Despite finishing third in this summer’s Tour de France, seven-time champion Lance Armstrong remained the big man on campus in Aspen, because his son was born a few weeks prior to the start of the race at Aspen Valley Hospital. The cycling legend’s presence around town put Aspen back into the conversation as a getaway for the rich and famous.
Other than Armstrong, it appears as if Aspen, the once gossip-page mainstay, has fallen from the A-list to the zzzzzzzz-list. Once known as the snowy playground of the Hollywood elite, in recent years its celebrity ski conditions have seemed more like mashed potatoes than champagne powder.
One of the area’s most legendary dwellers, Goldie Hawn, is more famous lately for being the mother of actress Kate Hudson than anything else. The 1969 Academy Award-winner, whose last memorable hit was likely nitrous oxide in the dentist’s chair, complained to The Aspen Times in 2008 that the paparazzi in town had gotten so bad during the holiday season, “They’re right on top of you . … they follow you wherever you go. It’s an insult to your being.”
What Hawn might have found more troubling than the paparazzi, however, is that they were probably harassing her so she’d move out of the way, as she was blocking the money shot of her tabloid staple daughter, who was walking next to her.
Melanie Griffith, a recent cover girl for Aspen Peak magazine (ironically and otherwise known as the glossy where Hollywood careers go to die), is an Aspen stalwart. Her husband, Antonio Banderas, who has seemingly done more Nasonex commercials than films, has become best known for being the voice of an animated cat (albeit an adorably feisty animated cat, Puss in Boots) who gets third billing behind an ogre and an ass.
Until a few years ago, Griffith’s ex-husband Don Johnson maintained an Aspen-area address, too. But when the tip jar in a neighborhood bar put up a sign asking for contributions to help pay off Johnson’s debts at local grocery and liquor stores, the one-time “Miami Vice” and “Nash Bridges” star must have taken that as a sign that it was time to move on and out.
More people went to see Aspenite Kevin Costner play with his band at local music venue Belly Up (capacity: 450) in July than his last film, “Swing Vote.” Homeowner Jack Nicholson is most likely to be featured on “Entertainment Tonight” only when yet another scantily clad 20-something is spied helping him stumble out of a nightclub with his belly hanging out over his pants.
Mariah Carey makes her annual 12-minute pilgrimage to Aspen each year at Christmas time, smiles for the cameras outside the Louis Vuitton and Buccellati boutiques and then glides over the slush and ice in her 6-inch stilettos and one-piece mink-lined snowsuit back to her private plane at Sardy Field. Regardless, since her new album’s release date has ominously been pushed back twice, it’s unlikely Aspen or anything else other than her bra will be getting a boost from her presence.
A smattering of Kennedys find their way to Sardy Field every year too, but they don’t garner the same kind of buzz in Aspen as they do in Hyannis Port (although at 7,890 feet they probably get a better buzz). The Kennedys’ Cape Cod neighbor, Martha’s Vineyard, continues to maintain its spot as an A-list resort with celebrity denizens like Larry David and Ted Danson.
While Danson has yet to duplicate the kind of success he had on “Cheers,” Bill and Hillary Clinton are his frequent house guests, and they’ll always be A-list. Plus the Obamas vacationed on the Vineyard last month, and a visit from a non-working, sitting president is a guaranteed shot of adrenaline to the status of any town (with the exception of Crawford, Texas).
With Ralph Lauren, Oprah Winfrey and Tom Cruise (couch-jumping Scientologist or not, he’s still A-list) calling it their (second, third, fourth or fifth) home, Telluride is solidly an A town, too. So is Vail, just because it is.
Neighboring resort and perennial Vail shadow, Beaver Creek, had longtime local Gerald Ford, putting both the resort and the president squarely on the B-list. (You sort of actually have to be elected to something with the word “president” in the title and actually serve a full term in order to be considered an A-list president).
Park City has Robert Redford, but any halo effect of his A-list ranking on the town is canceled out by D-listers like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, who invade the Wasatch Mountain burg for the swag suites during the Sundance Film Festival. Sun Valley is A-list all the way with Tom Hanks, Clint Eastwood, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher and Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
At least Aspen has Lance. His bronze showing in France might not have landed him on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but he’ll show Puss In Boots who’s the man on the washed-up streets of Aspen.
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