Aspen and the invasion of the Nightmare Clown |

Aspen and the invasion of the Nightmare Clown

Dear readers: Big chunks of this column originally ran back in January, when the world we face today was unimaginable. Back then, Donald J. Trump was just a clown, an ordinary, run-of-the-mill, billionaire bully clown. We all know the type.

But now he’s become the Nightmare Clown, the terrifying creature that haunts children’s dreams and sends them screaming in terror when the circus comes to town.

So we need to face our fears and inoculate ourselves against this plague by taking another long look at the nightmare that walks among us. And that’s the point of this week’s column: That Nightmare Clown is coming to town — bright-red nose, huge horrifying mouth, impossible clown hair and all.

He has, of course, come looking for money. This is Trump we’re talking about. He’s always looking for money. And this week he’s here to shake down local Republicans for some of that juicy Aspen cash that lured Madam Secretary Clinton here just a few weeks ago.

So come on, kids! Take a deep breath and try to remember a more innocent age when the circus was innocence, cotton candy and laughter — and Trump was just a harmless buffoon.

And now we rejoin our column, already in progress (with selected juicy updates to keep you interested):

Just like Godzilla returning time and again to trample on Tokyo, so Trump has had a number of Aspen adventures.

Perhaps the most famous was back at the end of 1989 when the grand wizard of the deal — a man who is now lecturing Hillary Clinton on the morals of her husband, what’s his name — brazenly hauled both his wife, Ivana, and his mistress, Marla Maples, to Aspen for Christmas. Marla knew Ivana was here. Ivana was supposed to be in the dark. (How did that work out for ya, Donnie?)

That Trumpian grand adventure hit its high point when the two women — in their first face-to-face meeting — had a spat at Bonnie’s restaurant, followed by The Donald and The Ivana having a fight on the slopes outside, to the vast delight of everyone watching from Bonnie’s deck.

What were the gleesome threesome fighting over? Maybe bragging rights over who had the biggest blond hairdo. Who can comprehend the concerns of the super-rich and their — um, shall we say, paramours?

(Interesting tidbit: Ivana thought Marla’s name was Moola. But, as you will see, she quickly came up with another pet name for her husband’s girlfriend. Can you guess what it was?)

Here’s what People magazine reported (am I really citing People magazine as a source? Of course I am. I’m reporting on a reality-TV celebrity):

“According to one witness, when Maples, 26, walked out of Bonnie’s, Ivana confronted her, demanding, ‘You bitch, leave my husband alone.’ Trump, who was sitting within earshot putting on his skis, took off down the mountain. Wrong move: Ivana is an excellent skier; Donald is not. When the formidable Czech pushed off in hot pursuit, fascinated observers swear they saw her whip in front of Donald and then ski backwards down the slopes, wagging her finger in his face.”

Great image, isn’t it? Although I shouldn’t be too gleeful about it. After all, who hasn’t been humiliated on the slopes at least once by a hot blond ex-racer?

But titillating though all this may be, it’s just amusing gossip. After all, we’ve already had a philanderer in chief, so if Mr. T. were to get elected, that kind of scandal would be nothing new. (And the least of our problems.)

So we’ll get serious now and look at a non-marital Trumped-in-Aspen adventure: a real estate failure (of which he has had more than a few — more even than divorces).

Let’s step back and get a running start: Once upon a time, there was a man by the name of Hans Cantrup, who settled in Aspen in the 1950s.

Cantrup started out waiting tables and parlayed his ambition and entrepreneurial spirit into a ski lodge and, eventually, a citywide real estate empire. By the early 1980s, he was the biggest landowner in Aspen.

His dream was to build a huge hotel at the base of Aspen Mountain, but as often happens to little guys shooting for the big time, his dreams outran his bankroll, and in 1983 he went bust to the tune of about $40 million.

And so, like a Nightmare Clown heeding the call of a steam calliope, Donald J. strutted into town, planning to snatch up Cantrup’s property.

Trump — who had not yet shown any political ambitions or bragged on national television about the size of his hands (or any other body parts) — undoubtedly imagined his name in big, shiny letters emblazoned across the hotel at the bottom of the mountain.

But the man who would be king (but will settle for president) managed to mismanage the art of this particular deal.

Just as Donnie was too slow on the slopes to keep up with Ivana, so he was too slow to come up with the cash to buy out Cantrup.

Instead, a man named Mohamed Hadid jumped in line a New York minute ahead of the New York billionaire, marching up the courthouse steps to hand the county treasurer a check for just about $43 million.

That was the deal that saved Aspen from becoming a Trump big-money investment — and left us instead as merely a Trump bad-marriage embarrassment.

(Historical notes: Cantrup ended his days managing a small apartment building in Glenwood Springs. Hadid has moved on to become a widely reviled real estate developer in Beverly Hills. Trump wound up with his own reality-TV show.)

So, Aspen dodged a bullet back in 1989 (a bullet with a comb-over).

And now we can only hope that the United States of America will dodge that same bullet.

Over the years, we have survived the previously mentioned philanderer in chief and any number of fools in chief.

We desperately do not need a Nightmare Clown in chief.

Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His email address is

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