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LEGENDS & LEGACIES

CLASSIC ASPEN

by TIM WILLOUGHBY

Film star Hedy Lamarr at her prime in 1934.

HEDY LAMARR IN 1950S ASPEN ski resorts have a long history of fostering links to Hollywood stars.

There was a concerted effort to tie the sport of skiing to the cachet of the movies, and stars found they benefitted from publicity that associated their names with the new glamorous sport of skiing. When skiing took hold in the 1930s, Gary Cooper, Claudette Colbert and Norma Schearer frequented Sun Valley. Walt Disney invested in California’s Sugar Bowl. Aspen’s first Hollywood connection was with 1930-40s star Jack Okie. The Highland Bavarian partnership brought him to Aspen in 1938 with hopes that they could land him as an investor in their project. When the Ski Corporation was born, Gary Cooper switched to Aspen, Lana Turner appeared at the opening of the lifts, and Ray Milland became a frequent visitor. The1950s brought Aspen a new Hollywood connection. Hedy Lamarr, the starlet who twice had been deemed the most beautiful woman in the world, claimed a stake in local lore when her name made a marquee for a lodge. As a teenager in her native Austria in the 1930s, Lamarr starred in her first film. Soon afterward, she married Fritz Mandl, her first husband, one of Austria’s wealthiest men and a major munitions manufacturer. He forbade her from acting, so she spent her time on her

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second passion, inventing. She sat quietly listening at dinner parties as Nazi generals discussed weapons advancements, then she fled her abusive husband and the Nazis. In Paris she met composer George Antheil, who was trying

jam-proof signals. Antheil and she corroborated on a patent for frequency hopping that many claim was the precursor to today’s spreadspectrum frequency hopping that today is used by cellphones. Louis B. Mayer signed Hedy

AFTER MAKING MANY HOLLYWOOD MOVIES, MARRYING THREE MORE TIMES, AND GIVING BIRTH TO THREE CHILDREN, SHE MARRIED HER FIFTH HUSBAND, TEXAS OILMAN W. HOWARD LEE. TOGETHER THEY BUILT THE VILLA LAMARR, A LODGE IN ASPEN, BEST KNOWN TO LOCALS AS “HEDY’S BEDDIES”. to coordinate 12 player pianos for an avant-garde composition using punch hole sheets to signal the pianos. Hedy had an idea for improving torpedo guidance with

March 22-28, 2012

to a contract and brought her to Hollywood, where she immediately attracted attention. Most actresses of the time were blondes. Some took one look at Lamarr and dyed their

hair black. She was an immediate hit, so popular that when she toured the country to promote war bonds, she collected, in today’s dollars, 343 million. One stop attracted a crowd of more than 15,000. After making many Hollywood movies, marrying three more times, and giving birth to three children, she married her fifth husband, Texas oilman W. Howard Lee. Together they built the Villa Lamarr, a lodge in Aspen, best known to locals as “Hedy’s Beddies”. Located at the site of today’s Aspen Villas, their building featured stucco and was a harbinger of the 1960s’ cheap condo construction. Aspen did not see much of Hedy. During her career she shunned the public, preferring a home life occupied with inventing. She divided her time among Aspen, Hollywood (where she filmed her last movie, “The Female Animal”) and an additional home in Texas. Their marriage ended with an acrimonious divorce; Lee claimed she was impossible to live with and Hedy fought for alimony. Lee met another actress, Gene Tierney, and they married in Aspen in 1960. Hedy moved on to her sixth husband. Villa Lamarr was torn down to build the Aspen Villas erasing Aspen’s brief association with the world’s most beautiful woman. Tim Willoughby’s family story parallels Aspen’s. He began sharing folklore while teaching for Aspen Country Day School and Colorado Mountain College. Now a tourist in his native town, he views it with historical perspective. Reach him at redmtn@schat.net

PHOTO COURTESY OF PUBLIC DOMAIN

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