Friday, August 3, 2012

Jim Cimino


A decade ago, Jim Cimino asked me to write the story of his life, but he wanted me to start with his wife, Barbara, as her health was fading. The agreement was sealed at his home in Warm Springs over, (what else?) a bottle of fine wine. During our initial conversation, Jim asked me where I was born. "Savanna, Ill.," I replied. He said, "Chris, you already have the job. You don't have to bulls--- me." "Why do you think I'm bulls----ting you? "Because that's where I was born! Let me get a better bottle from downstairs."

Hardly a great connection, but he was the only person I've ever met who was born in the same small town outside Chicago. I had known him earlier when he was involved with Michel's Christiania and would hold large dinner parties into the early mornings that became highly noteworthy. He had a wide variety of friends, from blue-collar workers to famous millionaires, and treated everyone the same—wonderfully. He was the ultimate host and insisted on always picking up the tab, telling memorable stories and flirting with every woman at the table. He was warm, witty and charming, and no one could not help liking him immediately. Later, he would fill his car with gas and wine and take the back roads home in his old Buick or whatever vintage automobile he was driving at the time.

The festivities would continue the next day as Jim broke bread with more friends at Cristina's, then would drive up to his office in Sun Valley to take care of his many businesses and charitable contributions. Then, it was back to the "Christi" for more fun and frivolity until the wee hours.

He was here six months every year since 1975, the remaining six months spent in his other home in beloved Puerto Rico where he ran a large food and beverage empire. The town would anxiously await his return each year, and the air would be abuzz. "Did you hear? Cimino's back?" "Hey, Cimino's back!" "Let's go!" Everyone loved the guy. "You say Cimino and I say Casino. You say Casino and I say Cimino. Casino—Cimino—Cimino—Casino, let's call the whole night lost!"

His beloved wife, Barbara, died three months after our beginning of the biography and Jim called the project off, saying he just couldn't continue. It would be too painful. He dedicated "Memory Park" in her honor and as a gift to the town of Ketchum.

We will all miss him.

Nice talking to you.


Mr. Millspaugh still lives in a log cabin.

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