Back in 1985, the Marketing Corporation of America gave Westport a gift for the town’s 150th anniversary: a 30-minute video.
MCA is no longer around. Westport is no longer the “marketing capital of America.”
But the video — grandiosely titled “Westport’s Got It All” — has just been posted on Vimeo. It’s gone viral — at least, among Westporters and those who used to live here.
After nearly 30 years, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
The video is filled with celebrities who lived here. Strangely — or, perhaps, understatedly and on purpose — none are named. Jim McKay reads a newspaper by the river. Harry Reasoner sits near a tennis court. Joanne Woodward has a cameo.
ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” anchor Jim McKay on the banks of the Saugatuck River, in the town he called home.
Okay, so Rodney Dangerfield cracks, “The town of Westport has my respect.” But that’s the closest anyone comes to identifying him or herself.
The video opens with a cheesy, “Westport’s Got It All” song (including the line “Kids hanging out at the Dairy Queen…”). It’s sung by Westporter Dara Sedaka — Neil’s daughter.
But the pace quickens. There are shots of Main Street, the Playhouse, Staples, Compo, the downtown art show, Longshore, Cockenoe, the Levitt and the Memorial Day parade (ending at Jesup Green).
Most look pretty much the same today. But there are plenty of other places and things that are long gone: Remarkable Book Shop. The White Barn Theater. Mohonk House. Hay Day (in its original location, opposite Carvel). MCA.
And, of course, restaurants: Manero’s, Chez Pierre, Ships, Peppermill, Three Bears, Allen’s Clam House, Connolly’s … and on and on.
I found the voiceovers fascinating. Mason Adams, Alan Parsell, Herb Baldwin, Claire Gold, Julie Belaga, Dick Leonard, Cary Pierce — I recognized the voices of so many former politicians, educators, students and others.
Crusty Yankee Alan Parsell was 83 years old when he was interviewed for the 150th-anniversary video.
Here are some of the things they said:
- “Nothing goes on here that people aren’t concerned about. For every issue, there are at least 10 sides.”
- “I’m worried the town is losing its mix of a variety of people.”
- “Westporters have extraordinary aspirations for their children. And they’re willing to pay for it.”
- “I work 2 jobs, 90 hours a week, to keep my head above water here.”
- “Westport has the sophistication of New York, the exuberance of a California town, the quaintness of New England — and a sense of humor.”
- “We do have latchkey children, as more and more parents go off to work.”
George Weigle conducts the Staples Orphenians. They sound great in the video.
- “It’s a very loving community, in many ways.”
- “We draw people into town, to go to the theater and movies.”
- “The Post Road is a disaster. But every town has its Post Road. This one looks better than many.”
- “Commercialization has really changed this town. It’s been good and bad.”
- “It’s a generous, gregarious, outgoing town.You can dress any way you like. You can be anyone you want to be. That’s the uniqueness of the community.”
That was Westport, 1985. Thanks to MCA, we’ve got a video record — promotional, but still pretty honest — of who we were.
What’s happened in the past 28 years? Are we better, worse, just different — or the same — as we were back in the days when big cars roamed Main Street, the Church Lane YMCA was still new, and people came from out of town for the movies?
Click on the video below (then wait 10 seconds to begin). Then click “Comments.”
(Click here if your browser does not take you directly to Vimeo.)