Category Archives: Entertainment

ESPN: “Go Wreckers!”

This afternoon, Tom Haberstroh was a guest on David Lloyd’s “Sportscenter” ESPN show.

Haberstroh jokingly asked fellow NBA analyst Chris Broussard if the San Antonio Spurs could make him into a pro player.

Broussard laughed: “I don’t know. I’ve seen you play!”

David Lloyd, Chris Broussard and Tom Haberstroh on ESPN's "Sportscenter" this afternoon.

David Lloyd, Chris Broussard and Tom Haberstroh on ESPN’s “Sportscenter” this afternoon.

Lloyd — a 1979 Staples High School graduate — alertly noted that Haberstroh played hoops at Staples.

Sure, it was more than 2 decades after Lloyd graduated. But that gave Haberstroh a perfect opening. He drove the lane, and took it.

“Go Wreckers!” Haberstroh said, as the segment wound up.

Most of Sportscenter’s millions of listeners had no idea what that meant.

But Haberstroh, Lloyd and all of us do.

BONUS FUN FACT: Haberstroh also was featured on Colin Cowherd’s ESPN radio show. It’s produced by John Lawrence — another former Staples athlete. Quite a day for the Wreckers!

Newman’s Own Stamp

From Walt Reed and Stevan Dohanos to Miggs Burroughs, Westport artists have designed dozens of US postage stamps.

There have been so many, in fact, that the Westport Historical Society devoted an entire exhibit to the illustrators and their stamps.

Now, a famous Westporter is being honored with a stamp of his own.

Paul Newman’s very good-looking face will grace a “Forever Stamp.” It goes on sale September 18.

Paul Newman stampThere’s not enough room on the stamp to list all of Newman’s accomplishments. He’s been an award-winning actor, producer, director, race car driver, salad dressing/lemonade king, humanitarian, founder of a camp for kids with cancer, and contributor to many causes, around the globe and right here in his home town.

So it reads simply “Actor/Philanthropist.”

To which Westporters proudly add: Our actor/philanthropist.

(For more information on the stamp, click here. Hat tip: Melissa Chang)

Remembering Jay Emmett

Jay Emmett — one of the entertainment world’s leading executives in the 1960s and ’70s, and a powerful influence in everything from Batman to the New York Cosmos — died last Monday night, at 86. The cause was heart failure, at his home in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Emmett was a longtime resident of Westport, while he built his career in movies and sports marketing.

He began his career working for his uncle in a family-run comic book publishing company that owned the rights to a number of superheroes, including Batman and Superman.

Jay Emmett

Jay Emmett

Emmett founded the Licensing Corporation of America, which expanded from licensing comic book and cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny and Tweety Bird into sports marketing, leading to partnerships with Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association.

In 1964 Emmett joined Warner Communications — now Time Warner — and was named president, under chairman Steve Ross.

Emmett oversaw great growth in the company’s music and movie divisions during the 1960’s and 1970’s. When the company established the original New York Cosmos, he was instrumental in signing Brazilian star Pelé. The franchise went on to draw more than 70,000 fans each game.

Emmett’s close friendship with Washington attorney Edward Bennett Williams led to his meeting Larry Lucchino, a Williams protégé. Emmett helped Lucchino’s teams — the Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox — set home attendance records.

Emmett’s love of sports led him to partner with Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver in the early 1970’s. They worked to develop the Special Olympics into one of the most important charitable institutions in the world. Emmett served in a number of capacities, including as a member of its international board of directors

Family and friends in Westport remember Emmett for his charismatic personality, infectious enthusiasm for life, and his outspoken nature. In recent years, Emmett derived great pleasure from the success of his children and grandchildren.

Emmett is survived by his sons Steven and Andrew, and daughters-in-law Deborah, Marlene, and Geri. He leaves behind 6 grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife Martha and son Paul.

A public celebration of Emmett’s life will be held at Fenway Park this summer. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to the Special Olympics.

To express condolences and/or make donations, click here.

special olympics

Britt Hennemuth Breaks A Hip

Britt Hennemuth starred in great roles as a Staples Player — Mercutio in “Romeo and Juliet,” Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast,” and The Wiz himself, to name 3.

After graduating in 2008, he studied theater and film at Pepperdine University.

But school is school. No matter what he did, his fellow actors were all his age.

Hennemuth stayed in Los Angeles. Now he’s starring in “Break A Hip,” a web series set to debut Tuesday (June 30) on Vimeo on Demand. He plays a young, out-of-work actor who takes a job as a houseboy for an older actress. She uses him to get revenge on Hollywood directors, former co-stars and others who wronged her. Hennemuth calls it “a funny, outrageous but tender love letter to this sometimes strange industry town.”

I’ve seen it before its official release. I call it “clever, hilarious, warm, truly well-written, lovingly acted, and definitely worth downloading.”

Christina Pickles and Britt Hennemuth.

Christina Pickles and Britt Hennemuth.

His co-star is Christina Pickles, the 80-year-old actress known best as Judy Geller on “Friends.” Older TV viewers remember her as nurse Helen Rosenthal on “St. Elsewhere,” which earned her 4 Emmy nominations.

The Vimeo series — based on actor/writer/director Cameron Watson’s own Hollywood experiences — also stars Octavia Spencer, Allison Janney, Peri Gilpin and others. Working with veterans like those has been a great experience for Hennemuth.

But he’s bonded most closely with Pickles. They hang out often (he is often mistaken for her son, to the delight of both).

The 8 episodes — each 8 to 9 minutes long — were shot last year. It was a fantastic experience for Hennemuth, who had never acted on camera before.

Hopefully, “Break a Hip” will prove to be a great break for Hennemuth. He’ll have this fine web series on his resume, as he heads out for more auditions.

And, he hopes, he’ll never have to be houseboy in real life. Even for his good friend Christina Pickles.

(“Break a Hip” is available this Tuesday, June 30, through Vimeo on Demand. For the “Break a Hip” website, click here.)

jUNe Day Busted Out All Over

The weather was cloudy and chilly. A number of potential guests were home celebrating Ramadan.

But Westport’s 50th annual jUNe Day drew nearly 200 United Nations workers and their families to Westport today.

Assistant Secretary-General Carole Wainaina of Kenya and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe traded welcomes at Saugatuck Elementary School. But this was nothing like a General Assembly meeting.

A  little music and a few munchies later, everyone was off: to downtown, Longshore, Compo, Earthplace, Wakeman Town Farm and all points in between.

No translation was needed — beyond the word “fun.”

Flags from around the world replace the Stars and Stripes on jUNe Day. Too bad there was no breeze to flutter them. (Photo/Jim Chillington)

Flags from around the world replace the Stars and Stripes on jUNe Day. Too bad there was no breeze to flutter them. (Photo/Jim Chillington)

No matter where you're from, if you're a little kid it's all about the food. (Photo/Adam Stolpen)

No matter where you’re from, if you’re a little kid it’s all about the food. (Photo/Adam Stolpen)

Visitors from Peru, Spain, Portugal, the Philippines and enljoyed a tour of Wakeman Town Farm, including an expanded chicken coop, productive beehive, and edible marigolds that protect the borders of the gardens from insects.

Visitors from Peru, Spain, Portugal, the Philippines and more enjoyed a tour of Wakeman Town Farm — including an expanded chicken coop, productive beehive, and edible marigolds that protect the gardens from insects. (Photo/Elizabeth Beller)

A pair of Olympians got into the spirit. William Steinkraus Cohen -- brother of jUNe Day founder Ruth Steinkraus Cohen --

A pair of Olympians got into the spirit. Bill Steinkraus — brother of jUNe Day founder Ruth Steinkraus Cohen — was an equestrian in 6 Olympics. He won 1 individual gold medal, and 2 silvers and a bronze as a team member. Ann Marie Flynn of Westport was a high jumper in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.  (Photo/Adam Stolpen)

For 50 years, Westport soccer teams have taken on their UN counterparts. This trophy is a recent addition to the rivalry. (Photo/Adam Stolpen)

For 50 years, Westport soccer teams have taken on their UN counterparts. This trophy is a recent addition to the rivalry. (Photo/Adam Stolpen)

Samantha Flint: A Stage Manager Comes Home

Countless students discover a passion for theater in Westport.

Many find themselves on stage. Others prefer to work in the wings.

From a young age, Samantha Flint — whose mother was in actor Christopher Lloyd’s class at Staples, and whose grandparents also attended the school — danced. At Bedford Middle School, director David Roth cast her in shows. When he and she moved on to Staples together, she joined Players.

At the end of freshman year she tried stage managing. That’s where she found her true love.

“You’re part of the process at every point, from the first auditions to the closing performance,” she says. “And there’s so much to do.”

Roth challenges every Player, at every level. Flint’s last show at Staples — “City of Angels” — was “incredibly difficult, technically,” she recalls. “When I tell people I did it in high school, they’re floored.”

Samantha Flint, hard at work.

Samantha Flint, hard at work. (Photo/Matt Pilsner)

She heard about DePaul University — Roth’s alma mater — from the director. There were only 4 students in her year in the stage managing program. “It was like working in regional theater, but getting a degree,” she says.

A good stage manager must have many skills, she explains: organization, communication, flexibility, sensitivity. All contribute to creating a “safe environment, where actors feel they can create art.”

After graduating magna cum laude from college, Flint returned east. She’s served as production assistant, assistant stage manager and production stage manager on Broadway, off Broadway and in regional theaters like Williamstown and Hartford Stage. Her credits include “Venus in Fur” in its Broadway debut, “Camelot” (with director David Lee of “Cheers” and “Frasier” fame), and “Barefoot in the Park.”

She spent 2 summers at Shakespeare in the Park, working with William Shiner and Michael Greif. Flint calls it “an amazing experience. When everyone was on the subway dressed for the office, I was there in shorts and a t-shirt, headed outdoors to make theater.”

At the Adirondack Theater Festival, she helped bring “Avenue Q” and “Next to Normal” to an area that is starved for shows. “They embrace what we do,” Flint says. “A lot of audience members come back more than once.”

Flint does not forget her roots. Recently, she taught 2 master classes in stage management for Weston High School’s Company.

Samantha Flint (right) with Weston Company stage manager Lilly Fisher.

Samantha Flint (right) with Weston Company stage manager Lilly Fisher.

This month, Flint was back in her home town. She was assistant stage manager for the Westport Country Playhouse production of “And A Nightingale Sang.”

It was a homecoming of sorts. At 15 years old, Flint had apprenticed there. The building has changed, but the “lovely people” and thrill of helping produce a show were the same.

On Thursdays, Flint shopped at the Farmers’ Market, and brought fresh food for the cast. “They were amazed — they never knew it was there!” she laughs.

After “Nightingale,” Flint heads to Bucks County Playhouse, for “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

“That’s the beauty of what I do,” she says. “I never know what’s ahead.”

Though she also never forgets Westport, and what is behind.

“And A Nightingale Sang” In Westport

The Westport Country Playhouse‘s current production — “And a Nightingale Sang” — is a love story about a working-class British family in World War II.

Though the effects of war were felt much more strongly in Europe, the US — and Westport — was hardly unaffected.

Theatergoers are reminded starkly of that, thanks to a video the Playhouse produced. It drives home the play’s central theme: that in times of personal and historic unrest, the human spirit still grows.

The video includes Westport Town Crier newspaper clippings (with many familiar names, like the 8 Cuseo brothers who served); ration books; a Connecticut War Garden card, and air raid instructions for our town.

The play’s title is based on a popular 1940s song, “And a Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.” It’s a haunting tune — and an equally powerful video and show.

(“And a Nightingale Sang” runs through June 27. For ticket information, click here.)

Yankee Doodle Comes To Town

For 108 years, June in Westport has meant 2 things:

  • The end of school
  • The Yankee Doodle Fair.

For longer than any man or woman here has been alive, the Westport Woman’s Club event has signaled the start of summer. It’s also the long-lived civic organization’s main fundraiser, helping them help dozens of local charities and provide important scholarships to Staples grads.

I’m sure that back in the pre-internet, pre-TV, pre-radio (!) day, there were lots of old-fashioned, carnival-style fairs. I remember them at Compo Beach, the empty lot where Barnes & Noble now sits, and (of course) Festival Italiano.

The Yankee Doodle Fair is the only one still alive. Generations of Westporters have fond memories of it.

Some have more tangible images.

Ann Sheffer - Yankee Doodle FairIn 1952, 4-year-old Ann Sheffer attended the Fair. She keeps a photo of herself on a carousel (left) — and gets a kick out of watching 21st-century 4-year-0lds ride them.

When Ann was growing up, many Woman’s Club members were either artists themselves, or married to artists. Affordable portrait drawing was a big Yankee Doodle Fair attraction.

Howard Munce — who at nearly 100 years old is still 8 years younger than the Fair — drew portraits at the Fair. So did Miggs’ Burroughs father, Bernie.

But Bernie didn’t draw his son. The charcoal portrait below was done around 1956 by Westporter Tom Lovell. He later became a famed book cover artist and painter of Western art, whose works sold for up to $400,000.

This portrait of Miggs probably cost $1. But he still has it.

Miggs Burroughs by Tom Lovett

Years after sitting (while watching all his friends going on rides), Miggs went on to curate the Woman’s Club Art Show Fundraiser last month. It featured local artists — and honored Ann Sheffer’s aunt, Susan Malloy. Interesting how the Yankee Doodle Fair connects them all.

Linda Gramatky Smith remembers the Yankee Doodle Fair too. Every year, her parents — Hardie (“Little Toot” author/illustrator) Gramatky and Dorothea Cooke — took turns in the portrait booth.

Her father’s diary from June 28, 1956 notes he went to the Fair that day with famed artists Ward Brackett, Dolli Tingle, Herb Olsen, Donald Purdy, Arpi Ermoyan and Johnny Gannam.

But they were not just drawing caricatures. In 1953, Hardie Gramatky matted a watercolor as a gift to the Fair. Just one more Westporter helping the Westport Woman’s Club make money.

This year’s edition opens tomorrow. There’ll be many chances for today’s kids to make their own memories for years to come.

A caricature by T.C. Ford

A T. C. Ford caricature

Besides the traditional rides and games, new this year are a “Children’s Garden” area, a photo opp board, a “Fountain of Wishes,” face painting (fun or fierce), sand art, and (Saturday and Sunday only), caricaturist T.C. Ford (with his sidekick, all-natural henna artist Brigid Fleming).

The timing is perfect. School is out. Summer is about to begin. After 108 years, things still haven’t changed.

The Yankee Doodle Fair runs Thursday and Friday (June 18 and 19, 6-10 p.m.), Saturday (June 20, 1-10 p.m.) and Sunday (June 21, 1-5 p.m.) at the Westport Woman’s Club, 44 Imperial Avenue. Admission is free! Click here for more information.

The 6th Time’s The Charm!

If the acting profession teaches you anything, it’s to keep following your dream.

Kelli O’Hara has been a noted Broadway star for years. But it wasn’t until last night — after 5 previous nominations — that the Westporter scored a Tony.

She snagged theater’s biggest prize as Best Actress in a Musical, for her portrayal of Anna in the revival of “The King and I.”

O’Hara is married to Greg Naughton. He grew up in Weston, son of famed actor James Naughton.

Another Westport big winner — in another way — was Tom Greenwald. He’s the chief strategy officer at SpotCo, a New York ad agency specializing in entertainment.

They handled advertising for 16 Tony-nominated shows — including Best Musical “Fun Home” and Best Play “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”

This being Westport, I’m sure there are more Tony connections. If you know of any — other than “Hey, I watched the ceremony last night!” or “Well, producer Harvey Weinstein’s ‘Neverland’ didn’t win anything” — click Comments.

Congrats to Kelli, Tom — and hopefully many other Westporters too!

 

Filmmakers Fight To Save F. Scott’s Home

In 1920, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald spent a memorable summer in Westport.

It’s taken a lot longer — more than 2 years — for another pair of locals to make a film about the literary-and-fast-living couple.

But the video project began even way before that.

A 1996 New Yorker story by Westport writer Barbara Probst Solomon linked Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby to this town. But the piece was “ignored by Fitzgerald scholars,” says filmmaker Robert Steven Williams. So he and Staples grad/social studies teacher/historian Deej Webb embarked on their own project.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, in front of what appears to be their Westport home.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, in front of what appears to be their Westport home.

They interviewed more than a dozen academics. They dug into Fitzgerald’s archives at Princeton, and presented at a Fitzgerald Society Conference in Alabama. They even interviewed one of the writer’s granddaughters in Vermont — a woman who rarely speaks to anyone.

“What we uncovered was not only surprising,” Williams says. “It made us realize that the Westport Fitzgerald home was much more than just about Gatsby.”

So when clips of their film — Boats Against the Current — are shown at the Fairfield Theater Company on Monday (June 8, 7:30 p.m.), viewers will learn about much more than F. Scott, Zelda, the Roaring ’20s and Westport.

Williams and Webb draw attention to the fact that the home the Fitzgeralds rented — on Compo Road South, adjacent to the Longshore entrance — is for sale. And unprotected.

According to Williams, that means that “anyone could buy it, and make it tomorrow’s ‘Teardown of the Day.'”

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald slept -- and partied -- here.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald slept — and partied — here.

Williams and Webb will discuss — using over an hour’s worth of clips — why “Westport needs to save this home.” They’ll be joined by Professor Walter Raubicheck (a Fitzgerald scholar from Pace University), and Westport Historical Society executive director Sue Gold.

After all, like Gatsby itself, the Fitzgeralds’ home is a classic.

(For ticket information, click here.)