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Aspen Skico: Mistake Made in Firing of Musician

Gig will be offered again to Sheridan
Friday, January 8, 2010
Scott Condon - The Aspen Times - Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN - The Aspen Skiing Co. said Thursday it played the wrong tune in the firing of musician Dan Sheridan for singing a song that was deemed inappropriate.

"The Ski Company acted hastily, made a mistake and is now acting to repair that mistake," Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said Thursday.

"The way it was handled was not proper" and didn't match the company's values, he added.

A weekly Friday gig at Sneaky's Tavern, a Skico-owned and -operated bar and restaurant at Snowmass' Base Village, will be offered back to Sheridan, who has a sizable local following. Hanle said he traded messages with Sheridan this week that indicated Sheridan was open to working something out. However, no one from the Skico has talked directly with Sheridan, so it is unknown if he wants the gig back.

Sheridan couldn't be reached Thursday by The Aspen Times.

He was fired Monday for performing his tune "Big Money" for the apr¸s-ski crowd on Jan. 1. A Skico vice president was in attendance and felt the song was "highly inappropriate," according to Hanle.

That triggered a string of events that led to what Hanle called the mistaken firing of Sheridan. The vice president conveyed his thoughts about the song to the Skico's food and beverage division. The comment was interpreted to mean that Sheridan shouldn't be performing, so the word was passed on to the Sneaky's management on Monday to dismiss him.

"It was a misinterpretation of the [vice president's] communication," Hanle said.

That misinterpretation started becoming apparent Tuesday evening, according to Hanle. He said he ran into the vice president and told him, "Thanks for making my life more difficult."

The vice president was puzzled and asked him why. When Hanle conveyed that Sheridan had been fired, the vice president said that was never his intent. He simply felt the song was inappropriate at a tough time when the Skico is trying to bolster customer service and do everything possible to make visitors feel welcome, according to Hanle. The vice president was willing to be identified, but Hanle declined.

"Big Money" critiques the effects of wealth on Aspen. In a story Wednesday,

Aspen Times Arts and Entertainment Editor Stewart Oksenhorn wrote: "The song builds to the ultimate point that the loose, spontaneous sense of fun associated with Old Aspen is being squeezed out in favor of a more sterile, artificial social environment."

On Wednesday, Hanle began piecing together the sequence of events that led to Sheridan's firing. When he presented his findings to the upper management, they agreed that dismissing Sheridan was inappropriate. Hanle said he heard the firing described internally as "an overreaction" and a "knee-jerk decision."

Public reaction was swift after the article came out Wednesday. There were a handful of letters to the editor and blog comments Thursday, almost entirely critical of Skico. Hanle said he also received "eight or nine" e-mails and "four or five telephone calls" from people upset about the firing. The only recent dissent that triggered more comments to him personally was season pass pricing.

But "these [complaints about the firing] are more passionate," Hanle said.

He said the Skico started acting to correct its mistake with Sheridan before "the onslaught" of public reaction.

The Skico isn't backing away from the position that the song is inappropriate in one of its venues. Sheridan will be asked not to play "Big Money" if he returns to Sneaky's.

scondon@aspentimes.com