Michael Cleverly, VIle's Aspen Bureau Chief
Submitted by: Editor
Company Town - Part 5
Who are these people?
By the early 80’s creeping elitism was becoming more and more evident in Aspen. The Red Onion saloon had opened its doors in 1892 and from the get go it was, by necessity, a working class joint. Basically a nineteenth century version of a sports bar, its walls were covered with vintage photos of prizefighters and other athletes of the day and the corners were dark enough to hide in. Over the decades the ownership had changed hands numerous times but the clientele, ambience and décor never changed. Sometimes it seemed like the room had never been dusted. Then an out of towner bought it and decided to upgrade the place, to do a remodel, give it some class, turn it into a fern bar. He shined it up, without totally destroying its character, and announced that The Red Onion was no longer interested in catering to “local riff raff.” In fact he put a sign in the window to that effect. Well, the sign went in the window, and the new owner was pitched out through the window followed by a great deal of foliage, by someone who apparently identified with said “local riff raff.” The Red Onion was soon up for sale again and the owner left town to try his brave new marketing strategy somewhere else. But the incident was an unpleasant harbinger of what was to come.
In 1978 Marvin Davis acquired The Aspen Skiing Company and for the first time the Skico was owned by someone with no ties to the community. Davis, who also owned 20th Century Fox and the Denver Broncos, was described as an industrialist and philanthropist. All wealthy people are philanthropists in the strict definition of the word; there are enormous tax benefits for throwing a little dough at the needy. But it’s never money they would miss, and if philanthropy meant actually depriving themselves of something few would give up a ham sandwich to help those less fortunate. A philanthropist now owned the company that ran the company town, a philanthropist who bought things like movie studios, ski areas and football teams.