Category Archives: Entertainment

76 Trombones, 5 Musicians, 2 Posters, 1 Painting

Exactly 70 years ago today — on October 19, 1946 — the Saturday Evening Post cover showed 5 high school band musicians.

As many “06880” readers know, Westport artist Stevan Dohanos used 5 Staples High School students as models. Seven decades later the painting hangs in Town Hall, right outside the first selectman’s office.

Westport illustrator Stevan Dohanos' 1946 Saturday Evening Post cover.

Westport illustrator Stevan Dohanos’ 1946 Saturday Evening Post cover.

In 2001, David Roth was in his 2nd year as director of Staples Players. To promote their production of “The Music Man,” Roth asked graphic arts teacher Alan Dodd to recreate the iconic artwork — this time using 5 actors from the upcoming show.

There’s one girl in the painting. Roth chose Samantha Marpe to pose. In “The Music Man,” Samantha played Zaneeta — River City’s mayor’s daughter. In an amazing coincidence, Samantha’s father — Jim Marpe — is now Westport’s first selectman (mayor).

The 2001 poster is also on the wall, next to Marpe’s office. Every day at work, he sees his daughter’s image.

Staples Players' 2001 poster.

Staples Players’ 2001 poster…

Fifteen years later, Players is once again staging “The Music Man.” Once again, Roth is using Dohanos’ painting as inspiration for the publicity poster.

There are some differences between the 2001 and 2016 versions, of course. Dodd has retired; this year’s photo was taken by co-director Kerry Long, and created by graphic arts instructor Carla Eichler.

A decade and a half after the first poster, she’s able to do much more with special effects. For example, in Dohanos’ original painting the football team was reflected in the sousaphone. That was tough to recreate in 2001, so the reflection showed only the 5 musicians.

This time, Eichler reflected Jacob Leaf — who plays Harold Hill, the “music man” — in the sousaphone.

...and the 2016 version.

…and the 2016 version.

Speaking of which: simply finding a brass sousaphone for Long to photograph was a herculean task. These days, they’re all fiberglass.

Roth put out a townwide call. Finally, he found one. It’s owned by Shari Levy. In another great coincidence, her son Jon was part of the quartet in the 2001 production. She lent it to Roth for the photo shoot — and the show.

Across America, people know “The Music Man” for its 76 trombones.

In Westport, it’s all about Stevan Dohanos — and David Roth’s — 5 musicians.

That’s no shipoopi.

(Staples Players present “The Music Man” on Friday and Saturday, November 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, November 13 and Saturday, November 19 at 3 p.m. Tickets go on sale this weekend at


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Nobel Laureate’s Former Manager Looks Back

Michael Friedman has done a lot in his 72 years.

The 1961 Staples graduate managed Todd Rundgren. He did publicity for the Dave Clark 5 and Herman’s Hermits. He dated Linda Eastman.

And — for a few years in the late 1960s and early ’70s — he helped manage Bob Dylan.

You know: the newest Nobel Prize in Literature laureate.

Michael Friedman in his Weston home.

Michael Friedman in his Weston home.

Friedman — a longtime music lover and current Weston resident whose recollections of the early rock ‘n’ roll days in Westport I chronicled last April (he was Bo Diddley’s drummer at the YMCA, for example) — was just 24 years old when he joined Albert Grossman’s New York office.

It had been a 1-man operation, managing — besides Dylan, and the Band — Janis Joplin, Peter Paul & Mary, Richie Havens, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Odessa.

Friedman was hired on as Grossman’s assistant — and partner.

With Dylan back in the news last week, I asked Friedman for some insights into the singer/songwriter/poet/Nobel Prize honoree.

“What do you add to the conversation about Bob Dylan that hasn’t already been examined under a microscope?” Friedman wondered.

Bob Dylan and Albert Grossman.

Bob Dylan and Albert Grossman.

He thinks, though, that it’s hard to imagine Dylan achieving all that he did without Grossman. They were “alter egos,” Friedman says.

Friedman’s work with Dylan came mainly in the office, and Dylan’s home/studio in Woodstock, New York — not on the road. But the manager saw many facets of his client.

Decades later, he remains a huge fan.

“If anything, I’m surprised that people are surprised” at the Nobel news, Friedman says.

“His lyrics and music go far beyond anything any American has achieved,” he notes.

“He’s so influential. He gave everyone — the Beatles, Paul Simon, you name it — permission to write in a way that had never been done before. The body of work he’s responsible for laid the groundwork in a fearless, extraordinary way.”

That “Nashville Skyline” album remains one of Friedman’s favorites. It was light, simple — and very country-influenced. That, Friedman says, epitomizes Dylan.


Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline” cover.

“He did not care what anyone thought, or about celebrity or fame. He was booed off the stage at Newport for going electric, when he was the spokesman for folk music. He was the anti-war spokesman, and he went country. He did what he wanted..”

But Dylan was certainly no dilettante. When Friedman asked him about his writing “process,” Dylan said: “I get up in the morning. I go to my ‘office.’ I write songs. Then I go home.”

After nearly 60 years in the business — and countless honors — Bob Dylan has received an enormous honor, for his great body of work.

“I really admire him,” his former manager said. “And I’m really proud of him.”

Remembering Noah Witke

Noah Witke — the very talented Staples Players actor who thrilled audiences as Romeo in “Romeo and Juliet,” and starred in other productions including “The Laramie Project,” “The Diary of Anne Frank”  and “Twelve Angry Men” — died yesterday.

Noah Witke and Brittany Uomoleale, star-crossed lovers in "Romeo and Juliet." (Photo/Kerry Long)

Noah Witke and Brittany Uomoleale, star-crossed lovers in “Romeo and Juliet.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

A member of Staples High School’s Class of 2009, the Juilliard graduate was 25 years old. He was working with a theater company at the time of his death.

According to the New York Daily News, Noah was intoxicated when he fell off the roof of his 5-story Harlem apartment building at 5:10 a.m.

Noah Witke (Photo/Kerry Long)

Noah Witke (Photo/Kerry Long)

Staples Players director David Roth said, “(Co-director) Kerry Long and I were very close to him. Noah was not only a really good actor — he was also a kind, gentle spirit.

“He was so thoughtful of other people. He was a teaching assistant in Theatre I for 2 years, and was so great with one of our special needs kids. He partnered with him in a scene, one-on-one.

“Noah would have been a really good acting teacher. We are devastated by his loss.”

Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Noah Witke in one of several ensemble roles in "The Laramie Project." (Photo/Kerry Long)

Noah Witke in one of several ensemble roles in “The Laramie Project.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

“06880”: Where New Zealand Meets The World

Of the many “where Westport meets the world” connections that “06880” is fond of making, there’s none weirder than this.

Paul Henry is a highly rated morning TV personality. But you’ve never heard of him, because his show is in New Zealand. (Admit it: Besides seeing “The Hobbit,” you’ve never thought about New Zealand.)

In 2010, Henry resigned/was fired from TVNZ — the country’s network — after mocking the name of an Indian official named Sheila Dikshit.

Henry — attempting to make lamb stew out of lamb turd — then tried to become an American TV star. His first choice was a talk show, but he figured a scripted or reality show might work too.

His foray into this country — with a population roughly 100 times that of New Zealand — failed. Which is why you’ve never heard of Paul Henry.

But Andrew Goldman did.

His name may be slightly more familiar than Henry’s.

He’s the former interviewer for the New York Times Magazine‘s Q-and-A page, “Talk.” His probing, off-the-wall, uncomfortable questions — of everyone from Iggy Pop and Terry Gross to Tony Blair– were a very popular feature.

I should mention here that Goldman lives in Westport, which is why I am taking through this long, winding tale.

Andrew Goldman

Andrew Goldman

Goldman was fascinated by Henry. Though not a filmmaker, he decided to make a documentary about the New Zealander’s route to what turned out to be not stardom in the States.

Goldman calls the film “the best experience of my life.”

Three days after it was finished, the Times fired him. (It’s a complicated story. Just google Andrew Goldman, Alfred Hitchcock, Tippi Hedren, Diane von Furstenberg and Jill Abramson.)

He thought he had a “fantastic” film in the can. But when he looked at it, he realized, “it stinks.”

Goldman attempted to salvage the film by addressing themes he could never do as a Times employee. He wove serious themes — including his own firing, and the death of his mother — into the previously jocular video.

He knows that the new emphasis — on him — might seem narcissistic.

But, he says, “this is about real life. People lose their moms, lose their jobs, have to deal with their families every day.”

He sent the new version — called “The Desk” — to festivals in Florida and San Francisco. He also spent 3 weeks with it in New Zealand.

“It was not well promoted there,” Goldman admits. “The crowds were small.”

Paul Henry

Paul Henry

So what to do with a movie that is about both an obscure New Zealand broadcaster and a former New York Times journalist?

Goldman searched for a commercial distributor. Gawker screened on its rooftop. (Of course, Gawker is not around anymore either.)

There were  no bites.

Goldman says, “I’d like to say it was a labor of love. But it was more a labor of pain and angst – the creative equivalent of a kidney stone.” He thinks he may have made “the least commercial film of all time.”

Friends have called the 87-minute film “shaggy,” “ambitious,” “bizarre,” “unhinged” and even “really good.”

Yet, he adds, “I love it. And I stand by it.”

So he has finally found a way for anyone — friends, strangers, American, New Zealanders — to see “The Desk.”

It’s available on Vimeo. Just click below.

Wherever in the world you are.

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“Fat Housewife” Review Is Far From Phat

If you’re thinking of watching (or recording) tonight’s premiere of “American Housewife” — the ABC sitcom previously known as “The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport” — you may want to save your time.

The New York Times’  Neil Genzlinger is not a fan. His review today begins:

American Housewife,” an awful attempt to transplant “Roseanne” into the age of economic inequality, mistakes sophomoric for subversive. The show, which begins Tuesday on ABC, seems to be angling for what it views as an underserved demographic, all those malcontented Americans we keep reading about in connection with the presidential election, the ones who are stuck in a can’t-get-ahead life because the privileged class has mucked things up and taken all the money. In this show’s interpretation, the down-and-outs spend their days telling potty jokes, thinking the whole world hates them because of their weight, and in general emitting contempt for everyone and everything, including their own children.

It’s a domestic sitcom with a fish-out-of-water foundation: The Ottos, a family of five, rent in wealthy Westport, Conn., a town full of entitled snobs. The Ottos, in contrast, are down-to-earth people. We can tell they’re down to earth because two minutes into the premiere we get to see the father, Greg (Diedrich Bader), sitting on the toilet.

The real focus here, though, is the mother, Katie (Katy Mixon), who is fat. That’s her description, not mine, and it’s the preoccupation of the premiere because another plus-size resident is moving out of town….

He continues:

Yes, fat shaming is dismaying, but this show’s answer is fit shaming: Katie has contempt for all those well-toned bodies in Westport. To her, fitness equals shallowness and obsession with wealth. Counter one set of stereotypes by promoting another? That might work in more skilled hands, but here it just makes for sour, spiteful comedy.

At least Katie is an equal-opportunity hater. No one escapes her disdain, including her children, especially the two older ones (Meg Donnelly and Daniel DiMaggio), who she feels are in danger of being converted to Westportian elitism.

Katy Mixon and Julia Butters, in

Katy Mixon and Julia Butters, in “American Housewife.” No, Katy’s dress does not make her look fat. (Photo/Eric McCandless for ABC)

The youngest child (Julia Butters) is supposedly the reason the family rented in Westport. She has, we’re told, special needs that require Westport-caliber schools. What special needs, you ask? Whatever ones might garner a cheap laugh. In the first two episodes, we learn that she washes her hands a lot and prefers to urinate outside. School-district shopping is a real challenge for parents whose children have serious needs — see ABC’s own “Speechless,” where cerebral palsy is the issue. It’s still possible to get laughs out of that situation — “Speechless” does — but first you have to respect it, which this show doesn’t.

There’s more (and you can find it by clicking here).

But really, why bother? You know all you need to not watch the show.

Go have some ice cream instead.

(Hat tip: Tom Greenwald)

Westport Community Theatre Welcomes Kids, Worries About Future

For nearly a century, the Westport Country Playhouse has stood proudly as one of the nation’s leading regional theaters.

For many decades too, Staples Players has pushed the boundaries of what high school actors can do.

Since 1956, the Westport Community Theatre has quietly served as our town’s “other” stage.

Low-key, little-publicized and itinerant until 1978, the WCT produces 5 mainstage shows a year, plus readings and workshops. Its productions draw small but devoted audiences to its spare, intimate auditorium in the basement of Town Hall.


Now — as town officials examine whether to reclaim that space — one woman is reaching out to a demographic the WCT has long ignored: kids.

Cindy Hartog studied film and television at NYU, then got a degree from the Neighborhood Playhouse conservatory. But she realized she preferred teaching to acting, and after earning a master’s in educational theater from NYU, Cindy organized drama workshops for children and teens.

She married Mark Hartog — best known locally as deputy director of Westport EMS, but also a community theater guy. Cindy worked in the Temple Israel nursery school for over a decade, taught cooking to kids, then a couple of years ago created the WCT Juniors program.

In less than 2 years it’s grown to encompass a 12-week program of performance skills, theater games, improv and scene work, as well as weekend master classes in improv.

A Westport Community Theatre improv class, directed by Heather DeLude.

A Westport Community Theatre improv class, directed by Heather DeLude.

Unlike other theater programs, these are not performance-based. The goal is to teach confidence, public speaking and performance skills, along with scene-writing and technical expertise.

Cindy’s Juniors classes draw youngsters from 6 to 16. On Friday afternoons they warm up together, then split into 3 age-appropriate groups for voice work and other activities. They come together at the end for improv and games.

The older kids are not involved in their own high school theater programs. One, for example, attends Hopkins; 2 are home-schooled.

Cindy notes, “They find a place here, and end up making great contributions.”

Cindy Hartog

Cindy Hartog

She believes in the power of theater to change lives — whether youngsters perform a play onstage or not.

Cindy’s program “tries to help kids become better people,” she says. “We want them to be well-rounded, confident and happy.”

Yet as she uses theater to prepare youngsters for life, she worries about the future of the Westport Community Theatre. Town officials are studying how space is used in Town Hall. When its yearly lease is up, the WCT — which before 1978 bounced between Westport, Weston and Fairfield — may be forced to find a new home.

It’s a search many Westporters are oblivious to.

“We put up lawn signs,” Cindy says of the WCT’s publicity for its mainstage shows.

“We have a banner on Main Street. We march in the Memorial Day parade. But a lot of people still don’t know about us.”

Interested in learning more? Click here. For info on the Juniors program, click here

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Rob Carlson: From Westport To Benefit Street, And Back

In a society that celebrates specialization, Rob Carlson is a generalist.

He’s a singer-songwriter. A corporate entertainer. An author. And a lot more.

Rob Carlson

Rob Carlson

For over 50 years — even before his 1966 graduation from Staples High School — Carlson has entertained generations of fans. He’s funny and fun. He’s got a wicked eye for the absurd, and a Robin Williams-like talent for picking out a wide range of targets.

Staples played a seminal role in Carlson’s musical career. As president of Orphenians, he helped organize the elite a cappella group’s 1st-ever trip (to the Virgin Islands).

He played trombone (“a useless instrument”), but discovered guitar (“you can actually play chords”). His folk band — the Triumvirate — opened for some of the famous rock bands like the Beau Brummels and Remains who played at Staples.

At Brown University — where he majored in American Civilization — Carlson was part of a burgeoning music scene. His most famous band — Benefit Street — included Staples classmate Josh Barrett. They earned New England renown.

In 1973 Carlson joined another former Staples classmate, Jon Gailmor, in a folk duo. Their Polydor debut album — “Peaceable Kingdom” — is still considered a classic by all who heard it.

But before hitting the big time, the 2 went their separate ways. Carlson headed back to the Virgin Islands, where he fell in love with Caribbean music.

Back in this area, he had a 10-year run playing local spots like  Grassroots and the Tin Whistle.

When his son was born — and Grassroots closed — Carlson got a steady gig running an independent production company. As “Ramblin’ Bob,” he wrote and produced a weekly tune in the style and voice of Bob Dylan, about whatever was happening in the news. The delivery was dead-on.

Christine Lavin heard Carlson in Portland, Maine, and gave his career a boost. He formed the Modern Man trio, which perfected send-ups of songs by the Beach Boys, Chuck Berry and many others. After 15 years, Modern Man played its last gig in October.

Carlson describes his music — reluctantly, because he dislikes categorizing it — as “folk/rock/Americana.” It includes elements of show tunes, R&B, Caribbean — you name it.

He’s “pretty much acoustic. I like the sound of wood.”

Benefit Street has now been reconstituted — with former Westporter Beth Bradley. This month they play the Grange in Greenfield Hill. On November 12, they and Beth Bradley will be at the Westport Unitarian Church’s Voices Cafe.

Palatine Ship - Rob CarlsonBefitting an American Civilization major, Carlson spent 30 years — “on and off,” he clarifies — researching and writing “Palatine Ship,” about the legend of an 18th-century vessel lost near Block Island.

But it’s music for which Carlson is best known. His audience, he says, is “mostly boomers. Every generation is fixated on the music it liked between the ages of 13 and 25. That’s pretty much what you like for the rest of your life.”

It’s a life Rob Carlson has known — and embraced — for over half a century. Westporters have long loved his distinctive voice.

It’s a good thing he gave up that useless trombone.

(For Rob Carlson’s website, click here.) 

Westport “Housewife” TV Show Debuts Tuesday

She’s not a “disgusting, piggy” former Miss Universe.

She’s not a 400-pound computer hacker.

She’s not even the “Second Fattest Housewife in Westport” anymore.

But she still lives here.

ABC-TV’s new show — with the new name “American Housewife” — premieres Tuesday (October 11, 8:30 p.m.).

Here’s the promotional blurb:

Katie Otto, a confident, unapologetic wife and mother of 3, raises her flawed family in the wealthy town of Westport, Connecticut, filled with “perfect” mommies and their “perfect” offspring.

Katie’s perfectly imperfect world is upended when her neighbor’s decision to move notches her up from her ideal social standing and sets her on a path to ensure that doesn’t happen, regardless of the consequences.

“Game of Thrones” it ain’t.

But feel free to curl up in front of your TV on Tuesday, to see how the rest of America sees Westport.

And don’t forget that gallon of ice cream!

(Hat tip: Bart Shuldman)

Who You Gonna Call?

I’m pretty sure these kids have never been to a drive-in movie:

(Photo/Seth Schachter)

(Photo/Seth Schachter)

They probably didn’t even know what one was, before today.

But they — and many other Westporters, of all ages — were pumped for our town’s 1st-ever drive-in movie, tonight at Compo Beach.

Homes With Hope and the Westport Cinema Initiative partnered to present “Ghostbusters.”

It’s a fundraiser — and fun.

Something for the boys in the photo to tell their grandchildren about.

Mike Kulich Funeral Service Set

Former classmates, friends and neighbors of Mike Kulich — and countless business associates and customers — were devastated by news of his sudden death last week. The 29-year-old Staples High School Class of 2004 graduate was an adult entertainment industry leader.

He was preparing for his wedding. Instead, he will be buried next to his father.

Mike’s funeral is set for Thursday, October 6 (1:30 p.m., Curlew Hills Funeral Home, Palm Harbor, Florida). A reception follows at Mike’s mother Sophia’s home, 4172 Ridgemoor Drive North, Palm Harbor 34685.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to that address, made out to the Tyler Kulich Trust Fund. He is 5 years old, and recently recovered from leukemia.

Condolences can be emailed to

Mike Kulich

Mike Kulich