Alison Berkley: The Princess’ Palate |

Alison Berkley: The Princess’ Palate

Alison BerkleyThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

The other night I called Jack Johnson to see if he wanted to go to dinner because I was just dying to talk to him about all this crazy campaign drama.Hello, I’ve been in the public eye and know what it’s like to have people criticize you. I’ve had mean letters written about me. I’ve had newspaper articles with my photo and embarrassing headlines. I’ve been the subject of an opinion poll that resulted in six pages of not-nice commentary. I even made The Associated Press news wire (once). I always say if someone not only takes the time to read my column but to sit down and write a mean letter to the editor about it, then I’ve done my job. But an entire website? Now that’s impressive.So Jack calls me back and goes, “Do you want to go to Cooper Street?”I roll my eyes. “It’s not Cooper Street anymore, hello. It’s been Bad Billy’s for like three years.””I’m gonna call it Cooper Street, and I’m gonna keep calling it Cooper Street,” Jack says with his signature Kentucky drawl that does have a way of making him sound a little bratty sometimes. I’m thinking if Jack’s phone is tapped, this is definitely going to end up on with a headline that reads, “NO RESPECT FOR BUSINESS NAMES” or something asinine like that.I know I’ve only lived here for eight years, but I’ve never seen anything as nasty as this county commissioner race. I always had pride in our lineup of local politicians, a cast of characters that, in my mind, made up the fabric of this ultra cool, liberal and eccentric community. I’d brag about Mayor Helen and her signature black tracksuits and how Sheriff Bob was best friends with Hunter S. Thompson and how we have this tennis pro from the club named Torre on City Council with no last name, like Madonna or Cher. And I’d talk about Jack Johnson. “No not the singer,” I always have to say. “My friend, the gay former city councilman who hand knits custom sweaters.” I know it’s probably bad to describe him as gay since I don’t say, “Mick the heterosexual mayor-cyclist,” but the fact of the matter is Jack’s gayness is a big part of who Jack is.One of the first questions I ask him at dinner is, “How does it make you feel when you watch those videos of yourself?”We talk about having thick skin if you’re going to run for public office and how these video clips were edited down to seconds from hours and hours of videotaped hearings and what it feels like to have your words taken out of context like that.Then he says, “I think it’s a result of being in the closet for so long. I spent my whole life hiding my true identity, censoring myself, always being careful of what I would say and how I would say it. But when I came out, I discovered how liberating it is to be myself and to tell the truth. The freedom I felt was so empowering. I do second-guess myself sometimes. I have flaws and I know that.”Then I ask him, “Who are these women?” I’m referring, of course, to the now infamous M&M, the duo Marilyn Marks and Elizabeth Milias.From what I understand, they are both very educated, powerful women who had big careers running trucking companies and being lawyers and doing PR for Bush or whatever. It’s fine if you’re a Republican. It’s fine if you’re pro development even though you can hear crickets as you walk by all the vacant spaces and abandoned construction sites around town. It’s fine if your money is more important to you than social and environmental consciousness.But I don’t get it. Can you imagine? Telling your friends back home, “I used to work for the Pentagon, but now I write the Red Ant blog in Aspen because I hate Jack Johnson.”Her friends probably go, “Jack Johnson, the singer?”It’s not the opposition I have a problem with. It’s the nastiness.It’s true Jack’s no Boy Scout, but what you see is what you get. At least he’s not sitting in some room, alone, late at night, uploading video clips of Rob Ittner chopping up goose livers and frog’s legs (“FOUL PLAY” would be a good headline for that one). He’s passionate and dedicated and lets you know where he stands on the issues. He’s willing to stand up for what he believes in even if it’s at the risk of coming off as less than appealing to anyone who bothers to watch those City Council meetings on GrassRoots TV. What I’m not comfortable with are women who seem to be more invested in getting behind things they don’t like instead of putting their time and energy into something they do.”Why do you do it?” I asked Jack as he made his way through an enormous bowl of beef stew at Little Annie’s. We’d ended up in a cozy booth there after my protest against the important issues, like how I feel about fried pickles. “I mean, aside from the obvious, doesn’t it ever get boring? All those long meetings and stuff?””I do it because I love it,” he said, his eyes big and round in a way that revealed what he might have looked like as a child. “I’m a policy geek but it’s more than that. I believe in government, in working together to create change for the greater good.”I wanted to grab Jack’s hand and squeeze it and tell him what a good boy he is. I’m thinking all this mud-slinging and dirty politicking is going to work in his favor.I think it’s pretty obvious to me and everyone else in this town: These women don’t know Jack.

The Princess says don’t forget to vote. E-mail your love to

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