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Celebrated WeekendsThe Stars' Guide to the Most Exciting Destinations in the World
By Mark Seal
Rutledge Hill PressCopyright © 2007 Mark Seal
All right reserved.
Chapter OneKevin Costner
When I interviewed Kevin Costner, he had just directed and starred with Robert Duvall and Annette Bening in Open Range, the big-budget Western about a group of cowboys driving their cattle across the vast prairies, guided by a steadfast code of honor that puts them in a fight-to-the-finish with a corrupt sheriff and kingpin rancher. It's another last-gasp-of-the-West saga from Costner, who won multiple Oscars with Dances with Wolves, in which he also starred and directed. But for Costner, the West is no mere movie fantasy; it's a destination he's spent a lifetime searching for, scouring every corner of America for his vision of a perfect Western paradise.
He found it in the early nineties in what seemed like an unlikely place-five minutes outside of Aspen, Colorado. During the next dozen years, he bought parcels of what would eventually total the 165-acre ranch he calls home, a place he loves so much he wants to be buried there. "I've got the best view in the world," he said, calling from his ranch house, where he shares the grounds with elk, deer, and bear. "I've got the best bar in town. I've got the best breakfast place in town. I can fix a drink out here, and you won't ever want to leave."
PACKING There are some people who look pretty snappy downtown, but I'm looking down at myself right now and everything I have on has to go in the wash as soon as we're done talking here. I'm just in Levi's, a sweater, and boots. I've always got a little raincoat, too.
LODGING The Hotel Jerome and the Little Nell are great-I've frequented both of those places. I stayed at the Little Nell when we made For the Love of the Game. That hotel is the hub of activity. If you haven't met the person you wanted to, you're bound to during the course of your stay, because people just make their way through there. There's nothing quite like room service, right? But I really enjoy having lunch at the Little Nell. It's really fine dining and I guess next to Cache Cache, I find myself there.
DINNER The place we always go to have dinner with the kids is a restaurant called Cache Cache. Jodi Larner, the owner, is like a grande dame, and she has always taken care of me. The first day I walked in, Jodi had this great smile and said, "I was wondering when you were going to walk in here." And we've been friends ever since.
PERCEPTION VS. REALITY I know there is a reputation out there, "Oh, the glitzy Aspen," but I don't think so. I think you can find glitz wherever you go. I think you can chase money and the party wherever you want. But if you find your collection of friends, you don't feel that effect, and if I did, I clearly wouldn't be here. I just had this thought: Our lives are in the balance, right? Every time I drive up here I think, do I have one hundred more times to come up here in my life, or ten? Because we don't know what fate really gives us. Let me say this: I feel more at home here than anyplace in the world. There are some places that have been real spiritual for me, like the Black Hills of South Dakota. I always have a special feeling there, but I have made my home here. I plan on being buried here.
ARCHITECTURE The greatest thing about downtown Aspen is that you can drop your kids off there. Not that I want to do that, but it's the one town I've been in that I felt like I could have left them by themselves when they were ten or twelve for a little bit. It feels safer than anyplace I've ever been; it's a very contained place. It's not like one street is very charming; there are four or five streets that have really held on to their architecture. It makes for fun walking, and you can see it on everybody's faces. They are just real happy to be here from wherever in the U.S. or the world they've come.
LUNCH Woody Creek Tavern [Woody Creek] has such a great rep. It's a burger joint near the river where people feel real comfortable. If you were to ask them, my guess is they feel like the Woody Creek Tavern has maintained itself and hasn't moved with any trend that Aspen has experienced. I've also eaten at Little Annie's, a real casual place downtown, a ton of times.
SHOPPING Well, I was sad when we lost the fishing shop next to the Little Nell. But my favorite store is the Miner's Building, which is sort of Aspen's general store. I go in there and get the stuff I need. I'm not at home more than an hour and I'm already digging or doing something. So I go down to Miner's, and I'm not really the handiest guy in the world, and I'm always trying to half explain what I'm trying to do, and the guys come out from behind the counter and there's always a good exchange. I let them come and fish with their kids up here. There is an exchange.
CULTURE I've been to the Wheeler Opera House a number of times to hear music, and the beat goes on. They had something in mind when it was being built in the 1880s, and here we are in the twenty-first century enjoying it. I actually enjoy the architecture, that style-the windows and moldings out in front of the shops. The extra-thick enamel paint where you feel like there are about fifty coats on. I like that.
GOLF I usually get in a game or two, even though golf's not really my sport. At the Maroon Creek Club, the people are great. I have been taken down to the Roaring Fork Club [Basalt] by guys who are members there. I enjoy the company and I'm always biting to get back there. But the first course we started playing was the public course, Aspen Golf Club. It doesn't really matter to me, because I'm looking for the company, not the challenge. [I asked whether the balls go higher because of the altitude.] Yeah, but that means they also go to the right and left farther, too. With the gain, you get the pain.
DINNER Kenichi is a really good place for my family. My theme, my whistle, my song is pretty much the same. You know, if you're good to me, I'll usually be back. I love the bar there and having drinks. Takah Sushi also has great food. There's this back table, and that's where we generally sit. If Kenichi isn't open, I wouldn't think twice about going to Takah or Matsuhisa [the Aspen outpost of L.A. sushi chef Nobu Matsuhisa]. I like Syzygy. The bartender there is a guy that I hang with. Syzygy is a great restaurant, but also a great place to hear some jazz. I've had some great nights in there, no kidding. The big musical event is Jazz Aspen Snowmass. I really recommend that to anybody. It's three or four days where you're going to see some of the biggest acts in the world. You can do your outdoor thing all day, and about three o'clock you start getting yourself over there and you can hear world-class music.
DESSERT It's always good to have ice cream at Paradise Bakery, right in the center of town. You can see almost anything there at any given time. It's a very communal place.
NIGHTLIFE The Caribou Club is one of those places that you can really count on. People seem like they want to somehow bash it, but whenever I've been in there, I've seen everybody. I think that it has provided an incredible environment for out-of-towners and the people who go there. I guess the best way to describe the Caribou would be almost like a smoking club, although no one is smoking. It's really dark wood, like a library feeling. There's a big dining room.
LIVE MUSIC Little Blue is a local band, and they let my daughter sing one night. Lily is a very beautiful singer, but right away, my nerves started to play. Lily was reading the lyrics. She didn't even know the song. Here she was, fifteen years old, and singing in front of all these adults who had to stop all their talking and turn around to see this thing. She wasn't up to the mike, so nobody heard a word. I looked down at her sister, Annie, who was kind of mouthing the words, helping her, and I saw Lily going down in flames. My heart broke. When the song ended, the people clapped, even though they were clapping for nothing, because they couldn't hear her. I asked Lily if she was going to do another song and she said: "You bet your ass I am!" I saw something in her face and it reminded me of granite. Her second song was another one she didn't know, a Sheryl Crow song. She started to sing, and this time she blew the room away. What I saw in my daughter that night was her courage. So the people really had something to clap about. When they did, it marked the moment in her life-and in mine.
RAFTING There's great rafting here. The Roaring Fork River spills into the Colorado. You get on somewhere in Basalt. Then there's one as you go over the Continental Divide that's really, really nice. The significance of the Continental Divide is that, without a doubt, you're closer to God, and at that point is where the rivers split. Everything to the east is running to the Mississippi and everything to the west is running to the Pacific. It's not so much for us to cross it now, because we can travel over it at fifty miles an hour. But at one time it was a life-and-death moment to get over the Continental Divide before the snows came or just figure out how you would actually cross a mountain range and still hold on to your possessions.
FISHING Sometimes I go down on the lower Frying Pan River. It's down valley toward Basalt. The fish are much, much bigger there than they are in the higher altitudes. I'll do a float trip, and one of the fishing guys has been really great, Kea Hause. We met him when we started coming up here. When somebody is good to you, there's no reason to change. He takes me down on the lower Frying Pan, but I bring him up on the property here sometimes.
BACKCOUNTRY I don't really feel the need to go anywhere else. But I enjoy being invited. We are always invited down to Don Johnson's. He has a fabulous place down there in Woody Creek, and he makes everybody feel welcome. But I come here and I really kind of nest. I'm probably not here more than an hour before I'm on the tractor, and away I go. In fact, I just about tipped it over today. Yeah, I was in a tough spot. I take ATVs into the backcountry, and we start at Lincoln Creek Road and head back into the upper lakes. My favorite season is summer and pushing into the fall. I'm not a snow person, although when I'm up here I appreciate it. I like it when the leaves come and go.
Kevin Costner's Aspen Essential
Hotel Jerome, $$$$, (970) 920-1000 330 East Main Street
The Little Nell, $$$$, (970) 920-4600 675 East Durant Avenue
Cache Cache, French, $$$, (970) 925-3835 205 South Mill Street
Kenichi, Pan Asian, $$$, (970) 920-2212 533 East Hopkins Avenue
Little Annie's Eating House, American, $$, (970) 925-1098, 517 East Hyman Avenue
Matsuhisa, Japanese, $$$$, (970) 544-6628 303 East Main Street
Paradise Bakery & Café, bakery/ice cream, $, (970) 925-7585, 320 South Galena Street
Syzygy, continental, $$$, (970) 925-3700 520 East Hyman Avenue, second floor
Takah Sushi, Japanese, $$$, (970) 925-8588 320 South Mill Street
Woody Creek Tavern, American/Mexican, $$, (970) 923-4585, 2 Woody Creek Plaza
Miner's Building, general store, (970) 925-5550 319 East Main Street
Caribou Club, restaurant/nighclub, (970) 925-2929 411 East Hopkins Avenue
Isis Theater, movies, (970) 925-7591 406 East Hopkins Ave
Jazz Aspen Snowmass, concert series, (866) 527-8499
Wheeler Opera House, (970) 920-5770 320 East Hyman Avenue
Aspen Golf Club, (970) 925-2145 39551 Highway 82
Maroon Creek Club, (970) 920-1533 10 Club Circle Road
Roaring Fork Club, (970) 927-9000 100 Arbaney Ranch Road, Basalt
Frying Pan River, fishing, runs from Aspen to beyond the town of Basalt
Roaring Fork River, rafting, runs from west side of Independence Pass for seventy miles, including Aspen and Snowmass
It makes sense that Lyle Lovett would love Colorado. Both singer and state are basically rough-hewn country folk, equally at home on the back roads and in the big city. Born and raised in Texas, Lovett first came to Colorado in the 1980s to ski with his father. Today, he and his Large Band regularly bombard the state, playing Denver and Boulder in the summer and the ski areas of Aspen and Vail in the winter. "What I enjoy about Colorado," said Lovett, "is that you can go there and imagine it back when, especially in the towns that were vital before skiing-Breckenridge and Aspen and Telluride. I look around and I see the streets teeming with people and activity and feel the life that once was there." Here's a weekend with the music and movie star in the ski towns of Colorado, starting in Vail and ending in Aspen.
LODGING The Lodge at Vail is the old standard. For something smaller, try the Galatyn Lodge. The Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek, the ski area just outside of Vail, is right below the ski mountain, so you can get the lift right at the hotel. Outside of town is the Lodge at Cordillera, which looks like a French château in the middle of the Rockies. It has a spa, four golf courses, and three restaurants.
DINNER Sweet Basil is international, and right in the center of Vail Village, which was created especially for skiers back in the sixties. The Left Bank is a French restaurant and one of the top places in town. You have to take a sleigh ride up to Beano's Cabin [Beaver Creek], which is a private club during the day, but open to the public at night. The old cabin was built by a Chicago lettuce farmer named Beano back in 1919.
NIGHTLIFE We most frequently play Dobson's Hockey Rink in Vail. They put a floor down and we play. It feels like you're playing in a hockey rink. It's a nice, small arena, but it's cold.
LODGING The Snowflake Inn is a very cool place. There seems to be a lot of families, and it's just down the street from the Wheeler Opera House and two blocks from the St. Regis. It's like a little apartment complex kind of deal. The Aspen Meadows Resort is a very cool place to stay. The St. Regis and the Little Nell are the ultimate in luxury. They're as nice as any hotel you can ever stay in anywhere. You run into all sorts of folks. It's what the Aspen people conjure up when they think of Aspen, but it's nice. I don't mind hanging out with those guys.
SKIING In Aspen I ski at Buttermilk. I've skied Aspen Mountain, but I ski a little bit nervous. At the top, I'm fine, but going down sometimes really good skiers ski Aspen Mountain and sometimes they go by you really fast. At Buttermilk, it's nice and relaxed. There are a lot of families and people who are out there just to have a good time. I have skied Highlands, and Snowmass is really great, but Buttermilk is so close to town.
DINNER Ajax Tavern has a wonderful hamburger. Great food! Right at the bottom of Aspen Mountain. Matsuhisa is really good sushi. When we're working out of L.A., we go to Matsuhisa there. Nobu Matsuhisa, the chef/owner, is a brilliant guy. L'Hostaria is great Italian. Campo de Fiori has murals and great food.
CULTURE The Wheeler Opera House is just beautiful! It's so wonderful that Aspen saved the Wheeler. It is supported by city funds, or at least partially. It's just one of those wonderful nineteenth-century opera houses. It's the perfect size room-holds five hundred people but feels like you're playing to about fifty. We've played the Music Tent in the summer and we've played Harris Hall, which is beautiful, like the modern symphonic version of the Wheeler. It's a perfectly designed acoustic space.
NIGHTLIFE The Caribou Club is one of those places full of intrigue. It's underground; there are several different rooms-it's not like this big, open space. Of course, I've been to the bar at the Jerome Hotel. It's one of those great historical buildings. In Colorado, you have a chance to reflect on where our world has gone, because the old world is so well represented.
Excerpted from Celebrated Weekends by Mark Seal Copyright © 2007 by Mark Seal . Excerpted by permission.
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