Stone: Perfectly phony turned into perfectly Aspen
A Stone’s Throw
Today, a perfect Aspen story.
No, it’s not sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. It’s money, real estate and shattered friendships. And maybe a tarnished halo.
Like I said, pure Aspen.
I started thinking about it when a friend who’s lived here for a couple of decades said, “What a shame that Boogie’s is closing. I can’t imagine what will replace it. It’s so ‘Aspen.’”
I immediately remembered when Boogie’s was generally regarded as exactly the opposite of “Aspen.”
When that fake ’50s “diner” opened on the corner of Cooper and Hunter almost 30 years ago, with a modernistic glass “atrium” looming over the front door, apparently as an “architectural statement,” people decried “the Boogification of Aspen.” Especially since the fake diner was replacing a ramshackle, equally fake — but more appropriately fake — mining-themed restaurant called The Shaft.
Back then, flashy, glitzy, proudly phony Boogie’s was seen as specifically not “Aspen.”
My how times change.
And now, it seems those times are changing again — and that’s the heart of this little Aspen story.
Boogie’s is indeed closing after a mighty long run, and the building — once a glitzy affront to all that was Aspen, now just another one of those buildings — is being sold.
And so we get to the cruel heart of our story: real estate, money, a shattered friendship.
The building is selling for $27.5 million and Shlomo Ben-Hamoo, a former restaurant owner turned real estate salesman, claims he is owed a half-million-dollar commission on the deal.
In addition to the cash, Shlomo also claims that he is a former best buddy — with the emphasis on “former” — of Leonard “Boogie” Weinglass, the founder, owner and eponym of Boogie’s Diner.
Shlomo has filed a lawsuit asserting that he and Weinglass had a handshake agreement — the kind of thing that seemed appropriate between two buddies — that he would get a 2 percent commission on the sale.
And, naturally enough, Weinglass’s lawyer flat out says there never was an agreement, Shlomo was not the broker and anyway there was nothing in writing.
And so we have one-time pals getting ready for a court fight over a real estate commission.
As I said, a perfect Aspen story.
How many friendships have shattered on the reefs of greed, driven aground by the multi-million-dollar typhoon winds of Aspen real estate?
Gee, ain’t that poetic?
But seriously, many friendships have broken under the weight of big-bucks real estate commissions in this town.
No matter how you feel about the profession of real estate sales, you have to acknowledge that the rewards can be staggering in a market such as Aspen.
And so Shlomo’s suit claims Weinglass “began to exclude Shlomo from the final negotiations for the sale of the property … (and) began to exhibit inexplicable personal animus towards Shlomo.”
Inexplicable personal animus. And I thought I was the poetic one around here.
So now that we have real estate, money and shattered friendships, it’s time to edge carefully toward the tarnished halo.
Weinglass has long been regarded as one of Aspen’s finer citizens — Boogification notwithstanding.
Once fabulously wealthy from the success of his Merry-Go-Round chain of clothing stores (although apparently now much less so, following that chain’s failure), Weinglass has been famously generous to this community.
He has supported worthy causes and helped out needy individuals time and again with open hand and open heart. In short, a good guy.
Sure, there has been some grumbling along the way from those who say he has a mean streak that occasionally surfaces, but those scraps of bad PR have generally been buried under an avalanche of well-deserved good feelings.
But a couple of years ago, when the City Council began to work to correct the unfortunate zoning rules that allowed three stories on downtown buildings, Weinglass was one of a handful of building owners who rushed in with applications to add a third story to their buildings before the code changed.
The plan — which will add a 2,300-square-foot penthouse apartment atop the existing building — met the zoning rules and so it was approved by the council despite strong misgivings.
Everyone agreed that three stories was too much, but here was a local hero rushing to add a third story.
As quoted in this newspaper, Mayor Steve Skadron said, “I can’t understand for the life of me why Boogie, who has benefited so substantially from this community over the years, and by all appearances … has little need to be in the development business, would be pursuing this other than to stick it to the city.”
Skadron did not say “inexplicable animus,” but “stick it to the city” seems to carry the same general meaning in slightly less elegant words.
Suddenly, Weinglass’s well-known generosity was a little less on display, his rumored mean streak seemed to move front and center, and the value of his building was substantially increased.
And so we have the complete package: a big chunk of money, a chunk of real estate, a tarnished halo and perhaps two shattered friendships — the one between Shlomo and Weinglass, and the one between Weinglass and Aspen.
And as the final touch: my friend’s comment that Boogie’s was so “Aspen.”
So there you have it: Blatantly phony and glitzy, selling burgers, shakes and rhinestone-studded jeans, Boogie’s Diner was just ahead of the curve and it didn’t have to wait very long for Aspen to catch up.
And that, as I said, is the perfect Aspen story.
Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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