Don Rogers: Vail’s lion of apres life secret |

Don Rogers: Vail’s lion of apres life secret

Don Rogers
Vail, CO Colorado

Want to see Phil Long’s apres show at The Red Lion in Vail Village? Get in line. The wait may be 20 minutes or longer.

It’s worth it to his fans.

“I come here all the time when I’m visiting,” Paul Wampach, of Chicago, shouted over a song and the din from 150 or so best friends clearly having a blast. Friend Gayle Camarello, of New York City, nodded her agreement while half dancing and half trying to listen in.

I saw TV 8’s Trish Swenson cutting up with her friends toward the back of the glassed-in great room – so my wife and I weren’t the only locals there.

Long was high energy, playing classic rock standards with a variety of friends who came on stage to sing or play the keyboards.

My favorite was the blonde dude wearing mascara and ripping out Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” with Long while on television, Northern Iowa was laying on their upset victory over No. 1 Kansas in the NCAA basketball playoffs, platters of sweet little shots of something were being handed out, and youngish women were waving their arms together.

Did you know a stageside table for Long’s performance goes for a $500 reservation? I had no idea.

I dropped in on Rod Powell’s show at Pepi’s the day before. No line to get in, but the place was full and the crowd had much the same engagement with the performer, though most everyone here was sitting.

I also stopped by Shannon Tanner’s show at Beaver Creek toward the end, and he still had a crowd a couple of hours after the lifts had closed.

Each of these guys has been at it for more than 20 years, and each seemed to be having as much fun as ever.

A conversation last week with Long, who also owns The Red Lion, got me to take a fresh look at the apres scene in Vail and Beaver Creek.

The highlight was going out Saturday evening with my wife, really as tourists again, seeing Vail as visitors or as close as we could get to that.

This notion crystallized for us at Up the Creek a little later in the evening. We were teasing a waiter from New York about never having visited the stunning Finger Lakes region in the upstate where we had lived for nearly four years.

That clinched it for him, and he declared that he’d visit when he went home this summer. We agreed it was good to be a tourist in your own community every once in awhile. There’s value to seeing your home with fresh eyes, especially one tied as we are to visitors. Besides, this was fun.

House entertainment ranges from the piano bars and guitar mood-setters to magicians at the Chophouse, comedian Steve Meyer at The Club and karaoke at Paddy’s.

While we’ve seen many of the house entertainers a fair number of times over the years, I do think we tend to underestimate their attraction for the visitors.

Even the young guy playing outside the Hyatt in Beaver Creek to one attentive, dancing 4-year-old had the desired effect on the people in lounge chairs facing the sunset, circles around the fire pits and having conversations over drinks at the round tables outside.

Back at The Red Lion last Saturday evening, the mood was far from mellow. The king of Vail’s apres scene had his crowd up, dancing and singing, along with shouted conversations and a whole lot of laughter long after we left. We had a great time.

Later Mary, my wife, was still laughing about an ad lib during a song: “I’m making some money off you tooonight. …”

Think about it, she said. “You know he’s doing exactly what he loves, and he owns the restaurant, too.”

At apres of all places, we tapped into one of the secrets of life.

Yeah, it was worth the wait.

Don Rogers is the editor and publisher of the Vail Daily. He can be reached at or 970-748-2920. Comment at

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