Behind the scenes with The Fabulous Vuarnettes
photography: courtesy Vuarnettes
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At first they hid behind sunglasses, afraid that friends would recognize them on stage. Over the years, however, the girls have grown more brazen. Now, nothing and no one is safe from these four outrageous dames wrapped in miles of petticoats. Not telemarketers. Not one-piece Bogner ski suits. And certainly not Hollywood action stars turned politicos.
“If we haven’t offended you yet, we will,” Callie Galpin is fond of telling audiences. “The list is long and it covers everyone.”
The Fabulous Vuarnettes have been a fixture in Sun Valley’s après-ski scene for 20-plus years—a third of Sun Valley’s storied history, when you stop to think about it. After the lifts grind to a halt, skiers flood into Sun Valley’s Boiler Room to sip libations such as Kitty’s Furball and Cheetah’s Bushwacker, inspired by the gals.
Then, just as the liquor starts giving everyone that warm, fuzzy feeling, the girls appear, decked out in glittery platform shoes, Bavarian dirndls covered in sequins, and poodle skirts so stiff they could be used as chairs. Above it all, teetering hats are crowned with Tweety Birds, ski figurines, Easter
bunnies, and other gizmos—more plastic than Minnie Pearl ever thought of sticking on her head.
The outfits are but a prelude to a riotous mayhem of male bashing, celebrity trashing, and PMS gnashing as the girls sing and dance their way through parodies of popular ’50s and ’60s songs. With a few deft twists of the tongue, “Surfin’ USA” becomes “Ski Trip to Hell.” “My Guy” becomes “Midol.” “Stand by Your Man” becomes—yes, you’re catching on—“Stand on Your Man.” And “He’s a Rebel” metamorphoses into
“He’s a Local”:
“He’s a local ’cuz he’s been in town for 90 days.
“He’s a local with his waffle hammer and Vuarnets …”
“They’re hysterical—the best show in town,” says Ketchum resident Peggy Dean.
“Total entertainment,” adds Hailey resident Roger Roche. “They make you laugh. They make you smile. They make you drink way too much.”
The Vuarnettes’ humor, originality, and perky, cheerleader-type enthusiasm earned them their fifteen seconds of movie fame. In Warren Miller’s Extreme Winter, they sat on Sun Valley’s chairlift in their short skirts, freezing their tushes for the camera.
Their act has taken them coast-to-coast and even to the Bahamas, via private jets and limos. (They’re always careful to pack their delicate hats under three feet of popcorn, of course.) They did a gig for the opening of the contemporary art museum in Oahu, Hawaii, before an audience dressed to the nines in tuxedos and evening gowns. They revved it up for a bunch of liquor salesmenat an Absolut Vodka convention in Florida. They even played for a convention of Republican governors in Laguna, California:
“Heard it through the grapevine, the Democrats are asinine …”
Perhaps the Vuarnettes’ strangest gig was for the Balboa Yacht Club off the coast of Newport Beach, California, where they were the only women in a private cove full of drunken yacht owners. It looked as if things might go a bit over the edge when, at one point, a small man resembling Truman Capote and wearing a white sailor hat banged on their dressing room door and shouted, “I come from the crew of the Good Ship Vamanos, and we’ve got jewels for you!”
“One of the girls was like, ‘Oh, cool, you’ve got jewels!’” Galpin recalls. “But another was paralyzed with fear. Next thing we knew, the promoters were saying, ‘You’ve got to get out now!’”
That scene took place long after the night Galpin and a couple of friends, bored with watching their husbands play in a band, got up on stage and did a few songs as a joke.
A year later, in 1980, audiences were lining up at the door of the Creekside Inn in Warm Springs Village four times a week to catch the Vuarnettes in their carhop outfits, ’50s prom dresses, metallic jumpsuits, and go-go-girl miniskirts.
“They were a huge hit,” recalls former Creekside Inn proprietor Kathy Wygle. “The girls in the audience all wished they were a Vuarnette. And the guys all wished they knew one.”
The 200-plus songs the Vuarnettes have rewritten with their own zany twists fill several notebooks. Thumbing through them is like rewinding through many of the news items that were once the stuff of Tonight Show monologues.
They wrote “[My] Achy Breaky Part”—a take-off on Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaky Heart”—in a distorted nod to Lorena and John Bobbitt. They composed a raucous toast to Osama bin Laden when United States troops entered Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks. They made note of O.J. Simpson and his gaggle of lawyers by rewriting the lyrics to the Beach Boys’ “Kokomo.” They toasted Sun Valley homeowner Arnold Schwarzenegger’s election as governor of California. And they did a good-humored spoof on the stock market downturn via Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools." >>>