30 years later, Aspen’s Boot Man still taking heat and money
He’s done business with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Hunter S. Thompson and other celebrities. He’s been offered sex, drugs and even a botox treatment so his services would be waived. He’s heard more excuses than a probation officer has fielded. And some of his reluctant clients, although they might deem themselves victims, have threatened action against him with either their fists or court complaints.
Brit Queer, 54, is now soldiering on in his 30th year as Aspen’s private parking-lot enforcement officer — the guy who can make cars immobile by clamping boots on them. Queer now charges as much as $200 to have the boots removed. The fines used to be as low as $40 when Queer journeyed into his jaws-of-justice gig.
He’s better known as the Boot Man, whose business captured the scrutiny of Aspen City Council in the 1990s. Some disgruntled residents believed booting their vehicles was unconstitutional, but the council ended up backing Queer on the basis that the lots he monitored are private and can’t be patrolled by police. One time, the Aspen Daily News ran a story of Queer on its front page. The headline: “The most hated man in Aspen.”
But Queer takes the abuse, thanks to a sense of a humor and the resignation to the fact that this is his job. He’s retired a couple of times only to return to the occupation nobody else seems to want. He also does odd jobs such as caretaking, and once was a day trader.
“You’re not gonna rattle a guy with a name like Brit Queer,” said Jeff Watkins, property manager at the Clark’s building. “He’s got thick skin.”
Queer said he doesn’t feel as detested as he once was, and there used be times when he felt personally hurt by all of his critics.
“I’m sure there are a lot of people who have voodoo dolls that look like me,” he said. “And they beat on it daily.”
The vitriol isn’t at the levels they once were, Queer said, likely because his inventory is shrinking. Less turf means fewer booting opportunities, and some of Aspen’s private parking lots — such as the ones next to Little Annie’s, the former Wienerstube space and the former Gap building — have been developed.
“I feel like Aspen has passed me,” he said. “I’m a living dinosaur.”
But one that still needs to be fed. On Thursday, Queer was patrolling the parking lot behind the Miner’s Building and the one at Clark’s Market shopping center.
The Miner’s lot is for customers only. The Clark’s lot has a 90-minute limit for parked cars.
“It’s been slow lately,” he said while sauntering by foot down Monarch Street toward Clark’s with a 35-pound boot in his backpack. Queer said he has 12 boots and keeps them close by when it does get busy. In the winter, Queer patrols the lots in his bicycle. He uses his scooter in the summer.
And busy times can make for conflicts, as well. There was the time he booted a car driven by Thompson, the Gonzo journalist who lived in Woody Creek, that was parked behind Mezzaluna restaurant.
Thompson cleared the bar in his defense, with some 15 folks protesting Queer’s boot. Thompson defiantly “massaged my car with a No. 2 wood rubbing the hood of my car,” Queer recalled.
But the writer paid him, as he did the one or two other times when Queer booted him. Old Snowmass couple Hawn and Russell also have felt Queer’s wrath. They tried to schmooze him into waiving the fee. He didn’t budge.
Another celebrity, who Queer wouldn’t name, offered him free botox treatments in exchange for a free boot removal. Sex has been offered, as have drugs, Queer said.
Queer, however, accepts money only. And this summer, he also takes credit cards — a first for him — but not American Express.
His toughest customers? The Winter X Games crowd, the Boot Man said.
“I’ve been cussed out by them,” he said. “They’re usually drunk and hopped up on Red Bull.”
Queer said his best approach to business is to keep it respectful.
“I try to treat everybody like I would want to be treated,” he said.
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Warm and dry conditions to start the winter have kept all but the higher elevation slopes free of snow. That is expected to change by the end of the week and the avalanche hazard could start to climb, according to Colorado Avalanche Information Center.