1967 – Whiteford’s "Belle Forrest’ exposes Vail’s social strata
In February 1967, a mysterious world traveler and an international journalist and critic supposedly wrote the first of several articles about the social structure of the gathering place of Vail Village. The stories raised many an eyebrow. Any well-organized hen house has to have its pecking order, and Vail was no exception.
“Belle Forrest’s” story, a satire on the social hierarchy, made folly of the social strata.
“The beautiful people retain its image, its vantage point on Mount Olympus, by being inaccessible, aloof and retaining an almost maddening imperturbable ability to the presence and importunities of the clamoring commoners,” she wrote.
The article put the rich and socially prominent on pedestals. The businessmen and the hotel and restaurant owners, all “well to do,” were not as high in the social organization or as well-heeled as the beautiful people, and everyone else was referred to as the “restless rabble.”
Forrest called it “Happy Vail Pass: Never Land.”.
The complaining letters poured in to the editor, such as these examples:
– “Who is this Belle Forrest that would seek to destroy the cohesiveness of this beautiful fledgling community?”
– “Belle Forrest Blasted!”
– “Dear Festival Editor: So Belle Forrest visited Vail, pencil and paper in hand. She carefully inserted each visitor and villager into a proper category, with biting remarks about each. It was all very clever, but especially entertaining was the nonsense she wrote about those villainous ruffians, the reckless rabble!”
To this day, “William the Good,” as Bill Whiteford was called, has denied having anything to do with the “Belle Forrest” tongue-in-cheek expose. But it is well known that it could only have been him. He thought it was fun. Most people forgave him because he was the Baron Munchausen of Vail.
On another occasion, with the same mischievous mind, Whiteford concocted a practical joke that everyone liked.
It was February 1964. Bill always enjoyed the ambiance of the ice bars at the premier resorts of Europe, and he thought it would be fun to have one at Mid-Vail. At the directors’ meeting on Jan. 28, 1964, he proposed the Ice Bar and was turned down.
So he went ahead anyway and, with adequate help, he built a circular bar 30 feet in diameter. It was made of concrete that was chest high and covered with snow, then watered down. It looked like it could be at the Corviglia Club at St. Moritz, Switzerland.
The Ice Bar opened for business with a full-service bar, hot pastrami sandwiches, corned beef, pea soup, and many other goodies. Whiteford wanted to show Vail that with a little more effort they could make the guests like Vail even more.
But, without a liquor license or permission from Vail Associates, Bill was soon shut down. He had the guests on his side, however, clamoring to let him reopen – which he did. This went on for quite some time until the U.S. Forest service closed him down for advertising foreign liquor on public land – the Carpano umbrellas.
That wasn’t the end, however. With the help of his friend George Skakel, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall was called. Within two days, Udall had the Forest-Service man who closed Whiteford down relocated to El Paso. A little pull helps every now and then.
In the end, the Ice Bar was open on and off for almost two months. It is no wonder that Whiteford was given the moniker “William the Good.”
Whiteford, with his sense of humor, good nature and unforgettable and never-ending amusing stories – he was a stranger to the truth – was one of the most popular personalities ever to live in Vail.
Editor’s Note: In a continued effort to help the community understand its roots, the Vail Daily for a second time is serializing Dick Hauserman’s “The Inventors of Vail.” This is the 124th installment, an excerpt from chapter 14, “Bill Whiteford: The Lovable, Incorrigible Scoundrel.” The book is available at Verbatim Booksellers, The Bookworm of Edwards, Pepi’s Sports, Gorsuch Ltd. and The Rucksack, as well as other retailers throughout the valley. Hauserman can be contacted by phone at 926-2895 or by mail at P.O. Box 1410, Edwards CO, 81632.