Colorado History

Pissing Llamas at Kristen Schaal's Wedding: Stanley Hotel Owner's Favorite Story

When interviewing John Cullen, owner of the Stanley Hotel, for this week's cover story about the Stanley, we asked him to recount his favorite stories since he bought the property in Estes Park 22 years ago.

While Cullen did have plenty of anecdotes pertaining to the hotel's association with horror, including his interactions with author Stephen King, who was inspired to write The Shining after a stay at the Stanley in 1974, Cullen's favorite story involves a wedding and a couple of overly hydrated llamas.

The bride of the wedding was actress Kristen Schaal, who described what happened on an episode of Conan O'Brien's talk show:


As Cullen tells it, Schaal requested that the two llamas be the ring bearers at her wedding. The llamas wore the rings around their necks and were led down the aisle by Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart.


“The problem was that these llamas weren’t acclimated to high-altitude areas,” Cullen says, “so one of the llamas started getting disoriented."

Assuming that the llama was dehydrated, the Stanley's general manager went on Google and typed in the query: "How to hydrate a llama.”

“They got a lot of water into that llama,” Cullen says with a chuckle.

Way too much water, it turned out.

As Schaal described on Conan, right after the trained llamas made it down the aisle, they urinated in front of her wedding guests for about fifteen minutes straight.

Cullen says that the pissing-llama story made a minor sensation after Schaal's TV appearance. “The phones rang off the hook for three days. Everyone wanted a pissing llama at their wedding!" he says.  

But not everyone found the story humorous. Cullen also remembers getting calls from PETA activists who told the hotel, “How dare you bring llamas into this!”

As the Stanley's owner, Cullen has had to get used to outrageous occurrences. But when it comes to the bizarre and unpredictable, he says, “that's just a standard day at the Stanley."

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Chris Walker is a freelancer and former staff writer at Westword. Before moving to the Mile High City he spent two years bicycling across Eurasia, during which he wrote feature stories for VICE, NPR, Forbes, and The Atlantic. Read more of Chris's feature work and view his portfolio here.
Contact: Chris Walker