Category Archives: Entertainment

The Fall Of The House(s) Of Harvey Weinstein

Yesterday, Harvey Weinstein went down to Manhattan Criminal Court, and was arrested on sexual assault charges.

Soon, several of his former Westport homes will go down too.

Applications to demolish the properties at 26 and 28 Beachside Avenue — adjacent to Burying Hill Beach — have been filed with the town.

The 8,896-square foot home, and 2 other houses, were sold in February to Andrew Bentley, for $16 million. He already owns several other properties on Beachside.

In 2012, Weinstein’s main house was the site of a fundraiser for the re-election of President Obama. Among the guests joining the president at the $38,500-per-person event: Anne Hathaway, Aaron Sorkin, Anna Wintour, Joanne Woodward, Jerry Springer and Governor Malloy.

Bentley told “06880”: “We have engaged the Westport-based, world-class architectural firm of Roger Ferris + Partners to design a house for the property. With their local roots and global vision, we are confident they will produce something that is right for the location.”

The presidential motorcade at Harvey Weinstein’s Beachside Avenue house, in 2012. (Photo/White House pool, courtesy of WestportNow)

Mike Joseph’s Very Sound Career

Growing up with 20,000 records filling his basement, a new-fangled stereo in the living room and a Wollensak tape recorder in his bedroom, it’s no surprise Mike Joseph spent the rest of his life around music.

The Westporter’s father — Mike Joseph Sr. — was a radio executive. In the 1960s he turned WABC into an AM powerhouse. In the ’70s he flipped more than a dozen major market stations to the “Hot Hits” format he created.

Mike Jr. got the music bug, and never let go.

In 1960s Westport, he recalls, “everyone was either in a band, or listening to one.”

He took his reel-to-reel tape recorder to Mike Mugrage’s basement, and recorded classmates Jeff Dowd, Dave Barton, Brian Keane, Rob McClenathan, Julie Aldworth, Peter Rolnick, Harry Miller and others.

In 1971, Jeff Dowd practiced guitar in a Staples High School music rehearsal room.

It was quite a crew. Dowd went on to become a noted opera singer. Keane is a Grammy Award winner. McClenathan and Aldworth — who got married — still make music. So did Mugrage and Barton.

That’s the milieu Joseph remembers fondly.

At Staples High School, the Class of 1971 grad says, “people sat outside the cafeteria playing guitars and harmonicas.” He had a morning shift on the school radio station WWPT-FM. Music was everywhere.

Rich Bradley — Joseph’s English teacher at Coleytown Junior High School, who later taught at Staples — was the first director of the Youth Adult Council. Concerned that teenagers were just hanging out downtown, he recruited Joseph and Guy Rabut to put on a coffeehouse.

Held first downstairs at the Saugatuck Congregational Church, then at Bedford Elementary School (now Town Hall), the shows harnessed the talents of local singers.

As audio director for Staples Players, Joseph served as stage manager for acts that played at Staples: the James Gang, Delaney & Bonnie, Taj Mahal, the Byrds, Mahavishnu Orchestra and more. He showed roadies where the electrical tie-ins were, and shepherded the groups to and from the green room (usually a music rehearsal space).

Hiding mics in the catwalk, he occasionally recorded concerts for personal use.

Then he did sound for Jesup Green concerts. Joseph owned big Altec Lansing speakers, and borrowed power amps from his friend Bob Barrand. He’d rig up a PA system on the flatbed trailer that served as a stage.

Mike Joseph, in the early 1970s.

Back in the day, music and politics went hand in hand. In 1971 he and Barton hitchhiked to Washington for a May Day rally. Joseph wore bell bottoms and a t-shirt, had 39 cents in his pocket, slept on a church floor — and helped handle the sound on the Capitol steps.

At Ohio University, Joseph helped build one of the first large student radio and audio production facilities in the country. He recorded bands in the studio and the field — including the Pipestem Bluegrass Festival in West Virginia for a very young NPR.

He transferred to Syracuse University — site of the nation’s first 16-track student-oriented recording studio.

Then came a long career as a recording engineer, record producer and club designer. He collaborated in Nat King Cole’s Hollywood studio with Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight, Blue Cheer and others.

Mike Joseph, at the mixing board.

In San Francisco — as chief engineer for Oasis Recording Studio and producer for BBI Productions — he worked with George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch, Tower of Power, Santana, Journey and dozens more new wave and disco-era bands.

In 1989 Joseph became editor of Recording Engineer/Producer Magazine, and founded another publication. In that capacity he traveled the world, visiting studios like Abbey Road.

These days — decades after leaving his Westport home with its 20,000 albums, stereo and tape recorder — Joseph is still in Kansas City. He’s a strategic marketing and business planning consultant.

Mike Joseph today.

He’s just built a home production studio, to digitize vintage analog tapes.

He does it all: concerts, weddings, lectures. And — of course — old recordings for his many musician friends.

He’s happy to talk to anyone who has tapes they want to save.

Particularly if they also have stories about the very vibrant, really rich Westport music scene of the 1960s and ’70s.

(For more information, email mike.joseph@sbcglobal.net)

Justin Paul Is Booked In Westport

When Justin Paul was a Staples High School student, he played piano for the Westport Library’s signature Booked for the Evening fundraiser.

The Class of 2003 graduate returns to the event this year.

This time though, he’s not the entertainment.

He’s the honoree.

Justin Paul

Paul — the Oscar, Grammy, Tony and Golden Globe Award-winning songwriter whose collaboration with Benj Pasek includes “Dear Evan Hansen,” “La La Land,” “The Greatest Showman,” “A Christmas Story,” “Dogfight” and “James and the Giant Peach” — joins the likes of Tom Brokaw, E.L. Doctorow, Pete Hamill, Martin Scorsese, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David Halberstam, Patti Smith, Alan Alda and fellow Westporters Nile Rodgers and Lynsey Addario as “Booked” recipients.

Not bad for a 33-year-old.

Paul admits that he doesn’t have the “life experiences” of honorees. But he’s got plenty of riveting acccomplishments.

And he knows the Westport Library well.

“Growing up, it was a constant in my life,” Paul says. “I went there to research school projects, to find new books to read, and everything else. It’s a cornerstone of Westport.”

In middle school, going downtown by himself to the library made him feel “very adult, very cool.”

The CD and DVD collections helped him on his career path. “I think they subtly encouraged my exploration of music, movies and plays,” he says.

Another library — the music one at the University of Michigan — played an important role in Paul’s life too.

“I spent a healthy percentage of time there,” he recalls. “They had scores of every classical piece, and every Broadway musical. It completely fed my hunger and curiosity.”

Justin Paul and Benj Pasek, at January’s Golden Globe Awards. (Photo/Paul Drinkwater NBC)

When Paul and Pasek began their songwriting careers, librarians would request official copies of their work.

“We always said yes,” Paul notes. “As 23-year-0lds, hearing from a librarian made us feel very grown up.”

A lot has happened in the decade since. And it’s been only a decade and a half since Paul went from playing piano at Booked for the Evening, to the main event.

What will he talk about on June 11?

“I could fill an hour just listing all the Westport influences on my life,” he jokes.

“But the library is all about story-telling. That’s what Benj and I do. So it will probably have something to do with stories.”

Book it!

(“Booked for the Evening” is set for Monday, June 11, 7 p.m. at Rolling Hills Country Club in Wilton. For tickets and sponsorship information, click here.)

Staples’ 12 Angry Men (And Women)

Nine years ago, Staples Players produced “Twelve Angry Men.” The classic courtroom drama was staged in the Black Box Theater — in the round.

The audience surrounded the set, on all 4 sides. I saw it 3 times — always in a different spot. Each vantage point was unique. I saw 3 versions of the same play.

This week, Players again produce “Twelve Angry Men.” Once again it’s in the round.

“With racial profiling and challenges to justice ever present in the news today, this felt like the right time to bring back the show,” Roth says.

“It feels like the actors are in a fishbowl — being watched and judged by society. That’s what we want.”

“Twelve Angry men” explores the dynamics between 12 jurors, from different backgrounds, as they meet on a hot summer day to decide one man’s fate. Though the play was first performed live on CBS in 1954, the preconceptions and assumptions of the characters are quite relevant today.

Tempers flare as jurors deliberate in “Twelve Angry Men.” From left: Tucker Ewing, Nick Rossi, Sam Gusick, Chad Celini, Jack Watzman and Kristin Amato. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Kristin Amato — Juror #8 — says, “The show really makes you think. It is all about the questioning of morals and personal prejudices. I think many audience members will go home reflecting on their own actions, and how they may have acted if they were in the same circumstances as the jurors in the show.”

She adds, “As much as I love the main stage, there’s something special about the intimacy of the Black Box. I love the interaction with the audience. Because we’re so close, when anyone claps or laughs or even gasps, we as actors can really play off of it. The energy just builds.”

For several seniors, “Twelve Angry Men” — which Roth and Long have cast to include female jurors — will be the final Players show before college.

Sophia Sherman — who will study acting at the University of Michigan — plays a Russian immigrant. Her passion for democracy, and strong statements about immigration, race and class difference, are “eye-opening,” Sherman says.

My eyes were opened — in 3 different ways — 9 years ago. I look forward to seeing the same show, in yet another way, soon.

(“Twelve Angry Men” will be performed this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 24, 25 and 26, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, May 27 at 3 p.m., in the Staples High School Black Box Theatre. Click here for tickets. A few tickets may be available in the Black Box Theatre lobby 30 minutes prior to performances.)

Krish Crushes Cubes

If you’re like me, you can solve a Rubik’s cube in about the time it takes a spaceship to reach the Andromeda galaxy.

And return.

If you’re like Krish Shah-Nathwani though, you can do it in 1 minute, 41 seconds.

Blindfolded.

He’s been cubing since 2014. He was a Bedford Middle School student, and spent days teaching himself with an online tutorial. Very quickly, Krish got hooked.

Pyraminx

His first competition came a few months later, at Yale. His time of 17.89 seconds — yes, you read that right — was not good enough to earn honors (you read that right too). But Krish had fun, made friends, and loved the cubing community.

He began specializing in pyraminx (a tetrahedron puzzle with nearly a million different positions). Before year’s end, he placed 2nd at an MIT event.

2015 brought Krish’s 1st sub-10 second solve; his 1st win, and a trip to the nationals in Portland, Oregon.

He loved competitions. “They’re a great social gathering with like-minded people,” Krish — now a Staples High School sophomore — says. “I’ve made friends all across the country.”

Last year, he entered 13 competitions. Computers generate “scrambles.” Each cuber gets 5 different “solves.” The best and worst scores are discarded, because a lucky scramble can allow a contestant to skip a few steps. Scores are based on the average time of the middle 3 solves.

Krish got his first sub-10 second average. That was a “huge milestone.”

Kirsh Shah-Nathwani intently works a cube.

He also had his first blindfolded success. When the timer starts, cubers memorize what they see. He imagines a sequence of letters, then solves the cube using a mnemonic.

So that 1:41 time? It includes the seconds he spent memorizing the cube.

Last year, at nationals in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Krish reached 2 semifinals and 1 finals.

At Penn, he finished second in the “normal” category (a regular Rubik’s cube solve). The winner was the North American record holder for fastest solve. “He’s one of my idols,” Krish says. “So I didn’t feel that bad.”

6×6 Rubik’s cube

Competitions involve many different categories. Krish can do 2×2, 3×3, 4×4, 5×5 and 6×6. He’ll do 7×7 this June. (It’s worth noting — though Krish says it very casually — that he does 3×3 with only one hand — and blindfolded.)

He also does square 1 (shape-shifting) and megaminx (a dodecahedron).

Is there anything Krish can’t do?

“I can’t solve with my feet,” he admits. “It takes me like 10 minutes. I have a friend who did it in 16.9 seconds.”

A key characteristic of a good cuber is resilience, Krish says. You do not need “genius IQ,” or a mathematical mind. “Once you understand how a cube works, it’s simple,” he claims.

As you may have figured, Krish is the real deal. He’s sponsored by Speed Cube Shop, an online seller of cubes, timers, lubricants, carrying bags, and anything else a competitive cuber could want.

Krish gets his cubes for free (and displays their logo prominently).

That’s a big help. Each cube turns differently, he explains. And each cuber has his particular style. A serious cuber needs lots of cubes.

Krish puts them to good use. You can see them on his YouTube channel. He has over 1,500 subscribers. He’s so well known, in fact, that at competitions he gets asked for autographs and selfies.

In March, Krish won his first competition, in Poughkeepsie, New York, with an average time of 8.36 seconds. He set a personal best time there too: 6.73 seconds. That got his name on the World Cube Association home page.

This summer, Krish heads to Nationals in Salt Lake City, to compete against some of the best in the world.

But, Krish insists, all this competition is not about beating others.

“It’s cool to get accolades. But it’s more about competing against yourself. I’m ecstatic when I better myself.

“And we’re all supportive of each other. When Daniel Gutierrez beat my state record, I was so happy. He practiced so long, and worked so hard.”

Speaking of practice: Krish spends 2 to 3 hours a day on his cubes.

“It’s not an obligation. I enjoy it,” he says. “I do it while I’m on video calls with friends in other states. We talk with each other about everything. And we race too.”

Every month or so, he sees those cubing friends in real life, at competitions.

Krish and friends, at a cubing competition.

His other friends — those at Staples — think his cubing is cool. Teachers are impressed too.

The entire school saw see Krish in action recently, at the talent show. He was just as entertaining as the singers and dancers.

Which leads to this important detail about Krish Shah-Nathwani: He has a life beyond cubing.

A member of Staples Players, he has performed onstage in “Music Man,” “Newsies,” and the One-Act Play Festival.

“It rounds me out as a person,” he says. “Cubing brings out my analytical side. Players brings out my artistic side.”

But he can’t resist one final plug for his greatest passion.

“Give it a try!” he urges. “We need more Connecticut cubers.”

Remembering Mike Joseph

The name Mike Joseph may not sound familiar to many Westporters.

But the former resident — who lived here from 1959 through the early ’90s, and died recently in Los Angeles at the age of 90 — had an enormous impact on the sounds Americans listened to, for several decades.

Joseph has been called the nation’s first independent radio programming consultant. With Rick Sklar, he turned WABC into one of the premier AM stations in the country. He hired Dan Ingram, “Cousin” Bruce Morrow, Scott Muni, Chuck Leonard and Ron Lundy as DJs.

Beginning in 1977 he turned around over a dozen major market radio stations, with the “Hot Hits” format he created. His first success was flipping WTIC in Hartford from a low-rated classical station to the very popular “96 TICS.”

Other stations included WFBL in Syracuse, and WCAU in Philadelphia (“98 NOW”, WBBM in Chicago and WHYT in Detroit (both “96 NOW”), and KITS in San Francisco.

Mike Joseph

Before WABC, his radio turnarounds included stations in Flint, Michigan — one of the first Top 40 formats in America — and others in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Rockford, Illinois; Syracuse, New Orleans, Honolulu, WPRO in Providence, and powerhouse WKBW in Buffalo.

In the early 1960s, he was vice president of NBC radio.

Joseph was born in Youngstown, Ohio to Syrian/Lebanese immigrants. He studied pre-law at Western Reserve, and married Eva, an immigrant from East Berlin after World War II.

The basement of his Westport home was filled with thousands of records, including rock and roll, soul, funk, jazz, classical, even Arab music.

Joseph is survived by his ex-wife, 2 sons and 2 daughters (all graduates of Staples High School), and a grandchild.

Staples Pops Tickets Go On Sale Monday

In just 3 years, the Staples High School Pops Concert has become the town’s newest tradition.

And its hottest ticket.

This year’s event is set for Friday, June 8, at the Levitt Pavilion.

Free tickets will be available online at www.StaplesMusic.org this Monday (May 14), at 9 a.m. They’re first-come, first-served. For the past 2 years they’ve been snapped up almost instantly.

The inaugural Staples High School pops concert at the Levitt Pavilion. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

Like its wintertime cousin — Candlelight — the Pops Concert is a Staples music department gift to the town.

Modeled on Boston Pops’ famed Esplanade series, it features popular classical and contemporary music from the high school’s symphonic orchestra, band, jazz band and Orphenians.

It’s a chance to enjoy great music on the Levitt lawn, greet friends, picnic, and watch the stars of the future as the stars come out.

But first you need tickets. Mark your calendar: Monday, May 14, 9 a.m.!

(Pops festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. on June 8, with pre-concert musicians and food trucks. The concert starts at 7 p.m.)

Stars and stripes on the Levitt lawn, during last year’s Staples Pops “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Ian O’Malley: Westport’s “Home” DJ, In More Ways Than One

He’s the DJ who introduced Nirvana to New York.

Van Halen brought him and his wife together.

He’s in the “School of Rock” movie, was on the “Big Brother” TV show, and has been a mainstay of the tri-state radio scene for nearly 30 years.

Now Ian O’Malley is moving to Westport.

These days, the Q104.3 jock holds down the Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. spot. That gives him time to indulge his other interests.

And in his “other” career O’Malley is a real estate agent, with Westport’s Higgins Group.

Ian O’Malley

Talking — to listeners and clients — is in his blood. His father recorded talking books for the blind. Insatiably curious, he moved his family around often. O’Malley lived — among other places — in Santa Fe, New England and the Maritime Provinces.

He started his radio career on Prince Edward Island, while still in high school. He worked nights, then headed to classes in the morning.

He asked his boss how to get better shifts. “Get better,” the man replied.

Then it was on to Alaska, for TV and radio work. At 21 he was hired in Boston. He was a DJ and — in the fledgling days of music videos — a VJ too.

In October of 1989, WNEW FM — New York’s reigning rock station — had a rare opening. O’Malley sent in a tape (actually, a cassette), and was called down to do a Saturday night audition show. He got hired Monday, to start the following weekend.

His first day at the station, Tony Bennett walked in. A few minutes later, Jerry Garcia strolled by. “I’m in a whole different radio stratosphere,” O’Malley thought to himself.

After that first day, Ian O’Malley and Tony Bennett became good friends. They often worked out at the same New York City gym.

WNEW was a great opportunity. Scott Muni, Dennis Elsas, Carol Miller and Pat St. John were already legends. Friends with many musicians, they were happy to let the “snot-nosed 25-year-old kid” represent the station at concerts.

“I had the keys to the city,” O’Malley says.

When he added work as a VH1 VJ, O’Malley got to know — professionally and socially — even more musicians. Now he’s got stories galore.

In 2000, WAXQ — classic rock Q104.3 — came calling. He’s been there ever since.

“I love the story-telling aspect,” O’Malley says. “I can communicate with people.” Though satellite radio and apps like Spotify have cut into stations like his, O’Malley says listeners still love the local touch.

He’s happy to oblige. The other day, he gave a shout-out to Westporter Bert Porzio for some great tree work, and his daughter Jennifer, a Staples High School . Both were thrilled.

Westport’s Ian O’Malley and famous Fairfield musician John Mayer.

In his long career, O’Malley has seen plenty of changes. 45s gave way to albums. CDs followed. These days the music is on computers.

When he started, fans wrote letters. Now they email or text. It’s instant feedback — and it keeps his show lively.

It also brought him love.

In 2008, a listener named Debbie emailed that she had not heard any Van Halen lately. O’Malley obliged. They wrote back and forth — longer and longer — for 3 months.

He asked her to lunch. Then he broke his own rule about dating listeners. Two years later, he married her.

They both remembered the 1st song he played on the radio for her: “Dance the Night Away.” Eddie Van Halen signed one of his guitars that way — and gave it to the couple as a wedding gift.

Eddie Van Halen’s wedding gift to Ian and Debbie O’Malley.

O’Malley clearly loves what he does. He’s never gotten jaded. He’s proud that children of his former young listeners now listen to him. “I’m very fortunate to do this for so long in New York — and in a business not known for longevity,” O’Malley says.

Like many DJs, O’Malley does plenty of side work. He’s in great demand for voice-overs. For several years he was the voice of Saab. Commercials, instructional videos — you name it, he did it.

It’s a wonderful life. And he is particularly excited to be moving with Debbie and their 2 young sons from Wilton into his new home: a beautiful house (with a basement recording studio) in Greens Farms.

In fact, real estate is another one of O’Malley’s passions. He got involved in New York City in the mid-2000s, and did well.

Now he’s joined the Higgins Group. He fits in well with Rich Higgins and crew, and has already begun selling the area.

So if Ian O’Malley drives you around to see properties in town, you’ll be treated to many intriguing stories.

While — I’m sure — Q104.3 plays on the car radio.

Ian O’Malley’s “business shot” for the Higgins Group.

Downtown Art Show: Bigger And Better Than Ever

There’s always something new under the downtown art show sun.

And we do mean “sun.” The annual event always seems to be held on the hottest weekend of the year.

This year’s 45th art show — that’s what everyone calls it, though the official name is the Westport Fine Arts Festival — will expand to Church Lane.

Last year’s return to Main Street and Elm Street — after a few years hidden in Parker Harding Plaza — was hailed by artists and art-lovers alike. Over 9,000 people attended.

According to the sponsoring Westport Downtown Merchants Association, the 2017 show was ranked 34th in the nation.

Sculptures filled the street in front of Banana Republic, at last year’s summer art show.

Also new this year: an expanded jury of prominent local artists and experts.

The panel — with graphic artist Miggs Burroughs, Westport Arts Center director Amanda Innes, Westport Library curator Chris Timmons, town arts curator Kathleen Bennewitz, WDMA and The Visual Brand president Randy Herbertson, and festival director Sue Brown Gordon — has already selected over 160 high-quality local, national and international artists. They span a broad variety of categories, and include last year’s Best in Show winner, photographer Mark MacKinnon.

The downtown art show — er, Fine Arts Festival — is set for the weekend of July 14-15. We know 2 things:

  1. It will be filled with excellent art, music, food and fun.
  2. It will be hot. Wear sunscreen!

PS: The logo is new too:

One Day At A Cappella Camp…

In 2016, Danielle Merlis created Westport’s first cello camp.

Danielle Merlis

The award-winning musician — who was initially inspired at Long Lots Elementary School, earned first chair honors in the Staples High orchestra, and went on to perform with Chris Brubeck and the Eagles, at venues like Lincoln Center — wanted to give back to the community that gave her so much.

It was an instant success.

She tells everyone she knows about the summer experience for youngsters. One of those friends is Andrew John Kim.

His a cappella group — Backtrack — recently performed at Carnegie Hall, the Beacon Theater and on Broadway. They won TV’s Steve Harvey “Sing Off” competition.

Despite a busy tour schedule he takes his ensemble across the US, conducting workshops for students from elementary school through college.

With the popularity of the Pitch Perfect movies, a cappella is hot. (Of course, it’s been around for quite awhile…)

As Danielle thought about her enthusiastic cellists, and Andrew’s experiences with singers, they realized the time is right for another camp.

When she told him about the strength of Westport’s music program — including stars like Staples graduates Justin Paul and Mia Gentile — he knew this town would be the perfect place for an a cappella summer experience.

The camp they’ve designed includes vocal technique, beatboxing, ensemble skills and choreography. There’s a final performance — with a professional a cappella group.

Danielle and Andrew — himself a Connecticut native — would have loved to had summer camps like these growing up.

Now Westport’s got ’em both.

Camp A Cappella CT: August 13-18 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m. ), for singers of all levels ages 9 to 18, at Westport’s Unitarian Church; click here for information. The Cello Camp: August 20-26 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.), for beginning and intermediate cellists entering grades 4 through 10, at Fairfield’s Greenfield Hill Congregational Church; click here for information.