Category Archives: Entertainment

“Art About Town” Floods Main Street

Once a year, downtown turns into a pedestrian mall. It’s “Art About Town” — one of Westport’s newest traditions.

Part art exhibit, part street fair — and all fun — it’s a great way to kick off a month-long exhibit of art (for sale!) by 65 artists, in 60 locations.

It started an hour ago. If you’re reading this before 8:30 p.m. on Thursday — there’s still time to go.

Just don’t think of parking on Main Street.

There were plenty of great artist demonstrations tonight. But none was more impressive than Rosiejon. She has no arms -- so she uses her feet. Amazingly, she has been painting for just a year.

There were plenty of great artist demonstrations tonight. But none was more impressive than Rosiejon. She has no arms — so she uses her feet. Amazingly, she has been painting for just a year.

Harry Moritz graduated from Staples in 2010 -- and from Pratt less than a week ago. Here's one of his creations.

Harry Moritz graduated from Staples in 2010 — and from Pratt less than a week ago. Here’s one of his creations.

Another kind of artist is performer Jared Rydelek. This was just his warmup.

Another kind of artist is performer Jared Rydelek. This was just his warmup.

This young man may be trying out for Art About Town -- the 2035 version.

This young man may be trying out for Art About Town — the 2035 version.

Joyce Landon is among 65 artists who is showing downtown, for the next month. Her works can be seen in the TD Bank lobby.

Joyce Landon is among 65 artists who is exhibiting downtown, for the next month. Her works can be seen in the TD Bank lobby.

It Won’t Be Long…

…until the Levitt Pavilion opens for another season.

This guy at the Westport Arts Center — across the river — can hardly wait.

WAC with Levitt in distance

Party On Main Street!

A lot has happened downtown in one year.

“Tunnel Vision” — Miggs Burroughs’ spectacular 16-image transformation of the long-dingy pedestrian tunnel between Main Street and Parker Harder Plaza — was unveiled last May. Today it’s a destination — not a nightmare.

The Westport Downtown Merchants Association‘s big sidewalk-and-lamps project is nearing completion.

So let’s party!

Tall, older dancers and shorter, younger ones performed at last year's Art About Town party. They'll be back this Thursday for more fun.

Tall, older dancers and shorter, younger ones performed at last year’s Art About Town party. They’ll be back this Thursday for more fun.

The WDMA’s annual “Art About Town” opening night street celebration is set for Thursday (May 21, 5:30-8:30 p.m.). It’s a unique, family-friendly combination of original works, interactive art demonstrations, funky live music, dancing, street performances, food and drinks at pop-up cafes — all in the middle of traffic-free Main Street.

Westport Arts Center educators will help everyone create small wall signs using crazy colors, funky patterns, buttons and beads.

Artists give impromptu demonstrations in the middle of Main Street.

Artists give impromptu demonstrations in the middle of Main Street.

And — going back to that “Tunnel Vision” anniversary — Miggs gives “tours” of his work at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m.

The party kicks off a 4-week art event. Hundreds of original works by local artists will fill more than 60 shops and restaurants. Downtown becomes one big gallery. All works are juried, for sale, and on display until June 21.

Of course, plenty of art is sold long before then. Some even goes during the opening party.

Hey — this is Westport. We move fast.

Except through Miggs’ tunnel.

 

Miggs Burroughs, in his "Tunnel Vision" creation.

Miggs Burroughs, in his “Tunnel Vision” creation.

Brian Keane Honors B.B. King

Brian Keane has spent 40 years in the music industry. The Staples High School Class of 1971 grad has composed the music for hundreds of films and television shows, produced over 100 albums, and won a ton of Grammys, Emmys and Peabodys. He’s earned fame scoring television documentaries (including Ric Burns’ “New York,” “The Donner Party” “Ansel Adams” and “Andy Warhol.”

Brian Keane in his home studio, in Monroe.

Brian Keane in his home studio, in Monroe.

But in 1980, all that lay ahead. He was playing guitar one week night at the Village Gate, backing up jazz legend Larry Coryell. John Scofield, John McLaughlin and George Benson were also there. Brian was excited, anticipating a “shootout” between so many great guitarists.

After his set, he went backstage. There, in the dressing room, was B.B. King. He was on tour in the area, had the night off, and Benson asked him to sit in.

Brian recalls:

“B.B. was very kind, welcoming, and sweet to me. I don’t know if he actually heard me play, but he was complimentary. I was a cocky 29-year-old kid, and still considered technique and harmonic sophistication as the true measures of musicianship. I was polite and respectful, but in my mind B.B. King was not what I considered a player of high awareness music at the time.

B.B. King died Thursday, age 89.

B.B. King died Thursday, age 89.

“After I played with Larry and met B.B., I listened in the wings as guitarist after guitarist took amazing solos, trying to outdo each other. I was at a stage in my musical development where I thought of music almost like a competition. Towards the end of the night they did a blues with all the name guitarists (not me), and brought B.B. King out as a special guest.

“I was astounded that B.B. King played a more effective solo using about 3 notes than all these other great guitarists played, using about 3000 per second!

“B.B. King taught me that night that the emotion a musician conveys in his music, even if simple, can be far more powerful than I had considered — and more profound. I never looked at guitar solos, or music, in quite the same way again.

“Thank you B.B.King for your music, and for being a messenger of love, compassion and empathy to so many, for so long.”

Staples Seniors End With Class

On Monday, several hundred Staples High School seniors head off on internships. From hedge funds to organic farms, and ad agencies to pre-schools, they’ll spend 4 weeks learning about life in the real (work) world.

A week after that, they graduate.

Principal John Dodig will “graduate” with them, too. But in the last weeks of his 47-year career in education, he instituted a new tradition he hopes will last for decades.

When classes ended today for seniors, administrators invited them to a cookout on the football field. A band played (really well). Seniors ate, played, and hung out together for the last time until prom.

It was a classy end of classes, for a very classy class.

Alexander Baumann (left) and Jack Baylis both contributed to Staples in many ways.

Alexander Baumann (left) and Jack Baylis both contributed to Staples in many ways.

Will Dumke (keyboard) and Andrew Puchala (guitar) rocked the house -- er, football field.

Will Dumke (keyboard), August Densby (drums) and Andrew Puchala (guitar) rocked the house — er, football field.

This Old House #13

Trust your instincts.

Westport Historical Society house historian Bob Weingarten thought that last week’s “mystery house” was the current site of Dream Spa — the handsome building at the entrance to the Crate & Barrel shopping center, between Green’s Farms Elementary School and Fortuna’s.

Then he thought it wasn’t. But research by the inestimable Wendy Crowther and others convinced him he was right all along. (Click here to see a 1930s photo of the house, and comments.)

This week’s house is a great one.

This Old House May 13, 2015

We know exactly where this very handsome home once stood. According to a state database of WPA photos, the house — built around 1823, and owned originally by “Wheeler or Capt. Gresham Bradley” — was “formerly situated on the present site of the Fine Arts Theater in State Street.”

That’s great. But the Fine Arts Theatre opened around 1920 — more than a decade before the photo was taken. It closed in 1999, and is now Restoration Hardware. And State Street has been renamed the Post Road.

So where was this house when the photo was taken?

Hopefully it has not been torn down in the interim.

If you know its whereabouts, click “Comments” below. The WHS is seeking info on this and other “mystery houses,” in preparation for an upcoming exhibit on the changing face of Westport.

Bonus photo: Here is what the Fine Arts Theatre looked like, a decade or 2 after it opened.

Fine Arts theatre black and white

Sam Wilkes Has “The Voice”

At Staples, Sam Wilkes was all music, nearly all the time. He played in the band, jazz band and orchestra. (He also took as many English courses as he could: 4 in senior year.) In high school, he says, “I learned how to learn.”

After graduating in 2009, Sam headed to the University of Southern California. He was in the 1st class of the new Popular Music Performance program.

Sam Wilkes

Sam Wilkes

That’s where he met Rozzi Crane. The singer-songwriter has been a background vocalist for Don Henley and Sergio Mendes, and was featured on the Maroon 5 song “Come Away to the Water.” She was the 1st artist signed to Adam Levine’s 222 Records label.

Sam is her bassist, and her band’s musical director. Which is how — last Tuesday — he found himself, with Rozzi, on “The Voice.”

“We nailed it,” Sam says. “They used the 1st take.” It was a great learning experience, he says. Making music on TV was unlike anything he’d ever done before.

As Rozzi rockets to fame, Sam is right beside her. But he’s also playing in a chamber ensemble, and with the likes of Jason Collier and “Quincy Jones Presents.”

If Staples indeed taught Sam Wilkes “how to learn,” he studied very, very well.

 

Westporters Remember Ben E King

Ben E King — who died yesterday in New Jersey at 76 — is being remembered for his smooth baritone, debonair style and classic love songs.

He was also, apparently, a really great man.

In 2013, Drew McKeon was a drummer with (coincidentally, fellow Westporter) Michael Bolton. They were booked for a charity gala at the Bushnell in Hartford.

King performed 2 songs with them: “Stand By Me” and “Save the Last Dance for Me.”

The legendary solo artist and former Drifters front man shook everyone’s hand with a smile, and repeated their names. “He was elegant and dapper,” recalls McKeon, a 2000 Staples grad. “We all immediately liked him.”

During a “Stand By Me” sound check, one of McKeon’s bandmates asked King which guitar part to play. “Whatever you’re doing sounds fantastic,” he replied. “Play whatever you feel. You’re a wonderful musician — all of you are.”

McKeon calls King “easily one of the sweetest and most humble people I’ve ever played with.”

The star told McKeon “the incredibly personal back story of wheelchair-bound Doc Pomus. He was inspired to write ‘Save the Last Dance For Me’ after watching his brother twirl Pomus’ newlywed wife from the sidelines at his own wedding.

“We’d done our homework on the tunes, so it went well,” recalls McKeon, a 2000 Staples grad. “But he acted as if it was better ‘service’ than he deserved. He was super gracious. He inspired me to play my best for him, like a true Little Drummer Boy.”

McKeon is not the only Staples alum with memories of King. Ryan O’Neill — who graduated in 1997 — did “Clash of the Choirs” with (again) Michael Bolton, and performed with the legendary artist.

“Mr. King was a generous and kind man,” O’Neill recalls. “He offered stories about his songs and his life. It was an honor to share the stage with such an icon.”

Ryan O'Neill and Ben E King

Ryan O’Neill and Ben E King

Kyle Martino’s Latest Kick

Westporters have always expected big things from Kyle Martino.

In 1999, the Staples senior was named Gatorade National High School
Soccer Player of the Year.

He went on to become Major Soccer League’s 2002 Rookie of the Year. On the Los Angeles Galaxy, he played alongside — and hung out with — David Beckham.

1999 Staples grad Kyle Martino on NBC Sports

1999 Staples grad Kyle Martino on NBC Sports

Martino earned caps with the US national team. After retiring from professional soccer, he joined ESPN as a color commentator. Now he’s seen every weekend as a studio analyst on NBC Sports‘ highly regarded broadcasts of Premier League matches.

Plus, he’s married to beautiful actress Eva Amurri.

But — despite his education at the University of Virginia — no one here quite expected Kyle Martino to end up with the New York Times.

Apparently, there’s nothing he can’t do.

The paper announced today that Martino will join Kristen Kish — only the 2nd female “Top Chef” winner ever — as co-hosts of “36 Hours.”

That’s a new venture the Times and Travel Channel are bringing to television.

In each 1-hour episode, Martino and Kish arrive in a new city. They’ll have 36 hours to “explore the most delicious foods and hot spots, meet fascinating local insiders, and experience the best attractions unique to each destination.”

New-York-Times-LogoEpisodes will coincide with new or updated Times “36 Hours” newspaper columns, in the Sunday Travel section. Companion editorial and video content will appear on NYTimes.com and Travel Channel digital properties.

Martino is only 34 years old. We know he’ll be kickin’ it for many years to come.

Now Playing: Westport’s Latest Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Inductee

As reported last December, Mark Naftalin was elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The longtime Westporter played keyboard for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The legendary seminal blues-rock group joined Ringo Starr, Green Day, Joan Jett, Lou Reed, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bill Withers as members of the “Class of 2015.”

The induction ceremony took place Saturday night, in Cleveland.

If you weren’t there — and no jokes about Cleveland, please, they’re very sensitive folks — here is the band’s “Born in Chicago” jam:

The clip below is a lot longer. It’s the induction speech itself, beginning with words from Mark:

Want even more? HBO airs a special on the entire evening. But you’ll have to wait — it’s on May 30.