The Belmont Method
Aspen Times Staff Writer
The Belmont brothers inherited quite a bit from their father – a successful business venture, a soft spot for lowbrow comedy and appalling romantic track records, among other things.
Aside from their admitted bad luck with women, the Belmonts – Basalt residents Joel, 25, and James, 22 – appreciate what the family patriarch, Charles, passed down to them. After all, the Belmont “birthright” has helped the brothers make a name for themselves in the Roaring Fork Valley.
A few locals might associate the family name with the popular carpet- and upholstery-cleaning system, The Belmont Method, which is already a chain on the West Coast. Joel and James have used this steam-cleaning alternative to spruce up valley homes and businesses for nearly seven years.
The brothers might also be recognized by GrassRoots Television viewers. The offbeat “James and Joel Show” proves the brothers will do just about anything for a laugh – and even habitual channel-changers have to pause on Channel 12 when they spot the loincloth-clad Belmonts dancing across the TV screen.
The Belmonts seem to have won over a few fans of their work – but the brothers aren’t exactly sure if the groupies prefer them as cleaners or comedians.
All in the family
The Belmonts love to toss around ideas for future business endeavors – bottling Aspen toilet water for tourists and other status seekers, for instance.
But for now, they’ll stick with the field that’s made “Belmont” a household – or, more accurately, a housekeeping – name.
In the early ’60s, Charles Belmont went to work for a carpet- and upholstery-cleaning company. The company didn’t exactly impress Charles with its service record, Joel said.
“Back in the day, my dad started out working for a steam-cleaning company – which is kind of the industry standard – and he just didn’t like the results he was getting,” Joel said. “After they were done cleaning, he would take a towel and go over the carpet and still come up with soapy, funky stuff.”
These lackluster results led the elder Belmont to develop a cleaning process of his own, Joel said. He enlisted the help of a chemist friend, and the pair spent years developing what would eventually become known as The Belmont Method.
The five-step system eschews the basics of most commercial cleaning processes – no foams, soaps, steam or powders allowed. Less additives mean less residue to attract dirt and grime, Joel said, allowing carpets to stay clean four to five times longer than they would after a steam-cleaning.
A Belmont Method cleaning begins with a thorough vacuuming with a three-horsepower commercial extractor – a step steam-cleaners often forget, Joel said. Next, Charles Belmont’s patented cleaning solution, Unisolv, is sprayed to free the carpet and upholstery fibers of dirt and dust. The carpet is then agitated with a rotary brush – a soft and flexible brush is used for fragile wool carpeting – to clear the fibers of foreign objects.
The process concludes with the absorption of the soil liquefied by the Unisolv, as well as a carpet “grooming.” These last two steps dry the carpet quicker than a steam- cleaner can, the brothers say.
The Belmont Method beats commercial steam-cleaners hands down, the brothers attest. Steam-cleaning tends to shrink or stretch carpet fibers, they say – and, as carpet is the most expensive replaceable item in a home, homeowners would prefer to take good care of it.
“[Ours] is a great system. I haven’t found anything that competes with it yet,” Joel said.
Their customers apparently agree. Upscale hotels like the Lodge at Pebble Beach in Monterey, Calif., have purchased the system for their housekeeping staff. The system has also been picked up by local businesses who purchase Belmont equipment for an “in-house” system.
“We’ve been using it about three years now, and we really like it,” said Stan Hajenga, general manager for the Mountain Chalet. “It’s fast. It’s better than any other methods we’ve used as far as getting the carpets cleaned, and doesn’t use a lot of water so the carpet doesn’t have to dry for a long time.”
James runs these “in-house” service sales – selling the system to local hotels and lodges, then training them in the method. Joel serves as the owner/manager of the Roaring Fork branch of the business, running operations for all commercial carpet and upholstery cleanings.
“It’s always been a good business. It allowed me to put myself through college,” Joel said. “And the nice thing about it is, when you’re in an industry and you have no competition with the type of service you offer, you can do a lot on the side.”
And James and Joel have a lot going for them “on the side.”
Music, merriment and more
“Random and irreverent,” “unexpected and silly” – Joel and James like to throw these phrases around in an attempt to sum up their GrassRoots show.
But these slogans can easily be used to describe the Belmonts themselves. Put the brothers in the spotlight and prepare to be entertained – when they’re not spouting jokes of their own, they’ll launch into monologues they’ve gleaned from a lifetime of television and movies.
Maybe that’s how the Belmonts dreamed up a name for their show – “Television for people with nothing better to do.”
The Belmonts’ absurd humor takes center stage on “The James and Joel Show,” which airs at 9:30 p.m. each Wednesday and 1 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. each Saturday. The brothers have skewered reality television, dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus and developed their own version of “The Crocodile Hunter” for the program. And let’s not forget the time they danced in loincloths to “interpret” a story being read by a Spanish-speaking friend.
“We’ve always been kind of wacky and off our rockers, which most people who have seen the show tend to agree with,” Joel said.
“We get it from our dad,” James added.
“Yeah, our dad was off his rocker, so we kind of get it from him,” Joel said.
Charles Belmont acted on Broadway for nearly 20 years, James said, working with the likes of Lloyd Bridges and Vincent Price. When Bridges and Price made the jump to the big screen, Belmont stuck to the stage.
“They got the call to go out to Hollywood and do the movies, and he kind of ignored that – he said, `No, I’m going to stay true to the art,’ which I really admire him for,” James said.
Charles’ love of the spotlight was apparently passed to Joel and James, two of seven children. On a recent trip home to California, the brothers began filming their antics for a possible television show – or, at the very least, for Joel to enjoy watching at home.
“He finds me ultimately funny, no matter what I do,” James says of his brother. “He’s my biggest fan.”
Joel, the producer, and James, the self-styled “creative mastermind,” developed a four-episode pilot that GrassRoots agreed to rotate on a weekly basis.
“Their philosophy is, they’ll allow anything on once,” James said.
The duo is pretty happy with the results. But, every once in a while, they’ll find themselves explaining their, well, “unique” brand of humor to a viewer.
“They turn on the TV, and there’s two guys who are dancing around in loincloths together, and maybe people don’t know we’re brothers,” Joel said.
“We’re pretty loopy at times,” added James.
“This is Aspen, you know – we have to clarify,” Joel interrupted.
“We like women,” James concluded.
“The James and Joel Show” will continue its four-episode loop as the pair searches for sponsors – or until that million-dollar endorsement deal rolls in.
“And that’s the one that’ll get us off the air,” James said.
If they ditch the business or get kicked off GrassRoots, the pair can always fall back on one of their other many hobbies.
Both brothers are musicians in slightly different genres. Joel sticks with straight rock, playing guitar and mandolin for the band he formed in college, Third Endeavor. The band recently recorded an album and toured the country, even though the band’s three members live in different states.
James, on the other hand, “does more of the Christian music scene,” Joel said. James plays with four different bands: a worship team at the First Baptist Church in Aspen, a high school ministry, the East Hopkins Band and a group he’s forming to record an album of original Christian music. He switches between guitar, mandolin, keyboard and piano.
The brothers are thinking of playing together this summer on another tour of the country, but only if Joel “gets off his butt to play with his brother James,” noted James.
They do enjoy separate interests, however. At the moment, James is studying architecture at CMC, while Joel pursues photography – his photos will be included at an exhibit at the Woody Creek Gallery next week.
The Belmonts have a lot on their plates at the moment, but they’re not ready to give anything up.
“My general philosophy is that we’re all capable of more than what we do,” said Joel, paraphrasing his favorite quotation.
Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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