It’s season kickoff time |

It’s season kickoff time

That’s the night Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau’s Season Kickoff Party at Kaltenberg Castle at 6 p.m. It’s one of those regular opportunities that people around here have to reinvent themselves: when everyone is a contender, when everyone can insist that the snow on their face is from deep powder and not a yard sale; when everyone can quietly explain to newcomers how to get the area wired as quickly as possible for personal favors and SWAG (Stuff We All Get), and to make you remember that fun really is the meaning of life.

“This is a community-spirited effort to kick off the new ski season,” said event coordinator Connie Bennett of the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau. “We want to provide a venue for members of the valley community to celebrate the arrival of the upcoming winter season – to kick off the ski season with a positive attitude and outlook.”

Admission is free, and so is most of the advice you’ll get.

Basically, the annual Season Kickoff Party is a cross between a class reunion and a freshman class mixer, with no one entirely sure whose side the beer is on.

Aside from watching people try to collect as many names and phones numbers as possible, the evening’s entertainment is The Nacho Men. The Denver-based dance band puts on a musical show that features all those great songs you really are sure you know the words to, and if they’ll just hammer out a few bars it’ll all come rushing back. Bring your dancin’ shoes.

The music centers around ’50s and ’60s tunes. The band expanded its repertoire up to the ’80s and back to the ’40s.

Besides the dance tunes, they also do a long list of musical characters and impersonations, including Sonny and Cher and anyone else ripe to be made musical fun of. Audience interaction is a big part of the act.

The Nacho Men have been around since about 1980, launched by Frankie Diamond, who is its the longest continuing member

“I was watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and something captured me,” said Diamond. “I bugged my mom for weeks to buy me a guitar. I practiced alone for weeks, then months, until I finally learned the chords to “Gloria.’ And then it happened. I started a band.”

That band labored under the philosophy, “If you can’t make it good, make it loud.”

“My mom thought I would go to Julliard,” said Diamond. “I didn’t.”

They practiced in garages and bands – anywhere their parents could keep an eye on them. It was, of course, about the art of music – at least until girls started coming around to hear them practice. Necessity being the mother of invention, they kept learning new songs to keep the girls interested. Then one of the girls asked them to play at her party.

“We had a GIG!” said Diamond.

The band started playing parties, junior colleges and colleges. They weren’t old enough to drive, so their moms had to take them to the gigs.

“We played all the time and even had gigs on school nights,” said Diamond “The junior college guys paid us $50 and all the beer we could drink.”

The day came when they finally made their first record, which was pretty easy in those days. They drove to the recording studio and covered “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” by Gerry and the Pacemakers and “Shakin’ All Over” by The Guess Who.

“It was a blast and it cost us $80,” said Diamond. “I still have two copies. In those days you could drive to the radio station, and because you were so young and naive, they would actually play your record. I’ve never had a bigger thrill than sitting in my friend’s house when our record came on. We had MADE it!”

Diamond’s family moved and that band broke up. A bunch of life happened, and eventually he landed in Colorado, started The Nacho Men, and the rest is musical history.

The party runs from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday at the Kaltenberg. The first 100 through the door get a prize.

********Break out box:

Frankie Diamond’s Facts of Life:

1. Always give 100 percent. Andy and I have done Sonny and Cher hundreds of times and we always make each other laugh. Our job is to make the audience have a good time.

2. Always sign autographs. We aren’t stars, but get asked for autographs all the time. I’ll stay until the last picture is signed. People that won’t sign – I don’t want their autograph.

3. Always give a homeless person a dollar. You never know when you’ll have bad luck.

4. Do charity work. Find time to give back to the community. This work is the most rewarding.

5. Play for the crowd. Wowing people with technical ability impresses 1 percent of the audience. People want to hear songs that remind them of their youth or special times in their lives. That’s why “Louie, Louie” is so popular.

6. Making fun of yourself is 10 times funnier than making fun of someone else.

7. Never eat Mexican food before a gig.

8. Everyone makes mistakes.

9. Never ask an audience, “Does this make my butt look big?”

10. Music transcends generations. I’ve seen 5 year-olds and 95 year-olds dancing to our music.

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