Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore
December 22, 2012
Each and every time I walk through her lobby, the hair on the back of my neck stands up a bit, and a crooked smile comes over me, so deep is the history. It’s not about ghosts and all that other stuff that keeps imaginations fueled but about reality and how this staid and lasting testament to Aspen’s amazing past has played such a large part in my life.
As a preschooler in the 1940s, I was occasionally taken there by my grandmother Nellie Sloss and her sister, Julia Stapleton, for ice cream and milkshakes in a back room. For the adults, it was more of a news-gathering mission, and I was happy to be the excuse. I met my first Native American Indian chief there, a dark-skinned man dressed in a light deerskin suit, his head adorned with a full, flowing war bonnet. He was headed to a movie shoot up Maroon Creek.
Through grade school and junior high, we not only drove the management of the Hotel Jerome crazy with our pranks and commandeering of the elevator, but we also made a weekly pilgrimage to the second-floor room at the top right of the first flight of stairs, above the front desk. “Parlour A,” as it was sometimes known, was the “prime” location in those days. We managed to get the autographs of every movie star and celebrity who occupied the room – a different one each week – and even managed some autographs we couldn’t connect with anyone we knew.
In high school, every Sunday after church, my girlfriend and I had lunch with our parents and Dr. Oden at the Hotel Jerome. During ski season, orthopedic surgeon Doc Oden always shook my hand with the same admonishment – “I don’t want to see you until next Sunday.”
As ski patrolmen and ski bums in the ’70s, we spent an inordinate amount of time at the Jerome, warming up at the bar before watching an almost endless plethora of ski and surf movies in another back room, courtesy of Pernod, the famous French licorice liqueur. It’s entirely possible, and in keeping with the times, that some of us might have spent a last-minute night or two in upstairs rooms with women we barely knew, but through the fog, we survived.
The ’80s and ’90s started with the “big cleanup” and an addition out back, which contains the Grand Ballroom. Celebrity ski races became the focus of pre-race parties and Calcutta auctions at the Jerome, which sometimes brought a considerable amount of money to our team. We never managed to keep it as we always donated it back to various beneficiaries. Since the turn of the 21st century, I’ve been entertained, have performed live and have been honored, all in the Grand Ballroom.
Saturday night, the Hotel Jerome and the Aspen Historical Society had a grand fete for the Society’s Silver Circle members. As part of that get-together, the hotel gave all of the guests a tour of the newly renovated Jerome. In a word, it is magnificent, and in the interest of authenticity, one can only say that the Jerome is different and livelier, but it’s still the Jerome. Precisely speaking, it is more authentic than it was six months ago. All those involved did an excellent job.
As president of the Aspen Historical Society board, it is with great pride that I acknowledge our association with the ownership and management of the Hotel Jerome. They have recognized and kept alive not only the vigorous history of the establishment, but with this recent renovation, they have committed themselves to the history of the future of the Hotel Jerome. Go take a peek. You’ll like it.
As I’ve explained earlier, the Hotel Jerome has been an integral part of my ride through town. I’ll never make another 60-odd years of rattling through her halls, but the future looks bright.