Category Archives: Entertainment

Slice Is Nice!

Hundreds of Westporters — and many more out-of-towners — poured into the narrow streets of Saugatuck today.

They ambled along Riverside Avenue, Railroad Place and Saugatuck Avenue, enjoying our 3rd annual Slice of Saugatuck festival.

Food and drink was the main attraction. Over 25 restaurants and merchanats — including Viva’s, Mansion, Rainbow Thai, Craft Butchery, Saugatuck Sweets, The Duck, Chinese Takeout, Cuatros Hermanos — even 99 Bottles and Dunkin’ Donuts — offered treats.

But there was music too, ranging from School of Rock and folk to steel drums, along with stuff from hair salons, galleries and a tae kwan do place.

The weather was perfect. The vibe was cool.

And — because most people stayed off the roads — even the traffic was fine.

It was a fantastic slice of life, on a wonderful Sunday afternoon. With proceeds benefiting the Gillespie Center food pantry too, what’s not to like?

Tutti's was 1 of many Saugatuck restaurants dishing out some of its most popular items. Lines formed instantly, and stayed long.

Tutti’s was one of many Saugatuck restaurants dishing out some of its most popular items. Lines formed instantly, and stayed long.

The plaza between Saugatuck Sweets and The Whelk rocked all afternoon long.

The plaza between Saugatuck Sweets and The Whelk rocked all afternoon long.

What's a street festival without a bounce house? This one was in the Rizzuto's parking lot.

What’s a street festival without a bounce house? This one was in the Rizzuto’s lot.

Mr. Sausage showed up too, to help promote Saugatuck Craft Butchery's carnivorous samples.

Mr. Sausage showed up too, to help promote Saugatuck Craft Butchery’s carnivorous samples.

Downunder was busy all day, offering kayak and paddleboard rides. Nearby, boat owners tied up at the dock.

Downunder was busy all day, offering kayak and paddleboard rides. Nearby, boat owners tied up at the dock.

 

After Nearly 50 Years, The Remains Come Home

The last time the Remains played in Fairfield County was 1966. The legendary rock group was a few months away from opening for the Beatles, on that legendary band’s final tour. Now they were at Staples High School, the alma mater of half their members: guitarist/vocalist Barry Tashian and keyboardist Billy Briggs.

Rock critic Jon Landau had already described the Remains as “how you told a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll.”

That 1966 gig was to raise money for the Orphenians’ — Staples’ select choral group — upcoming tour of the Virgin Islands.

Westporters and Remains Barry Tashian (left) and Bill Briggs flank Staples music director John Ohanian in 1966.

Westporters and Remains Barry Tashian (left) and Bill Briggs flank Staples music director John Ohanian in 1966.

After that Beatles tour, the Remains broke up. Rolling Stone magazine later called them “a religious totem of all that was manic and marvelous about mid-’60s pop.”

They reunited a decade later, for a few dates. But Tashian joined Emmy Lou Harris’ band, and moved to California. In the 1990s, he and his wife — 1964 Staples grad Holly Kimball — formed a Nashville-based duo.

Then, in the mid-’90s, a promoter invited them to play in Spain. They were up for it — and so were their rabid European fans. They played a couple of dates every year since.

In June 2013 they rocked the Bell House in Brooklyn. They were excited about their half-century return to this area: a gig in Fairfield this past April.

But in February, drummer Chip Damiani died of a brain hemorrhage.

In January, Chip Damiani attended the Fairfield History Museum's opening reception for its rock 'n' roll exhibit. He posed in front of posters of his legendary band, the Reamins.

In January, Chip Damiani attended the Fairfield History Museum’s opening reception for its rock ‘n’ roll exhibit. He posed in front of posters of his legendary band, the Reamins.

The loss of their “brother” — whose pounding drums helped drive the group to cult status in the 1960s, and who still played as energetically 5 decades later — stunned the 3 remaining Remains.

But the show must go on. In August — the day after Holly’s 50th Staples reunion, where she and Barry (SHS ’63) played and sang — the band auditioned new drummers. They chose George Correia, who played with Clarence Clemmons and, Tashian says, “locked right in to what we do.”

On Friday, September 26, the Remains return to Fairfield County for the 1st time since 1966. They venue is the Fairfield Theatre Company (7:45 p.m.), and they are as amped as when they played with the Beatles (and Bobby Hebb, the Cyrkle and the Ronettes).

The Remains, back in the day.

The Remains, back in the day.

“When Chip died, we really understood the saying ‘You don’t miss your water till your well runs dry,” Tashian says.

“Losing Chip makes us appreciate what we have even more. We look at each other and say, ‘How could it be 50 years?’ But it is. And we’re committed to each other — to our brothers — totally. We’re spread across Massachusetts, New Jersey and Nashville, but we really are a family.”

In just a few days, they’ll see plenty of Westport fans who for years have been part of that Remains family too.

(For information and tickets to the Remains’ September 26 show, click here.)

Staples Players Earn Broadway.Com Buzz

With school back in session, Broadway.com has scoured YouTube for its Top 5 high school musical performances.

Among the “A+” shows is Staples Players’ 2011 production of “West Side Story.”

The website says:

In a high school musical, finding a bunch of guys willing to even try on a pair of jazz shoes is a rarity. But bafflingly, Staples High School in Westport, CT has assembled a whole team of hoofing high school dudes who pirouette and leap around the stage with ease. Wow, check out those Shark high-kicks!

Very cool — except for the “bafflingly” part.

At Staples, “hoofing high school dudes” are everywhere.

 

Labor Day Blues

Memorial Day has a parade. The 4th of July means fireworks.

Now, Labor Day boasts its own Westport tradition.

The 7th annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival opened a weekend run today downtown.

With 3 separate events — great music at the Levitt Pavilion; a barbecue competition in the Imperial Avenue parking lot, and kids activities/food trucks/vendors in the library lot — there is something for everyone.

Westport's Emergency Medical Services staff participated in the hotly contested barbecue competition.

Westport’s Emergency Medical Services staff joined the hotly contested barbecue competition.

A number of Westporters — and many more from throughout the region — strolled easily around the grounds. The footbridge connecting the Imperial Avenue and library parking lots got more use than maybe ever. Kayakers drifted up the river to see what was up.

The music was awesome. And the smell of barbecue ribs, chicken and steak was everywhere.

This dude had a great time listening to some blues.

This dude had a great time listening to some blues.

(For information on bands, tickets and more, click on http://www.bluesviewsbbq.com or call 203-505-8716. The festival runs through 9:30 tonight. On Sunday the music starts at noon, and goes straight through to 9:30 p.m.)

Lucy Roth waits as a balloon man creates a unique design.

Lucy Roth (left) waits as a balloon man creates a unique design.

A WPKN fan listens to music at the Levitt.

A WPKN fan listens to music at the Levitt.

Westport 1st selectman Jim Marpe was at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival, with his wife Mary Ellen and daughter Samantha.

Westport 1st selectman Jim Marpe enjoyed the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival, with his wife Mary Ellen and daughter Samantha.

 

Blues, Views & BBQ Rocks Downtown

The 7th annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival rocks Westport this weekend. Get ready for a kick-ass lineup of blues, rock, brass and funk music — plus fantastic food, and tons o’ stuff for the kids.

The Spin Doctors and Rick Derringer headline the stage acts. How did they — and many other Big Names — come to town? Westporter Crispin Cioe played a huge role.

Crispin Cioe gets ready to wail.

Crispin Cioe gets ready to wail.

Soon after he and his family moved here 13 years ago, Crispin met Bob Le Rose, The owner of Bobby Q’s and leader in the Downtown Merchants Association, Bob wanted to start a blues festival. Crispin — a longtime musician/ bandleader/ producer/songwriter — knew plenty of bands and agents.

Each year, the pair spends months discussing possible musical acts. They probably eat very well too.

When they hit on the idea of having the Spin Doctors star in Saturday’s show, Bob worried that the festival might stray too far from its blues-based foundation.

Crispin performed and hung out with the band in the 1990s. He knew they were “rootsy/funky/bluesy” — especially live — and that they’d gotten their start at the Wetlands club in Manhattan (a spawning ground for the jam band scene).

Listening to the band’s recent recorded work, they saw movement toward exactly the kind of music featured at Blues, Views & BBQ.

Spin Doctors will headline this year's Blues, Views & BBQ Festival.

Spin Doctors will headline this year’s Blues, Views & BBQ Festival.

Likewise, several years ago Crispin and Bob were searching for a way to feature well-known musicians who grew up here, and still live in the area. “Guitar god” Charlie Karp — a Westport native who played with Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles — helped assemble the Westport Heritage Blues Band, a special treat.

This year’s treats include Raw Oyster Cult, a New Orleans supergroup; the high-voltage, horn-drenched street band Big Sam’s Funky Nation; perennial favorite and guitar star Anders Osborne; blues slide guitarist Ms. Rory Block, and the formidable Popa Chubby.

Big Sam's Funky Nation will also perform at the Blues, Views & BBQ Fest. (Photo/Adam McCullough)

Big Sam’s Funky Nation will also perform at the Blues, Views & BBQ Fest. (Photo/Adam McCullough)

Crispin will play tenor sax with his old pal Bill Kirchen, guitarist and principal songwriter for Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen. The friends go back to the University of Michigan, where Commander Cody was formed.

Lately, Crispin has been working with legendary local band Cracked Ice, vocal great Darlene Love and producer Steven Van Zandt. But on Sunday (August 31) he’ll be at Blues, Views & BBQ, playing alto sax with Rick Derringer on the classic instrumental “Frankenstein.”

If you like great music, excellent barbecue and plenty of fun in your own hometown, you’ll be there too.

(For advance tickets and more information on the festival — which takes place at the Levitt Pavilion and the grounds of the Westport Library — click on http://www.bluesviewsbbq.com or call 203-505-8716. Gates open at 11 a.m. Music starts at noon, and goes straight through to 9:30 p.m.)

Noah Hawley Earns Emmy For “Fargo”

Noah Hawley — the Staples High School 1985 graduate (and former Staples Players member) who serves as writer, executive producer and show runner for “Fargo” — stood proudly last night on the Emmy stage. With cast and crew arrayed behind him, he accepted TV’s top award for the Top Miniseries.

He cited Joel and Ethan Coen, directors of the 1996 dark comedy film that sparked the FX show. Hawley said, “They let me pretend, if only for 5 minutes, that I was one of the greatest filmmakers alive, and I thank them for that.”

Beyond “Fargo,” Hawley is a film and TV producer, screenwriter, composer and author. He wrote and produced “Bones,” created “The Unusuals” and “My Generation,” and is the author of 4 novels.

(Click on this interesting pre-Emmy interview with the Los Angeles Times.)

 

Any Way You Slice It…

Whatever goes around, comes around.

And on Sunday, September 14, a couple of thousand folks will go around and around in Saugatuck.

That’s the date for Slice of Saugatuck. All afternoon long, for just $10 ($5 for kids 6-12), people will wander up Riverside Avenue, along Railroad Place, and out Saugatuck Avenue. Every restaurant offers food; others businesses hand out coupons, gifts or anything else they want. There is bands, street artists and a bouncy house. It’s the best street party since, well, Festival Italiano.

The Slice of Saugatuck drew huge crowds in 2011 and 2012. (Photo by Terry Cosgrave)

The Slice of Saugatuck drew huge crowds in 2011 and 2012. (Photo by Terry Cosgrave)

It’s the 3rd “Slice” in 4 years, and that’s what the “goes around, comes around” line is all about.

RTM representative Matthew Mandell created the festival back in 2011. After 2 wildly successful years, he handed it off to the Chamber of Commerce. But the director did not see the benefit — for either the Chamber or the merchants — and last year the Slice was iced.

Now the Chamber of Commerce has a new executive director: Mandell. One of his 1st moves was to serve up the Slice.

Nice.

Saugatuck has always been about food. The Slice of Saugatuck festival is too.

Saugatuck has always been about food. The Slice of Saugatuck festival is too.

“It’s a quadruple win for the town,” Mandell explains.

“One, it brings people to Saugatuck, and promotes the merchants and the area.

“Two, it’s a fantastic community event. It’s great for people-watching, and it brings everyone together.”

“Three, it raises money for the homeless and hungry. The Homes With Hope Gillespie Food Pantry received $5,000 from the 2012 proceeds, and once again they’re our beneficiary.

“Four, we hire Homes with Hope residents to work at the festival.”

Slice of Saugatuck is not just about food. In 2012, free kayaks brought plenty of people to Downunder's riverside dock.

Slice of Saugatuck is not just about food. In 2012, free kayaks brought plenty of people to Downunder’s riverside dock.

Mandell seems to have thought of everything. Including — 4 years ago — the perfect name.

“Saugatuck is shaped like a slice of pizza,” he says. (It is, if you consider its boundaries to be the train station at one end, and the intersection of Riverside and Saugatuck Avenues the other.)

For many years, of course, Saugatuck was a thriving Italian neighborhood. There are still restaurants like Tutti’s and Julian’s, and quasi-Italian spots like
Tarry Lodge and Rizzuto’s. Mario’s and Tarantino’s are long-time classics. Dunville’s, Mansion, Viva and the Duck are not Italian, but they’ve outlasted even some of the oldtimers.

Newcomers like The Whelk, Rainbow Thai and Saugatuck Sweets — plus merchants like Downunder — have brought new life to the old area. So there will be plenty more free food than pizza available at the Slice.

Though I’m betting those slices will go real fast.

JP Vellotti’s Woodstock

Alert — and multi-talented — “06880” reader JP Vellotti notes that this weekend is the 45th anniversary of Woodstock.

The Westporter wasn’t there in 1969 — but 20 years ago this weekend, he was. Sort of.

JP was a stage photographer at Woodstock 1994, a festival produced by Michael Lang 25 years after the original. JP thinks it was billed as “Two More Days of Peace and Music,” but suggests a more realistic title: “A week of mud, poor sanitation and no sleep.”

Pepsi had a special promotion, with special labels on 2-liter bottles. "Who the hell would keep a plastic bottle at a 3-day concert?" JP Vellotti asks. "They were all discarded and mushed up." Some can be seen here. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Pepsi had a special promotion, with special labels on 2-liter bottles. “Who the hell would keep a plastic bottle at a 3-day concert?” JP Vellotti asks. “They were all discarded and mushed up.” Some are seen here. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

But he was 21 years old, and it was a golden opportunity. He’d worked for a while at CamerArts downtown. He’d freelanced for Brooks Newspaper, and became the 1st staff photographer at the Minuteman.

Along the way he met Joe Sia, a rock photographer who lived in Fairfield. Joe took JP under his wing. “Although he never helped improve my technical ability,” JP says, “he certainly showed me the ropes of how to get into a concert, with or without credentials.” Woodstock 1994 was no different.

Joe was a stage photographer for the original Woodstock. His photo of Joe Cocker made the cover of Rolling Stone.

Henry Rollins played an "angry" set, JP Vellotti says, "and got the crowd going. It rained, and he encouraged the crowd to throw mud at us." (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Henry Rollins played an “angry” set, JP Vellotti says, “and got the crowd going. It rained, and he encouraged the crowd to throw mud at us.” (Photo/JP Vellotti)

At the last minute — desperate for an all-access pass — Joe and JP decided to try a magazine outside the traditional music press. JP suggested Glamour.

Joe convinced them it would be an interesting story, showing who was “fashionable” that weekend. They took the pitch. All Glamour wanted was 20 prints a week later.

These 2 were waiting for Metallica to perform. The crowd had written things in mud on the barricade. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

These 2 were waiting for Metallica to perform. The crowd had written things in mud on the barricade. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Joe and JP finished the assignment in an hour — and had the whole weekend to do what they wanted.

The crowd shot is one of his favorites. “You generally face the stage,” JP explains. “But suddenly, I turned around. Never having seen 300,000 people before, I can tell you, in a term genuine to 1969: ‘It blew my mind, man.'”

Woodstock 94 crowd - JP Vellotti

“We thought Glamour would hate the photos because everyone was muddy,” JP adds.

“But they loved them. I think ran about 10.”

The Red Hot Chili Peppers came onstage dressed like light bulbs, and rocked the hell out of the crowd. Later, they dressed like Hendrix. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

The Red Hot Chili Peppers came onstage dressed like light bulbs, and rocked the hell out of the crowd. Later, they dressed like Hendrix. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

JP Vellotti, in front of a guitar signed by all the Woodstock 94 performers. (Photo/Joe Sia)

JP Vellotti, in front of a guitar signed by Woodstock 94 performers. (Photo/Joe Sia)

 

Library Honors Robin Williams

Robin Williams’ death saddened countless fans around the world.

The Westport Library is honoring the brilliant actor/comedian by screening some of his best films.

This Friday (August 15, 1 p.m.) they’ll show “Good Morning, Vietnam.”

Saturday (August 16) offers a double feature: “Dead Poets Society” (11 a.m.) and “Good Will Hunting” (2 p.m.).

On Sunday (August 17, 2 p.m.), it’s “Mrs. Doubtfire.”

Of course, the library has plenty of other Robin Williams videos in its collection.

Though I’m betting they’ve all been checked out this week.

Robin Williams in "Good Will Hunting" -- one of his best roles ever.

Robin Williams in “Good Will Hunting” — one of his best roles ever.

Andrew Loog Oldham Kind Of Remembers His Westport Days

An “06880”  post following the recent death of Johnny Winter drew a flood of comments about his time in Westport. Yet he — and REO Speedwagon — were hardly the only rockers in town during the late 1960s and early ’70s.

Andrew Loog Oldham — manager/producer of the Rolling Stones, co-founder of Immediate Records (Rod Stewart, Nico, Humble Pie) and producer of recordings by Donovan, Jimmy Cliff and Marianne Faithfull — bought a house in Wilton in 1969. But he spent a great deal of time in Westport. 

Andrew Loog Oldham (left) and Mick Jagger.

Andrew Loog Oldham (left) and Mick Jagger.

Here’s what he remembers — sort of — according to the website Music Museum of New England:

A few months ago I saw Ronnie Spector singing to support Haiti at the Westport Country Playhouse. But things were not always good between myself and New England.

When I settled into Wilton (in 1969) my friend Noel Harrison came to stay. He was hot with “the girl from UNCLE,” and was doing summer stock at the Westport Playhouse.

Westport was a wasted hoot and Vietnam horror show. All of the rich kids were 4F and more wasted than Keith Richards. Joe Cocker stopped by and mused, “so this is what is between New York and Boston.”

Westport looked pretty, and had Sally and her great record store at the back of Klein’s on the main drag, but for all its Stepford Wife properness the Westport train station was a nightly procession of lost and drunk Jack Lemmons pouring themselves back into station wagonerama, as drunk as their kids were stoned.

Back in Andrew Loog Oldham's day, the area behind the old library -- at the corner of Post Road and Main Street, across from the YMCA -- was called "Needle Park." It was a popular teenage hangout.

Back in Andrew Loog Oldham’s day, the area behind the old library — at the corner of Post Road and Main Street, across from the YMCA — was called “Needle Park.” It was a popular teenage hangout.

America was at the crossroads — Vietnam had done the Robert Johnson on the lot of you, and a sorry state was your lovely nation for that while.

I saw Bridgeport jail a few times, driving under the influence of you name it. I blacked out more than once on the Merritt Parkway, coming to just in time for Exit 40….

On more than one occasion I saw Mr. and Mrs. Paul Newman driving around Westport. I had a wonderful time. I cannot think of any place I’d rather have been the first time I heard Harry Chapin’s “WOLD.”

Eventually I got much, much better and as New England keeps on doing that, we are all doing well.