Category Archives: Entertainment

Pics Of The Day #698

“Curtains” — Staples Players’ murder mystery musical — wowed audiences this weekend. The choreography, sets, pit orchestra — all were (as usual) astonishingly professional, entertaining and fun.

The show continues next Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and this Sunday and next Saturday at 3 p.m. But when you see it, you’ll never get a view like this. Brandon Malin is a member of the lighting crew. He took these photos last night, from the catwalk.

Spot operators (from left) Maria Saravia, Michael Lederer and Charlie Norman. (Photos/Brandon Malin)

And here are a couple of shots of the cast:

Nick Rossi, as Lieutenant Frank Cioffi 

There’s plenty of dancing in “Curtains” (Photos/Kerry Long)

 

Memorial Fund, Tribute Concert Honor Charlie Karp

Charlie Karp’s death last week stunned and saddened music lovers throughout Fairfield County. The guitarist/songwriter/teacher/mentor — a free spirit who left Staples High School at 16 to play and record with Buddy Miles, then led a rollicking, music-filled life that included stints with great area bands like White Chocolate and Slo Leak — succumbed to liver cancer. He was 65.

But friends and admirers are making sure his name and legacy live on.

A Charlie Karp Memorial Fund has been established to benefit a promising young area musician every year. In addition to funds, it’s been augmented by generous donations of recording studio time by Carriage House Recording Studios of Stamford and Horizon Recording Studios of West Haven.

Tax-deductible checks made payable to Fairfield County’s Community Foundation (put “Charlie Karp Memorial Fund” in the memo) can be sent to Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, 40 Richards Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06854.

Donations may also be made online at www.CharlieKarp.com. Follow instructions under the donation tab.

In addition, arrangements are being made for a memorial concert at the Levitt Pavilion this summer. Nationally recognized and local musicians are already committed. Details will be announced soon..

Other events honoring are being planned too. For more on Charlie Karp, click here.

(Hat tip: Genie Schomer)

Remembering Charlie Karp

Charlie Karp — the Westport kid who left Staples High School at 16 to play guitar with Buddy Miles, then hung and played with Jimi Hendrix and Keith Richards and wrote songs for Joan Jett and Joe Perry, before returning home to earn a fanatic following with bands like Dirty Angels, White Chocolate, Slo Leak and the Namedroppers, while simultaneously earning Emmys as a producer of music for sports networks, documentaries and feature films, and becoming a guitar teaching mentor to generations of aspiring young stars — died last night, at 65. He was diagnosed just a few days ago with liver cancer.

Charlie Karp

Charlie’s friends and families wanted him to know how much he was loved and admired. A Facebook posting when he went into hospice care on Friday drew hundreds of comments.

Brian Keane — Charlie’s classmate in Staples’ Class of 1971, who has composed music for many films and TV shows, produced over 100 albums, and won Grammys, Emmys and Peabodys, realized Charlie’s talents during Coleytown Junior High’s 7th grade Battle of the Bands.

Brian wrote: “Charlie had the ability to channel something magical and musical, to deliver a special sense of feeling that connected with people, and moved them to the core on a fundamental level. Charlie possessed a rare treasure that is impossible to teach, and nearly impossible to attain. Charlie Karp was a natural.”

Charlie Karp (left) and Brian Keane, at Coleytown Junior High School.

As he played in area venues with Charlie, Brian wrote, “the simplicity of his music made me concentrate on a deep level of honest human feeling.”

Charlie played at any club he could (including, at the Georgetown Saloon, with Keith Richards), and for any charity that asked.

Charlie Karp and Keith Richards. (Photo/Ray Flanigan)

He was particularly pleased to join ’71 classmates Brian, Michael Mugrage, Bonnie Housner Erickson, Dave Barton, Bill Sims, and Rob and Julie McClenathan in the Reunion Band. Their concert at the Levitt Pavilion was one of the greatest shows ever there.

Charlie and Brian co-wrote “You Lift My Heart.” It was released on Marion Meadows’ album “Secrets” a few years ago. Brian finds it a fitting tune for Charlie lifted so many hearts.

Brian’s tribute on Facebook elicited heartfelt comments, from a broad array of Charlie’s admirers. Some wrote as fans of his bands. Some were classmates. Some were his guitar students, or their parents.

Joe Dochtermann called Charlie his “musical mentor. He taught me everything I know about the art of life as a musician and beyond.” They set up a studio in the Bahamas, and worked together in Easton for a time of “intense musical creation.” Charlie also connected him to “many other kind and talented souls.”

Joe wrote, “I can’t fathom where my life would have headed without his compass.”

Dennis Hrbek mixed Slo Leak’s first album. He had never heard anything like “Charlie’s vocal coming out of a big amp in the studio, making him sound bigger and badder than ever. That week completely changed the way I listen to music.”

The first rock concert Bob Cummings ever saw was White Chocolate, at Fairfield University in 1973. They were “on fire,” Bob wrote, “with Charlie’s guitar screaming! God bless you, Charlie. Let’s have a cup of Hot White Chocolate!”

Sarah Green thanked Charlie for his warmth, friendliness and talent teaching her son Matt how to play. He went on to become a School of Rock All-Star, performing at Lollapalooza in Chicago.

“Thank you, Charlie, for giving so much of yourself in your careers as a musician and a teacher. What an inspiration. Sending love to you, and peace and good wishes, always.”

In 2016 — just after Charlie’s 45th Staples reunion performances — I posted this story on “06880.” It’s my tribute to the legend we just lost.


You may know Charlie Karp from his many local bands. You may have heard his his work as an Emmy-winning producer of music for sports networks, documentaries, and feature films.

But you may not know his Staples-era back story.

When he was 14 in 1967 — and still a student at Coleytown Junior High School — Charlie’s band opened for the Doors, at their legendary Staples concert.

He was at Fillmore East the next year when it began, and stood on the side of the stage on New Year’s Eve 1969, for the fabled Band of Gypsies concert featuring Jimi Hendrix.

Later that night, 16-year-old Charlie hosted a party at his parents’ Upper West Side apartment. His dad was away — but Hendrix was there.

Not long after, Buddy Miles asked Charlie to play on what became the renowned “Them Changes” album. Charlie contributed an original song — “I Still Love You, Anyway” — and played acoustic guitar.

In April 1970 — while his classmates trudged through junior year — Charlie played with the Buddy Miles Express. They opened for Hendrix at the Los Angeles Forum, in front of a capacity crowd of 18,000.

Charlie Karp (left), playing with the Buddy Miles Express.

In 1971, Buddy Miles — with Charlie — opened for Three Dog Night at the Cotton Bowl. That same year Miles recorded a live album with Joe Tex. Charlie joined bassist David Hull (part time Aerosmith player), and a tremendous horn section.

After all these years — there is not enough room here to talk about his career from the 1970s till now — Charlie is still very much a working musician. He teaches guitar and songwriting at his Fairfield studio. He helps his students and other professional musicians produce their own music too.

His latest release — “Endless Home Movie” — is available on iTunes. It comes almost 50 years after his 1st single — “Welcome to the Circle” — with his Fun Band, on ABC Records.

And 45 years after he left Staples, to follow — and reach — his musical dream.

He did not graduate with his class. But he helped make this year’s reunion a very classy one.

It’s “Curtains” For Staples Players

When the curtain rises on  “Curtains” this Friday, audiences will enjoy another superb Staples Players production.

The show — a musical mystery comedy by Rupert Holmes, with music by Kander and Ebb (“Chicago,” “Cabaret”) — is clever. Contemporary, yet with a classic old-time, homage-to-musical-theater feel, it’s a play about putting on a play.

Nick Rossi, Chloe Manna and the “Curtains” dance ensemble. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Because a stage manager is one of the key cast members, it’s time to shine a spotlight on that often-overlooked — but crucially important — role.

Players — the professional-quality high school troupe — has earned rave reviews and national awards since its founding 61 years ago. But like any Broadway show, none of it would be possible without behind-the-scenes help.

At Staples, stage manager is an enormous responsibility. Joe Xiang — a senior who earned the post this year — coordinates multiple aspects of the show. Each day he huddles with directors David Roth and Kerry Long, producer Michele Wrubel and technical director Peter DiFranco to keep everyone — and everything – progressing well.

He works with vice president of tech Karalyn Hood to coordinate set, paints and light. He oversees all 100-plus lighting cues with lighting designer Ben Wolfe, Roth and Long.

Stage manager Joe Xiang at work. (Photo/Kerry Long)

“Curtains” includes three different scene drops. Over February, Players installed pulleys — a completely new element for Xiang, and one that he’s helping oversee too.

Next year, Xiang will take everything he’s learned with Players — people skills, task management, organization, critical thinking and more — as he studies business in college. Theater, though, will continue to be part of his life.

That’s certainly true for Michael Dodd. The 2017-18 stage manager is now a freshman at Duke University. But Roth asked him to help with this year’s set design.

Dodd took the drawing originally created by David Steltzer for Players’ first production of “Curtains” — in 2010 — and made them bigger and better. It was one more contribution from a stage manager — and one more way for Players to connect the past with the present, while providing an opportunity to learn everything possible about producing a first-rate show.

Four “generations” of Staples Players stage managers. From left: Joe Xiang (Staples High School Class of 2019), Jack Norman ’17, Michael Dodd ’18, Karalyn Hood ’20. (Photo/Kerry Long)

This weekend and next, audiences will roar for the actors. “Curtains” is a true ensemble show. It’s a whodunit filled with belly laughs, a catchy score and rousing old-Hollywood-meets-old-West dance numbers.

But none of it would be possible without Players’ stage managers. How great that that “role” will finally be noticed on stage.

(“Curtains” will be performed at Staples High School on Friday and Saturday, March 15, 16, 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m., with 3 p.m. matinees on Sunday, March 17 and Saturday, March 23. Click here for tickets. Tickets may also be available in the auditorium lobby 30 minutes prior to showtime.) 

Emma’s Opening Act

Westporters know her as Emma Ruchefsky. The world may soon know her as Emma Charles.

The daughter of Steve Ruchefsky and Rondi Charleston — hence the stage name — thrilled audiences at Staples High School with Players productions of “Avenue Q,” “Hello, Dolly!’ and “Sweeney Todd,” and as an Orphenians singer. She’s also performed at the Levitt Pavilion and Fine Arts Festival.

Now — having finished her performance and songwriting studies early at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music — her professional career is taking off. She’s in the midst of a 12-city tour, opening for Tyler Hilton and Howie Day.

This Saturday (March 15, 7:45 p.m.) Emma returns to the area. A show with Howie is set for the Fairfield Theater Company.

She’s also just released a beautiful new song, “Comfort in the Chaos.”

Emma’s base is Los Angeles. She’s working there on original music — heard only by a few people so far. She’s excited to play it for her hometown fans.

“Finding my voice as an opener is tough,” Emma notes. “But it’s the best way to start touring in as many places as possible.”

In LA, she says, she’s coming into her own sound. It’s similar to Kacey Musgraves and Maggie Rogers — but definitely her own.

Emma Charles

When she takes the FTC stage, Emma will not be far from her Westport heart — geographically, and emotionally.

She is grateful for the opportunities Staples provided, through Luke Rosenberg’s choral program and David Roth’s Players.

Emma Ruchefsky may have changed her name. But Emma Charles is still the same warm, wonderful — and very talented — performer they (and the rest of Westport) knew and loved.

(Click here for tickets and more information on Saturday’s Fairfield Theater Company show.)

Toscanini Lives!

From 1937 to 1954, Arturo Toscanini was one of the most famous men in America.

Already acclaimed for his intensity, perfectionism and ear for orchestral detail as director of La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera and New York Philharmonic, his appointment as music director of the NBC Symphony Orchestra — first on radio, then TV — brought him into nearly every household in the nation.

“He had a singular approach to music making,” says Lucy Johnson. “He was what today we would call a rock star. Thousands of people lined up for tickets to see him perform.”

Today, she says, his work and vibrant reputation remain. He may not be a rock star, but he is revered in musical circles. “People are still inspired by the man, his personality and his musicianship,” Johnson says.

She should know. The longtime Westporter’s father, Samuel Antek, played first violin with the NBC Symphony.

Arturo Toscanini (left) and Samuel Antek.

He died at 48, of a heart attack. Before his death — one year after Toscanini’s, at 89 — he wrote a series of essays about the conductor, from the point of view of an orchestra member. They were published posthumously, in a book called This Was Toscanini.

Two years ago, music historian Harvey Sachs wrote a new biography, Toscanini: Musician of Conscience. During his research, he and Johnson became friends.

She had quite a career of her own. She majored in art history, then got an entry- level job at NBC in New York. She worked in production with Harry Belafonte and David Susskind.

Lucy Johnson

Moving to Los Angeles, Johnson became senior vice president of daytime and children’s programming with both NBC and CBS. She launched The Smurfs, and worked with the legendary Fred Silverman.

She met Bill Klein. Thirteen years ago, they decided to move back East.

Her LA colleague Sonny Fox — the former “Wonderama” host, now a broadcast industry consultant — had lived in Weston. He suggested she look at Westport, and introduced her to friends he thought she and Bill would like: library director Maxine Bleiweis, and Larry and Mary-Lou Weisman.

They moved here — and have remained friends with those first contacts. “Westport is a very cultured town,” Johnson says. She has met many people who remember Toscanini — either first hand, or through his recordings.

Several years ago, Johnson took Weisman’s memoir writing course. So when Sachs was speaking with her about his Toscanini biography, he told Johnson she should reissue her father’s old memoir. She did — adding her own essays before each chapter.

Thanks to the efforts of Johnson — and others — Toscanini still lives. Tomorrow (Saturday, March 9, 3 p.m.) biographer Sachs speaks about “Toscanini: Musician of Conscience” at the Westport Woman’s Club.

When World War II began, Toscanini fled the fascism of his native Italy. After Mussolini fell, Toscanini participated in a legendary film, “Hymn of the Nations.” It honored the role of Italian-Americans who aided the Allies.

Toscanini took Verdi’s 1860’s work, including the national anthems of European nations, and added arrangements of “The Star Spangled Banner,” and “The Internationale” for the Soviet Union and Italian partisans.

Sachs will talk about all that tomorrow. He’ll also include rare film footage of the NBC Symphony.

Perhaps Lucy Johnson will see her own father on screen, playing violin under the baton of one of America’s most legendary maestros.

(Hat tip: Joel Davis)

Pic Of The Day #689

Nearly every night, there’s a worthy fundraiser.

One of the best each year is the Galaxy of Gourmets. Sponsored by STAR Lighting the Way — the advocacy and support organization that since 1952 has helped individuals of all ages with developmental disabilities live full, independent lives — it’s a night of fantastic food, wine and craft beer. A couple dozen area restaurants and caterers turn Aitoro’s Appliances in Norwalk into a wonderful party room.

There’s live music too, from Rubberband and the Suburban Chaos Band. The groups include STAR clients.

Make no mistake:  They’re good. The place rocked. Rubberband: You guys are STARs!

(Photo/Dan Woog)

Tyler Jent Helps “Lion King” Roar

Everyone knows “The Circle of Life” from “The Lion King.”

But the song took on new meaning recently. As Greens Farms Elementary School prepared for its first-ever musical production — of, yes, “The Lion King” — it got a big boost from a very special alum.

Tyler Jent — who graduated from GFS  in 2006, and Staples High School 7 years later — returned to his alma mater to help prepare the young actors and dancers. He spent every Monday for 2 months with them — then more intensely as showtime neared.

This was way cool. After starring in more than a dozen Staples Players productions, then graduating from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Tyler launched his professional musical theater carer. He just finished a run in the national tour of “Kinky Boots.”

Tyler Jent — and a future Broadway star?

The Greens Farms kids were already in great shape. Westporter Laura Curley Pendergast — a former actress and dancer — had spent countless hours, along with teachers and many others, working with the cast and crew.

Tyler just gave them an extra Broadway boost.

“It was so emotional for me returning to GFS,” he said. “These kids are amazing. It’s been a blast helping Laura pull this show together.”

“The Lion King” opens tonight (March 7, 7 p.m.). It continues tomorrow (Friday, March 8, 7 p.m.), and ends Saturday (March 9, 4 p.m.). Tickets are available at the Greens Farms Elementary School door.

Remembering Micky Golomb

Micky Golomb — a tenor saxophone player who for many years was a major face of Westport jazz — died lastweekend, peacefully at home. He was 88.

When Micky was a teenager in the late 1940s, his family moved from Brookline, Massachusetts to Brooklyn. In Manhattan he heard legendary musicians like Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Lester Young and Stan Getz. They influenced him profoundly.

He joined the military during the Korean War, hoping to fly. But when an officer found out he played sax, he was given a choice: KP duty or the band. He served the entire time as an Air Force musician — including a fondly remembered year in Iceland.

After he was discharged, Micky enjoyed a long career playing in jazz bands, ensembles, and the occasional big band (most notably Art Mooney and Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestras).

Micky Golomb

In 1987 he toured Italy with a sextet billed as “Veterans of Jazz.” The bulk of his career was spent playing in New York City, and Fairfield and Westchester Counties.

Micky’s long-term engagements included playing and singing at Dameon’s, and the Westport Inn. He also loved monthly jam sessions in Port Chester. Most recently, he sang with the Y’s Men’s Hoot Owls.

Micky ran Regency Music Studios in Rye for over 20 years. He then served as director of the Rye Arts Center’s music division.

He taught sax and clarinet to many local young musicians. Blessed with perfect pitch, Micky also tuned pianos for individuals and and businesses.

He met Katherine, a library administrator, in 1973, when a friend brought her to the club where Micky was playing. They married 5 years later, and lived on Nash’s Pond for many years. When they downsized, they moved to Harvest Commons.

Micky loved cruising and sailing on Long Island Sound. He owned a succession of boats, named Adagio, Sea Melody and Coda. His last vessel was Fine — the musical term marking the end of a composition or movement.

Micky had a song lyric for every occasion. He sang Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” just a few days before he died. He indeed lived a life that was full. He traveled each and every highway. And he did it his way.

Greg Wall — the Jazz Rabbi — lived not far from him. Micky enjoyed listening to Greg’s Thursday night jazz series. The last time was a few weeks ago, at Pearl at Longshore.

Greg saw Micky shortly before he died. “He was fully present, at peace, comfortable, and not at all hesitant about embarking on his ultimate gig,” the rabbi says.

Micky is survived by his wife Katherine, daughter Liorah, stepdaughters Diane, Rachel and Rebecca Paxton, and grandchildren Martha and Toby Stueward. he was predeceased by  his son Kenneth.

The Jazz Society of Fairfield County will present a memorial program on Thursday March 21 (6:30 p.m., Pearl at Longshore). Greg, and Chris Coogan and his trio, will play. They invite Micky’s fellow “senior statesman musicians and collaborators” to join them for the second set.

A scholarship fund has been created, to support a local student pursuing jazz at a college or conservatory. Click here to donate.

(Click here for Micky Golomb’s memorial page on the JazzFC site.)

Westport’s Cartoon History: What A Laugh

Westport’s heritage as an artists’ colony is no laughing matter.

Except when it is.

In addition to attracting some of the most famous portrait artists and commercial illustrators in the country, Westport was a haven for cartoonists.

“Popeye,” “Little Orphan Annie,” “Superman” — they and many of America’s most famous comic strips and books were drawn right here.

Westporter Curt Swan drew the “Superman” comics for many years. This illustration is part of the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection.

The mid-20th century was America’s  golden age of cartooning. Now it’s memorialized in a show at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich. “Masterpieces from the Museum of Cartoon Art” — the current exhibition — features more than 100 original works, including strips, newspaper panels, comic books and animation.

There’s an early editorial cartoon by Thomas Nast, a New Yorker gag by Peter Arno, and classic “Peanuts” and “Doonesbury” drawings. Special programs include a panel tribute to “The Golden Age of Cartooning in Connecticut” (Thursday, March 7).

Wherever you turn in the Bruce Museum show, it’s hard to escape Westport.

Curator Brian Walker — former director of the Museum of Cartoon Art, and son of Mort Walker (“Beetle Bailey”) — grew up in Greenwich. But he knows Westport well.

His father was part of a large group of cartoonist friends. Many lived here. This is where their professional meetings (and parties) took place.

Bud Sagendorf (“Popeye”), Curt Swan (“Superman”), Stan Drake (“The Heart of Juliet Jones,” “Blondie”), Mel Casson (“Boomer”), Leonard Starr (“Little Orphan Annie”), John Prentice (“Rip Kirby”), Jack Tippit (“Amy”), Bill Yates (King Features comic strip editor) are just a few of the important Westport cartoon names.

They came here, Brian Walker says, for several reasons.

Westport was close enough to New York City to go in when they had to. But Connecticut had no state income tax.

Cartoonists work alone, in their studios. But they liked having like-minded professionals nearby.

Bud Sagendorf, and his most well-known character.

Max’s Art Supplies on the Post Road welcomed cartoonists. They’d buy pens, pencils and paper — and hang around to talk.

The coffee shop and Mario’s — both directly across from the railroad station — drew them in too. They’d work right up to deadline, head to Saugatuck, hand their work to a courier to be delivered to a New York editor, then sit around and tell stories.

The Connecticut chapter of the National Cartoonists Society — the largest chapter in the country — met for years at Cobb’s Mill Inn and the Red Barn.

In the heyday of Westport’s cartoon era, they had a bowling league. An annual golf tournament too.

Over the years, the world of cartooning changed. Today, it’s all about “animation.”

That’s no joke. But for several decades — not that long ago — Westport was where much of America’s laughter began.

(Click here for more information on the Bruce Museum exhibit, “Masterpieces from the Museum of Cartoon Art.” Click here for more information on Brian Walker’s March 7 panel discussion.