professionally.Behrend, a broadcast journalist, has been unemployed since 2007, with her last job being at Channel 19. She has started a website, bonniebehrend.com, and is trying to launch it into something more.”I’m trying to create some sort of compelling content without taking my clothes off,” she said, adding she wants the focus to be on health and fitness, active lifestyles and finance.Behrend entered the Aspen mayoral race in early 2007 as a newcomer to local politics, competing against current Mayor Mick Ireland, former City Councilman Tim Semrau and gadfly Andrew Kole.She received 30 votes, or 1 percent.Her campaign platform touched on all kinds of issues facing Aspen, but was never as specific or serious as her opponents. She drew the most attention with her campaign slogan of “Back Bonnie,” with literature showing her bare back.”Running for mayor was a great lesson,” she said. “If I was in Aspen, I’d run again but I think I’m committed to New York.”Behrend lived in Aspen from 1990 to 1996, and then again from 2004 to email@example.com
By Janet UrquhartAndy Mill, the Aspen youngster who became a U.S. alpine ski racer and Olympian, has long since traded in his skis for a flyrod.These days, Mill splits his time between his home in Aspen and another in south Florida. When it’s snowing in Aspen, Mill is likely out on the water, fishing for tarpon and other saltwater giants that are a far cry from the little trout he caught around home as a kid.”I actually became a better fisherman than I was a skier,” said Mill from his Boca Raton home recently. The 1971 Aspen High School graduate (his family moved to Aspen in 1960 and he started fourth grade here) can boast a varied career in both skiing and fishing. Now, at age 57, Mill considers himself retired, though he recently finished writing a book, “A Passion for Tarpon,” scheduled for publication in June.Mill skied in the world championships in 1974 and 1978, and in the 1976 and 1980 Olympics, giving up competitive skiing in 1981 after breaking his neck, back and leg in a crash.”It was time to move on,” he said simply.He had a syndicated TV show, “Ski with Andy Mill,” after his racing career, and worked as a broadcaster for the 1992 and ’94 Olympics for CBS before burning out on skiing.Another television venture, “Sportsman’s Journal,” took Mill around the world to explore saltwater fishing opportunities for seven years. He also scored a string of tournament wins in fly-fishing competitively for tarpon.Now, he spends the Christmas holidays and spring break in Aspen, as well as summer and fall, staying long enough to hunt elk with a bow.”When it starts to snow, I get the hell out of there,” Mill said with a laugh.He still skis, though. Following a knee replacement last October, Mill hit the local slopes this spring with a vengeance. “I skied as hard as I’ve ever skied in my life,” he said.After a well-publicized divorce from tennis star Chris Evert, Mill met Florida native Debra Harvick in Aspen about four years ago. They are now engaged.Life with three sons, ages 13, 15 and 18, and Harvick – “my best friend” – is good, Mill said.”I’m so lucky. On a daily basis, we just do what we want to do.”firstname.lastname@example.org