Monday, May 02, 2011
Michael Cleverly, VIle's Aspen Bureau Chief
Submitted by: Editor

Original Company Town - Part 9

“Company Town” traces the evolution of the influence of the industries that have driven Aspen’s economic life from its boomtown silver and gold mining days to its growth into one of the premier ski resorts in the world. It also traces the changes in Aspen society, from its mining days, when basically no one had any class, to the freewheeling 70’s when the place was so democratic as to be a classless society, to today, when the entire town is essentially a gated community. The gates are not made of steel, they’re economic, and the society now is far from classless.

Scum Rises to The Top

In 1985 Twenty Century Fox sold the 50% of The Aspen Skiing Company that it owned to Bell Mountain Partnership, which is owned by the Crown family of Chicago. In 1993 the Davis Management Group sold the remaining 50% to the Crowns, leaving them the sole owners. The Crown family is reported to be worth 4 billion dollars and patriarch Lester Crown is number 52 on Forbes list of the 400 richest men in America. As usual the Crowns are described as philanthropists and good citizens, but there are few locals who would recognize one if he tripped over him. One branch of the family has a home somewhere in the neighborhood of Aspen, and if you were to look carefully you might see a picture of one of them in the society pages of one of the local niche magazines. But it was far from the old days where you could corner DRC Brown on a city street and cuss him out for whatever he’d done to offend you.

The Aspen Skiing Company under Crown ownership displayed an even more voracious appetite for things peripheral to skiing than it did under Marvin.

Davis, and the executives that ran the show didn’t hesitate to be as ruthless as need be to crush any little guy who annoyed them or that they didn’t approve of. The family talked the liberal talk, but the Company walked an entirely different walk. Soon restaurants and lodges of all sorts were gobbled up and became part of what was evolving into something like a monopoly. Advertising was self referential as far as all things one would seek in a ski resort. Ask the lady who sold you your lift ticket about a good restaurant and you’d be directed to one owned by the Skico. Call the resort association to book a room somewhere and guess who owned the lodge you’d be directed to. It was becoming increasingly difficult for small mom and pop operations to compete; the playing field was far from level. Beyond that the Ski Company’s treatment of locals was becoming more belligerent and bullying every year. By the winter of 2009/10 it was difficult even for local entertainers not to come under the thumb of the Skico. Popular local troubadour Dan Sheridan was playing an après ski gig at Skico owned Sneaky’s Tavern. The crowd demanded he play a favorite song “Big Money” that bemoaned the decline in the quality of life in Aspen since the rich started throwing their weight around. Sheridan sang it and there happened to be a Skico executive in the crowd. The exec, Paul Cherrett*, decided the song might be offensive to the only demographic he gave a rat’s ass about and in an astounding display of arrogance that redefined the entire concept of the “petty power trip,” had Sheridan fired. The Vile Plutocrat reported the incident at the time and reprinted the lyrics. Here they are again, every single word of which is true.

“Big Money”
By Dan Sheridan

“I was walking my dog, down the old walking trail,
When I ran into a posted sign, pending future sale
To some Hollywood mogul, who feels that he should
Build a mansion in the mountains, his “cabin in the woods”

They come here from Miami, they come here from L.A.
And bring a part of a city, that will never go away
Like a fear of strangers, accelerated time
The sound of car alarms, in a town without crime
Like quaint wooden fences, patrolled security
Setting up borders where they never used to be

CHORUS: Down in their graves you can hear the miners sing
Big Money ruins everything

Well it happened in Aspen, and down in Sante Fe
It happens everywhere, when the locals move away
Because we can’t afford to live here, we can’t afford the rent
Unless we win the lottery, or live in a tent

I think big money sucks, please write that down
Please take a look what it did to this town
Trophy houses, trophy wives,
Trophy people leading trophy lives

CHORUS: Down in their graves you can hear the miners sing
Big money ruins everything

Say goodbye to all the artists, and people who can ski
Say hello to private golf courses, and elective surgery

I think I’ll build a billboard, at the entrance of this town
If you came to prove how rich you are, please just turn around
Please turn around, high tail and run
you probably already ruined where you coming from

So I went to the hardware store, but it has been replaced
With a boutique for trophy wives, with a reconstructed face
All it only sells handbags, stuff you’ll never need
Like fine Italian shoes, or tasteful jewelry
So we blame it on the landlords, blame it all on greed
We blame it on the excess, of the nouveau riche

CHORUS: Down in their Graves you can hear the miners sing
Big money ruins everything

How did this happen, how did it occur?
Women driving Hummers, men wearing fur!

Now I sing at corporate parties, make them feel like a kid
Because I play acoustic guitar, just like John Denver did
But they don’t listen to my words, the words I’ve been singing
I’m just here to fill the void, between cell phones ringing

I recently found a letter, that I wrote to myself
It said, “If you get old an bitter, you better move somewhere else”
But I ain’t going nowhere, I won’t give up on this town
I won’t give up on my friends, Who somehow stick around

CHORUS: Down in their graves you can hear the miners sing
Big money ruins everything

Women at the Caribou, with liposuctioned hips
And in the name of balance they re-inflate their Lips

CHORUS: Down in their graves you can hear the miners sing
Big money ruins everything”


That same winter a manager at The Snowmass Club stopped providing one of the local papers, The Aspen Daily News, to its customers because of an article that had offended The Skiing Company, and a new high-end restaurant owned by the Skico, announced that none of its employees would be allowed in the restaurant as customers at any time, a notion that would have had the place burned to the ground a few decades earlier.

*Note: Skico has refused to release Mr. Cherrett's name. However, his identity was happily supplied to us by an Aspen insider who shall remain anonymous.


Posted by Editor on 05/02/11 at 12:25 PM •  (0) Comments

Tags:  wealth, aspen, cleverly,

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Vile Quotes

"America does not have an aristocracy or a plutocracy."
Art Pope