Teri Orr: We were foolish and celebrated it…
This week’s paper used to be my favorite. (We only published once a week for most of The Park Record’s existence.) My favorite to read and my favorite to write. It was the time when the reporters took a break from covering almost all news and instead tried their hand at satire and creative writing. It was the annual April Fool’s edition.
And every year most readers would forget it was the annual chance for writers to fool the public in the silliest of ways. Folks would read a story and think it was real and become outraged or felt — how had they missed news such as that an amusement park complex with a roller coaster had somehow been approved next to the White Barn. And it had to be true — because there was a rendering of it — right there in the paper. And that work of fiction and creative artwork had been months in the making while a reporter sat through yet another boring, long, late planning commission meeting for the city and or the county and thought this application is so outrageous it might as well be an amusement park. And they would make a mental note — that would be perfect for the April Fool’s edition. And then they would engage the cartoonist (yes, for decades The Park Record had its own very talented cartoonist) and he would then work on an outrageous sketch to match the story.
Sometimes we drew from national news and other ski resorts’ fodder. Like the year Ivana Trump announced she was divorcing — The Donald. That was the one that got me in exceedingly hot water. We wrote — since The Donald was keeping custody of Aspen, Ivana had decided to buy up parts of Park City — specifically the Main Street Mall (it no longer exists but was about where Lululemon is today). And she was buying her own spa — Vie — which was across the street, next the Egyptian Theatre. And because she had honestly been a ski racer — she would become involved with coaching the U.S. Ski Team here. We made it the front-page, above-the-fold story — complete with made-up quotes from Ivana and The Donald. It was so silly and outrageous we thought it would make folks laugh but certainly no one would be fooled by it.
As turned out someone was fooled — someone who read the paper and then picked up the phone and congratulated his friend, Ivana, on moving to town. It was, after all, where this Texan owned a little weekly paper there now and they had already printed the story. This was so long ago that Al Gore was just thinking about inventing the internet. Ivana told the publisher, who published many many papers back then — including the Dallas Morning News — that there was zero truth to that rumor and she had already received other calls about it. There was a word for how our new publisher, Dean Singleton, felt about the annual issue of tomfoolery here — furious.
But the community always loved it.
Even an emerging all-dollied-up Debbi Fields — whose cookie business allowed her and her husband Randy to move town and buy the Egyptian Theatre and spend almost half a million dollars in renovating the falling-down, old melodrama house — she played along. We had an annual feature where we would find locals who looked vaguely like celebrities and then we would create a doctored photo (for the April Fool’s edition) called Separated at Birth. The year we ran Debbi Fields’ photo next to Dolly Parton’s was a big hit and Debbi was such a good sport she signed copies for folks.
Planning Commission meetings really were the longest and driest things, and reporters stayed for all those hours — week after week (and still do) to understand new developments proposed in all their various nuances. We were always surprised back then how few people were following the giant developments that were proposed. I remember we created a story about the County Council approving plans for a condom factory. We quoted one of them (with a slightly altered name from his real one to protect ourselves from libel issues). The quote was something like, “Oh — we were so tired by that time in the meeting I heard condominium factory and that seemed like a good idea. You mean we approved a factory to make actual condoms?”
We paired that with a story about a new marketing touch that had just been announced by the only luxury hotel that existed in town and was up high on a hill in Deer Valley. That story played off the last and said they had decided the little mint on the pillow was so passé. They would start leaving something useful on the bed — a Park City-branded condom. When in use — for some folks — it would show the words “Park City, Utah” … for others it might read … “Park City, Utah — Home of the United States Ski Team and Sister City to Courchevel, France.” The hotel received calls asking where folks could buy those branded condoms. Management was not amused. It was one of our more oft-quoted stories.
And this all tied into the last real day on slopes — which was April 1 — or known for the longest time as Clown Day. It involved folks dressed up, or if the weather was good — barely dressed. And yes, this was where the legendary three guys — dressed as gorillas — had altered a pair of skis (and themselves) and skied on one pair of skis down the slopes. I had just moved to town and took my 6- and 8-year-old skiing that day because it sounded like such fun. And it was — just a shade beyond family fun.
I saw a video this week from an underground revival of Clown Day that happened here on the slopes. It had all the proper elements of springtime debauchery. And it did more than make me smile — it made me proud. Those children of the ’70s had became parents and told the tales to their children and it appeared they were carrying on a tradition of tomfoolery to welcome spring. After a year of such sadness and joylessness it was downright heartwarming to see such silliness had returned. It gives me hope that maybe the DNA of this formerly wacky ski town still beats in remote corners some days. Including Sundays in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the founder of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts. She has been a member of the TED community since 2007 and founded TEDxParkCity in 2009.
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