Carnes: A gadfly by any other name
I mentioned the name or at least referenced the man in 54 columns out of over 1,100 (so far) since January of 2000.
I called him a bulletproof enigma with a heartbeat, Happy Valley’s reigning king of Newt Gingrich impressions, and said just the mere mention of his name could cause one’s face to scrunch up like you just ate a bowl of dried marmot poop.
Some called him the most hated man in Eagle County and an insensitive monster, while others, usually behind closed doors, privately praised him as the perpetual watchdog for all of us.
He was the proverbial butt of my jokes for years, yet always remained a fascinating — though usually annoying in public — individual that I have always been proud to call a friend.
I once referenced the upvalley market of Eagle County as containing around 20,000 nice people + 1 Michael Cacioppo.
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He laughed and laughed at that one.
We first became friends in the mid-’80s, and I was so impressed with his knowledge on subjects and his tenacity of never backing down in a debate that I joined the “Committee to Elect Cacioppo” for Vail Town Council.
He won a seat, and within hours of his very first council meeting, the committee convened for a final time with shocked faces and collective reflections of, “Oh %&$#?@!, what have we done?”
Fast forward a few years and I was elected to the Avon Town Council, where Michael attempted to “guide” my performance as an elected official toward a particular political persuasion.
Though it didn’t work (I loathe both sides equally), we still remained friends.
In 2001, I was MC of the Vail Eagle Valley Rotary Club’s 25th Auction, and for that year we included a local talent show with judges determining the cash prize winners. The judges I picked included Packy Walker, Dave Garton and Michael, not because he had an eye for talent, but because he was looked upon like Simon Cowell before anyone had ever heard of Simon Cowell.
I co-MC’d (with Suzanne Foster) the annual “Teachers Appreciation Awards Dinner” where someone had the fortitude to print a few hundred Michael Cacioppo masks on sticks during one of his multiple lawsuits against the school district. They provided tons of laughter for the evening and Michael, of course, saw them as a few hundred badges of pride (I kept one in a drawer until moving a few years ago).
And that was one of his best attributes and one that bothered the hell out of people; he never appeared to take the mental abuse personally. Most wished he would though, and his passive demeanor infuriated them even more, yet he always refused to take the bait.
He was indeed a man of principle, for when he knew he was right on a subject, which was 99.9% of the time, his momentary purpose in life was to convince others of his correctness, and them of their ignorance.
He wasn’t always right of course, and we were diametrically opposed to more subjects than not, but our biggest debates revolved around religion, not politics, and neither of us ever took any comments personally.
Michael discovered the Vail Daily comment section just before it was canceled last year, and would toss himself into the thick of any local online debate he felt worthy of his knowledge. Newbies would attack and he would respond with logic, never lowering himself to the level of his attackers.
I’ve always respected such a trait, and although he could be a prickly thorn in the side of anyone elected or appointed to just about any position in Eagle County, that respect never wavered.
Some words are harder to write than others, but saying Michael Cacioppo was a friend is not one of them.
Richard Carnes, of Avon, writes weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.