Meredith Carroll: The real celebrities of Aspen |

Meredith Carroll: The real celebrities of Aspen

Meredith C. Carroll
Muck Off

While eating lunch at the Sundeck over Labor Day weekend, I nudged my 7-year-old daughter, Petunia.

“See that woman with the blond hair and bright-red lipstick sitting over there with the three little boys?” I whispered. “That’s Gwen Stefani; her band played in Snowmass last night. She’s a real rock star.”

“Oh,” Petunia said, her eyes remaining glued to the bag of M&M’s in her hand. “Cool.”

It’s not that she’s unimpressed with famous people; it’s just Petunia’s formula for ranking celebrities is different from Us Weekly’s, although to be fair, so is mine (on a scale of pretending not to notice Bethenny Frankel getting seated at Cache Cache to spying Kevin Costner inspecting meat at City Market, I align most closely to texting my husband excitedly after seeing Thomas Friedman enter Carl’s).

Sure, Petunia would enjoy meeting Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Disney Channel star Dove Cameron or Ramona Quimby (never mind that the latter is a fictional literary character from the 1950s). However, unless they offered to take her to pierce her ears or, better yet, cede their microphone to her mid-concert, only then would they come close to those on her list of most impressive.

The resort of Aspen is mainly (in)famous for two categories of people: the glitterati and those with glittery aspirations. That doesn’t mean they’re the only two types here, though. Spend time in Fat City beyond the Christmas and Fourth of July holidays, and you’ll learn pretty quickly that authentic Aspen swells up like the belly of a 9-month-pregnant woman in August in New Orleans, which is to say: with a heart and soul infinitely larger than the combined real estate holdings of those second-, third- and fourth-home owners on Red Mountain and in the West End.

After Petunia’s second day of a hiking camp at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies this summer, I asked how she enjoyed the Hunter Creek Trail.

“It was OK,” she said.

“Just OK?” I asked.

She thought for a moment.

“Well,” she said, her eyes lighting up, “we saw Miss Kelly. She was hiking, too!”

Petunia’s first-grade teacher from last year is easily among those at the top of her list of bona fide luminaries, as is Miss Tana, her kindergarten teacher. And even though we’re not quite three weeks into the current school year, her second-grade teacher, Miss Becky, also is quickly ascending to the top of her list, if seeing her across the street from Peach’s after school Friday was any indication (“Where is she going?” “What do you think she’s doing this weekend?” “Can you invite her over for dinner?”).

“My daddy knows the mayor,” Petunia has been known to boast to anyone who doesn’t ask. She’ll say the same thing about the sheriff (current and former) and police chief.

When we saw Rabbi David Segal and Cantor Rollin Simmons with their kids at the Zoppe Italian Family Circus earlier this month, it was Petunia who let me know we were in the presence of greatness.

“There’s Cantor Rollin!” she said excitedly. “Look, Mommy. There she is! See her? See her?”

My 4-year-old daughter, Peony, doesn’t have many heroes (besides me, my husband and Justin, the produce manager at City Market who looks on with a wink and a smile each time we enter the store and she beelines for the grapes, shoveling enough in her mouth to put a medium-size winery out of business). Boogie Weinglass might have been a contender, except now that his eponymous diner has remained unopened for nearly six months, he’s most likely to place first on her naughty list.

Not on either of my daughters’ star radar, but undoubtedly on mine, is Aspen Valley Hospital’s diagnostic screening department, which now offers free screening mammograms to women within one year of their 40th birthday. In addition to its state-of-art mammography equipment, its breast-health services go well beyond screening, including extraordinary patient navigators equipped with an abundance of empathy and expertise. Aspen may be better known for its boobs and boob jobs, but those looking out for and not just at both are the ones more celebrated locally for their depth of care.

Surely it’s easy enough to get caught up in Aspen’s extravagant events filled with enviable guests in exclusive locations. Yet for those with deep ties to the community, it’s usually the more low-key folks who seem most worthy of the red-carpet treatment, including Michael Behrendt, owner of the St. Moritz lodge, who spreads joy by cheerfully offering neighborhood kids access to his pool; Seth Sachson and Rachel Hahn, who run the Aspen Animal Shelter and Lucky Day Animal Rescue, respectively, and work indefatigably to bring joy to four- (and three-) legged friends and the families with whom they place them; and Allison Daly, the director of Pathfinders, who works adeptly and with precision and compassion to aid and comfort those who have been robbed of joy.

While Hollywood celebrities may give Aspen the boost it needs to stay front and center in the glossy magazines, it’s the lesser-known stars who live and work here for something more than themselves who make most people proud and grateful to call Glitter Gulch home.

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