Personal Style: Hugh Grant

Hugh Grant wears a cape, and Cat knew immediately that she would cotton to anyone who wears a cape. But then she got the director of the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art on the phone, and now she has a bit of an intellectual crush on him. He's smart, he's a music historian, he's on the board of Opera Colorado, he wrote a ballet for Colorado Ballet that won an Emmy, and he wears a cape. A very storied cape. A cape that Vance Kirkland himself once wore. What's not to love?

"It was made by Winifred Leahy, who you wouldn't know unless you're about eighty," says Grant, laughing. "She was well known in the '40s and '50s in Denver, and she was the director of the fittings department for Montaldo's department store and Denver Dry Goods Co. in Cherry Creek. She became a friend of Robert Weaver, who was the manager of the big classical music store, Music For All, for 25 years, and he wanted something to wear to the opening of the Denver Symphony. So Winifred made him this gorgeous cape. It's not something you'd rent in a Halloween store. It's this incredible navy blue wool flannel material, and it has a plum satin lining with a collar."

How did it get passed down to Grant so that he could continue the tradition of dapper, cultured men sporting a cape? There's some beautiful symmetry to the story.

According to Grant, he "misspent" his youth in Weaver's music store — "I was just drawn to symphonic music and opera" — and the two became friends. Weaver also knew Vance Kirkland, who was friends with Grant's mother, and she introduced Kirkland to her son. Those two bonded over "this great love of classical music." Eventually Weaver gave the cape to Kirkland, who would wear it to opera openings, and Kirkland — one of the most famous artists to ever call Denver home -- passed it down to Grant, who is now the director of the museum that houses his collection.

"It's a little strange to be seen running around wearing a cape," Grant says. "One feels a little self-conscious wearing a cape. You have to have flamboyant weirdo personality to pull it off. It used to be the style that you could dress up, even in Denver, which was known as a cow town. Cows are a great part of our history, and I love cows, but I also like that we're into culture."

Last weekend Grant was in Houston showing off Denver's culture — and possibly his cape — at the Museum of Fine Arts opening of Modern West: American Landscapes 1890-1950, which features work by Kirkland like the one seen here. "This the first time ever a show has been put together of modern art of the West," Grant says. "And it features Kirkland as well as Clyfford Still, Georgia O'Keefe, Jackson Pollock and Frederic Remington. The catalog was done by the Yale University Press, so this will launch Kirkland into being better known."

And Denver won't look too shabby, either, since Kirkland hailed from here and the new Clyfford Still museum -- housing the artist's entire estate -- in Civic Center should be finished by 2009.


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