The Good, the Old, and the Funky
February 10, 2004
Curious George is George Lapin, a gentleman of prodigious curiosity indeed judging from his very intriguing store on the Aspen promenade. Your first clue that his heart belongs to the old west is his slick handlebar mustache, ala Wyatt Earp. Originally from New York City, Lapin ventured to Aspen about 25 years ago to see a friend and promptly fell in love with the place and all things western. The results of his passion are displayed in this huge and amazing store-museum. The place bulges with fascinating memorabilia like antique rifles and pistols, swords, sheriff’s badges, a Cisco Kid poster, silver cigarette boxes, vintage decks of cards and poker chip caddies. There’s a sumptuous circa 1929 black tooled-leather saddle dripping with ornate silver inlay and conchas for just $32,500.
Everything has a story. Hanging on the wall is a rifle belonging to Chief Ouray, presented to him in 1880 by Otto Mears, the great railroad builder of Colorado. The rifle was something of a thank-you gift to the chief for helping to staunch the Meeker Massacre some years before. Indian agent Meeker, in a rush of enthusiasm for turning the natives into farmers, had plowed under the horse-racing track which they dearly loved. Miffed, they slaughtered the man and his family. Still, it could have been much worse had not Chief Ouray alerted the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers who rode to the rescue, a bit late for the Meekers.
Another page of history for sale is the rough leather “possibles bag” of Sioux Chief Red Rainbow, a survivor of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The bag contains his colt .44 revolver which may have been raised against the ill-fated Custer in the famous 1876 fight, as well as the chief’s deck of cards which inexplicably have no spots
Curious George also carries tiny antique guns which shoot real bullets, splendid old Indian pawn jewelry, new and used cowboy boots, leather vests and jackets, and an entire wall of belts and cases of silver belt buckles – choose a snarling bear, a shrieking eagle, a lizard or turtle – in designs plain or fancy. Bill Clinton, yes, in the flesh, dropped in and scooped up a whole passel of the shop’s stunning contemporary turquoise and silver jewelry last summer. Nobody had the nerve to ask him who would be the lucky giftee, reports George, not quite curious enough this time.
George’s place has just about anything that could strike your fancy, except maybe a vintage double gun holster, leather masterfully carved in extravagant florals, with the big initials HRH on the back. Not long ago, Prince Andrew, of the British Royals, stopped by and eyed the piece. When he asked the price, George explained that he was waiting for some high roller to come by with those initials, so he could really stick it to him. Prince Andrew, who happens to have a brother who may well see those letters in front of his name in the future, snickered and doled out the requisite cash. Don’t ask.