By Mary Beth Libbey
Chances are, if you’ve put Taos on your Southwest itinerary, you already know the famous names linked to this mountain mesa with the river riven through it: Kit Carson, Georgia O’Keeffe, D.H. Lawrence, Dennis Hopper, Julia Roberts.
Maybe you even know the names of others who made a mark on Taos history. You see their names on museums, street signs: Mabel Dodge Luhan, Nicholai Fechin, Millicent Rogers, Gov. Charles Bent.
But, here’s the thing. Some of the celebrities closely associated with Taos didn’t always stay here long.
Take the first five names mentioned:
Carson lived here. You can walk through his house. He married a Taoseña, so let’s call him legit.
Actor Hopper came here to shoot some scenes for the ‘60s film, “Easy Rider.” He later bought the Dodge Luhan house and dubbed it “The Mud Palace,” threw some star-studded parties, and is buried in nearby Talpa.
O’Keeffe painted a few notable pieces here but then split after a few months in 1930. Her biographer, Laurie Lisle, wrote that she tired of the close-knit art colony. “I find people very difficult,” she once said.
Lawrence. This guy did not stay long at all. Local historians estimate Lawrence was here 11 months over three trips in five years But he drew other artists here, even after his death.
Aldous Huxley, Tennessee Williams and Leonard Bernstein among others either visited him in the 1920s or were at his ranch in San Cristobal in the ‘30s and ‘40s. North of Taos about 20 miles, the memorial at the ranch contains the ashes of the British author of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.” His wife Frieda, by the way, became a real Taoseño. She lived here until her death in 1956.
Still, Lawrence wrote these oft-quoted words: “In the magnificent fierce morning of New Mexico one sprang awake, a new part of the soul woke up suddenly, and the old world gave way to a new.”
Roberts, on the other hand, has made Taos one of her most-frequented homes. She came here in the ‘90s, later bought 30-plus acres in Arroyo Seco, built a massive house and married cameraman Danny Moder in Taos on July 4, 2002. People say they bump into her in the grocery store.
Here are some other notable folks you may not know have a link to Taos:
MARCELINO BACA Baca was a Taos native and a fur trader who helped establish the Southwest fur trade. Taos’ establishment as a major trade center put the town on the map long before the arts did. Baca settled down with his family in 1854 in what is now Red River. Then it was Río Colorado. He died in the Civil War as one of the New Mexico Volunteers in a battle with invading Texans Feb. 21, 1862.
LYNN ANDERSON The country singer who gave us the crossover hit, “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” made her home here with longtime partner Mentor Williams for 20 years. She raised quarter horses and trained horses.
GARY JOHNSON The erstwhile Libertarian presidential candidate and former New Mexico governor has a home only a short drive from Taos Ski Valley. It makes sense. He is an avid skier, cyclist and all-around athlete.
DONALD RUMSFELD The former Defense Secretary under President George W. Bush splits lives in Taos part-time. He’s been spotted with his grandkids at a July 4 parade. Demonstrations erupted at his property during the Iraq War, but he remained unruffled. He told Gentleman’s Quarterly in 2007, “I have nothing to apologize for.”
DEAN STOCKWELL Stockwell has appeared in about 100 films since 1945 and acted on the small screen even more often, including the 1990’s hit, “Quantum Leap.” Unlike many of the celebs Hopper lured here, Stockwell stayed. His star may be on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, but now he is also a Taos artist, making “surreal, digitally enhanced collages” and brightly colored dice sculptures.
R.C. GORMAN The New York Times called him “the Picasso of American Indian artists.” From the late 1960s to his death in 2005, Rudolph Carl Gorman lived in his compound visible from State Road 522 and exhibited his richly colored images of over-sized, impressionistic Native women.
LARRY BELL A resident of Taos since 1973, Bell is probably best-known for his 3-D glass cubes. He told Trend magazine in 2014: “I’m a party guy,” Bell says, with a boyish grin. “…In Taos, there is much less temptation.” His work graces the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London and just about every major museum throughout the U.S. and Europe.
ALDOUS HUXLEY The British author of “Brave New World” reportedly wrote his collection of essays “Means and Ends” in 1937 while staying at the homestead that is now the Taos Goji Eco Lodge. The lore: Huxley once ran into the outhouse in fear of a dog. The philosopher and futurist was trapped in there for three hours.
NATALIE GOLDBERG AND JULIA CAMERON To those who have tried to tap into their inner writer or artist, these women are household names and former Taos residents. They both have since emigrated to Santa Fe. Between them, they wrote dozens of books. “Writing Down the Bones” and “The Artist’s Way,” respectively, are their most popular works.
MIKE REYNOLDS The documentary on this man’s life is called “The Garbage Warrior” and, indeed, his Earthship community northwest of town is a monument to the idea that one can live off-grid, use recycled materials to build comfortable, self-sustaining, attractive, artistic and downright cozy homes.
AGNES MARTIN If O’Keeffe’s Taos link is a bit unearned, abstract artist Agnes Martin’s is long and deep. Martin first came to New Mexico when she was a young woman. Some of her large, minimalist paintings hang in the Harwood Museum here. The world-renowned artist moved to New Mexico in 1967, and in the end, came back to Taos in 1993 and lived here until her death in 2004.
SUSAN POWTER The Australian-born 1990’s fitness and weight loss guru who said, “Stop the insanity!” nearly all the time lived in a Taos Earthship for a few years. The TV morning show “Good Morning America” came here in 2010 to film her. Powter told The Taos News, “I don’t have to stop the insanity in Taos. I kind of like it.” She moved to Las Vegas, Nevada by 2016.
JOHN NICHOLS Best-known for his novel, “The Milagro Beanfield War,” which dramatizes the ever-present pressures of development on Northern New Mexico, Nichols has lived in Taos for more than 40 years. The movie version was directed by Robert Redford in 1988 up State Road 76 in the tiny village of Truchas.
DAVE HAHN You could say he’s a Taos Ski Valley patroller, and that would be correct. But it would sort of miss the point. The man has scaled Mount Everest 15 times. He even guided former Gov. Gary Johnson to the summit of Everest and Mt. Vinson in Antarctica.
ROBERT MIRABAL The locals think of Mirabal as a farmer, flute maker, a good dad and, oh yes, a Grammy-award winning musician who played Carnegie Hall last year. Taos Pueblo born, Mirabal won the 2008 Native American Album of the Year. He plays locally quite often, and if you are lucky, you might catch one of these remarkable performances.
That’s not everybody. But, it confirms the draw of this place, where people mostly leave you alone and you never run out of horizon.