Roundup: Spotted Lanternfly, Playhouse Benefit, More Theater …

Spotted lanternflies are back.

At least one.

(Photo/Stephen Rothenberg)

Stephen Rothenberg reports from the Westport Community Gardens: “Spotted, and smushed.”

The SLF is a sap-feeding plant hopper native to China. It is believed to have entered this country as an egg mass stuck to a shipment of stone sent to Pennsylvania in 2012. Since then, that state’s agriculture, vineyards, forests, nurseries and residential areas have suffered serious damage.

The spotted lanternfly made its way into Connecticut in 2021. The state Agricultural Experiment Station issued a quarantine order. The hope is that the pest will be slowed long enough to find a treatment to control or eradicate it.

The beautiful-looking insect affects fruit trees, grapes, hops and ornamental trees. The nymphs (immature stage of the SLF) and adults feed on sap from trees and vines, causing them to weaken. Excretions from the SLF stick to the leaves; black sooty mold grows, reducing the plant’s ability to photosynthesize properly.  This reduce crop yields, and weaken trees and plants further, eventually destroying them.

It can also wreak havoc on lawn furniture, sidewalks, sides of buildings, car tires and everything else outside, making them a sticky mess.


More guest artists have been added to the Westport Country Playhouse’s benefit concert, “An Evening with Justin Paul & Friends, with Kelli O’Hara and James Naughton” (September 9, 8 p.m.).

Joining Tony, Oscar and Grammy Award-winning (and 2003 Staples High School graduate) Justin Paul are friends from his films, stage musicals, and other projects.

Two are from Westport: former Staples Player Jacob Heimer (Broadway’s “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”), and Stacie Morgain Lewis (“Wicked,” “Sunday in the Park with George,” “Urinetown,” “Titanic”).

Other guests include Loren Allred (vocalist on “Never Enough” from “The Greatest Showman”), Andrew Barth Feldman (“Dear Evan Hansen”); Grammy nominee Mykal Kilgore (“Motown the Musical,” “Hair,” “The Book of Mormon”); Tony winner Aaron Tveit (“Moulin Rouge! The Musical!”), and Jessica Vosk (“Wicked”).

Headlining with Paul (“La La Land,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “The Greatest Showman”) are Kelli O’Hara (Tony Award for “The King and I”), James Naughton (Tony Award for “City of Angels” and “Chicago”), and Greg Naughton (founding member of folk-rock group The Sweet Remains). 

Director Caley Baretta — another former Staples player — is senior manager of creative development at Disney Theatrical Group. Producer Ben Frimmer is well known as Coleytown Middle School’s longtime theater instructor.

Click here for tickets, and more information.

Justin Paul


Speaking of the stage: The Westport Community Theatre’s 66th season begins September 8-24, with “A Picasso.”

It’s followed by “Time Stands Still” (November 10-26), “Love Letters “(February 2-18), “Switzerland” (April 5-21) and a final show, TBA (June 7-23).

Subscriptions are available for the theater, located in the lower level of Town Hall. Click here for information on tickets, and upcoming shows.


Gil Ghitelman writes:

“It’s been said boat owners enjoy 2 immeasurable highs: First when they buy it,  then when they sell it.

“Dog parents {please don’t call them ‘owners’) achieve nirvana only once. The loss is off the charts on the Richter scale of sadness. No one adopting a pup thinks about the dreaded end. The fact is, our pets just don’t live long enough.

“When word filtered down that we lost our beloved Oskar, we were embraced with tearful hugs from our friends and Oskar’s buddies’ parents. What was especially touching were the kind condolence notes left in our mailbox by our caring Westport neighbors whom we only have a nodding relationship with.  Mega-shoutouts are in order to these compassionate folks.

“When things settle down, we’ll look for another dog to join our family. The local  rabbits that Oskar chased (and never caught) are probably hoping we move slowly on this. I’m sure they think a little respite is in order.”



Arthur Lipner & the Caribbean Cruisers put on quite a show last night, at the Levitt Pavilion. Even the lighting was red-hot.

(Photo/Dinkin Fotografix)

Tomorrow night’s show is one of the summer’s big ones: Daryl Hall, with special guest Todd Rundgren.

It sold out quickly. But a few tickets have been returned, by people who now cannot attend.

The gala and cocktail party tickets are for both the pre-concert cocktail party sponsored by Roz and Bud Siegel, at Don Memo and Walrus Alley.

Concert-only tickets are available too for the show made possible by the Arthur & Claudia Cohen Foundation. But everyone can enjoy the Levitt parking lot, as it becomes a plaza with food trucks from the Blind Rhino, Little Pub and College Creamery Ice Cream, plus a full bar operated and sponsored by Rizzuto’s.

Click here for tickets, and more information.


Every week, the Westport Rotary Club learns something new.

This week’s subject was Urban Impact of Black Rock.

Executive director Bob Niedermeyer described the organization’s mentorship support for kindergarten through 12th grade students living in Bridgeport’s PT Barnum Public Housing Complex.

100 volunteer mentors form long-term relationships with their students. and become involved in their lives beyond the classroom.

Bob Niedermeyer explains Urban Impact’s impact.


Staples’ Class of 1965 is one of the most legendary in the high school’s 139-year history. (No, I was not a member. But they blazed the way for us youngsters well.)

To prepare for their 60th reunion in 2 years, they’re scouring the globe for classmates.

Click here to add your name to the database. If you’re not on Facebook, or have questions, email

Members of Staples’ Class of 1965 remember when the school was 9 separate buildings. (This view is from 1959; an addition was finished in 1964).


Former Westporter Betty Lu Grune died peacefully last week in Florida, surrounded by her family. She was 93.

Her father was a US Navy chaplain. Betty Lu lived in many US and international locations. She met her husband, George Grune, at Duke University during the first weeks of college.

Betty Lu graduated from Duke in 1951, with a B.A. in English. She married George in 1952. They lived in Florida, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania before moving to Westport. They were here for 33 years.

Betty Lu was active in the Newcomers Club, PTA and Westport Garden Club. She also served as chapter president of the PEO philanthropic organization.

In 1988 the Grunes retired to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, where they supported local organizations including the Jacksonville Symphony, Cummer Museum, Players by the Sea, and Boys & Girls Club of Northeast Florida.

Betty Lu was a vibrant participant in countless events in support of her husband, the former chairman and CEO of Reader’s Digest Association. She took great pride in her 3 sons.

Betty Lu was predeceased by her husband George, and siblings Virginia May (Achtmeyer) Adams, Fern Marie Atkin and Francis Lee Albert, Jr. She is survived by her sons George Jr. (Judy) of Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania, and their children Heather, Lindsey and George III; Robert (June) of Ponte Vedra Beach), and their children Alexandra, Robert Jr. and Jordan; and Steven (Nancy) of Darien, and their children Steven Jr, Natalie and Kevin.

A service to celebrate Betty Lu’s life will be held later at the Palms Presbyterian Church, Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Click here to leave an online tribute.

Betty Lu Grune


Today’s compelling “Westport … Naturally” photo comes from the Community Gardens.

Photographer Lou Weinberg explains: “Compared to other native North American birds, goldfinches are late breeders.

“They start building nests in late June and early July, when thistle and milkweed are going to seed. Goldfinches like to use the seeds in their nests, and also as food for their young.

“The Westport Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve have ample quantities of thistle and milkweed growing, along with one of their favorites, the sunflower.”

(Photo/Lou Weinberg)


And finally … happy 74th birthday to Rick Springfield!

 (Jessie’s girl, Jessie himself — and everyone else — is invited to contribute to “06880.” Please click here. And thank you!)

10 responses to “Roundup: Spotted Lanternfly, Playhouse Benefit, More Theater …

  1. Elisabeth Keane

    Late yesterday afternoon as I glanced out kitchen window I saw a bulky looking unfamiliar bug crawling up the screen. The late afternoon sunlight cast a reddish glow generally at base of its body. It had long spotted wings. Quickly, I went outside to try to get a better look but it had climbed to the top of the screen and already was in shadow beneath the overhang so I could not get close enough to confirm it but after seeing this photo, yes, this is what I saw. Are we supposed to be notifying a particular agency about sightings?

  2. Jo Ann Miller

    I have always wondered why those in charge in 1958 chose to place a high school right next to a Nike ballistic missile site?

    • Great question, Jo Ann. Here’s some background, from my book “Staples High School: 120 Years of A+ Education”:

      The post-war years were blasting Westport with their own unique beat: the sound of growth. The town was building an average of 260 homes a year, an annual gain of 215 new students. The pre-war rate of 12 births per 1,000 had nearly doubled to 21, and showed no signs of abating. Without zoning changes, the town’s population had the potential to reach 50,000.

      In 1954, reprising the RTM discussion of three years earlier, the Board of Education took up the issue of a new high school. The board warned that if the solution was merely building an addition to Staples, in less than a dozen years the town would need to construct a second senior high.

      Riverside Avenue was clearly inadequate for expansion. It would be more expensive, the Board of Education said, to add on to Staples (and the overcrowded Bedford Junior High) than to construct a new high school. There were many reasons, including matching old designs with new, and contour and ledge problems. Any new building would mean the loss of the athletic fields and tennis courts. And with one-sixth of the students already driving to school, traffic and parking nightmares loomed.

      Talk turned to building a new high school on a new site – one that could absorb all the students in the current Riverside Avenue facility, as well as all those the town knew would come in the future. The immediate capacity would be 1,000, with ultimate expansion to the zoning limit of 1,800. At a public meeting on July 1, 1954, no objections to a new school were heard.

      The plan presented that night was complex. After the new high school was built, the Riverside Avenue Staples High building would be converted to a junior high for the present Bedford students. At the same time, Bedford Junior High would be remodeled into an elementary school. The board also envisioned the need to construct small elementary schools, in areas such as Compo Hill and Cross Highway; to expand newly opened Long Lots Junior High, and to build a third junior high in the future.

      Superintendent of schools Gerhardt Rast and Board of Education chairman Bruno Arcudi declared that a minimum of 25 acres was needed for the new high school, though more would be better. The board decided to buy at least 30 acres.

      Four sites were considered. One was Blue Ribbon Farm, a 53-acre tract on Cross Highway. Another was George Gyurkovics’ 23 acres on West Parish Road, near the state police barracks (the current site of Walgreens). To meet the 30-acre requirement, the town had to buy adjoining state property. The third site comprised 35 acres on Cross Highway, owned by the Masiello family. But it was low-lying land, vulnerable to flooding, and the least attractive of the four choices.

      The most favorable was a 67-acre parcel on North Avenue between Cross Highway and Long Lots Road, owned by George May. The hilly land seemed perfect – except for one thing. Army engineers had just identified the area as a launching station for Nike guided missiles. The Army was building a defensive ring around Bridgeport – home to many key manufacturing plants – and the high ground and sub-surface rock made the May property the perfect location for a Nike site.

      The Board of Education approved $1,200 for test borings at all four spots. When the results showed that Blue Ribbon Farm was unsatisfactory for a school, the board turned its attention to North Avenue. Board members hoped that a large expanse of trees would separate the Nike site from the school.

      RTM moderator Herbert Baldwin appointed Ralph Sheffer chairman of a five-man committee to determine if the May property could be shared with a new high school “without impairing the national defense.” The Army gave assurances that the missiles would never be fired – except, of course, in response to an actual enemy attack – and that all fuel and explosives would be stored underground, with rigid safety precautions.

      The military bolstered its case with a safety expert from the U.S. Rubber Company, who said, “Explosives and gasoline being trucked along the Post Road every day constitute more danger to Bedford Junior High School and the Green’s Farms Elementary School than the Nike would to the high school.”

      Joint tenancy between the Army and Staples High School was proposed. The Westport Town Crier & Herald reported: “The big question remaining is whether these tenants will be able to live together in their separate houses – and this will be decided ultimately by Westport’s Representative Town Meeting.”

      —- And, of course, that’s what ultimately happened.

      • Jo Ann Miller

        Thank you. Both Carl and I have always wondered. His brother, class of ’64, was the first to graduate I believe from the new Staples. In hindsight, great idea but imagine there was some serious debate? Funny, Carl’s father headed up U.S. Rubber and never mentioned it. Also, the population during the early 60’s, jumped from 12K to 27K. Few realize that was the true transformation of Westport, from small town to suburb.

  3. Linda Montecalvo

    On Lanternfly, best way to proceed is to send notification of sighting of these creatures to: Also try the CT DEP as well. I go to great extreme never to harm any inspects but this one poses great danger all around the County. They are from China and not native to the US and have already caused great damage to farms & forests across the County.

  4. Hey Dan, thanks for the Class of ’65 shout out. We’ll make you an honorary member. Chris Wood Staples ’65

  5. Holy cow Dan. Being here my entire life I thought I had a pretty good grasp on town history. Apparently I need to buy your book. Fascinating…

  6. Nathalie Fonteyne Gavrilovic

    If the town and the state want to truly make an impact in the control of the spotted lantern fly, then we must act and take down the invasive tree of heaven (Ailanthus alatus) which is the preferred host for this pest. There are plenty of these trees along the Merritt and the side of the roads as they produce large quantities of seeds.

    Thank you to Monica Buesser ( former chairwoman of the tree board and Westport Garden Club Conservation chair) and Mike West, Westport Park Superintendent for their leadership in removing these invasive trees from Grace K Salmon park.

    I am looking forward to working with Mike West to continue to remove invasive species from our parks.
    Nathalie Fonteyne,
    Civics chair for the Westport Garden Club

  7. Re: the Nike Site — you forgot to mention that, not only did the Army put the barracks for the soldiers right next door to our house on Bayberry Lane (currently the Westport Astronomical Society) but that it’s also the reason that Paul and Joanne first came to Westport to film ‘Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys’ —
    Dan tells the whole story in