Author Archives: Dan Woog

Homegrown

An alert “06880” reader who wishes to remain anonymous writes:

I just came from Crossroads Hardware, where I enriched their coffers by buying a $1.49 light bulb.

As I checked out, AJ Izzo — the store’s major domo — asked if I liked tomatoes.

“Of course,” I said.

He dug into a large shopping bag, then filled a smaller brown paper bag with 6 fresh garden-grown tomatoes just given to him by a customer.

A simple, almost trivial story — but a touching reminder of the generosity and thoughtfulness of homegrown store owners from our not-too-recent past, who treated every customer as family.

While there, I forgot to purchase a 19-cent washer. I look forward to my next visit.

Maybe AJ will be giving away some basil or olive oil.

The actual tomatoes, given away at Crossroads Hardware.

The actual tomatoes, given away at Crossroads Hardware.

Coffee 101

Alert “06880” photographer Lynn U. Miller spotted this sign yesterday, outside SoNo Baking Company downtown:

SoNo Bakery - Lynn U Miller

To which we can only add that famous soccer cheer, heard worldwide:

Au lait! Au lait au lait au lait…!

From Brooklyn To Westport: Life In A Changing “Hometown”

Antonia Landgraf was born and raised in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. It was a tight-knit Italian neighborhood — like long-ago Saugatuck, perhaps — and she loved it.

Her grandfather — born on the same block — was a mailman. Her grandmother worked in a school cafeteria.

Her parents worked for the government. They lived on the bottom 2 floors of a brownstone, and rented out the rest.

In the mid-1980s, yuppies began to move in. Bodegas and religious artifact stores gave way to crêperies, boutiques and bars.

“The good part was there were nice restaurants and shops. Not everything was a chain,” Antonia recalls.

A

A “Farmacy” has probably replaced a pharmacy in Carroll Gardens.

Real estate prices rose. Some renters were priced out. Antonia’s parents and grandparents owned their property, and benefited.

Many of her friends stayed in Carroll Gardens. On Facebook, she reads their comments about the changes.

“It’s not like the days when everyone knew everyone,” she says. “That’s ironic, because the first people who came did it because it was a great Italian-American neighborhood, with everyone sitting out on their stoops.”

The oldtimers-versus-newcomers debate is not confined to Carroll Gardens. It echoes in many places — including Westport. Which is where, since 2013, Antonia and her husband have lived.

They moved first to New Jersey, in 2002, because they could no longer afford Brooklyn. Then they had kids. Her husband’s company has an office in Darien. They started looking for bigger, suburban homes.

Antonia and her husband visited Westport on a beautiful September day. The water sparkled under the Bridge Street bridge. Downtown, they walked past the gorgeous Christ & Holy Trinity church, and stopped at the Spotted Horse. “It felt like we were on vacation,” Antonia says.

Moving here has been wonderful. The town is gorgeous. Folks have been welcoming. She could not be happier.

Her 3 sons — the youngest was born here — are busy, and thriving. On the day we talked earlier this summer, one was collecting crabs on Burying Hill Beach. Another was at sports camp. This is their home town.

Antonia's boys have discovered the magic of Burying Hill Beach.

Antonia’s boys have discovered the magic of Burying Hill Beach.

Antonia sees parallels between Carroll Gardens and Westport. Both places are changing. Some longtime residents resent what’s happening. Recent arrivals feel the undercurrent. They try to be sensitive — but this is their town too.

“We moved because of the beauty, the downtown, the historical homes,” Antonia says. Some of her new friends are natives. One of them lives in new construction, she laughs.

“We’re new, but we still respect what there is here, and what there was.” Yet, she adds, Westport is always changing. “This used to be onion farms.”

She followed the Red Barn closing on “06880.” “We went there once. We were not impressed. But I understand it was an institution.”

The same thing is happening in Carroll  Gardens. Antonia pointed me to a New York Daily News story about the demise of a beloved restaurant there.

“It’s not just Westport,” she says. “It’s everywhere. If your secret gets out, that’s it.”

So, I wonder, does Antonia have any message for Westporters of every era, seeking to understand what’s going on here today?

“Not everyone who comes here is not uninterested in the town and its past,” she says.

Antonia Landgraf and her husband understand the importance of the Westport Historical Society.

Antonia Landgraf and her husband understand the importance of the Westport Historical Society.

“My husband and I are very much invested in Westport. We want to contribute to the community.

“We’re not just passing through. We’re here for at least the next 16 years, through high school for our youngest. We might stay here after retirement.

“New people come in all the time. They may be different from those who were born here. But don’t assume they don’t respect all that has made the town what it is.”

Super Search Goes Online

As part of the search process for a new superintendent of schools, all Westporters are invited to participate in a brief online survey. Questions include characteristics desired in the next leader. Space is provided for recommendations of individual candidates.

Click here to access the survey.

The Board of Education has also planned community forums, as part of the process to replace retiring superintendent Elliott Landon. The next is set for Thursday, September 10 (10 to 11:30 a.m., Town Hall auditorium).

Westport Public Schools

Arrivederci, Villarina’s

Villarina’s is closing very soon. The popular Compo Shopping Center seller of homemade pasta, sauces, prepared dinners, fresh bread, cheese, party trays and specialty items is the latest victim of rising rents.

“It’s been there about 18 years. Sales were strong, and margins fine,” says Joe Filc, owner of the Danbury-based company.

“But the rent doubled. And as I understand it, the landlord wants to consolidate the vacant space next door.” That’s the site of the former AAA office.

Villarina’s has been in Westport for nearly 20 years. There are 7 other stores in Connecticut, New York and Austin, Texas — like this one, all individually operated. Filc says that unlike Westport, most own their property.

Much of his business comes from private labels, Filc says. Products are also available at select restaurants and food stores.

(Photo and hat tip: Elizabeth Glaser)

(Photo and hat tip: Elizabeth Glaser)

Jim Hood: Facing Addiction Head On

In 2012, Jim Hood suffered a parent’s worst nightmare: His son Austin died of an accidental drug overdose. He was 20 years old, and had been a student at Loyola University in New Orleans.

Here in Westport, Jim and his wife Julia — Austin’s stepmother — felt unbearable pain. Austin had been a wonderful young man, and a brilliant musician. He had a loving heart, a keen wit and a hopeful spirit.

His parents also felt helpless. During Austin’s struggles with addiction, Julia says, “There is so much I wish I had understood differently.” As they tried to help their son with his addiction issues, they felt as if they’d been dropped into a foreign city. They had no maps, and did not speak the language.

“We didn’t know who to turn to for help, or if we could talk publicly about the issue,” Julia says.

“We didn’t know if we could trust the people we chose to help him, and we didn’t know if we could trust our own decisions along the way.”

Jim Hood, and Austin.

Jim Hood, and Austin.

They did not fully understand that addiction is a disease– not a choice or a personality trait. They did not realize that an addict’s brain is “hijacked, and chemically altered.”

Nor did the Hoods know that drug addiction affects 1 in every 3 families in the United States. At least 22 million people are addicted to drugs — including alcohol, for it too is a drug — while 23 million more are in long-term recovery.

Jim could have retreated into his grief. But that’s not who he is. And it’s not how he wanted to memorialize his son.

So, for the past year and a half, he and group of very dedicated men and women have worked to form a new national organization. Called Facing Addiction, it will be launched October 4, with an enormous rally in Washington, D.C.

The date could be a turning point in a fight that has taken far too many lives, most of them far too young.

Facing Addiction logo

“After Austin died, I realized how horrific this disease is. It’s hell on earth,” Jim says. “I also realized there was no well-funded national organization tackling it.”

Even the best-known groups — Partnership for Drug-Free Kids  and Faces and Voices of Recovery work with budgets of less than $10 million.

Cancer organizations, by contrast, raise $1.7 billion annually (“as they should,” Jim says). Heart groups operate with $800 million.

Addiction organizations are run by “good, skillful people,” Jim says. “But they’re woefully underfunded. They compete against each other at times. And there is no overarching strategy.”

Jim brings a very successful business background — in advertising, Wall Street and consulting — to Facing Addiction.

Austin Hood

Austin Hood

He calls the fight against addiction “a cottage industry. There are thousands of small players competing for money. When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you know to call Sloan-Kettering. When you have heart disease, you turn to the American Heart Association. With addiction, you don’t know what to do.”

That’s understandable, he says. Addiction is a disease shrouded in shame, stigma and denial.

“When you see an obituary for someone in their late teens or early 20s, if it doesn’t expressly say ‘cancer’ or another disease, you can assume the reason was addiction or suicide,” Jim says.

“And if the obituary asks for donations to ‘a charity of your choice’ — even if people know the cause was addiction — no one knows who to write a check to.”

Jim adds, “Addiction is not about ‘bad people.’ It’s about bad things happening to good people — decent, loving, smart people from good families.”

Austin Hood (left) and his siblings, at their Compo Beach home.

Austin Hood (left) and his siblings, at their Compo Beach home.

Jim has used his talents to bring many separate groups together, all under the Facing Addiction umbrella. They’re collaborating, he says, because they realize “we’re losing the battle.” Opiod use has spiked; heroin seems to be everywhere, and drug use starts earlier than ever. 90% or more of all addicts first use drugs in adolescence.

Facing Addiction’s focus is on “big-impact ideas to help more people, more quickly,” Jim says. “We’re developing a full strategic plan.”

It’s a daunting task. But, Jim asks, “what’s the alternative? The problem gets worse every year.”

Facing Addiction’s first public event is an October 4 rally on Washington’s National Mall.

Jim Hood - logoThe site — where Martin Luther King proclaimed “I have a dream,” millions protested the Vietnam War and many more wept at the AIDS Quilt — has “enormous symbolism,” Jim says.

“It focuses the country’s attention. It’s a place to open hearts, so we can open minds.”

Performers include Joe Walsh, Steven Tyler, Sheryl Crow, Jason Isbell, Johnny Rzeznik and The Fray. All have been affected by addiction.

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr have recorded videos. Drug czar Michael Botticelli and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy will speak.

The next day, thousands of citizens will meet with senators and congressmen. They’ll tell their stories, and urge federal funding for the fight against addiction.

Austin Hood can no longer fight his own demons. So his father is doing it for him.

And for millions of others — plus the untold millions more who love them.

If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.

(To donate to Facing Addiction — and help millions of people, while saving hundreds of thousands of lives — click here, or text “facing” to 41444.)

Putting The “Class” In 2016

It’s a tradition at Staples High School for senior girls to start the year by painting their cars.

They try to include their graduating year, along with slogans. The results range from funny to meh, proud to X-rated.

But this year saw something new: An homage to a former principal.

John Dodig retired last June. But — as this photo sent to “06880” by Lily Bloomingdale shows — he is certainly not forgotten.

John Dodig - 2016

A very classy move indeed!

Remembering Joyce Clarke

Joyce Clarke — one of Westport’s most remarkable, and most unsung women — died Sunday. She was 103 years old. Her funeral is this Friday (September 4), 11 a.m. at the Saugatuck Congregational Church.

Last winter, I had the great fortune to interview her. Here is that story.

——————————————————–

When Joyce Clarke was growing up, few jobs were open to women. She didn’t want to teach, so she took a YMCA course to learn about secretarial duties.

She took a temporary job in a small New York City firm. “I didn’t know what they did, but they were very nice people,” she recalled last week in her warm, sunlit Saugatuck Shores home. “I learned a lot.”

What they did was public relations. Joyce was ready to live out her career as a secretary. But war intervened, and when her boss was called away, her life changed.

That would be World War II. Yes, it was a while ago. On February 11, Joyce — who went on to found a pioneering, legendary women-led PR firm — celebrates her 103rd birthday.

Joyce Clarke, in her Saugatuck Shores home.

She formed the company with Sally Dickson, a Westport woman whose family was known here for its heating and plumbing business. Starting with $500, a typewriter, telephone and 1-room office, they found a niche  — and succeeded nicely — in a very male-dominated profession.

Sally Dickson & Associates concentrated on “home ec”-style accounts. They were hired by a Fortune 500 company that became the largest American supplier of rayon; helped revive the Good Housekeeping “Seal of Approval”; created a pattern contest for Vogue that was featured in Life Magazine; wrote a book called “A Woman’s Guide to Financial Planning,” and spent 23 years managing the Ocean Spray cranberry account.

Sally Dickson & Associates had a long relationship with Good Housekeeping magazine.

Good Housekeeping trusted them with a list of over 30,000 women’s clubs across the country. The firm used that gold mine to target mailings for clients like Procter & Gamble, S&H Green Stamps and Borden.

“It was good to be a woman in that industry,” Joyce says. Her vision is gone, and she does not hear perfectly. But — 3 years past the century mark — her mind is incredibly sharp. She remembers names and dates perfectly.

She spent her career in PR because she liked “the freedom of using my mind inventively. I could decide what to do, express my ideas, and then go out and do it.”

The firm’s warm, stylish offices became a comfortable hangout for clients (including men). Account executives brought their daughters to talk to the female founders.

The only discrimination Joyce and Sally faced was from a banker, who said he was not in business to finance “young women.”

Sally Dickson & Associates grew to a staff of 30. Most were female. In 1971 the firm was sold to Donald Creamer. The women continued working, retiring in 1980.

On TV, women served men in the “Mad Men” era. But Joyce Clarke and Sally Dickson stood on their own feet.

“In the ‘Mad Men’ era, Joyce and Sally found a way to put females in the forefront,” says Matthew Cookson, founder of his own PR firm who also teaches about the history of the profession.

“That’s important, because the majority of consumers were women. She was excellent at networking, personal relationships, and partnering with clients over the long term.”

Westporter Kim Shaw interned at the firm Joyce founded. “She retired years earlier,” Kim recalls. “But the mere mention of her name commanded such enthusiasm and respect. She was a trailblazer among trailblazers.”

Near the end of their career, Joyce and Sally bought several lots on Saugatuck Shores. On one, they built a home. Sally died in 1999, at 86. Joyce still lives there.

Buying those waterfront properties was “a very good investment,” Joyce laughs knowingly.

The Silver Anvil is one of the highest honors in the public relations industry.

She regrets very few things. (One is selling her New York City co-op.) She is proud of her work, as a professional as well as a woman. (In 1945 the firm earned one of the first prestigious Silver Anvil awards ever, from the precursor of the Public Relations Society of America.)

“Being women worked for us, not against us,” Joyce says. ” We weren’t the greatest agency in the world, but we were successful enough to be hired!”

In the 21st century, Americans marvel at the long-ago, male-centric world portrayed in “Mad Men.”

But in real live New York — starting 2 decades earlier — Joyce Clarke and Sally Dickson were quietly, determinedly and very effectively proving that women could play that game, too.

On February 11, Joyce turns 103. She’s still going strong.

David Lloyd: At The Center Of ESPN

WWPT-FM — Staples High School’s Wrecker Radio station — has launched the careers of many grads.

David Lloyd, Staples High School Class of 1979.

David Lloyd, Staples High School Class of 1979.

David Lloyd is not one of them. Before graduating in 1979, he was a wrestler. He was good enough to co-captain the team and place 2nd in the state tournament — so he was the subject of sports coverage, not the reporter.

After graduating from Colgate University (majoring in international relations), he worked as a wholesale distributor of flowers, then in an ad agency.

But he didn’t like offices. A buddy working in TV knew Lloyd loved sports, and helped him snag an internship with WMAZ-TV in Macon, Georgia.

He worked there — without pay — for a year. “They were great, generous people, and I learned a lot,” Lloyd recalls.

He moved on to news reporting in Savannah. But sports beckoned, and after just a few weeks he got an offer in that department from WCIV in Charleston, South Carolina.

After 7 years — and stops in Sacramento and San Diego — Lloyd and his wife talked about returning east. It was time to think about ESPN.

Tapes are not enough for that sports behemoth. Every job applicant must audition, by writing a show. It was a daunting task, but Lloyd was eager to join what he calls “maybe the greatest media network of all time.”

He was hired as an ESPNEWS anchor in 1997. Now one of the longest-tenured anchors, he’s just signed a new contract extension. Lloyd currently hosts the 1-3 p.m. weekday SportsCenter, with Linda Cohn.

David Lloyd today, hosting ESPN's SportsCenter.

David Lloyd today, hosting ESPN’s SportsCenter.

He vividly recalls his initial SportsCenter broadcast, several years ago.

Each month, a new schedule comes out. When Lloyd saw he’d been assigned to that plum (and very popular) show, he was elated.

When he first sat at the desk and heard the SportsCenter theme song, “it was like an out-of-body experience. I didn’t even recognize my own voice.”

He loves the job — and the time slot.

“There’s a lot of breaking news that time of day,” he says. “I get in about 4 hours before the show, and start writing. But if something big happens, we throw it all out.”

Deflategate — the Tom Brady football scandal — broke just before airtime. “It’s such a rush of adrenaline,” Lloyd says. “We bring people in to talk. We’re not even sure what we’re going to ask. We just go with it.”

Sports Center

 

Lloyd has also done specialty shows, and the highly acclaimed “Outside the Lines” series.

Though he never joined WWPT, he knows his alma mater’s station’s reputation. He’s also seen Staples students — including the very talented D.J. Sixsmith — come to ESPN for internships.

For those Westporters, a possible career in the big leagues begins in Bristol, Connecticut. For David Lloyd, it all began in Macon, Georgia.

Hey, every star has to start somewhere.

 

 

Pearl Of Longshore: The Sequel

A few days ago, “06880” described the lack of activity at Pearl of Longshore — the restaurant that will eventually replace Splash.

Charlie Haberstroh — who, among many volunteer activities, has been asked by 1st Selectman Jim Marpe to serve as liaison between his office and the restaurant and Inn — reports that the new owners of Pearl are going through a long permitting process. The building is old, with many outstanding issues.

Work is being done now on the basement. The hope is to begin above-ground work soon.

Haberstroh assures Westporters that Pearl will open well before next summer. It will be fully operational in time for a much-needed, and hopefully successful, addition to our town’s waterside dining attractions.

The new Pearl of Longshore restaurant -- and a new patio bar? -- will be open next summer.

The new Pearl of Longshore restaurant — and a new patio bar? — will be open next summer.