Category Archives: Entertainment

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.

 

 

Spin Doctors, Rick Derringer Headline Best-Ever Blues, Views & BBQ Fest

When it comes to blues music, Westport is not exactly Chicago or Memphis.

And when you’re talking barbecue, Kansas City and Atlanta come to mind far quicker than this place.

But over the past 6 years — thanks to the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival — the Westport Downtown Merchants Association has done a phenomenal job putting our town on the music and culinary maps.

The 7th annual event — set for Saturday and Sunday, August 30-31 on Labor Day weekend — will make all previous ones look like county fairs.

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

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

Blues, rock, brass and funk fans will be blown away by the lineup. The WDMA has signed Spin Doctors, Rick Derringer and a host of other big names — Bill Kirchen, Pop Chubby, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Raw Oyster Cult and Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys, to name a few — and rented the new Levitt Pavilion for 2 days of fantastic entertainment.

There’s 9 hours of music each day, for the very cool pre-pay price of $50 Saturday and $25 Sunday ($60 and $30 respectively, at the door). A 2-day pass is just $70 — and kids under 12 are free, with a paying adult.

(For Westporters only — and only through August 17 — the Saturday all-access pass is $40. The regular pre-sale price is $50; on-site, it’s $60.)

Meanwhile, the “Family Fun Fest” — in the library and Imperial Avenue parking lots — features plenty of food (including Bobby Q’s, but also from Blue Lemon, Meltmobile, Rolling Cones and others, plus of course a worthy selection of beverages); the always popular BBQ competition; rib- and pie-eating contests; cooking demonstrations; music (including School of Rock kids); bouncy stuff, and all that jazz.

And the price for that has been cut, from $25 last year to just $10. Kids 12 and under go free.

The Packin' Heat BBQ team always provides hot competition. (Photo/MIke Thut)

The Packin’ Heat BBQ team always provides hot competition. (Photo/MIke Thut)

The WDMA does a great job — often without proper credit — promoting free community events, like the Fine Arts Festival, Halloween Parade and Art About Town. They donate to other non-profits, and with projects like Tunnel Vision they beautify downtown.

The Blues, Views & BBQ Festival is the WDMA’s signature event. In just 2 weeks, Westport will be smokin’.

(For advance tickets and more information, 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.)

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)

Remembering Laura Plimpton

Laura Plimpton — the youngest sister of Martha Stewart, and a longtime writer for the former Westporter’s blog — died Wednesday, after suffering a massive aneurysm. She was 59 years old, and lived in Weston.

Laura left a living will. She was kept on life support until her 3 children could say goodbye, and testing could be completed for organ donation.

Laura’s husband Randy — a Westport realtor and independent property manager — wrote this remembrance.

Laura’s death was totally unexpected. I’m still in shock, but buoyed by my kids, extended family, and wonderful network of friends.

That evening, my kids, sons-in-law and I ate dinner. We served ourselves dessert – a blueberry crisp that Laura baked the day before she collapsed. Laura was a brilliant chef, and eating her delicious dessert was the definition of bittersweet. Here was this perfect creation that she had so lovingly prepared for us, even though she would no longer be here. It felt like we were giving her and ourselves culinary last rites.

This “last” — one of so many for me this week — made me vividly remember a “first”: the first time I met my wife. It was in Westport.

Laura and Randy Plimpton.

Laura and Randy Plimpton.

In the 1980s and ’90s I was the producer for Jerry Simpson, a New York photographer. We were contracted to shoot for a magazine story at Martha Stewart’s property. So Jerry and I drove up I-95 and arrived at Turkey Hill. Laura was working as a food and prop stylist for her sister, and we hit it off immediately.

After shooting all day long, Jerry, Laura and I decided to grab some dinner. Jerry and I were staying overnight at the Inn at Longshore, so the 3 of us went there. Instead of eating we rented some golf clubs and tried our hand on the course. It was a disaster. None of us had any clue how to play, and we sprayed balls everywhere.

Our memorable game led to drinks at the bar. From there we went to the Black Duck for more. Jerry and I went back to Longshore, and Laura drove all the way back to her house in Weston. The house she went home to became our home together for almost 25 years.

The next day we returned to work, still recovering from our antics. Laura told us that she had woken up to find that her shoes were still on, but somehow on the wrong feet. We had a great laugh, and it made for a hilarious beginning to our relationship.

I know there will be many more “lasts” in the days, weeks and months ahead. At the same time, my Laura’s love has already led to healing and warmth in our family this week, and will lead to many “firsts” in the years to come.

Matt Marriott: Mick Jagger’s New Drummer

So what do you do after you’re a Staples High School and Duke University track star?

You work as a production assistant on “Get On Up,” the new movie about the music and moods of James Brown.

And what do you do in the middle of filming on location in Mississippi?

You play drums, while Mick Jagger dances.

Get On Up posterThat’s the crazy twists Matt Marriott’s life has taken in the year since he graduated from college as an English major (no jokes, please), and moved to Los Angeles.

A friend of his aunt’s hooked him up with the 2 producers of the film. They liked him, and hired him for pre-production back East in October.

“I didn’t have any special qualifications, other than I seemed like a nice person and my aunt’s friend vouched for my work ethic,” Matt admits.

“That’s sort of how the film industry seems to work. In the beginning it’s more about who you know, than what you know.”

Matt learned fast. He kept in constant contact with the producers’ personal assistants back in LA — “even if that meant calling doctors to make a house call at 10:30 on a Saturday night.”

Production assistant Matt Marriott, on the set of "Get On Up."

Production assistant Matt Marriott, on the set of “Get On Up.”

Playing with Mick Jagger was much more fun.

He’s one of the film’s producers — the Stones owe a lot to the Godfather of Soul, after all — and spent a week on set.

One Friday night, Matt was hanging out at a Mississippi bar with some friends from the movie. Mick strolled in, with an entourage and a gaggle of higher-ups.

A DJ was playing random pop songs. Mick joined the crowd on the dance floor. Spying an empty drum set on stage — and figuring you only go around once in life — Matt hopped on stage and banged out some rhythm.

“People were enjoying it, so I turned to Mick,” Matt recalls. “He looked right back, and shot me a smile and nod of approval. That was one of the coolest moments of my life.”

The movie was released August 1. Matt is now working at a running shoe and apparel store in Santa Monica, and looking for his next movie gig. In the meantime, he’s producing music.

And, of course, for the rest of his life he can say, “Yeah, I played drums for Mick Jagger.”

Bill Scheffler’s Benz Is A Movie Star

There’s something about Michael Douglas and Westport cars.

Growing up here, he was a member of the Downshifters – the high school club that met at the Y to talk about, learn about, work on (and sometimes race) cars.

Last summer, he filmed “And So It Goes” in Bridgeport. Directed by Rob Reiner, and also starring Diane Keaton, it’s about a self-absorbed realtor suddenly left in charge of a granddaughter he never knew existed until his estranged son drops her off. It was released last week.

Besides the familiar Black Rock scenes (and familiar former Westport actor), there’s a familiar car.

Michael Douglas driving Bill Scheffler's Mercedes.

Michael Douglas driving Bill Scheffler’s Mercedes.

Westporter Bill Scheffler’s 1963 Mercedes-Benz 300SE Cabriolet takes a star turn. With the star.

Douglas drives it — and it is featured prominently in the promos.

Scheffler bought the Benz in January 2013, at a Scottsdale auction. It’s a fairly limited production car — about 3100 hard tops and convertibles were made over the model’s 6-year life — and was built to rigorous standards.

The auction catalogue says the 300SE offered “a stirring combination of luxury and performance along with technical specifications better than anything else of its era.”

So how did Scheffler’s car make it onto Rob Reiner’s set?

It was spotted by a “talent scout/car wrangler” while being restored in Stratford.

And so it goes.

Michael Douglas poster

 

 

 

Courtney Kemp Has “Starz Power”

According to the New York TimesCourtney Kemp was “a bookish child, obsessed with presidential politics and learning Yiddish.” She’s still like that: She wears a t-shirt reading “Black Nerds Unite.”

But the 1994 Staples High School graduate — who went on to Brown University, and earned a master’s in English literature at Columbia — is a highly regarded writer in the very mainstream medium of TV. Her credits include “The Good Wife” (for which she received an Emmy nomination), and “Beauty and the Beast.”

Now she’s branched out even further from bookish nerddom. She’s the creator and show runner of “Power,” a Starz series that premiered last month. In the first few episodes alone, there are shootings and fights. One man is set on fire.

Oy gevalt.

Courtney Kemp Agboh

Courtney Kemp Agboh

Known today as Courtney Kemp Agboh, she’s one of the few African American female show runners in the industry, the Times says. “Power” is the first series she ever pitched — or sold.

She was “called the N-word a lot” growing up in Westport, she says. (Her father, Herb Kemp, was a noted advertising executive.) She read college textbooks at age 8, Shakespeare at 10. She made up stories about the pieces on her chess set.

It’s a long way from the nearly-all-white Westport of the 1980s and ’90s to Sunset Gower Studios in Los Angeles, where she works today.

And where her executive producer is Curtis Jackson — better known as the rapper 50 Cent.

Courtney Kemp Agboh with her "Power" producer 50 Cent.

Courtney Kemp Agboh with her “Power” producer 50 Cent.

The Times says that Courtney came up with the idea of the show’s lead role: a man “so good at being bad that nobody in his world would really want him to be good.” That character draws both from 50 Cent and her father.

“Power” — called “a lively premium-cable riff on ‘Law & Order'” by the Times’ Alessandra Stanley — concludes its 1st season tonight. It’s been renewed for the fall.

(For the full New York Times story, click here.)

Hannah Bukzin Has Some Chops

Hannah  Bukzin is a busy girl.

When she’s not volunteering as an EMT or interning with a catering company, the rising Staples sophomore can be found cooking. Her style is “classic dishes with a modern twist.” Her favorite creation is hanger steak marinated with chimichurri sauce, and a side of roasted potatoes.

But in April, Hannah found time to head to the Food Network studios in New York. There, she spent a full day filming a segment for “Chopped Teen Tournament.” The show airs Tuesday, July 29 (10 p.m.).

What makes her story particularly noteworthy — besides the fact that she is a local girl who may or may not make good (Hannah is sworn to secrecy) — is that she’s completely self-taught.

Hannah Bukzin, on the "Chopped" set)

Hannah Bukzin, on the “Chopped” set)

Hannah has been interested in cooking ever since age 6, when she saw her first — surprise! — Food Network show. The mystery and variety of ingredients drew her in.

Almost a decade later, she applied to the “Chopped” teen show. After interviews, a camera crew came to film her at EMS headquarters — and watch her cook. (That dish was pan-roasted bronzino with quinoa salad.)

She made the cut, and joined 15 other teenagers. They competed in 3 30-minute rounds, creating dishes with 4 ingredients that (a press release says) “could stump even top professionals.”

Did I mention that Hannah was the only one of the 16 who does not attend a culinary program in a specialized high school? In fact, she has not even taken one of Staples’ highly regarded culinary classes yet.

“Everything I know is in my head,” she says.

food network logoBut like any well-trained cook, Hannah knew she had to prepare. A chef friend of her parents trained her, using his own “mystery ingredients.” She is “not much of a baker,” Hannah says, so she practiced a few desserts just in case.

Filming took an entire, long day. As in any kitchen, there were surprises — and not just at the stove.

“I was amazed that the judges judged us like we were adults,” Hannah reports. “They told us the truth as if we were 30 or 40 years old, not 14 to 17.”

But in some ways, Hannah is closer to 30 or 40 than 15.

As soon as our interview was over, she was out the door.

Work beckoned. The catering company she’s interning with had a wedding.

On the Vineyard.

Jose Feliciano, Mimi Levitt Launch New Pavilion

Saying “I look forward to returning for years to come,” 93-year-old Mimi Levitt shined with excitement as she welcomed Westport’s newest jewel: the refurbished Levitt pavilion.

The $9 million public/private project — propelled by a $4.5 million grant from the Levitt Foundation — represents a complete overhaul of an already intriguing downtown attraction.

With a soaring, sail-inspired, state-of-the-art stage; a killer sound system; amenities like dressing rooms, food concessions, ramps and restrooms — plus a completely renovated riverwalk that now extends all the way to the point behind the pavilion — this Levitt marks the 2nd transformation of a former landfill.

Parks and Rec, politicians, architects and construction folks all took their bows.

Then Jose Feliciano took over. His kick-butt show is just the start of a summer filled with entertainment.

And there was not a mosquito in sight.

A small portion of the large crowd, and the new Levitt stage.

A small portion of the large crowd, and the new Levitt stage.

The one and only Jose Feliciano. The Weston resident donated his fee to the Levitt building fund.

The one and only Jose Feliciano. The Weston resident donated his fee to the Levitt building fund.

The lawn was full -- but there was plenty of room to relax.

The lawn is full — but there’s still plenty of room to relax.

Mimi Levitt -- 93 years young -- and her daughter Liz Levitt Hirsch.

Mimi Levitt — 93 years young — and her daughter Liz Levitt Hirsch.

Dancing in the aisle, to Jose Feliciano.

Dancing on the grass, to Jose Feliciano.

Freda and Carleigh Welsh: 2 of the driving forces behind the Levitt Pavilion's success.

Freda and Carleigh Welsh: 2 of the driving forces behind the Levitt Pavilion’s success.

The new Levitt has real restrooms. And they are already in use.

The new Levitt has real restrooms. And they are already in use.

The landscaping extends beyond the stage, out to the point where the Levitt juts into the Saugatuck River. A newly enhanced riverwalk adds to the beauty.

The landscaping extends beyond the stage, out to the point where the Levitt juts into the Saugatuck River. A newly enhanced riverwalk adds to the beauty.