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Leslye Headland’s “Russian Doll”

Since debuting on February 1, “Russian Doll” — the Netflix comedy series about a woman who keeps dying in a time glitch — has snagged praise from critics, and plenty of viewers.

Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 100% approval rating. The Gothamist said it’s “the first must-see new TV show of the year.” New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik called it “lean and snappily paced; it even managed the rare feat, in the era of streaming-TV bloat, of making me wish for a bit more.”

Leslye Headland, with a montage from “Russian Dolls.” (Image courtesy of The Ringer)

The show’s co-creator, director and writer — Leslye Headland — is a 1999 Staples High School graduate. She’s earned kudos as a playwright, screenwriter and director, with hits like the play and film “Bachelorette” and the movie “Sleeping With Other People.”

Leslye’s been on a media tour following “Russian Doll”‘s debut. She was interviewed today on WNYC (click here to listen), and has appeared in plenty of print and online media too. Click here for one of the most in-depth pieces.

Intrigued? Click below for the trailer:

Pic Of The Day #636

Kids on the beach wall (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Photo Challenge #210

Once upon a time, kids rode bikes all over town. They rode them to the beach, the library, downtown — you name it.

And you did name it. Those were some of the guesses for last week’s 2-part Photo Challenge.

All were wrong.

The top image (click here to see) was taken at Staples High School. I thought that was a slam-dunk — if not for the rack itself, then the parking lot behind it. But I guess except for the one kid who rode his back to school, no one ever notices it at the bottom of the upper lot, behind the cafeteria.

The second photo was a lot tougher. The only reason I know where that rack is, is because a few days before Christmas I had to park waaaaay behind Barnes & Noble, and walk around to the front. The bike rack — which I’d never noticed before — is at the far of the entrance.

Riding your bike to Staples may be a novel idea these days. Riding to Barnes & Noble is a death wish.

It took several hours for the first correct response. Brandon Malin — a Staples sophomore — nailed the high school photo. It was his friend’s bike, he said.

So now it’s on to our first-ever 4-pack Photo Challenge.

Longtime Westporter Bobbi Liepolt’s father — photographer Bill Bell — shot the Dunbar furniture ad campaign throughout the 1950s and ’60s. He frequently used Westport settings.

Can you identify all 4 of these sites? Click “Comments” below!

(Hat tip: Werner Liepolt)

Photo Challenge #209

“06880” readers definitely look around.

And down.

I thought last week’s Photo Challenge — Jerry Kuyper’s image of dozens of raised orange dot things — would be one of the toughest ever.

Shows what I know. Within 15 minutes Kelley Douglass, David Sampson, Seth Schachter and Andrew Colabella all answered — correctly — that it’s the platform at the Westport train station.

Iain Bruce, Jonathan McClure and Martin Gitlin followed. (Click here for the photo.)

So I guess all those folks lining up every morning are doing more than just drinking coffee, reading the Times and listening to podcasts. They definitely know what’s happening all around.

This week’s Photo Challenge is our first-ever two-fer. Both show bicycle racks — an obvious (if increasingly) rare site in town.

(Photo/Mark Mathias)

(Photo/Dan Woog)

The image with one lonely bike is at a place you might expect. The totally empty rack is where not many folks would think of riding to.

Click “Comments” below if you know where one — or both — are. Double winners will get double the usual prize: Your name next Sunday on “06880.”



Melissa & Doug: Toys R Them

It’s holiday time. Frazzled parents and grandparents race around, corralling all the must-have latest toys and gadgets for every kid on their list.

They can’t find it all, of course. Thank god for Amazon.

But plenty of child gifts fly under the radar. Thank god for Melissa & Doug.

The Wilton-based, Westport-bred manufacturer of low-tech — but simple, colorful and very popular wooden toys — is swimming happily (and profitably) against the high-tech, highly disposable, plastic toy tide.

Melissa and Doug Bernstein

Parents around the world know and love Melissa & Doug toys. But the company — and its owners, Melissa and her Staples High School graduate husband Doug Bernstein — keeps a low profile. They don’t get much press.

Until now. Vox — the huge news and information website — just published a long, in-depth piece on Melissa & Doug (the business, and the human beings).

From start to finish, it sings the praises of the firm (and its owners).

For example, writer Chavie Lieber says:

In an era when children are bombarded with screens and all manners of tech, the company has maintained its spot in the crowded toy market despite the fact that — and perhaps because — the company’s toys have no electronic components to them. Melissa & Doug is set on making toys that are meant to be timeless, in an effort to preserve a cornerstone of childhood that the founders believe is under attack: open-ended play.

The piece explains why wooden toys are so important; how Melissa and Doug’s backgrounds (both are children of educators) inform their work; the importance of Amazon to their early 2000s growth; the role of open-ended play (particularly with simple toys) in child development; the negative effects of screens on kids, and the Bernsteins’ fight against too much technology.

It’s a fascinating piece. And it ends by noting that one of Melissa & Doug’s most popular toys of all time is a set of natural-finished hardwood blocks.

It is, Vox says, “perhaps the oldest toy in history. The company wouldn’t want it any other way.”

(Click here for the full Vox story. Hat tip: Ken Wirfel)


Remembering Bobo Romano

The name Richard Romano may not mean much to many people.

Some knew him as Richie. He was “Bobo” to others.

Most Westporters never heard his name at all. But for 20 years, he was a custodian at Staples High School. He cleaned the school. He helped keep it running.

And he loved it.

Richie “Bobo” Romano

Long after he retired, Bobo Romano was a fixture at Wrecker athletic events. He particularly liked football and basketball. He sat quietly, off to the side. But he was always there, no matter how bad the weather or how lopsided the score.

Karen DeFelice — a longtime Staples High School teacher, and former athlete at the school — remembers Bobo fondly. When she was a softball pitcher there, he arranged for her to work with John “Cannonball” Baker, a Westporter and legendary player, at Greens Farms School.

Bobo loved the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team, and the New York Mets and Jets. He was active in Westport PAL, and was a friend to the Westport Fire Department.

Later in life, he helped elderly friends with errands and companionship.

Bobo Romano died on Wednesday. He was 88 years old.

Respects can be paid Tuesday (December 11, 10 a.m. to 12 noon) at the Harding Funeral Home. A funeral service follows, with interment with full military honors. Bobo was a US Army veteran.

Click here to leave condolences. Contributions in Bobo’s name may be made to Westport PAL, 260 Compo Road South, Westport, CT 06880 (or click here).

Westport Wash & Wax: A Clean Upgrade

If you’ve noticed a large number of dirty cars in Westport lately: Don’t worry.

Westport Wash & Wax is open again.

Our town’s favorite car wash — okay, our only one, but it still rocks the universe — shut down for 11 days recently. It was the first time since they opened, in 1999.

The reason: upgrades.

“Just like with a car, at some point you need new things,” owner Scott Tiefenthaler — a longtime community benefactor — says.

“This is a 365-day-a-year business. But for this overhaul, we had to close completely.”

Lookin’ good, inside Westport Wash & Wax.

Electric components have been replaced by a hydraulic drive. State-of-the-art components move Westport Wash & Wax “far beyond everyone else in Fairfield County,” Scott says.

The modernization may not be visible to customers, as they wait for their cars to come out clean.

But, Scott says, “Our machine has always done the bulk of the work. This allows it to do even more. Now our guys can pay even more attention to the details.”

He and his crew are happy to see customers again.

And — just in time for the holidays — we’re happy to see fewer dirty cars on the road.

Committee Offers 3 Options For Coleytown

The future of Coleytown Middle School became a bit clearer this morning.

The school was closed in September, due to mold. Since then, 6th and 7th graders have attended Bedford Middle School; 8th graders are at Staples High.

Meeting today, the Community Advisory Committee whittled 9 options for the future down to 3.

The CAC sent these recommendations to the Board of Education tonight (7:30 p.m., Staples High School cafeteria):

  • All elementary schools become K-6, with the addition of flex space and/or portables, until CMS is reopened or new space is found. All 7th and 8th graders attend Bedford Middle School.
  • Find a rental location to house the 6th graders, and keep all elementary schools K-5. All 7th and 8th graders attend Bedford Middle School.
  • Find a rental location to house Coleytown Middle School.

One more parent feedback session is set for this Thursday (December 6, 7:30 p.m., location to be determined).

Coleytown Middle School is currently closed.

Meanwhile, here are links to documents posted online by the Westport school district today:

[OPINION] Canal Road Guardrails: “Really?!”

An alert — and frustrated — Saugatuck Shores “06880” reader writes:

After months of road work, Canal Road and the culverts are complete.

But the town of Westport finished the job with galvanized steel guardrails that make us all feel like we live on I-95.

All the neighbors on both sides of the canal are upset that the town did not use wooden guardrails. There have never been guardrails before. Now they’re rusting (after just 1 week), and an eyesore to all of us.

New guardrails on Canal Road …

We would have all happily pitched in to pay the extra cost for wooden guardrails.

When I called the highway department, their response was, “we knew everyone would be upset, but you can paint them.”


… and another view.

Serena Tirado Needs Our Help

Serena Tirado is a beloved Staples High School science teacher.

Students and parents praise her for nurturing a love for biology — and for her caring, mentoring and inspiration.

A student from 2011 says, “As much as she loves bio — and she really does — she loves every student even more. Her kindness and passion spread to us like molecules going down a concentration gradient. I still look back on that class with a smile. When she was no longer my teacher, and I struggled with personal problems, she was the only teacher I felt comfortable confiding in.”

Another student — never in accelerated classes — says that Ms. Tirado was the first teacher who told her she was smart enough to do whatever she wanted. In 6 months, she will earn her veterinary degree.

Serena Tirado

Those sentiments — and many more — are expressed on a GoFundMe page. For over a year, Serena Tirado has undergone treatment for breast cancer.

She’s battling the disease — but it’s taken a toll on her and her family. Even with insurance, she needs help.

“Every day she taught, Serena gave all she had to her students and our community,” the page says.

Now, “it is our turn to give back to her. Please do what you can for this special teacher, who is beautiful both inside and out.”

Click here to see all the tributes — and to contribute yourself.