Category Archives: People

Hope Langer: “Those Trees Were Part Of My Roots”

Hope Klein Langer is an “06880″ fan. She likes the stories of “experiences that resonate with all generations of Westporters,” and the “healthy dialogue about community issues” that follows.

Hope has a community issue of her own. It concerns trees: those on private property, which affect neighbors and neighborhoods. She writes:

The beauty of Westport is that it is a place where people come to plant their roots and build their family. Unlike many towns, people come back year after year because there is a community feel that simply can’t be matched or replaced.

Both of my daughters are Staples graduates. I became a grandmother to a baby boy just a few months ago. There are little things that I look forward to doing with my grandson: playing at Compo Beach, walking along Main Street, and taking him for a milkshake at the Sherwood Diner!

Trees once framed Hope Langer's back yard -- a view she loved. (Photo/Granite Studios)

Trees once framed Hope Langer’s back yard — a view she loved. (Photo/Granite Studios)

However, there is no ignoring the many changes that our beautiful little town has faced throughout the years—for better and worse.

A few weeks ago, without any prior notice, the developer of property next door to my home ripped out all of the trees that divided our properties for 50 years.   These evergreens stood probably 40-50 feet tall. and were there long before we arrived 23 years ago. There were at least 25 to 35 of them.

The view now, after the trees were removed.

The view now, after the trees were removed.

Yes, these trees are technically on the developer’s land (by mere inches). And yes, they are just trees.

But having lived in this home at 163 Bayberry Lane for over 20 years, these trees and this home are part of my roots. I am devastated to see them torn down, with little regard for the way it might affect me and my family.

The trees were almost on my property line. Taking into consideration the setback laws, they were not in the developer’s’ building envelope. Though not important to him, they contributed greatly to our privacy and sense of security.

When I called the builder, his response was, “I don’t really care about your property. I am here to make money.” I have been a Realtor in this town for 23 years, but I am appalled at his disregard for our neighborhood and my home.

All that remains of the trees on Hope Langer's property line.

All that remains of the trees on Hope Langer’s property line.

It’s hard to ignore the silent tug-of-war between the new Westport and the old. If nothing else, I hope my story will plant a seed of compassion in those who are in the business of overhauling our sweet town. I hope we can find a way to meet in the middle, and preserve the community that has been such a magnificent place to call home. For example, our laws should be discussed and re-evaluated before Westport loses all of its charm and beautiful mature trees.

I am passionate about the preservation of this incredible town. I will make changing the town’s regulations one of my daily jobs. Laws must be put into place to prevent builders from cutting down mature greenery that has nothing to do with construction of the next soulless McMansion.

Many towns have such rules. It’s high time for our government to protect the character of our neighborhoods — and for developers to display common respect, before clear-cutting nature out of what we hold dear.

Hope Langer now sees the street from her house. And passersby can see her house from the road.

Hope Langer now sees the street from her back yard. And passersby see her property from the road.

Andrew’s Army Marches On — To Mini-Golf

Seven years ago, Andrew Accardi had a dream. The 13-year-old wanted to create a foundation to raise money for neuroblastoma.

Andrew had a very personal dog in that fight. He’d been living with the pediatric cancer — for which there is no known cure — for 8 years already.

Andrew Accardi, doing what he loved.

Andrew Accardi, doing what he loved.

He battled it for 7 more, before succumbing last October. Before he died, though, he and his many friends raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the cause. Much of it came from golf-related events. Andrew was a 4-year member of the Staples team.

Andrew is gone, but his friends — “Andrew’s Army” — still raise money. Andrew’s legacy lives on.

The 1st annual Andrew’s Army Miniature Golf Classic is set for this Sunday (July 27, 4-7 p., Norwalk Cove Marina). The admission price of $20 — payable there — includes a round of mini-golf, food, soft drinks, a raffle and more.

“And more” includes the “36 Challenge.” Two years ago, Andrew shot a fantastic 36 on the course. If you think you can match that, put your money on the line. Pledge to donate an amount of your choice for every stroke over 36. The lowest score by anyone undertaking the challenge can win 2 NY Ranger tickets for next season.

But wait! There’s more! Everyone participating in the “36 Challenge” will also receive a special raffle ticket for each hole-in-one. They’re part of the grand prize item, from Saugatuck Sweets: a basket of candy, plus a coupon for 1 free double-scoop ice cream every week for a year.

How great is Andrew’s Army? Well, this Miniature Golf Classic should vault their fundraising over the $1 million mark.

 

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.

Downtown Trees Get Priority Treatment

Remember all the hand-wringing 2 years ago, when trees were suddenly removed from Main Street? And when others were posted for removal in front of Town Hall?

Westporters love their trees. And, true to its campaign promises, the Marpe administration is making sure the next generation of trees gets the care they need.

A company cleverly named “Care of Trees” is deep-watering the roots of 5 new trees on Main Street, with an injection method. One or 2 slow-drip 20-gallon bags of water continue to nurture each tree throughout the week.

Tree care on Main Street.

Tree care on Main Street.

Taking care of young trees after planting is tricky, notes tree warden Bruce Lindsay.

“Their root systems are new. Watering is really important, to help them take hold. Street tree planting requires a great deal of planning, design, maintenance and funding to reach establishment.”

The Main Street trees were donated. The weekly cost of $300 per visit by Care of Trees comes out of the town’s tree maintenance budget. Lindsay says that after this year — once the trees are acclimated to the environmental conditions — watering will not be needed.

“The initial growing years are hardest on newly planted trees, especially in difficult site conditions like Main Street,” Lindsay notes. “Heat is radiated from cars, asphalt and sidewalks. There is limited root space and lower water access.”

The 8 new trees around Town Hall are getting the same treatment (below):

Tree in front of Town Hall

Meanwhile, Lindsay had a company trim and crown clean the trees around the Imperial Avenue parking lot, near the bridge leading to the newly renovated Levitt Pavilion.

Invasive growth was removed, and the area was scoured for safety and higher visiblity purposes. Each tree was climbed and cleaned, in a very detailed process.

Tree work being done near the Imperial Avenue foot bridge.

Tree work being done near the Imperial Avenue foot bridge.

Lindsay says, “People see me removing hazardous trees. But a lot of my job consists of stewardship: trimming, cleaning, watering. We want to make sure we preserve what we have, and mitigate any potential problems.”

Trees — their cutting, growth and regeneration — will continue to be a hot topic in Westport.

But right now, their maintenance has not fallen by the wayside.

Library Dedicates Book Sale To Shirley Land

Visitors to this weekend’s Westport Library Book Sale may be surprised to see Shirley Land there.

The longtime Westport civic volunteer died Sunday, at 96. Among her many accomplishments: She started the book sale 21 years ago, as a fundraiser.

It’s fitting for the library to honor her at the event. Her photo will be posted prominently, in the Jesup Green tent and throughout the adjacent building.

Shirley’s image will be surrounded by over 80,000 items, in categories from “Art” to “Zoology.” There are hardcover and paperback books; vinyl records, CDs and audiobooks; artwork by Westporter Stevan Dohanos; civil rights memorabilia (some signed), from the estate of Westport’s Tracy Sugarman; special collections — even plenty of Playboy magazines.

Shirley would love them all. She’d even smile at the Playboys. Nothing says “Westport Library Book Sale” more than that.

The Westport Library Book Sale runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday, Sunday and Monday (July 19-21). Everything is half-price on Monday. On Tuesday, July 22 (9 a.m.-1 p.m.) it’s all free (donations are accepted). For more information, check out this website.

Shirley Land. Among her many accomplishments, she founded the Westport Library Book Sale in 1993.

Shirley Land. Among her many accomplishments, she founded the Westport Library Book Sale in 1993.

 

 

06880 Throws A “Blog Party”

The weather was perfect. The food was great. The crowd of over 100 was diverse: old and young, artists and bankers, 4th-generation Westporters and a woman who moved here 2 months ago.

Strangers made new friends. Folks on both sides of the political aisle laughed. Everyone marveled at the sunset.

It was just another “06880″ day at the beach.

Rick Eason is a rising freshman at Staples. His drone flew over the "06880" party, and captured the happy crowd.

Rick Eason is a rising freshman at Staples. His drone flew over the “06880″ party, and captured part of the happy crowd.

Audrey Hertzel baked fantastic cupcakes -- and added this festive touch.

Audrey Hertzel baked fantastic cupcakes — and added this festive touch.

Enjoying the "0" in the "06880." (Photo/Audrey Hertzel)

Enjoying the “0″ in the “06880.” (Photo/Audrey Hertzel)

It was an "06880" party for the ages -- all ages -- at Compo Beach.

It was an “06880″ party for the ages — all ages — at Compo Beach.

Nick Iskandar of the great Kibberia restaurant donated fantastic Middle Eastern food.

Nick Iskandar of the great Kibberia restaurant donated fantastic Middle Eastern food.

Betsy Phillips Kahn captured this wonderful Westport sunset, as the "06880" party wound down.

Betsy Phillips Kahn captured this wonderful Westport sunset, as the “06880″ party wound down.

Recent Staples grad Lindsay Kiedaisch was there too. She captured the lighthouse off shore.

Recent Staples grad Lindsay Kiedaisch was there too. She captured the lighthouse off shore.

Rick Eason — a rising freshman at Staples — brought his drone to the party. The crowd got bigger later (when the light faded), but here’s a unique view of South Beach and the rest of Compo. Thanks, Rick!

(Special thanks to Mary Hoffman and Jennifer Hershey for helping organize the party; Audrey Hertzel for the cupcakes, and Kibberia restaurant for the food!)

 

Michele Bakes Her Last Westport Pies

Michele Stuart — owner of Michele’s Pies on the Post Road, across from the old post office — writes:

We are closing our Westport location this Sunday (July 20). We will relocate all of our business back to our original Norwalk location, and our Norwalk store will remain open. It is just 10 minutes from our Westport location.

We are excited about many new ventures. For example, we have been selling our pies on QVC. We also are excited about catering desserts for wedding, corporate events and private parties. Based on many requests, I will also do pie-making classes in the near future.

Michele Stuart, in her Westport store.

Michele Stuart, in her Westport store.

I have a young family, and I look forward to focusing on new opportunities that will allow me more family time. I thank Westport for all of their support over the last 3 years. Westport holds a close place in my heart, as I have lived here since I was 10. I am honored at the opportunity to have my store in this great town!

Come visit us in Norwalk (666 Main Avenue — Route 7 — near the Wilton line). We’re open Tuesday to Saturday (9 a.m.-6:30 p.m.) We will open on Sundays starting July 27 (10 a.m.-3 p.m.).

Johnny Winter’s Summers

Johnny Winter was found dead in a Switzerland hotel room late last night.

The 70-year-old albino guitarist/singer — called one of the 100 all-time greatest guitarists by Rolling Stone – was legendary throughout the blues/rock  world.

He also spent some legendary summers here, in the late 1960s and ’70s.

Raisin’ Cain: The Wild and Raucous Story of Johnny Winter says that to escape stifling summers in New York City, he “always rented a big summer house with a pool in Westport, Connecticut for vacations and rehearsals.”

One day, the book says, the house caught fire. Winter says the firefighters told him, “Get the fuck out of here….Don’t get anything, just get out of here.”

He adds, “They stole some grass we had too, those motherfuckers.”

Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter

Winter’s band White Trash played a concert in the Staples auditorium on July 11, 1971. But there was much more informal music.

A Staples graduate from the mid-’70s recalls that Winter and his brother Edgar would “hold court at the Playhouse Tavern [most recently the Dressing Room restaurant] on summer nights. The beer, drinks and aroma flowed freely.

“They often were joined by group members like Rick Derringer. Other rock stars would surprise the audience, like Joe Cocker and his Mad Dogs and Englishmen, as they prepared for their famous road show that followed.”

He adds: “Rock on, Johnny. RIP. 70 years young.”

 

Come To The Cabaret — Again!

Life is a cabaret, old chum.

And every decade or so, “Cabaret” comes to Westport.

Staples Players — the legendary high school acting troupe — first performed the darkly decadent show in 1984. Directed by Al Pia, it starred David Roth as the MC. It’s a difficult role for anyone, but the senior nailed it.

Pia reprised the show in 1992.

In 2004, Players produced “Cabaret” again. David Roth was once again involved — this time as director.

He’s still at the Staples helm, and once again he’s staging the show. “Cabaret” runs next weekend — July 24 through 26 — as Players’ Summer Theatre Production.

Jack Bowman (emcee) and the Kit Kat Girls. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Jack Bowman as the emcee, and the Kit Kat Girls. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Just as every Broadway and London production and revival has been different, so too have the Staples versions.

But, Roth says, while previous Players incarnations have stuck closely to the original Joel Grey interpretation, the current production combines that version with the one now in its 2nd revival in New York. This one is “much more theatrical,” Roth says. Everything seems to take place inside the Kit Kat Club — even the scenes in Cliff’s rooming house.

And, the director adds, “the master of ceremonies is very much present throughout every scene of the play. In the other versions, the 2 worlds are very separate.” Jack Bowman plays Roth’s old role.

Still, next weekend’s “Cabaret” retains ties to the past. Besides Roth, choreographers Kat and Jess Eggart both danced in Pia’s 1992 production.

Sally Bowles (Claire Smith) and Cliff (Jack Baylis) share a moment in "Cabaret." (Photo/Kerry Long)

Sally Bowles (Claire Smith) and Cliff (Jack Baylis) share a moment in “Cabaret.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

“The show has always meant a lot to me, and I’m excited to share that with the kids,” Roth says.

“Kerry and I also want to share the message with students and audiences about people being sucked into an attractive world that turns out to be far uglier than they ever imagined. That’s very important too.

“The idea of people living in a great, dreamlike world that becomes a nightmare is as valid today as it has ever been. The image of dreaming or sleepwalking runs through the entire play. And it’s very present in our production.”

Emcee (Jack Bowman) and the Kit Kat girls perform "Willkommen." (Photo/Kerry  Long)

Emcee (Jack Bowman) and the Kit Kat girls perform “Willkommen.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

“Cabaret” resonates with Staples principal John Dodig too. As interim principal, he attended the 2004 production. Leaving the auditorium, he recalls thinking, “This can’t possibly be a public high school.”

He was awed by the professionalism of the voices and dancing. And, he says, “I was amazed that a suburban community would support a high school doing a show with such a dark and risqué theme.”

Dodig calls “Cabaret” the moment he first thought of applying for the permanent principal’s position.

Ten years later, Dodig is still principal. Roth still directs Players.

And another fantastic production of “Cabaret” is about to begin.

(“Cabaret” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, July 24, 25 and 26, and at 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 26. Tickets are available at www.StaplesPlayers.com

Fine Arts Festival Works Out Just Fine

Up in Vermont, Edward Loedding heard the reputation of the Westport Fine Arts Festival: It was a great show, but if you were stuck on Gorham Island, you were dead. It was hot as hell, and very few people ventured over.

So for several years, Loedding did not apply for a spot. Two years ago, he gave it a try.

He was put on Gorham Island — and had a “wonderful” experience. Last year, on Parker Harding Plaza, was even better.

Westport is now a highly prized spot on Loedding’s calendar. And he’s happy wherever he’s assigned.

 

"Sunset Barn," by Edward Loedding.

“Sunset Barn,” by Edward Loedding.

Loedding — a very talent photographer and digital artist — will be in Westport this weekend, for the 41st annual Art Show. (He’s in booth #64-65, along the river.) He joins over 135 artists — 39 of them new — showing works in drawing, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, watercolor, glass, fiber, wood, jewelry and ceramics.

Plus music, food, street performers, face painters, a magician, a balloon artist and mime.

"Don't mime me," this guy said last year at the Westport Fine Arts Festival.

“Don’t mime me,” this guy said last year at the Westport Fine Arts Festival.

Loedding loves it all — especially the art-lovers.

“A high percentage know what they’re looking for, and appreciate it,” Loedding says. “I do 20 shows a year up and down the East Coast, and that’s not always the case.”

A photographer -- and potential customer -- takes a shot of some intriguing art along the river, in 2011.

A potential customer takes a shot of some intriguing art along the river, in 2011.

Westport’s Elizabeth Marks Juviler will be there too. She’s involved in many local activities — Girl Scout leader, PAL cheerleading coach, Young Women’s League president, Historical Society board member, Westport Country Playhouse staffer — but she is also a noted artist.

Juviler has participated in the Downtown Merchants Association’s “Art About Town” event, and sells in galleries and design stores, but this is her 1st time at the summer show. “As a Westport artist who has purchased art there, I wanted to be in the Fine Arts Festival,” she says. “It’s a goal I set for myself.”

Westport — its landscapes, nature and beach — inspire Juviler’s work. Three years ago, she began incorporating recycled newspapers and magazines onto her canvases. She combines headlines, words, pictures and layers of paint to create art that is “a moment in time.”

Scores of artists — and hundreds of art lovers — will have their time this weekend. And whether they’re on the river or Gorham Island matters not at all.

(The Westport Downtown Merchants Association’s 41st annual Fine Arts Festival is set for this Saturday, July 19 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday, July 20 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at Parker Harding Plaza and Gorham Island. Meanwhile, across the Post Road, the Westport Library hosts its “best ever” book sale, from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. both days.)

Artists relax near the work on Gorham Island, in 2009.

Artists relax near their work on Gorham Island, in 2009.