Les Dames d’Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Les Dames d’Aspen

Mary Eshbaugh Hayes
Aspen Times Weekly
Janet Guthrie was truly surprised when Les Dames d'Aspen gave a surprise birthday party for her at Christine Aubale Gerschel's home.

Les Dames d’Aspen have such a good time at all their functions; they have two formal get-togethers a year and every week they are gathering for a picnic, a wine-tasting, a ski day or a summer hike. The two big gatherings are a formal dinner dance in August and then a luncheon for all members in early January.

The organization was founded many years ago by Christine Aubale Gerschel as a fund-raising arm for DanceAspen and over the years it has morphed into a main fund-raiser for Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. The group gives $100,000 a year to the ballet and then other funds to the Aspen Writers’ Foundation, the Aspen Art Museum, and scholarships to Roaring Fork Valley school students who study the arts in college.

In early March, Les Dames gave a surprise birthday party for fellow dame Janet Guthrie at the home of Christine Gerschel and Peter Dahl. All the party-goers hid in the kitchen and when Jan Fox brought Janet in, everyone popped up and shouted happy birthday.

That same month, the staff at Aspen Santa Fe Ballet gave a cocktail reception to thank Les Dames for their support.

Les Dames has become a large group with more than 100 members and it is the perfect place for Aspen newcomers to meet other newcomers or long-time Les Dames members. All in the group have become great friends.

Membership in Les Dames costs $1,200 a year. Anyone interested in joining should call Gerschel at 970-925-9028.

A new book about Aspen is “Dizzying Heights,” by Denver author Bruce Ducker.

According to an article in The Denver Post, the book really roasts Aspen, which is described as that magical, mountainous playground of the rich and famous. The story is populated with millionaires, billionaires, corporate titans and the people who serve them. Much of the action takes place in a local restaurant named Pantagruel, run by Franki Rusticana; it is rumored to be the most expensive eatery between New York and California. Multimillion-dollar deals are lubricated by good wine, excellent greens and modest entrees. The characters in the book are par for the course and have outlandish names. It sounds all too familiar, but the Post says it is fun to read.

Coming up next this summer is the Aspen Summer Words Literary Festival put on by the Aspen Writers’ Foundation. Festival events will be held at Belly Up and this year features the stories and storytellers of India. Headliner is Salman Rushdie, Booker Prize-winning author of “The Satanic Verses” and “The Enchantress of Florence.” He will be joined by several other best-selling writers from or with ties to India.

Summer Words also features a concurrent writing retreat with aspiring writers meeting in five days of workshops at The Gant. There is even a literature appreciation course. Anyone wishing to sign up for Festival programs should call The Writers’ Foundation at 970-925-3122.

A new exhibit at The Aspen Chapel Gallery is titled “Fresh Perspectives” and features the work of Bill Gruenberg, Kathy Honea, Alicia Matesanz de las Heras, Brad Reed Nelson, Susan Olsen, Marina Romanov, Melanie Roschko, Jessica Salet, Lloyd Schermer and Marty Schlein. The exhibit is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and runs through July 20.

Camilla Sparlin held a Sunday bash at her home on the Roaring Fork River that benefited a shelter for abused animals (particularly dogs) in Puerto Rico.

Brandon Richardson of Missouri Heights graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., in May with a bachelor of science in applied engineering physics. He is a graduate of Aspen High School. He was invited to play on the Cornell Polo Team, which is ranked No. 1 in the Northeast, but had to decline because of a rigorous academic schedule. He was on the Cornell Operations Team that designed the first student-built satellite that will be launched on a Delta Rocket from Cape Canaveral this year. Cornell is spending $10 million on this project; for more information look at cusat.cornell.edu.

In class, Brandon produced two short Film 3D computer animations and has been offered an assistant teaching position in computer animation. He will pursue a masters degree in electrical engineering at Cornell. His parents are Hi and Ann Richardson of Missouri Heights.

Grace Kennedy, a National Technical Institute for the Deaf student at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y., presented her undergraduate research project on intermolecular energy transfer at a recent creativity festival at RIT. She is the daughter of Pam Davis and Mike Kennedy.

Leading several National Trust tours in 2009 will be Grace Gary, who was the director of Heritage Aspen (the Aspen Historical Society) in the early years of 2000. Grace is now the director of Nemours Mansion and Gardens in Wilmington, Del., where she recently oversaw a $40 million restoration of the mansion and the principal gardens. In 2009 Grace will be leading tours of Celtic lands aboard Le Diamant, the Baltic’s Amber Coast: St. Petersburg to Copenhagen aboard Sea Cloud II, and Village Life in England’s Cotswolds. Anyone interested can go to http://www.PreservationNation.org/tours.

The July issue of Architectural Digest has several Aspen-related topics. A featured estate is the home near Highlands of Steve and Nancy Crown and their five children. Architect for the house was Eric J. Smith and the article was photographed by Aspenite David O. Marlow. Another article is about Nicola Bulgari and his collection of all-American antique automobiles. Nicola is vice-chairman of his namesake jewelry and luxury goods companies. Several years ago he gave a party at Little Nell to introduce his Aspen boutique. He has 50-plus vehicles in a Pennsylvania storage facility and another 80 vehicles in a showroom in Rome.

Undercurrent … I see it all over town: blue spruce trees planted close to new condos and houses. Don’t the contractors remember that these trees grow into giants and will either push the house over or have to be cut down?