If you weren’t at Gerry Kuroghlian’s fascinating talk about F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s time in Westport last Saturday — well, the event was last Saturday; they were here in 1920 — you were not alone.
The only folks who heard the beloved former Staples English teacher were the lucky 20 whose names were drawn after attending WestportREADS events all last month. (The book WestportREADS read was The Great Gatsby. The talk was held in the actual home the Fitzgeralds lived in during their wild time here.)
In addition to snapshots of Westport back in the day — most of the town was farmland, Saugatuck was an isolated area populated by immigrants, Green’s Farms was the wealthiest part of town — “Dr. K” painted a vivid picture of Westport’s wild side.
In the summer of 1920, Scott and Zelda put most of their money into a 1917 Marmon. They set out on a drive to the country, even though neither of them had had driving lessons. They stopped in Rye, but Zelda didn’t like it. So they headed for Lake Champlain, stopping in Westport for lunch. With Zelda at the wheel they crashed into a fire plug on Main Street, near what is now Onion Alley. The car was gutted.
- They ended up living for a few months at 244 Compo Road South. Built in 1758, it was known as a “Switch House” — a switching station for people coming from downtown by trolley to switch to another trolley to get to the beach. Obviously, if you’d just gutted your car…
- F. Scott and Zelda partied hard, hitting all of the speakeasies around. (There were plenty.) Their favorite drink was orange juice and gin.
Kuroghlian said that Fitzgerald’s books The Beautiful and the Damned and The Great Gatsby were heavily influenced by his time in Westport. The house was strong enough to withstand huge parties, while Westport — which voted against Prohibition — was a perfect place for the hard-living couple.
If you missed Saturday’s discussion — or any other WestportREADS event — you’ve got one more chance. And this final chapter may be only slightly less crazy than F. Scott and Zelda’s high-flying summer.
This Saturday night, the Westport Library turns into a speakeasy. There will be swanky gin cocktails (legal, now), live jazz and dancing.
The only way to attend is by registering online (click here). You’ll receive a password to get in.
Guests are encouraged to wear Roaring ’20s garb.
Which, according to some reports, is a lot more than F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald wore to some of their Westport parties.