If you can’t say it, sing it
EAGLE-VAIL – There was a special delivery for my boss, Don Rogers, at the Vail Daily office in Eagle-Vail two weeks ago. It involved a song, a hula dance and a “pencil-thin mustache.”The subject of my boss’s facial hair has been a running joke for folks at the paper for some time now. (Photos plastered to the window of his office of famous mustached-faces from Albert Einstein to Frank Zappa to Geraldo are mounting and will soon obstruct our view completely to the mustached man himself.)So when Robert Wagner, owner of Slippery Slope Productions, offered his singing telegram services, it was a hula dancer (Rogers is from Hawaii) with a mustache singing Jimmy Buffet’s “Pencil-thin Mustache” that came to mind. To everyone’s surprise but mine, Rogers got just what I ordered after the Thursday afternoon editorial board meeting.Coworkers standing on desks to get a better view and bucket of laughter later, the lost art of the singing telegram had been realized right before our eyes. I had a new perspective on job security, but for a moment for Rogers and the rest of us to share and will never forget, it was worth it. ‘Life’s too short’Wagner had been working as a concierge in the valley for four years when his wife died of a serious illness, an event that would lead him to view life a little differently.
“With the passing of my wife in 2004 I hit a crossroads,” he said. “I realized life’s more about quality than quantity. I want to wake up and look forward to going to work. Life is just too short to be stressed out.”Lucky for Wagner, he knew what made him happy, his life’s passion – performing. Seeing as there’s not much of an opportunity to make a living acting in the Vail Valley, he decided to bring the opportunity to life, along with the characters of Slippery Slope Productions. “Now I’m happy and having fun,” he said. “We all want to be happy.”Yeah, babyThese days when Wagner wakes up in the morning, he never knows who he’s going to be that day; a varsity cheerleader, goddess of love, Elvis Presley. The staff at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch got a visit from Wagner’s favorite character, the international spy, with a sneaky resemblance to Austin Powers, when the hotel won the Five Diamond Award. He pulls it off eerily well in a crushed blue velvet suit, half-cut boots, oversized glasses and a pair of bad teeth. “The entire Ritz salesroom was speechless. Some of them were embarassed,” he said. “It’s tough to sing though. I have to take the teeth out when I sing.”
When the Eagle Valley Horse Rescue sent him dressed as a cowboy to thank some folks at a Christmas party, they thought he was there to provide a different kind of entertainment.”They thought I was a stripper,” he said. “I was dressed to the nines in a long black duster, hat and lawmaker’s vest. You could tell when they turned to look they thought, ‘This guy doesn’t belong here.'”When Wagner broke into song, “Happy Trails to you, until we meet again. The Eagle Valley Horse Rescue is grateful for their friend,” everyone sighed of relief. Perhaps the most unique aspect of the singing telegrams are that Wagner pens original lyrics for each occassion on behalf of the sender, using his degree in music theater.Originally hailing from Los Angeles, Wagner got his first taste of acting at age 6 when he offered his singing services to a neighboring outdoor theater in exchange for handfuls of candy. Turns out, Wagner’s still a bit of a child at heart. In addition to telegrams, Slippery Slope provides childrens’ entertainment.Aye, aye, captain
His experience working as a pirate for Walt Disney came in handy on New Year’s Eve when Wagner turned the back room at Grouse Mountain Grill into a pirate ship. He and his crew dressed as pirates, performed original skits and musical numbers, magic acts, made balloon animals and handed out tattoos to the kids while their parents rang in the new year over dinner.”Disney’s got a great quality that they provide.” Wagner said. “That’s the quality I’m trying to provide – wholesome and cutting edge.Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14641, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado