Hanne Jeppesen And Westport’s “Big Chill”

We all come to Westport in different ways.

Some of us are born here. Others are brought here by parents, spouses or work. We come here wonderingly, wanderingly, willingly or by whimsy.

Hanne Jeppesen arrived as an au pair.

She grew up safe and secure, in a small town 30 miles south of Copenhagen. Wanderlust took her to a kibbutz in Israel, to Iceland, to a hitchhiking tour of England, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland.

Then a chance glance at a newspaper ad changed Hanne’s life.

Instead of heading to a Danish teacher’s college, she decided to become an American au pair. She knew nothing about Westport — her destination — other than that it was near New York City.

That was enough. She arrived on December 28, 1966, ready for adventure.

Hanne Jeppesen in 1968, as a Westport au pair...

Hanne Jeppesen in 1968, as a Westport au pair…

Life in the suburbs was lonely at first. But she met a German au pair. Hanne took a night school English class at Staples, where she met a “real live wire” Dutch girl. Fifty years later, they’re still friends.

Hanne started going out. The Ship’s Lantern bar downtown was a popular destination. So was the beach.

Westporters were very friendly. Hanne dated a few men. She had a wonderful time. Life was good.

“We drove around in a Corvette, with the top down,” she recalls. “This is what I dreamed America would be like.”

In October of 1968 she returned to Denmark. But her parents encouraged her to live the life she wanted, and 2 months later Hanne was back in Westport. She and  her Dutch friend rented a house here.

Soon, though they moved to New York  City. New adventures beckoned.

...and in New York, a year later.

…and in New York, a year later.

From time to time, Hanne and her friend returned to Westport to visit. Once, at Compo, she met a married man. He invited her to a party that night. And he gave her the keys to his car, in case she wanted to drive around and have fun.

In New York she met a man. They got married, moved first to New Orleans and then San Francisco. They divorced. She had a daughter, and a career in insurance. Now — still living in the Bay Area — Hanne works at Macy’s.

She stayed in touch with a few friends. She always thought fondly of Westport. But except for a couple of visits — the last was in 1998 — Hanne has not spent any time here.

A few years ago though, she saw news online about Jeff Simon. That’s a common name, but it was the same guy she’d dated in Westport. She was intrigued to learn about his life as a photographer and video director.

Then she stumbled on a story about Tracy Sugarman. She’d known his son.

Finding “06880” — including a story about her old friends Alan Sterling and Steve Emmett — helped her reconnect with Westport. She doesn’t know many of the people I write about, but photos and references to the past bring smiles to her face.

Hanne Jeppesen with Jeff Simon, at Compo Beach.

Hanne Jeppesen with Jeff Simon, at Compo Beach.

Living here during a very lively time in Westport and America’s history was wonderful, Hanne says. And she was exactly the right age to enjoy it.

“We did what we were supposed to do in our early 20s,” she explains. “We partied, at people’s houses and the beach. We went to Port Chester, because the bars stayed open later. We had a great group.”

While she lived here, Hanne kept a journal. It was stashed away for years. But after seeing the movie “The Big Chill,” she looked at it. Reading about her time here, and her close-knit friends, she felt a surge of familiarity.

Of course, a movie is not real life.

But Hanna Jeppesen loves the story line that Westport provided to hers.

Hanne Jeppesen, Christmas 2014.

Hanne Jeppesen, Christmas 2014.

4 responses to “Hanne Jeppesen And Westport’s “Big Chill”

  1. That’s great that she recognized old friends from 06880 blog!

  2. Sharon Paulsen

    I really enjoyed reading this article Dan!

    Glimpses into other people’s Westport experiences tend to stir up memories of my own.


  3. Bonnie Scott Connolly

    What an interesting path she has had during her life. My brother, Jack Scott, was friends with Jeff Simon and Dick Sugarman but I asked him and he did not know Hanne. But fun to see a picture of Jeff.

  4. Hanne Jeppesen

    Nice job, Dan. Dan made this my story, and of course certain aspects are unique to my life, but I think this could be the story about many au pairs.
    Looking back all these years later, the years 1968 and 69 was magical to me. Most of 69 I lived in New York City, my au pair friends from Westport had moved there, Jeff Simon was working in New York (he was a model with Eileen Ford) another close friend from Weston Val Treadwell was in New York. However, I would go to Westport every few weeks, especially in the summer. One reason I remember Westport so vividly. is all these years later I count my Swedish girl friend (we see each other every few years, either here in California or back in Scandinavia) and Val Treadwell among my closes friends. I still hear from my Dutch girl friend via e-mail and I talked to Jeff Simon on the phone a few times several years ago.

    I don’t remember your brother, but the name sounds familiar, I don’t really remember Dick Sugarman, but went to a party with Jeff at his house.

    I would like to clarify one thing Dan wrote, which I believe Dan shortened in the interest of space. Someone had written a comment that I dated a married man, which I believe Dan has since removed.
    That was not the case, I had gone to Westport to spend the day at the beach (was living in NYC). I met two guys at the beach, one married living in Westport, the other was his single co worker from New York. They invited me to a party that night at the married guys house, I accepted as a date of the single guy. After dinner the host handed me the keys to his car, saying if we wanted to go out on the town instead of staying at a party with all married people, we could take his car. I was amazed at the trust, they had just met me on the beach a few hours earlier. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but recalling the story I find it unique and heartwarming.
    Dan is right thinking of Westport, and my youth in general brings back many fond memories. I feel lucky to have had great experiences, and mostly being blessed with loyal and wonderful friends.