This Westport Life

If you’ve ever listened to “This American Life” — the quirky, insightful, thought-provoking, loosely themed hour-long radio show/podcast/cult classic that explores the oddest corners of human nature — you’ve no doubt wondered:  “Who are these people?  Where do they come from?”

For 2 consecutive weeks this month, this answer was:  Westport.

First up was a story by writer Rosie Schaap.  According to Westport Patch, in 1986 — at age 15 — she got on Metro-North in Westport and “discovered the bar car.”  It was “a dingy, crowded, badly ventilated chamber where commuters drank enough to get a decent buzz going, told dirty jokes and chain smoked.”

They were, Rosie says, “my kind of people.”

She quickly learned to read tarot cards for riders.  In exchange, they bought her beers.  It was a great life, until one day…

Marilyn Monroe

Just a week later, This American Life told the tale of John Reznikoff.  The owner of Westport-based University Archives — a buyer and seller of rare documents, manuscripts and Barack Obama’s old Jeep Grand Cherokee —  stumbled across documents linking 3 American icons:  President Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and the mob.  The story took an interesting turn when the material turned out to be forged — by Reznikoff’s best friend.

(In that weird, 6-degrees way of the world, back in the day Marilyn Monroe was one of Westport’s most famous summer residents.)

A half century ago, Rod Serling produced amazing stories for TV’s  “Twilight Zone”  — some of which were written in, or described, the Westport where he lived.

Today Ira Glass presents a different, but equally compelling, series of tales on radio.  For 2 straight weeks, they’ve had a Westport connection.

DEE-DEE dee-dee DEE-DEE dee-dee…

(To hear Rosie Schaap’s story on This American Life, click here.  For John Reznikoff’s episode, click here.

19 responses to “This Westport Life

  1. Dan, is Rosie related to Jeremy and the late Dick Schaap?

    • I wondered about that too. Tried to find out, and couldn’t. Sorry — but I’m sure someone out there knows!

      • I know that Jeremy’s sister was at staples and probaly was 15 in ’86. However her name was Joanna. Perhaps Rosie was her pen name?

    • The Dude Abides

      No, Rosie is not related to Dick. She is out with a new book soon, “Drinking With Men,” one of whom was my brother. God rest his soul and liver.

  2. Marilyn Monroe, I’m pretty sure, wasn’t a resident herself but stayed at a home of a Westport friend of friend/attorney who represented some of her interests. That was when Westport really socialized on a first name only basis. Sounds like it was a very relaxed place back then.

  3. Wendy Crowther

    Dan, a few years ago I heard a story from one of your frequent contributors (Linda), that Marilyn Monroe stayed in (or rented) one of the homes overlooking the Old Mill Beach parking lot. She was married to, or cavorting with, Joe DiMaggio at the time. Linda’s father (a well known painter) created a watercolor of what was a common scene at Old Mill Beach when Marilyn was in residence. The painting was of a young boy (on a bike I think) riding past the house, looking up at the windows in hopes of catching a glimpse of the megastar.

    Linda, if you’re out there, fill us in on the story, especially if I’ve gotten it wrong. Maybe you can even post a photo of your dad’s painting??

  4. Or, maybe in keeping with the philosophy of ‘as in life, in death’ let Marilyn Monroe R.I.P…that’s what Westport was for.

  5. The Dude Abides

    According to my mother’s good friend, Mrs. Brown, who was personal assistant to Bette Davis and lived next to us on Cross Highway (@ Weston) Marilyn “cavorted” in Westport with Joe before they were married in the early fifties and after her marriage with Arthur Miller in the early 1960’s.
    The exact location of the “cavort” is unknown. I do remember my mother conviding in me that the glamorous starlet did not wear underwear. She said it in such a downgrading manner that I suspected that much “cavortion” was common for individuals who did not wear such apparel. I immediately went “commando” until this day.

    • TMI

      • rude

        • The Dude Abides

          Hey, Wendy asked. You do a lousy impersonation of Ric Jensen.

          • Dude… please please check the lineup. My “RUDE” was directed to JMc’s “TMI,” not yours. I believed “reply” was to a “comment.” Sorry if you felt it was aimed at you. Maybe I posted it wrong. I thought your comment was very informative and an excellent illustration of what folks did and what other folks thought about what the non-conformists did. That’s why I felt his TMI was rude. Your mother sounds like mine did back then. I did not understand your “commando” reference. Could you explain? And again, sorry about my bad aimed reply, me an Expert Marksman and all that 🙂
            And you’re correct, Rick capitalizes his word.

      • absolutely.

  6. The Dude Abides

    No harm, no foul, there Vet. Any Vet is a friend of mine. Thanks
    for your service,by the way. It took 26 years for someone to say that
    to me. It shouldn’t.
    Did you know that my neighbor’s daughter makes the same
    in unemployment benefits a month as does an E-5’s salary in Afganistan???
    Commando refers to going “sans” or without underclothing.
    I believe it originated with Kramer on “Seinfeld” with the dilemna
    of boxers or briefs. He deemed “commando” was the best. My mother
    was seriously cool. Bette Davis used to stay in the cottage behind Mrs. Brown’s at times and my mother used to sneak down there and pop a couple of Manhattans with the gals before my father got home on the train. Dinner was inevitably late.

    • Wikipedia (take it for what it’s worth) says re “going commando”: The origins of the phrase are uncertain, with some speculating that it may refer to being “out in the open” or “ready for action”. Slate magazine’s Daniel Engber dates the modern usage to college campuses circa 1974, where it was perhaps associated with soldiers in the Vietnam War, who were reputed to go without underwear to “increase ventilation and reduce moisture.”

      The earliest known use of the term in print occurred on January 22, 1985 when Jim Spencer wrote in the Chicago Tribune “Furthermore, colored briefs are ‘sleazy’ and going without underwear (“going commando”, as they say on campus) is simply gross.” A 1996 episode of the television sitcom Friends, “The One Where No One’s Ready”, has been credited with introducing the term “into the popular vernacular.”

  7. I’m gonna try it… commando, that is.

  8. The Dude Abides

    Not to dispute the Professor but “skivies” were part of the required “dress of the day” in Vietnam. A vicious outbreak of “crabs” and the “clap” may have required increased circulation following TET ’68. I do believe he is correct for “Joey” did go “commando” in “Friends” followed by a more interesting copy-cat (please no puns) attire by Jennifer Aniston at the end of episode. My apologies to my good friend, Kramer.

  9. Wikileaks?