When TV Stars Shined Here

On “Bewitched,” Samantha’s family lived in a typical suburban town:  Westport.  In development, the title was even “The Witch of Westport.”

Some of TV’s most famous personalities — Harry Reasoner, Phil Donahue, Jim Nantz — lived in Westport.

And some of the most famous Westporters — like former Governor John Davis Lodge — appeared on television as early as 1937 (the BBC, in England).

Those facts — and many, many more — form the basis for TV Neighbors:  Westport and Weston Television Personalities, a new book by Tom DeLong.

The research was intriguing — a natural follow-up to “Stars in Our Eyes,” DeLong’s much-acclaimed earlier volume on the many actors and actresses who lived in Westport and Weston.

Using material amassed for a 2003 Westport Historical Society exhibition on Westport’s relationship with television, DeLong went to work.  His notes were mostly done, the chapters all outlined — when suddenly last July DeLong suffered a stroke and died.

His good friend Wally Woods — who had worked with DeLong on WHS exhibits since 1997 — and Woods’ wife Denise vowed to finish the book for DeLong.

The Woodses dove into crates and boxes of files and photos.  They deciphered DeLong’s notes to himself.  They organized the material.

Tom DeLong (left), Wally Woods, and vintage televisions at the Westport Historical Society's 2003 exhibit.

Wally wrote; Denise scanned photos.  Together, they indexed hundreds of personalities.

The result has just been published — a handsome and intriguing tribute to our town’s television history, and a memorial to its late author.  Woods is proud to have completed it, and devastated that he had to.

The book includes every television category that Westporters have contributed to:  dramas, comedies, soaps, sports, sitcoms, variety shows, quiz shows and more.

Lodge — and people like Victor Keppler (future founder of the Famous Photographers School, but in 1947 host of Dumont’s “Photographic Horizons” show), and actress Eva Le Gallienne (who did live classic plays on TV) — are featured in a special “Pioneers” chapter.

The book is filled with big names and little tidbits.  For example, in the 1940s stage actress Dorothy Bryce was Arlene Francis’ television hand model.

Lucy Ricardo reads a poster to Ethel Mertz in "Westport." It says: "Yankee Doodle Day Celebration -- Statue Dedication at Jessup (sic) Green."

In “I Love Lucy”‘s final season, the Ricardos and Mertzes “moved” from New York to Westport.  In one memorable episode Lucy destroyed the Minuteman statue, right before the “Yankee Doodle Day” celebration.

As for “Bewitched,” Elizabeth Montgomery and her family lived at “1164 Morning Glory Circle” in Westport.  If that sounds like a pseudo-local address with a California house number — hey, the series was filmed on a Hollywood lot.

Famous names cascade off the pages:  newscasters Doug Edwards, Pauline Frederick, Robert Hager, John MacVane, John Siegenthaler — and Gordon Joseloff.

Sportscasters Win Elliot, Sal Marchiano, Jim McKay and Brent Musburger.

Actors and actresses better know for movies and Broadway — Bette Davis, Michael Douglas, Mia Farrow, June Havoc, James Naughton, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward — also appeared in key roles during TV’s dramatic heyday.

And who can forget Rod Serling?  He wrote the seminal “Patterns” and “Requiem for a Heavyweight” dramas while living on High Point Road — and some of the best-remembered “Twilight Zone” episodes too.  Westport worked its way into more than one of those stories.

Westport today is filled with big TV screens.  A 55-inch screen is the new normal; 108-inch, 150-inch, even more ginormous sets are not rare.

Back in the day, Westport was filled with big TV stars.  Thanks to Wally and Denise Woods, Tom DeLong has lived long enough to honor them.

(The Westport Historical Society will host a book event on Thursday, August 4 [5-7 p.m.], and is selling TV Neighbors for $22 their Remarkable Gift Shop.  It’s also available for $19.95, plus $5 shipping for the 1st book and $1 for each additional book, from BearManor Media, PO Box 1129, Duncan, OK 73534; tel. 580-252-3547; email benohmart@gmail.com)

60 responses to “When TV Stars Shined Here

  1. Next stop Willoughby!

  2. Very cool to have had I Love Lucy & Bewitched include Westport. Really smart, funny television.

  3. Very interesting project and book. From your use of the past tense, I gather that few celebrities live here anymore?? I know Streep lives upstate Connecticut and Redford still has a place in Weston but has this area become too “busy” or “New York” for our much pampered elite????? Unlike Newman, do they not find “privledge” living here??? Just curious and hardly judgemental (whoops).

    • Good question. Imus, Rodney Dangerfield, Martha Stewart — all have left. Keith Richards is one of the holdouts — and he’s in Weston. “06880” readers — what do you think?

      • Now it’s too suburban. It used to be more beach-country which made it more lovely and the people it attracted were more special. Not necessarily more wealthy, but definitely more special and uniquely talented. If the public schools were not so well-ranked it would help to bring it back to being more special.

        • Fred Cantor

          But Westport had become surburban by 1960. Look at the population change between 1950 and 1960. Many celebs continued to live in Westport long after that transformation more than 50 years ago. In any event, one of the true giants–Paul Newman–elected to remain in Westport until the end of his life; Joanne Woodward continues to live in Westport and, equally important, so does Dan Woog–that’s what really matters!

          • The Dude Abides

            Very true, Cantor-sir. Westport was much the suburb in the 50’s although voted “All-American City” in ’58. Different kind of celebirty then though. Many raised their kids here. Now they take their teachers with them as they travel from set to set. Few roots. Indeed, I hope the Professor is in the book for he did, in fact, appear on the “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart and that is big time celeb to me. He probably could play HUD in the remake?

  4. The Dude Abides

    I think the sleepy little town full of artisans (a vast overgeneralization) was appealing to many celebrities. Cartoonists used to sit in downtown bars and couriers arrived to rush their “copy” off to New York and publication. That side of Westport is gone. Also I think the Hollywood area is far more attractive because that is where the work is centered.

    • Wally Woods

      Hey Duke, in the early days, New York was the center for television production. This is (was?) one of the major reasons why so many on- screen and behind-the-scene TV personalities chose Westport/Weston as the place closest to Manhattan to be able to live a “normal life” yet still get to work every day in the big city. By the way, Duke, do I know who you really are?????

    • You are very correct about the cartoonists and the couriers, Dude Cartoonists and other illustrators and artists lived here because it was close to NYC, their respective publications, syndicators and other clients, plus agents. They also liked living in a community of artists. The word about Westport spread quickly in NYC. My mother was a NY fashion illustrator for 50 years and brought the family to Westport from Manhattan in the early 50s because her friends were moving here. She never regretted the move. Proximity to NYC was a big pull, plus, for “celebs”, the attraction of being left alone to live a normal life, which they were able to do in Westport and Weston. For artists the prolliferation and 24-hour-a-day availability of couriers was an important factor. Many was the night when, with my dad traveling on business, we were loaded into the family Rambler station wagon with my mom’s portfolio so she could drop her work at her courier’s house at 3 AM for early morning delivery at a NY department store or ad agency to meet a deadline.

  5. Roger Stanfield

    Most jock celebrites live in Texas and Florida for tax advantages. Movie stars have multiple homes with few roots. The days of Lucy and bringing up Little Ricky in Westport have been replaced by Pitt-Jolina clan of nomads.

  6. Princeton '82

    Taxes a big part of it. No question.

  7. Tom Joldersma

    I just read Richard’s “Life.” Good read. In it, he describes the seclusion he finds in Weston. Maybe Westport doesn’t offer that anymore.

  8. Maybe we are too rude for the celebs?

    • Hi JAM! When yhour honey and I were youngsters our parents always cautioned us not to bother famous people. Of course, we had no idea who was famous but were on the lookout. We didn’t realize that we were going to school and hanging out with so-called celebs’ kids. My younger sister, Emmary ’69, adhered to our parents’ dictum. Whe she was a senior at Staples she was a cashier at Greenburg’s, an all-purpose family-owned store on Main Street. One afternoon a woman placed some items in front of Em for check-out. Back in those distant days nearly everyone in town had a personal charge account at local stores. “Please charge this,” Em’s customer said. Em looked at her and recognized her immediately, but calmly asked, “And your name is?” Customer: “Mrs. Paul Newman.”

  9. Jeremy Steinberg

    New York City is more attractive now too. It was the pits in the 60-70’s.
    I see that is where Michael Douglas now lives with kids too.

    • I loved Manhattan in the 60s/70s/80s and lived there during much of that era. It was gritty, dirty, dangerous, fun and cheap — studios and 1-BRs even near midtown rented for $200-$500/mo. and parents weren’t subsidizing their children’s rent. Co-op apartments were rare until the 80s. Wall Street was a backwater until the mid-80s. Manhattan was overrun with young artists, writers, actors, musicians and ad people who did not have to live in the outer boroughs as now. Manhattan as a movie set, which it currently is — it was then, too, but for movies like “Serpico”, “Midnight Cowboy” and “The French Connection” that reflected the city as it was — has its commercial advantages re tourism, safety etc. but its earlier, nastier, iteration was a great place to be young and independent in. Mike Douglas lived in Westport with his mom and step-dad until he went off to Choate around 1960, when he would have begun Staples. His mom, actress Diana Dill, lived in Westport until the early 80s when her husband, Bway producer Bill Darrid, passed away.

      • Fred Cantor

        Jeremy–New York is, in certain respects, more attractive now but it’s not fair to characterize New York as “the pits” in the 60s and 70s. My family and I would go to Manhattan when I was a kid during the early part of that time period, my brother lived there starting around 1974, I worked there the summer of 1976, and started working full-time there in 1979. Yes, there were areas that were clearly more dangerous than they are today, but there were always nice neighborhoods as well, and there have always been wealthy people and celebrities who have lived in Manhattan and raised their kids there. I went to a teenage workshop/camp in CT in 1967-68, and there were a number of sons and daughters of the movers and shakers who lived on the Upper East Side, including Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue, and Central Park West– and attended the elite private schools–just as many of them do today.
        Tom, there were clearly better rental deals to be had–my brother got I think one month rent free when he moved to the Rupert Yorkvile Towers around 1974, but by the time I got my first apartment in 1980, the situation was definitely tightening up (although still better than today). My (now) wife and I paid $700 a month for our first apartment–a one bedroom in a new building at 93rd and First. But I had been looking for cheaper apartments with no success because there was a mad rush for any older rent-stabilized apartment that opened up.

  10. There was also Darren McGavin who lived here in the 1960’s and had many run-ins with P&Z and the Town Engineer’s office. I had a summer job there and can attest that he was one of the most inconsiderate and rude people I have ever met. When he moved from Westport I am told there was quite the party at the old Town Hall.

  11. Wally Woods

    Darren McGavin is just one of almost 100 TV onscreen personalities described in Tom DeLong’s book on Westport and Weston TV stars from the early days through today. Give a call to the Historical Society to see when they plan to have the kickoff event introducing the book. Hope you all will enjoy it.

  12. The Dude Abides

    I heard John Garfield used to hang out at Longshore when it was private. A caddy was put up to asking for his autograph while he was playing tennis by a bunch of other caddies. He told him to F&*& off. The caddie told him he really didn’t want his autograph anyway and to F&%& off himself. Also, the story of Redford walking right through an ongoing tennis game to get to his own court at some racket club. Never even looked up.

  13. Did Zsa Zsa Gabor marry a Westport cop????

    • No it was Martha Raye who married a Westport Cop. Zsa Zsa and Martha were infrequently mistaken for each other. Jets Quarterback Richard Todd did marry Elizabeth Taylor in a quiet ceremony at Longshore.

      • Are you sure it wasn’t movie director Mike Todd?

        • The Dude Abides

          Yeah it was Mike Todd. “The love of her life” according to Liz. Mike
          died in a plane crash before living across from the Hunt Club. Elizabeth often seen at Longshore too before the town bought it in ’60. Sounds like a celebrity bruhah down there in the 50’s.

  14. Sorry to nitpick but I can’t help myself. The past tense of shine is shone not shined (see headline). Shined would be correct if you were talking about someone who had shined their shoes.

  15. Tim Stalling

    Wasn’t Frank Gorshin a Westport or Weston resident? He was a wonderful guy and I used to see him all the time.

    • Westport — North Sylvan. He had a great reputation around town.

    • My favorite run-in was seeing him at Oscar’s when I was young. I could never decide if I was more excited about seeing the Riddler or the Black-White from Star Trek.

  16. The Dude Abides

    David Wayne also lived over by Coleytown Elementary. He starred with Woodward in “Three Faces of Eve” and supposidly one that brought them to Westport as they lived next door to them initially. Wayne’s son, Timmy was my buddy in 3rd grade and used to go over to the Newman’s pool and swim. Very open environment then. No fences.

  17. Also newscasters, radio broadcasters, upper network management, actor publicists, musicians, advertising executives and The Brady Bunch had a strong Westport connection.

  18. Richard Lawrence Stein

    What makes you think that so many “HOLLYWOOD” or famous people are not here? Many fly under the radar or just don’t draw the same amount of attention…. There are many people of notoriety here…. Rockers, actors, theater…take your pick….

    • The Dude Abides

      Name a few then RLS. Woog and Wood have sonar.

      • Richard Lawrence Stein

        The Tom Tom Club members Tina Weymouth and Chris Franz… The actress who played Sabrina the teenage witch… The girl who played curly sue went to staples… A young family friend from Weston was in the original cast of Spring Awakening… They are here Dude…

        • The Dude Abides

          Thanks RLS. I don’t recognize them unless they are in “US.”

          • I think Tina and Chris live in Fairfield. But I am pretty sure ESPN TV and radio personality, Mike Greenberg, not only lives in Westport, but he even coaches Little League. And Jim Nantz could have lived just about anywhere but he chose Westport, and I understand it was his admiration for longtime Westporter, Jim McKay, that had something to do with that.

            • The Dude Abides

              Jimmy is in the midst of a bad divorce. He may be leaving soon. McKay used to live down by the beach. Played Longshore too sometimes. Super nice guy. Tiny.

  19. I think it would be loads of fun to be at a party with all of you listening to you chat about this. You all have interesting, witty, nostalgic and entertaining insight on this subject. I do not, however I am thoroughly enjoying the conversation!
    PS I am Wally Woods’ daughter and can attest to my parents work and dedication getting the book completed. A labor of love for sure.

  20. Lucy’s daughter, Lucy Arnez and her husband Laurence Luckinbill moved to Weston a few years back. Still live there, best as I can tell.

    “It’s my trust set up by my mother and it has been invested for two decades,” Ms. Arnaz, a 56-year-old actress, wrote to The Observer. “I manage it now and I felt this was a good investment for the Trust. It’s that simple. I may or may not even live there.”

    Her address is listed on the deed in the massively wealthy Connecticut suburb Weston, where Erica Jong and Keith Richards both happen to have spreads.

  21. Staples '87

    When I worked at Mario’s Jack Klugman was a familiar face. As a huge fan of Odd Couple reruns and Quincy, it was pretty exciting to see him around my neighborhood

  22. The Dude Abides

    I nearly forgot. Saw Raymond Burr (“Perry Mason”, “Ironsides”) at the driving range once. Nasty slice. Couldn’t get the club around his stomach. My mother loved the guy and told me to ask him for his autograph. But he was no Mickey Mantle to me, no dice Ma’am.

  23. Happy motoring

    Didn’t Frank Gorshin have that red Rolls Royce with the license plates “Stolen?”

  24. Steve Emmett

    One of my less than wonderful Westport experiences involved a phone call from a rather annoyed Joanne Woodward asking me to cool it with the scary ghost stories I was telling her cherished (and now traumatized!) Liss & Nell down at the Compo Beach summer camp. A nice, unpretentious family that somehow was wise enough to recognize the hazards and potential pitfalls of a Hollywood upbringing.

  25. The Dude Abides

    Did he scare the jock straps off ya??? Also, Mary Sue Masterson (“Fried Green Tomatoes”) lived off North Avenue, just up from the construction.

    • Richard Lawrence Stein

      Dude I think you mean Mary Stuart Masterson, which I have to say is news to me…. I think you might be thinking Pamela Sue Martin who played Nancy Drew and was on Dynasty and Falcon Crest…

      • The Dude Abides

        I stand corrected on the name but she lived in the first house on the right (with the pond) as you come north on North Avenue from Long Lots. She has since moved but I did run into her at the dump one day during the winter. She asked me where the nearest auto parts place was located after a detailed conversation about being in town taking care of her mother. I like to help attractive women with their garbage at the dump. Love the dump.

        • Richard Lawrence Stein

          I met her at her 30th reunion from staples ten years ago this summer… I was fortunate enough to cater it… Very pleasant woman

  26. The Dude Abides

    She sold in the early 90’s according to my lady realtor. Cutie.

    • Dude, Pamela Sue’s older sis, Judy, who was gorgeous, was a year behind us at BJHS and Staples. Died young, in the late 70s-early 80s, I think, when her sis was starring on Dynasty.

  27. The Dude Abides

    Pamela Sue Anderson???????