Category Archives: Entertainment

Roundup: Maine, Save Cockenoe Now, Melissa Joan Hart, More


Who doesn’t love Maine?

Tom Kretsch sure does. The longtime Westport photographer has just published “Touching Maine.” The hard-cover book’s 93 pages of images and text capture the essence of that special state: its water, rocks, fog, islands, structures, dinghies and abstract impressions.

A signed copy is $50. For $100, you’ll get a signed copy plus one of the 8×10 prints shown below. Email tom@peacefulplacesphoto.com, or call 203-644-4518.


Lindsay Shurman is searching for a holiday gift for her husband. And she needs “06880” readers’ help.

She wants to give him Walter Einsel’s iconic “Save Cockenoe Now” poster (below). Back in the 1960s, it was everywhere — and played a role in the town’s purchase of the island off Compo Beach, saving it from becoming a nuclear power plant (!).

A few are still floating around. But The Flat sold the one they had. And Lindsay just lost a Westport Auction bidding war.

“Any idea where I may find an original?” she asks.

“Maybe someone is willing to part with it for a price. Or a donation made in their name to a favorite cause. I could even settle for a reproduction. I just need an original to scan.

“Any help would be so appreciated. I’m obsessed with this poster, and gifting it to my husband this holiday season!”

If you’ve got a lead, email lindsay.shurman@gmail.com. And sssshhhh …  don’t tell her husband!


Melissa Joan Hart has been very busy lately.

The Westport resident produced, directed and starred in 3 new Lifetime holiday films.

“Feliz NaviDAD” — yes, the name of the classic song by Westonite Jose Feliciano — premiered Saturday. “Dear Christmas,” with James Priestley, airs this Friday (November 27, 8 p.m.). “Once Upon a Main Street” follows on Sunday (November 27, 8 p.m.). (Hat tip: Dick Lowenstein, via Connecticut Post)

Jason Priestley and Melissa Joan Hart, in “Dear Christmas.”


Distance education isn’t new to Taylor Harrington. The 2015 Staples High School graduate works at Akimbo, a company that creates online learning experiences.

The pandemic — as awful as it is — has created opportunities. Taylor and her team saw a chance to help young people looking to grow.

They created The Emerging Leaders Program, a free, 5-day online workshop for people ages 16-25,looking to make a difference in the world .

The first 2 sessions were powerful. The next is set for January 4-8. Young leaders — or anyone knowing one — can click here for details. Applications close December 1.

Taylor Harrington


And finally … back in 1961, teenagers were doing (supposedly) the “Bristol Stomp.” Len Barry, lead singer of the Dovells — the band with that hit — died earlier this month, at 78. Four years later, he had another smash with “1-2-3.”

Roundup: Christmas Tunes, Food, Tree And More


The Senior Center is filled with fascinating people.

High on the list: pianist Irwin Lebish. A veterinarian since 1954, he is still — in his 90s —  a general practitioner at Schulhof Animal Hospital.

That’s not all. He also plays piano with the hands of 20-year-old.

The other day, Dr. Lebish recorded a Holiday Piano Recital — jazz, standards and more — for the Senior Center. He was joined by a young whippersnapper: his son Scott, on bass.

Jim Honeycutt and Nick Pisarro videotaped it all. Click below to enjoy!


Everyone knows about stress eating. But what about stress cooking?

If the thought of making another — or any — holiday meal fills you with dread, click here.

The WestportMoms’ Food Delivery & Catering Guide is filled with businesses that have pivoted during the pandemic to provide — in addition to their usual delicious fare — catering, weekly meal plans, delivery and curbside pickup.

No cooking? No problem! Click here.


MoCA Westport invites all high school students to submit works of art for a student exhibit. “Hindsight is 2020” will run open January 23, and run through March 6.

This is the first student in-person show at MoCA’s Newtown Turnpike space. The museum presented an online student exhibition in July.

“Hindsight is 2020” will feature submissions created this challenging, unique year.

All high school students may submit 1 work, of any kind. The deadline is January 8. Cash prizes of $500, $300 and $100 will be awarded by judges. Click here for details, or email liz@mocawestport.org.


Downtown’s newest Christmas tree stands outside Savvy + Grace, near the steps to the old Tavern on Main.

Check it out — and don’t worry. It will be trimmed soon!


And finally … happy 55th birthday to Björk! Now — can anyone name another Icelandic singer-songwriter?!

Drew Angus’ Snow Globe Christmas

As a 5-year-old in 1994, Drew Angus first heard Harry Connick Jr.’s “When My Heart Finds Christmas.”

The iconic album — and the longstanding tradition of family Christmas Eve parties in the Anguses’ Westport home — were important parts of his childhood.

Christmas is his favorite season. Christmas songs play a huge role. And — now that Angus is a professional musician — timeless music like Connick’s inspires him artistically.

For years, the 2007 Staples High School graduate wanted to provide others with the joy he felt. Now — with the release of “A Snow Globe Christmas” — he’s done exactly that.

A busy touring schedule and other commitments kept him out of the studio in past summers. That’s when holiday albums are recorded. Just as Santa’s elves work all year round, it takes months of recording, art, marketing, distribution and promotion to produce something that magically appears right now.

But this August — when the pandemic wiped out Angus’ gigs — he had the perfect opportunity to bring some cheer, via holiday tunes.

Work began in August. He and Black Rock Sound producer Mikhail Pivovarov picked songs, and started arranging.

“With Christmas music, you don’t reinvent the wheel,” Angus says. “You take songs that everyone knows, and make them your own.”

His 5-track EP includes chestnuts like “The Christmas Song” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” along with Elton John’s rocking “Step Into Christmas.”

Drew Angus

It was also important to Angus that he include new music. So — drawing on his love of Connick, Michael Bublé, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole — he wrote 2 original tracks.

One — “Snow Globe” — was composed with his friend Nicholas Wells, via Zoom. It’s a hopeful reminder to take a step back, and find some calm amid the holiday season mayhem.

“The season will look a little different this year,” Angus says. “Thanksgiving may be more quiet. The Christmas Eve party won’t be filled with the usual gathering of families.”

Still, he notes, “the cheer will never be lost. I hope ‘A Snow Globe Christmas’ brings families a little joy this holiday season — and for many years to come.”

Just as Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby — and of course Harry Connick Jr. — have done for  years, for Drew Angus.

(Click here to hear “A Snow Globe Christmas” on your favorite platform.)

Roundup: Stores, Staples Players, Sustainable Westport, Sports, More


In yesterday’s story on a new movie shot in Westport, I casually mentioned that Barnes & Noble is moving.

I did not mention where.

Its new home will be the former Restoration Hardware (and before that, Fine Arts I and II theater). Looks like the bookstore-and-more will be downsizing — after enlarging from its first Westport location (the old Pier One, just east of its current Post Road site — soon to be the new Saugatuck Grain & Grape).

So what will replace the current Barnes & Noble?

Word on the street is it’s a grocery store — possibly Amazon Go.

That would be fascinating — and not just because Westport is ripe for advanced shopping technology.

The other reason: The previous tenant, before Barnes & Noble, was Waldbaum’s.

Changes coming soon


There’s not much wonderful about 2020. But “It’s a Wonderful Life” was a wonderful 1946 film. And this Sunday (November 22, 6 p.m.) it will be a wonderful radio show, courtesy of Staples Players.

Though the high school is closed, dozens of students — actors, the tech crew, sound effects people — have been working remotely.

Which is exactly how audiences around the globe will experience the old-time, very cool show on Sunday. They’ll gather around their radios — and devices — to enjoy a wonderful experience.

In true “show must go on” fashion, directors David Roth and Kerry Long are devising ways for actors to multi-task, and come up with sound effects on their own. At the same time, they’re solving complicated technical problems.

“As always, they’re rising to the occasion,” Long reports.

To join the (free!) livestream fun, click  on www.wwwptfm.org. Westport-area residents can tune in to WWPT, 90.3 FM.

Colin Konstanty rehearses his George Bailey role, in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” before Staples High School went to full remote learning. (Photo/Kerry Long)


Sustainable Westport Advisory Team — a town body — will become simply Sustainable Westport. The new non-profit organization becomes a partner with Earthplace.

The group — which educates Westport residents and businesses to become a Net Zero community by 2050 — will continue to work with town officials.

Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich and operations director Sara Harris will be “sustainability coordinators” (aka “liaisons”).

If you think Net Zero by 2050 is far off — it’s not. It’s just as near to us as 1990.


COVID knocked out last spring’s high school sports season. Fall athletes played modified schedules. Now the virus has taken a toll on winter sports.

This morning, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference postponed the start date for tryouts and conditioning to January 19. Hundreds of  Staples students had been slated to start basketball, gymnastics, ice hockey, indoor track, skiing, squash, swimming, wrestling and cheerleading around Thanksgiving.

Earlier this month, the state issued new rules for youth sports — those run by outside (non-high school) organizations.

High-risk sports — wrestling, tackle football, boys lacrosse, competitive cheer, dance, boxing, rugby and martial arts — were halted through the end of the calendar year.

Participants in medium-risk sports like basketball, gymnastics and ice — hockey — are required to wear face coverings.

In addition, youth teams can no longer travel out of state. Regional tournaments and competitions in high- or medium-risk sports cannot be hosted in Connecticut. Venues were urged to limit spectators, and devise contact tracing protocols for players and fans.

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And finally … did you know this is International Drum Month?

“5 Weeks In Westport”: New Film From A Different Age

The past 8 months have felt like 8 millennia.

But here’s something to look forward to: “Five Weeks in Westport.”

That’s the title of a new romcom/drama/mystery narrative feature film. Shirlee Hauser and her husband Howard Friedman wrote and filmed it — predominantly in Westport — over a 3-year period.

It just screened at the Mystic Film Festival. This week it premieres at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, in that city and Hollywood. (Hollywood, Florida, that is.)

And it was all done with a budget under $5,000.

Shirlee and Howard’s Westport roots are deep. They moved here in 1995 with their young son Josh.

After Howard retired from advertising — he created and directed TV commercials — he felt bored. With a small $700 camera bought on Craigslist, he filmed short pieces around town — things he felt beautiful or touching.

One was the YouTube classic, “The High Tide Club.”

That was not his first film. In the mid-1970s Howard had written and directed a small independent project, “Sweet Talk.” It won him a Best New Director awrd, and found its way onto cable TV.

But that was it — until “Five Weeks in Westport.”

The plot: When mysterious international film director Ross Griffin arrives in Westport to stage a play based on real events, the lives of retired New York actors Mary Evans and her husband Gus Jacobs — along with close friends Grace and Murray — are upended. Revelations from the past unfold.

The cast includes Westporter Leigh Katz, who had extensive stage experience; Westport Community Theater favorite David Victor; Fairfield’s Kitty Robertson, a veteran of film and TV (and Gault spokesperson); soap/film/TV actor Will Jeffries; Peter Wood, who is leading man-attractive and provided a needed motorcycle, plus up-and-comers Sunny Makwana, Chris Finch, Erin Shaughnessy and Nancy Sinacori.

Shirlee and Howard co-directed. Their son Josh came from Massachusetts to do sound and hold the boom. Staples High School junior Sydney Winthrop helped too.

The directors’ home doubled as 2 separate houses. Jessica Bram’s living room was used for a scene requiring a baby grand piano.

The first exterior shot took place on a hot summer morning outside of Oscar’s Delicatessen. Owner Lee Papageorge gave permission, adding he’d be sorry to miss it. Shirlee and Howard had no idea that within a week, Lee would die of lung cancer.

Three other restaurants in the film have since closed or changed hands too: Tavern on Main, Christie’s Country Store, and Joey’s by the Shore.

Scenes were also filmed at Barnes & Noble (soon to move), Pane e Bene, Compo and Burying Hill Beaches, Westport Community Theater and the downtown Fine Arts Festival.

Scenes from “Five Weeks in Westport.”

The process was helped by advice from Marshall Brickman, who co-wrote and/or directed films like “Annie Hall,” “Manhattan” and “Sleeper, and helped create “Jersey Boys” on Broadway.

When Shirlee and Howard learned that post-production would cost $40,000, they decided to do it themselves. He took on the arduous task of sound mixing and color correction.

The couple’s first look at the final product came at the Mystic Festival. “It played looked and sounded just fine,” Shirlee reports.

The audience reacted just right too — laughing and falling silent appropriately — and finished with a burst of applause.

The Mystic and Fort Lauderdale film festivals are among the few that, during COVID, have in-theater showings (with masks, and audiences capped at 50% capacity). They also make their films available virtually.

Howard Friedman and Shirlee Hauser.

“We don’t anticipate winning any Academy Awards,” Shirlee says. “But the entire experience has made us both very grateful.”

They feel gratitude toward their cast; for “living in such a generous town that allowed us, without hesitation, to film where we wanted,” and for the visually lovely scenes they captured.

As the pandemic rages, “Five Weeks in Westport” is also a bit of a time capsule: a reminder of a town that existed just a couple of years ago.

Or — as it feels now — once upon a time.

For a “virtual screening” via the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, click here. It’s available through November 22. Click below for a sample reel (top) and the trailer (below).

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Levitt Pavilion (Photo/Michael Tomashefsky)

Saugatuck Dancers Raise Suicide Awareness

The Saugatuck River Dancers are a lively, talented bunch.

Their routines are fun. And they use them to draw attention to important, non-dancing issues.

In September the group performed at the Saugatuck Rowing Club’s “Row for Recovery” breast cancer event.

Now they’re fighting the stigma of suicide, and raising awareness about prevention.

The dancers — Jill Alcott Ferreday, Hilary Blumberg Solder, Michael Chait, Eva Grant Rawiszer, Suzanne Harvey and Deb Montner — worked it out to BTS’ “Dynamite.”

Suzanne was the choreographer, and Chait Video of Westport produced the excellent, artsy reel.

Like what you see below? Click here to donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Roundup: Old Dominion, Pumpkins, Sports, More


The third time’s the charm.

Of course, so were the first two.

For the third year in a row, Old Dominion was named Vocal Group of the Year, at the Academy of Country Music awards ceremony in Nashville. Lead guitarist for the Nashville-based band is 1997 Staples High School graduate Brad Tursi.

Perhaps the ACM can take a page from international soccer. After a team wins its 3rd World Cup, the trophy is retired.

Why the analogy? In 1996, Tursi led his Staples team to the state final.

His current career is plenty rewarding too. Congratulations, Old Dominion.

Now go out and make it 4 in a row! (Hat tip: Jeff Lea)

Brad Tursi

 

 


Still got pumpkins?

The Westport Farmers’ Market will collect them today, as they open the winter season at Gilbertie’s Herb Garden (7 Sylvan Road South, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

Last week at the 2nd annual Pumpkin Composting Collection with Action Waste Solutions, the WFM collected more than 2,000 pounds of pumpkins.

That’s 2,000 pounds of food not added to the waste stream. Some pumpkins went to vendors and Bridgeport Rescue Mission to be cooked and eaten; some went to farm animals.

Whatever could not feed people or animals will be composted.

Last week’s pumpkin haul.


For weeks, it was uncertain whether there would be a high school fall sports season in Connecticut.

There was — though shortened, and without any FCIAC (league) or state tournaments.

The FCIAC was divided into 3 groups. Staples competed in the Central Division, against only 5 opponents: Norwalk, Brien McMahon, Wilton, Danbury and Ridgefield. Teams played home-and-away, back-to-back contests. Those same 6 schools then played a season-ending mini-tournament.

On Tuesday the girls’ volleyball team captured the divisional crown with a 3-0 win over Ridgefield.

The field hockey team fell to Ridgefield 2-1, in the Central final. In the regular season, the Wreckers won twice against the Tigers.

The girls soccer team was set to play for a Central Division trophy of its own this afternoon. They were to face archrival — you guessed it — Ridgefield. Earlier this year, the squads tied twice. The move to all remote learning for Staples through tomorrow has postponed the title match.

Action from Tuesday’s Central Division field hockey final.

(Photos/J.C. Martin)


And finally … happy 75th birthday to Neil Young!

 

Pic Of The Day #1301

All summer long, and into the fall, the Remarkable Theater provided pop-up entertainment — and employment for people with disabilities — in the heart of downtown.

Last week — just before it closed — John Videler took this remarkable drone photo. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

(Photo/John Videler for VidelerPhotography.com)

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The Remarkable Theater — the pop-up drive-in at the Imperial Avenue parking lot — was the surprise hit of summer (and fall).

Carloads of families and friends (no more than 5 per vehicle!) “thronged” the site (though never too close to each other). They enjoyed classic and relatively new films: comedies, action, romance.

There were special events too, including fundraisers (with videos), and a special showing of the Staples High School boys’ soccer team match at Norwalk (we won).

At the same time, the Remarkable Theater provided employment for people with disabilities. It was a win-win-win.

Today the big screen was dismantled. We hope it will be back next year.

And after COVID is vanquished (wear your mask!), every parking space can be filled. 

(Photo/Amy Schneider)