Party Like A Gatsby

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.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald slept -- and partied -- here.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald slept — and partied — here.

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.

  • A Marmon.

    A Marmon.

    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.

Great Gatsby partyIf 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.

22 responses to “Party Like A Gatsby

  1. Babette d'Yveine

    I don’t understand why they’re making such a big fuss about the Fitzgeralds. They were only in Westport for three months. Other famous people have spent time here — Elizabeth Taylor and Mike Todd rented Lee and Nat Greenberg’s house on Long Lots Road for a summer; you jever hear anything about them! And I read Gatsby and found it very boring!

      • Babette d'Yveine

        True, but has the town ever made a celebration about it? Maybe they will some day.

    • No big fuss, WestportREADS is focusing on The Great Gatsby this year so the theme naturally involves the Fitzgeralds, 1920s, etc. The fact they lived in Westport is an interesting complement to the discussion. Last year, the theme was Amelia Earhart so the presentations, documentaries, guest authors, etc. were about Amelia Earhart. I’m glad you at least read the book and were able to form your own opinion that is was boring. Maybe join in the fun at the library this year and your opinion may be changed!!

  2. Babette d'Yveine

    That should be “never.”

  3. How fun to read a book together – like a giant book club – and to have a wonderful library that plans events and helps people make connections.

  4. U. Zooelly N. Trouble

    I wish I could be there. I had Dr. K as an English teacher my senior year 43 years ago this year. He may have assigned Gatsby way back then, I don’t remember. I was cutting class more than I was there and when I was there I had my mind on other things and missed out big-time. I read Gatsby and saw the movie just this past Christmas. I now understand where Dr. K’s enthusiasm comes from. Those of you who can be there, what a gift to learn about a gifted writer from an equally gifted teacher and imagine a teacher who never outgrows his enthusiasm for what he’s been teaching!!!!!! It’s beautiful when a person gets to spend their whole life doing what they love and are gifted at doing.

  5. Iagree – Dr. K. was my English teacher back in 1975, and he was the best. He endured our antics, and loved us in spite of them! That department was amazing – Gerry, Joe and Todd – so smart, and quite patient!! Thanks for the memories!
    Tracy Flood

  6. U. Zooelly N. Trouble

    Five years before you, Tracy they put up with me. That’s where they learned patience. I was the acid test of a teacher’s commitment to their craft. Some of the finest were forged on my anvil.

  7. Dan, as a newcomer to Westport, I’d be interested in hearing about what the particular neighborhoods were like 100, 50, even 20 years ago, like you mentioned about Greens Farms above. I’d love to hear what other people think too, newcomers and old timers alike!

  8. Great idea for future posts. Keep on eye out sometime!

  9. Is anyone looking forward to the upcoming “Gatsby” movie in 3D, with Leonard DiCaprio, containing WW1 combat scenes? Yeah, me neither.

  10. They sound like a couple of self endulged liberals, perfect for Westport.

    • If you’re going to reach across 93 years of history to make a cliched bogus point about “liberals,” at least learn how to spell “indulged.”

      • I wouldn’t get so stuck on spelling; at one point in time, in American english language dictionary today’s ‘indulged’ was ‘endulged’. American English dictionary is always changing; we have never held our dictionary as steady as, for example, the french do.

    • U. Zooelly N. Trouble

      I’ll take a self-indulged liberal over a self-indulged conservative any day. Self-indulged liberal sounds like an oxymoron (from a moron).

  11. Gerry Kuroghlian

    Thanks to One Book/ One Town, I had the opportunity to share the impact of the Fitzgeralds living in Westport with a room full of great people especially our hosts, the Flowers. Perhaps if Babette went to Staples, she would have learned how a single author, F.Scott helped to shape and define the “Jazz Age”. THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED, multiple short stories , and many aspects of THE GREAT GATSBY were all created as a result of their five month residency in the Wakeman Cottage. Thanks for the kind words from former students. and Dan Woog, one of Staples’ best writers. Teaching at Staples was a fabulous career for me because the best thing produced in Westport has been and always will be its students.

    • U. Zooelly N. Trouble

      And YOU have produced more than your share of great students, Dr. K. Sounds like a great marriage of talent was born when you came to Staples!!!! In my case, your magic was late-blooming, but better late than never!!!! May you stay young and never stop teaching!!!!!

  12. Doug Conner '80

    The point is….. if they didn’t spend that summer in Westport, “The Great Gatsby” would not exist.

    Just sayin’

  13. My wife named her 1964 VW Gerry. I take it to be a compliment.

  14. Gerry Kuroghlian

    I’ll take it as a compliment. My black 67 VW was named Lady Macbeth and was ta frequent topic of conversation as my faculty moniker was “Krash”.

  15. U. Zooelly N. Trouble

    A black ’67 VW…..I had a grey ’63……Nothing went so slowly (65 mph tops while headed downhill) and gave so much of a sense of motion as a classic VW.