A final toast to the Red O
March 26, 2007
The end of this week will mark the end of an era. When The Red Onion closes early Sunday morning, a piece of living Aspen history will be forever gone, courtesy of inflated market prices and a couple of lawyers.Aspen’s longest-operating business and oldest bar is scheduled to close March 31. What will come of it no one knows because the owners of the building, local attorneys Andy Hecht and Ron Garfield, have thus far refused to tell the community what their plans are for our beloved Scallion Rouge. The place means a lot to this town; it’s been in operation for 115 years, give or take a few when it changed hands and went under different ownership. But even when it shut down and went through renovation, it always came back smelling like an Onion.I’ve logged hundreds of hours at 420 Cooper Ave. over the years and understand, like many, the significance it has in this community. Beyond its historic merit that draws newcomers and tourists, there is a tight network of locals who have occupied that space for decades. I have dozens of friends who have worked at the Onion over the years and even more friends who choose it as their primary watering hole. It’s a good group of people, and I feel sad like they do that our Onion is being peeled away. Already the historic boxing photographs that for decades hung in the front have been stripped off the wall. What will become of the historic bar and other mementos remains to be seen, but I hope it stays with someone who values Aspen history.Luckily, the bench in front of the Onion dedicated to our friend Doug Belden will be moved to Bentley’s. Dougie worked at Bentley’s before his death in 2005 and spent his recreational time at the Onion. I’m glad he is making the move with us.Aspen has changed tremendously over the years, and it seems especially poignant this week with the Onion closing to deliver the answers to last week’s “Aspen Underground History 101” quiz. What I realized through this exercise is that people and places will always come and go – The Red Onion and its characters are no exception. Whether you think it’s good or bad, right or wrong, the closing of The Red Onion represents change, which as we all know, is inevitable. After 23 years, Red Onion owners David “Wabs” Walbert and his wife, Ellen, are ready for a change too. A tripling of their rent by Garfield and Hecht most likely had something to do with that.Going back to our history lesson, people asked where the love was for dozens of other establishments that found a home in Aspen over the years. But because of space and time, it is impossible to list all of the places located along Memory Lane. It has been fun reliving old-timers’ tales of an Aspen era. It’s been quite a geography lesson.Here are the answers to last week’s history quiz, based on countless conversations on street corners, e-mails and conversations with members behind the desk of the Aspen Athletic Club, which sponsored the contest. It turns out that AAC member Michael Campbell answered the most questions correctly and will receive a one-month membership for taking the time to answer what he could from the following questions:Q) Which bar/restaurant is the oldest that has remained in the same location and has always been a bar?A) The Red OnionQ) Where and what was “Al Phillips”?A) A dry cleaner that hailed from Vegas, located where Rustique now sits.Q) What was “Mom’s”?A) Mom was actually a person; she use to fluff and fold your laundry at Whale of A Wash, where Gusto is now.Q) What was Aspen’s first head shop called? Where was it located?A) Dr. Feelgoods. There is debate on where it was located, and it probably had several locations. One reader said it was in the Mill Street Station complex. But most everyone remembers its infamous owner, Keith Porter, who always donned a trench coat and was convicted of killing Michael Hernstead. Campbell remembers it being in the round building next to where RP’s Pizza used to be. Campbell recalls being at the party where Keith brought out his assault rifle. After leaving early that night, Campbell was walking past the place with his dog in the morning, and was about a block and a half away from the still ongoing party when he heard “pop, pop-pop, pop.” It didn’t register with him until he heard the stories flying around town later that day.Q) What did Stage 3 used to be called?A) The Playhouse Theater. Every Thursday was porn night, which was very popular among Aspenites.Q) Who used to own the Isis?A) Dominic and Kitty Linza. Dominic was notorious for giving commentary to his patrons on the film they were about to see, even if it sucked.Q) Where was Crossroads Market located? A) What is now Polo Ralph Lauren. Banana Republic was there before that. At the time of Crossroads, there was a tough bar underneath called Chisholms. And Al Stromberg had an excellent restaurant there at one time.Q) Where was the Steak Pit’s first location? What else was there?A) Underneath City Market. Does anyone remember Snoberry’s?Q) What is the name of the restaurant where the Roaring Fork and Spoon used to be?A) Elevation.Q) Where was Milan’s first location?A) Where Su Casa is now. It also was where Elevation is now. Su Casa at one time also housed the offices of the Daily News.Q) Where was Down Under located?A) Upstairs, across from Cooper Street Pier.Q) What is located where the Shaft used to be?A) Boogies. The Shaft was known for its barbecue ribs and country western dancing. Before that, the space was used as a bowling alley.Q) What used to be where the Caribou Club is now (specifically the room to the right of the bar)?A) The county morgue. The Aspen Hardware and Supply Co. also was housed there.Q) What is the name of the business where Vacation Resorts Hotel used to be?A) The Sky Hotel.Q) What was the name of the bar underneath the Hotel Jerome?A) The Rocking Horse.Q) Name both locations of Little Cliffs.A) Where Zélé and Main Street Bakery are now.Q) Where was Tom’s Market?A) Bottom floor of the Elks Building, where Amen Wardy is.Q) Who was the famous person who owned The Ski Lodge and what is it called now?A) Andy Williams; the Molly Gibson.Q) Where and what was the Parlor Car?A) A restaurant made out of historic train cars at the base of Shadow Mountain on the abandoned Midland railroad right of way. Due to zoning restrictions, the owner had to close down and move it. Later, it was bought by a Japanese concern and is currently on display somewhere in Japan.Q) Name the establishments that used be where Jimmy’s is now.A) The Ritz, Gordon and Grimsleys, Gordons, Chanins and Calypso.Extra credit:Q) Name businesses that have remained in the same location for more than two decades.A) The Aspen Athletic Club, The Aspen Times, Carl’s Pharmacy, City Market, Hotel Jerome, Sandy’s Office Supply, Little Annie’s, Mountain Chalet, Clark’s Market, Wheeler Opera House.Q) Name the businesses that were in the Brand Building before it was turned into upscale shops.A) Stan’s Auto Body Shop, Gaard Moses (sign painter/artist), Bleed Thompson (artist), Robin Mols (artist), Harry Winds (architect), Howard’s Ski Rentals, Mary Walker’s Art School, Holly’s leather shop, Harley Baldwin’s office (owner of the Brand Building), Poppycock’s (an eatery still in Aspen in the Aspen Square Building), Linda’s Tea and Spice Shop, Georgia Hanson’s kitchenware shop, Bill Cleary’s Jewelry Shop, The Bodega Lounge, Pat Straight’s clothing shop, Peaches en Regalia, Aspen Mountaineering Shop, David Swersky’s Jewelry shop (he’s now on Aspen dentist), Tim Cottrell’s Smuggler Land Office.Q) Name a business that has moved more than five times.A) Uriah Heeps.Q) List the businesses that have been in the basement level of 517 E. Hopkins (the Daily News building).A) Butch’s Lobster Bar, Giuseppi Wongs, Rusty’s Crab Shack, Gracy’s, Bleeker Street Gym.Sack thanks Iggy and Wabs for all of the great years at the Onion. She hopes everyone in town stops by, has a drink and gives a proper farewell. There will be an alumni employee party Wednesday, and the blowout farewell party is on Saturday. E-mail questions, concerns and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.