Since the Tower shut down in April 2004, I have been writing a book about the Tower and my thoughts about Magic Bar and life. This is an introduction to this book. I am spot lighting several sections of the book here.
Your comments are more than welcome, they are encouraged.
“Welcome to the World Famous Tower Comedy / Magic Bar and an evening you may not remember, but you won’t forget.”
The delightful absurdity of this expression was always met with a kind of confused laughter. As the years began to meld into a collected mass, I began to realize that it isn’t as ridiculous as it first sounded.
To paraphrase Maya Angelou’s quote, audiences rarely remember details of what you did; instead, they remember how you made them feel.
This is not only true for my audiences; it is also true for me. Looking back over the golden years of the Tower, the details of all those evenings may fade, but the warm, glowing feelings of laughter, amazement and conviviality will stay with me forever. When I tell stories about those early days, these details come back.Stories present themselves, reminding me of those moments that have shaped my memories. I finally began to make notes about these stories I have been telling for years and before I knew it, they have cascaded into this book.
This is my memoir. It is a story book, a joke book, a guide for aspiring bar magicians and maybe a little magic book rolled into one.
The stories have shaped me as a person for nearly four decades; the fun, the drama and everything in between.
The tricks were only some of the tools I used to create a space where people could be encouraged to safely open up, bond and create memories for life. My personality, my love of people, and a genuine sense of caring for my audiences all rolled together to make me who I am today. These, often intangible, facets are essential to create a magical and memorable evening. As I look at these facets, I realize that these lessons are LIFE LESSONS that I can (and do) apply to other parts of my life.
The guide for aspiring bar magicians that is woven into this book will tell you about those lessons. They have been a lifetime in the making. Some are a legacy from my father, who had a wonderful sense of whimsy and fun; the rest are from all the people I’ve met along the road of my life.
I sincerely hope that – even if you don’t remember everything in this book, you’ll never forget it!
Stay tuned and more from the book will appear here.
The next part.
All journeys have
of which the traveler
is not aware.
To help you better understand how this all came about we should set the stage a bit. None of this happened by design..certainly not by MY design.
Several different threads that started in very different parts of the US will eventually interweave and intersect at the Tower Magic Bar in Snowmass Village, Colorado.
The overarching story would be how a little bar in the center of the brand new resort of Snowmass Village would become the crucible for a lot of disparate people and things to come together. A scant 8 miles away from its glitzy cousin Aspen, a center of wealth and culture, Snowmass is up a side canyon and provides one of the best ski hills in North America.
In 1967, when they first built the lifts in Snowmass, I was a 20 year old goof ball who was trying to make a go of it as the dry cleaning magnate of Naugatuck, a small mill town in central Connecticut. I had no idea where Snowmass was. I had never skied. It was not on my radar screen at all. But, as friends would come home from various colleges and regale me with stories of the happenings on campus, I was aware that the big world out there was moving along and I began to think I was really missing something.
About that time, through a strange set of circumstances, certainly not by my design, my father passed away from colon cancer when he was 56. Not long after him, my mother who was stricken with Multiple Sclerosis for the last 20 years of her life gave up and followed my dad six months later. Reasons for staying began to dry up.
Little did I know when I was eating Italian food at a place called Mom’s in Connecticut, somewhere in Chicago there were joints just like that, a German joint, an Irish joint, an Italian joint each with their loyal neighborhood following. They were cornerstone kind of places where birthdays and anniversaries were traditionally celebrated for years. The owners did magic and had for years. They were very skillful but they were really blue collar, roll up the sleeves and wash the glasses kind of folks. They were the ones working steady all the time, stacking up the years. When I finally drove to the west coast to seek my fame and fortune, I drove right through Chicago and had no clue what a role these little centers of magic and fun would play in my life.
Leap and the net will appear.
I wasn’t even aware of that concept when I took the first of many leaps but as with all leaps I have taken in my life, this proved to be something beyond my wildest dreams and certainly not by my design.
My leap was to Santa Barbara, CA. It was 1969. Snowmass had been opened for two years. But again, I had no clue it even existed. I was an active participant in the counter culture scene in the idyllic oceanside town of Santa Barbara. As a student at City College, I spent loads of time at the beach and doing what students did at that time. I was studying -of all things -psychology. I had a little nest egg which I thought was all the money I’d ever need. And it would have been, except I had to buy something.
While I was living my mid to late 20s in Santa Barbara and San Jose, three characters from the Mid Peninsula of SF bay, who I knew through friends, Crow Straka, Michael P. Shore and Paul Lerch had graduated from San Jose State and moved to the Aspen area to be ski bums. They were working in local restaurants and enjoying the mountain scene.
The third story
The third story is how I stumbled into this whole scene. In the mid 70’s, I had moved to Cupertino, California, (yes, there was a woman involved). I helped open Sun n Soil Natural foods about the time that Apple came to town. I ended up putting in a 5 year stint as the manager. Due, in part, to my efforts, Sun n Soil established itself as a successful health food store and food counter in the south SF Bay. It was exciting to be on the cutting edge of that new industry. But the relentless pace of retail, combined with the approach of my 30th birthday began to ferment into a deep seated feeling that I needed to take another leap at my future. And that leap would take me out of the Bay Area. So, conspiring with my best pal, Jeffrey Jacobsen (aka Jake), plans were made for a cross country motorcycle adventure to visit our friends who owned the Tower Restaurant in the new ski resort called Snowmass in Colorado. That would be Crow, Paul and Michael.
So once again I Leap and the net appears.
Knowing that the journey is more important than the destination, we were determined to make an adventure out of this trek. Leaving on the auspicious date of July 7, 1977 (7/7/77), we covered a 1100 miles in 5 days. We soaked every night at hot mineral springs and cooked our own food. It was a grand adventure. Pulling into town on July 12th, we had no idea the monumental changes that awaited us as we cruised up the winding road to Snowmass. Nestled at the bottom of what is arguably the largest ski area in Colorado, this blossoming resort was ripe for something like a magic bar. It was an exciting time to be there. The mall grew as second homes began to appear along the ski slopes.
The 10 year old resort was very welcoming. The days were glorious with sapphire skies, puffy white clouds, very little humidity and ideal summer temps. The small town aspect of the place meant everyone knew each other, worked together and partied together. The day we arrived we met friends that I still hold near and dear to this day. We were immediately accepted into this merry band. The magic was about to begin.
During the time I was putting in my time at the healthfood store, the merry band of Crow, Paul and Michael, had became pals with a folksinger named John Denver. On a mid summer camping trip during a meteor shower, a group that included John and the boys, witnessed it ‘raining fire from the sky’. That trip was the inspiration for John’s writing “Rocky Mountain High”. In gratitude for the help provided in putting that song together, John was happy to set the boys up in the landmark restaurant called at that time the Tower Fondue.
Dropping the fondue from the menu the boys took over in the summer of 1975. With a new management team in place, the boys were trying to find the next new thing. Itinerant magician Bob Sheets, traveling from Chicago to his hometown of San Diego, stopped by Aspen to check things out. Employment was scarce in Aspen and as a last ditch effort, Bob parked his bread truck and made a sweep of the restaurants in Snowmass, before giving up and heading back to San Diego. The last place he tried was the Tower and with serendipity in full force, he talked them into trying magic bar. Timing was perfect. It was a hit the very first night. There are a few folks still around who were actually there that night.
I knew none of this. Blissfully ignorant, I knew nothing of magic or entertainment. I had never done magic, never thought about doing magic, certainly never seen magic like Bob Sheets performed. Nothing had prepared me for what was about to happen. But life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. As you will see, our original plan to spend a week or two was scuttled by serendipitous and life changing events. It wasn’t until I walked into the Tower that night in the summer of 77 that Magic happened.