Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
If you have a lot of time to kill, you’ve no doubt been exercising your Facebook account, and if you’ve gone that far, you’ve certainly come across the site, “Friends of Aspen from the 1960s-70s.” It’s a loosely held-together group of baby-boomers who lived here in the described time period and who now readily admit, in the words of many of them, that “I can’t remember 90 percent of the people on this site, but I know what they’re talking about.”
By my count, and that counts for very little, it appears that the subject garnering the most comments to date has been the one about “celebrities.” Most of the posts detail certain Aspen encounters with well-known people, the general take being that “celebrities” back then were a bit different than many of the publicity-seeking prunes that clog our sidewalks today, say at Christmas, etc.
Many of us seem to have a certain fascination with “celebrity,” although I have to say that even a good “paparazzo” trying to sell photos around here before 1990 would have starved to death rather quickly. We didn’t seek celebrities out, but seemed to stumble over them with regularity.
Jeanne Lauck, long deceased but a great friend in the ’70s, had put the word out to her closest friends that she was throwing a party. “Come by after the bars close,” she’d said, and we huddled in a Red Onion booth, sipping and planning when some gal strolled up and wanted to know if she could bring Clint Eastwood along. “Who the f*#@ is Clint Eastwood?” replied Jeanne in her famously loud voice, and I looked up in time to see Clint, standing at the bar in the haze of the smoke and the buzz, trying to look nonchalant. Jeanne put him on the list.
The Red Butte neighborhood, a quiet enclave of family-style Aspenites, took on the glow of the big-time for a while, strange as that may seem today. Buddy Hackett had a house across from my uncle Victor and was known to drop in unannounced, feeling no pain, with his latest joke of the day.
Approaching that same uncle’s house one snowy, winter evening, I came upon a car stuck in the ditch and stopped to help the lady get back on the road. A tall girl with dark hair giggled, cussed and invited me by later for Christmas cheer. None other than Cher, it turned out, who had bought the log house next door. The possibilities were there, I always imagined.
Not everyone gets the respect he or she might desire, and this was apparent at Jimmy Buffet’s wedding at the Redstone Castle back in the ’70s sometime. There was, of course, security and a gate you needed to be checked through to gain admission. Apparently, one of the guards inquired of his partner as to who had just wandered through and the reply, obviously extra-loud and well-elucidated for those of us within earshot, was, “That was Hunter “A*#@hole” Thompson.” Ouch.
With adulation comes derision, even in good ol’ Aspen town, no matter how smart, cool or famous you might happen to be. Some ’70s wise-guy, married to a woman of physical fame, once bragged to a friend and me that he was worth $20 million dollars. My buddy, gentleman that he is, replied that such a sum wouldn’t get you much more than a cup of coffee in this town.
If you look into it, one theory is that we admire celebrities because they live decadent lives filled with spontaneity, lives which make our own look rather drab and uninteresting.
Whoever thought that up seems to have it backward, if you ask me. That’s why the celebs come to Aspen – to prop up their own lives, dull by comparison to the local shuffle.
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