Mountain Character: The passion of Chuck Fillion
For Chuck Fillion, the date Aug. 16, 1977 holds more meaning than just the death of the King of Rock and Roll.
“That was my first day in Aspen,” he recalled. “And the only reason I know that is because that’s the day Elvis died.”
Fillion, who turned 64 earlier this month, is immensely passionate about music and Aspen, so it’s fitting that both worlds would meet, so to speak, on that summer day nearly four decades ago.
His music collection spans more than than 6,000 vinyl records and 4,000 CDs that line the walls of his Aspen home. He keeps the political posters of the late Tom Benton. And Marvin Gaye’s social and political album “What’s Going On” is one of his favorites.
“He released that in the early 1970s and he’s singing about things that are happening today,” Fillion said.
With his obvious Boston accent, the fiery Fillion will gladly and entertainingly fill your ear with his take on local, national and global events. He said his greatest political influence is Tip O’Neill, the Democrat who was speaker of the House under the Carter and Regan administrations. O’Neill is believed to have coined the phrase, “All politics is local.”
“Politics aren’t about what decisions are made in Washington, it’s the decisions that are made locally,” Fillion said.
And nothing seems to rile up Fillion more than newcomers to Aspen who seem to have all of the solutions to its woes.
“There are those people who come to town, they show up with all the answers to questions we’ve been arguing over for 30 years,” he said, his facing turning red. Then offered a satisfying smile. “Next thing you know, I’m standing on the corner waving them out of town.”
One of those, gadfly Andrew Kole, moved to Aspen in the late 1990s, had his own television and radio shows and took aim at the city-owned housing unit Fillion lived at near the Aspen post office. Kole denounced Fillion’s residence as a “crack house,” based on its appearance. By Fillion’s accounts, Kole even peered into his home and spotted what he thought were pot plants and reported it to the city, where Kole has worked at a meter inspector for 21 years.
“He went to City Hall and told everyone that I was growing marijuana in the house,” Fillion said. “They were Easter lilies!”
Kole has since moved away from Aspen, while Fillion marches on. Before Fillion arrived in Aspen, he worked for a record distributor in Massachusetts. Some friends needed his help on a job they were doing on the Aspen home of Maggie DeWolf and her late husband, Nick, a pioneer in the semiconductor business and the creator of the “Dancing Fountain” on Mill Street. So Fillion came along and made Aspen his home.
He didn’t ski at the time but had played hockey. But he quickly caught on to Aspen’s winter sport.
“I knew all about edging, so I mentally understood what I needed to do,” he said. After a couple of years, he was adept enough on the hill enough to call himself a local.
“In those days, we skied 125 days a year,” he recalled.
A sports fan and athlete himself — Fillion is an avid golfer, played rugby for the Gentlemen of Aspen and also was their scorekeeper — he also coached youth baseball in the 1980s for a city-run program. Fillion, who was raised by his grandmother, said his specialty was coaching kids who looked like they might be getting off track.
“I loved coaching these kids,” he said. “I wasn’t stricter like the old coaches.”
He also partook in the town’s well-documented party scene in the 1970s and ‘80s.
“I had a hard time saying ‘no,’” he said. “And there were no rules, no rules whatsoever.”
But one day in 1983, Fillion said he had an epiphany of sorts. “I woke up on the fifth of July in 1983, and that’s when I said, ‘All right, now I’m going to start to enjoy this town for all that it has. You can party anywhere in the country.”
Fillion has since reeled in his partying significantly. In two years he’ll be eligible for retirement from the city, one of his many jobs in Aspen. Fillion has cooked at restaurants and been a server as well. He also drove public buses for the city of Aspen before the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority was formed.
He’s single and has no children, but he has plenty of opinions. Aspen needs more lodge rooms, he says, but City Council needs to do a better job of standing up to developers, he said. “I’ve never seen our government more concerned about the private sector making money,” he said. “We used to have a council that could balance everything. (Former mayor and deceased) Helen Klanderud was an unbelievable balancer.”
If and when he does retire, Fillion said he plans to travel but not move away. “I’ll always have a post office box in Aspen,” he said.
The reason why?
“Our lives are very easy here,” he said. “I’ve been here 40 years and I’ve never locked my door. When I go back home, everybody worries about keeping their doors locked. I’m not constantly worrying about how I live here.”
Tracing the source waters of Glenwood Canyon’s iconic Hanging Lake is a little like a game of whack-a-mole.
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