Blazing the family trail to Crested Butte
By Dawne Belloise
“I came here to be a famous actress,” says Diane Reycraft as she breaks into a big smile, tosses her head back and laughs, not so much at the prospect of moving to Crested Butte to get discovered but perhaps that she’s still here and still enjoying the lifestyle decades later without a contract from some big agent.
Diane was raised outside of NYC, and later LA, where her parents were avid lovers of the theatre and imparted that appreciation and fascination to their daughter. “I went to all fabulous real Broadway shows, like Funny Girl with Barbara Streisand, front and center. I was 13 when we moved to the other coast, and I saw Hair at the Aquarius Theatre in 1968. My father was a sales executive with an account to entertain customers, so we could get tickets to anything. There were five of us siblings but I was his little actress, so he took me. That’s why I’ve always wanted to be a famous actress. I loved theatre. I got the fever early. As a child, I always studied voice, dance and drama,” Diane says of growing up with private lessons. “My childhood was music and theatre.”
Diane was shuffled around a bit and attended three different high schools. “In my freshman year, I was still back east and then we moved to San Clemente, Orange County. I graduated from Tusten in 1969.” During her senior year she joined the California Players summer stock theatre, when the daughter of the two professors who ran it suggested to Diane that she audition. Diane was intrigued when she was told that every summer the troupe heads to the Rockies. “So I read for them and got the part. We did three alternating plays, six nights a week. By the Rockies, they meant Crested Butte and we performed at the Old Town Hall, long before it was the Mallardi Cabaret.”
From the time she was 17, Diane had six performances a week in Crested Butte for two consecutive summers in 1969 and 1970. “And that’s basically how I got to Crested Butte. Me and my whole giant family,” she says. “My family was very supportive of my work and they came to see me in August 1969. My mom, dad, big brother Russ, his wife Patsy and their four small children, Russ, Joel, Stacy and Kim all came out. They loved Crested Butte and Russ and Dad bought a fourplex on Sopris within two weeks. It was known as the Reycraft apartments for years.”
During her young acting career in the late 1960s, she met her first husband, who was also a performing member of the California Players troupe. “It was during the Vietnam war and I married my first husband, Michael. Because of the draft, he joined the army band in Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs so he didn’t have to go to war. We didn’t have the choices back then that the kids have now because of the war and the draft. We wanted to be together so we had to get married and join the army. It seemed like a solution at the time,” she shrugs. After three years in the army, from 1971 to 1973, the couple needed a respite, so, “We put on backpacks and went to Europe for a year.” As times changed, they went their separate ways after six years together.
She returned to Crested Butte to run the Slogar for Jeff Hermanson. “Before it was the ‘chicken shack,’ it was a gourmet restaurant in 1977. I ran it for about three years. Afterwards, I leased the Forest Queen dining room and had my own restaurant, but just for one season, and went back and forth to Colorado Springs a few times,” Diane says.
There she met her second hubby, Randy Bruce. The two married in 1983, had Adam in 1984 and moved back to Crested Butte. “I got married to Randy Bruce in Colorado Springs when I was 30. We had three kids, Adam, Bruce, Ashley and Myles, who all wanted to be in Crested Butte. We brought them up here every time we could get away, doing all our camping up here. We moved up in 1999 and my kids went to the Crested Butte Community Schools.”
Diane and Randy split after 26 years and she remained in Crested Butte. She went from acting to restaurateur, “to make a living because,” she laughs, “you’re not making money as an actor in Crested Butte.” She had various jobs, including retail at Zachariah Zipp, which she felt was easier for a single parent who was raising kids. Throughout it all, she continued acting in many Mountain Theatre productions.
After her family had initially moved to Crested Butte, back in the late 1960s, they lived and worked in town for 11 years. Russ was postmaster for several of those years and his two sons, Russ (junior) and Joel, also stayed. Russ junior has been a ski patrolman for over 30 years and Joel is a contractor. Their sisters, Kim and Stacy, returned back east as adults. Kim recently returned to Crested Butte from New York last summer while Stacy is in Mississippi.
“My parents lived here in Crested Butte on and off,” Diane says. “My parents bought and sold property but nothing was worth much back then,” she grins and adds, “We didn’t get rich off of anything. But it was a great adventure. I think we helped to build up the town a little bit. As Reycrafts, we can’t complain about the population of the valley because we’re partly responsible.” Diane’s brother Russ passed away in 1997. “Yeah, we filled the UCC at the memorial, then we took the urn with his ashes to every bar in town. We had a seat with a drink set up and his ashes. We’re Irish, you know—what can I say?”
The genesis of Diane’s family history and migration to the Gunnison Valley is a long one but an important integration to her story. Her nephew Russ married Renee and they had three daughters, Nichole, Emily and Holly.
“Nichole and I were on stage together for three of Mary Tuck’s plays,” she says of her great niece, who is also a Crested Butte Mountain Theatre (CBMT) Marmot Award–winning actress as well as a vocalist who performs as a duo at local venues with her mother, Renee. “And my son Myles did the movie Fern Hill, which was filmed here, when he was 12. It was about four boys and he was the only local boy in a lead part. My daughter Ashley did sound and lights for the CBMT as well so theatre is in our blood.”
Emily lives in Denver, has a baby girl, Remy; Holly lives in Gunnison with her husband, their daughter Eddie, and a son due in August. To which Diane notes, “Like I said, we are procreating.”
Ski patrolman Russ has a son, Tim Reycraft, who lives in Gunnison with a four-year-old daughter, Madison. “Kim recently returned to Crested Butte because she always wanted to come back. She loved it here but she had a son in New York whose father was also in New York, so she stayed in Binghamton until he graduated from high school. Next month, on August 31, the family will gather at Russ’ house in Almont to celebrate 50 years in the valley. “There’s about 15 of us still living in the valley,” Diane says with pride.
Diane’s very content to be back in her town among old friends and family, saying, “My goals at this point are longevity along with health and happiness. That’s what’s left of my goals. I just love it, the fresh air and water and it’s my kind of people here. We work hard, we play hard and that’s how we were raised here. We fit in here because of that ethic.” Diane still hikes, skis and has climbed most of the area’s Fourteeners.
But what she’s most proud of is, “My work with CBMT. I’ve been in eight plays and won two Marmots. And of course, I’m proud of being a parent.” In her everyday world, Diane’s goals are simple and full of gratitude. “I’d just like to stay here as long as I can breathe here.”