Thinking of Butts
“Thinking of Butts? What kind of operation is this?” No, this isn’t a musing on summer swimsuit collections, but Steve probably would have appreciated if it was.
Steve Butts was a father, a character, and a dear friend to many. This is a story of remembrance through wine.
Last week, I was on Cape Cod with family and old friends. Since I can remember, this group has gone on ski trips together in the winter and met up on the Cape in the summer. The families have grown up together. We’ve enjoyed one another’s success, supported each other through bumps in the road, been surprised as the kids and parents both got older, and above all remained friends.
On Thursday night we were eating dinner with a big group at Hart and Loo Fessenden’s house. My Dad and Hart went to boarding school and college together and have been close friends ever since.
Looking through their wine shelves for a red to pair with flank steak, I saw a bottle of 1998 Château Léoville Barton. I held it up to Hart to see what he thought.
“Is that the Butts wine?” he said. “That’s a special bottle. Let’s open it!” In pink handwriting across the label read a simple inscription, “Thinking of Butts.”
Steve Butts was part of this group. His family was a part of this group. He and Hart met as kids on Cape Cod, and became fast friends after Steve sold Hart his stereo system so he could trade up for a nicer one. Steve was “a hustler,” a term I heard use several times throughout the meal. He attended the University of Denver in the 70’s. He was living in Aspen after college, and upon realizing he was a little late to the Aspen party, opened up Telluride Properties.
He had a little plane, and he’d fly people from Aspen to Telluride. “I still remember the sign,” Hart said during dinner. “Million dollar properties for under a million dollars.” People would come in off the street wondering why Telluride Properties was operating in Aspen. He’d whisk them off to this beautiful old mining-turned-ski town in the San Juans, and they were sold.
Dinner turned into Butts story time. He once bought a bunch of turquoise jewelry in Colorado, which he then brought back to Cape Cod and sold because turquoise hadn’t made it out there yet. He then took the money, bought a (questionable) used Jaguar, drove it back to Colorado and flipped it for a profit because nobody had Jaguars in Colorado. He was twenty years old at the time!
We heard about a Rolling Stones concert in Boston where he’d showed up with no tickets and a little bit of money an hour before showtime and ended up center stage with a chunk of cash in his pockets. “That was just Butts,” Hart said, sipping his Bordeaux between stories.
We skied with Steve and his daughters in Utah in December of 2004. Steve skied like everybody wants to ski. Steve skied like the guys you see from the chairlift and wonder how they hell they make it look so easy. He was excited about a heli-skiing trip he was planning with some buddies to British Columbia a couple weeks later.
Steve Butts died on that trip in an avalanche.
It’s always a special time when this group gets together, but opening that bottle over dinner was one of the highlights of the trip. Forget how it tasted, (amazing), because that’s not what this story is about. Opening that bottle of wine allowed us to remember our friend, to miss him, and to think about the good times we all had together. Here’s to you, Butts, we’re all thinking of you.