Category Archives: Entertainment

Justin Paul Joins “American Housewife”

“American Housewife” — the ABC comedy in which Katy Mixon raises her “flawed” family as the supposedly 2nd fattest housewife in Westport — has been renewed for a 4th season.

That’s the semi-good news.

The really good news is that the season 3 finale — at 8 p.m. on May 21, mark it down! — will include an original song by Justin Paul.

The Staples High School Class of 2002 graduate has already won a Grammy, Oscar and Tony, for his work with writing partner Benj Pasek on “Dear Evan Hansen” and “La La Land.”

Executive producer Kenny Schwartz — another Staples grad — occasionally slips Westport references into “Housewife.” (The Black Duck was called, I think, the White Mallard.)

No word on whether Justin will do the same, for his season-finale song.

(Hat tip: Jeff Mitchell)

Justin Paul, perhaps watching “American Housewife.” (Photo/Dan Woog)

Woodstock: Westport Remembers

If you grew up when I did, you’ve got a Woodstock memory.

I had a ticket and everything (except actual plans about how to get there).

Me, in my Woodstock days. Or should I say, Woogstock.

Then I got grounded. (Well deserved, I must admit.) Instead of getting rained on, sleeping in the mud and being awakened by Jimi Hendrix, I sat at home. I read about the huge festival in the New York Times. A few months later, I saw the movie.

Several years later — now out of college — I was cleaning my old room at my parents’ house. I found my Woodstock ticket: still pristine, never used.

“Oh,” I said to myself. “That’s interesting.”

And promptly threw it out.

That’s not the most compelling — or financially savvy — Woodstock story. But it’s mine.

Other people have much better ones.

Like Michael Friedman (Staples High School 1961 grad/music producer/ photographer). Roger Kaufman (Staples ’66 musician/musicologist). Dodie Pettit (Westport actress/singer/Woodstock attendee). Paul Nelson (Johnny Winter’s guitar player). Ira and Maxine Stone (Woodstock performers). Bruce Pollock (author).

They’ll all be at the Westport Woman’s Club this Wednesday (May 15, 7 p.m.). They’re part of a “Woodstock: 50 Years Down the Road” panel, talking about their experiences at that almost-50-years-ago/seems-like-yesterday historical event.

“Lotta freaks!” Arlo Guthrie said. “The New York State Thruway is closed!”

After the discussion, the Old School Revue’s Woodstock All-Stars will play  favorite hits from Woodstock. Performers include Kaufman, Pettit, the Stones (Ira and Maxine, not Mick and Keith), Pete Hohmeister, Frank Barrese, Bob Cooper, Billy Foster and Nina Hammerling Smith.

Special guests include Rex Fowler of Aztec Two-Step, Robin Batteau and the Saugatuck Horns (Joe Meo and Fred Scerbo).

The event is free (but register online; seating is limited).

In other words, you don’t need a ticket.

That’s good. If I had one, I’d probably throw it away.

(For more information, click here. “Woodstock: 50 Years Down the Road” is sponsored by the Westport Library.)

Staples Pops Concert Tickets Available Soon

In just 4 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 7, at the Levitt Pavilion.

Part of the large crowd at last year’s Staples Pops Concert.

The Levitt Pavilion lawn opens at 5:30 p.m. There’s pre-concert music, mingling, and food from 3 trucks. (Bodega, JR’s and Jim’s Ice Cream all donate part of their proceeds to the Staples music department.)

Free tickets will be available online at www.StaplesMusic.org next Monday (May 20), at 9 a.m. They’re first-come, first-served. For the past 3 years they’ve been snapped up almost instantly.

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.

Jim Naughton — emcee for the past 3 concerts — is unavailable this year. Pinch-hitting is one of Westport’s foremost arts patrons, and no stranger to Staples High School: former principal John Dodig.

The Pops Concert is 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 20, 9 a.m.!

Finally, Town Honors F. Scott Fitzgerald

On May 14, 1920, a young couple signed a 5-month lease for a modest gray cottage on Compo Road South.

It was not big news. In fact, it took the Westporter-Herald — the local newspaper that chronicled every visitor, gathering and event in town — until the next month to run this small item:

“F. Scott Fitzgerald, a writer, has leased the Wakeman Cottage near Compo Beach.”

The iconic shot of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, in front of their Westport home.

But the honeymoon home of Fitzgerald and his new bride Zelda — they’d gotten married on April 3 –had a profound impact on both. It appears in more of their collective works than any other place they lived.

With good reason. The couple drank and partied all summer long.

On May 14, 2019 — 99 years to the day after that now-legendary lease-signing — Westport will officially recognize that event.

The cottage that once abutted larger-than-life multimillionaire Frederick E. Lewis’ property (now Longshore Club Park) still stands. Today it’s a handsome home. First Selectman Jim Marpe will stand there, and declare “Great Gatsby Day” in town.

The official proclamation — a combination of legalese and whimsy — begins:

“Whereas, it was an age of miracles. It was an age of art. It was an age of excess and it was an age of satire….”

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald slept — and partied — here, on South Compo Road.

But that’s not the only Fitzgerald-Westport connection this month.

On Saturday and Sunday, May 18 and 19, the Westport Community Theater presents a costumed stage reading of The Vegetable.

If you haven’t heard of it, don’t worry.

Richard “Deej” Webb — the Westport historian who collaborated with Robert Steven Williams on a film and book that describe the Fitzgeralds’ Westport sojourn, and make the strong case that it heavily influenced The Great Gatsby — calls it “his worst work.”

The Vegetable is Fitzgerald’s only full-length play. It was his lone attempt to establish himself as a successful playwright, and his sole foray into political satire.

The plot involves an accidental president who undergoes impeachment. Coming during the corrupt administration of Warren Harding — who died the year it was published — it was “ahead of its time,” Webb says.

To call it forgotten today is an understatement. According to Webb, it was last performed in the 1990s.

The WCT has modified it a bit. What Webb calls “a racist scene” has been edited out.

That may have been a product of its time. But nearly a century later, impeachment is back in the news.

And — at least in Westport — F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald are too.

(The staged reading of The Vegetable is Saturday, May 18 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, May 19 at 2 p.m. For tickets, call 203-226-1983.)

Sunday: Get Set To Jet Downtown

When Annette Norton made the rainy decision to postpone last weekend’s rainy Outdoor Market to this Sunday (May 5), she thought her biggest issue would be letting everyone know.

She didn’t figure that — in addition to Main Street being closed right in front of the private parking lot behind Tavern on Main, where 2 dozen vendors of very cool jewelry, crafts and terrariums set up shop — a jet will be parked next door.

The street closing — which only impacts the first hour of the Outdoor Market — is for the Spring Concours d’Caffeine. Vintage and classic cars are on display.

So is a Cirrus Vision CF50 jet. It’s very light — but a jet is a jet.

Joining it is an ICON A5 amphibious light sport aircraft.

The Concours runs from 8 to 11 a.m. The Outdoor Market is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. So come for the cars and the jet. Stay for the crafts, music and food.

Who says downtown Westport is dead?

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Among the vehicles on display at the Spring Concours d’Caffeine:

1910 Mercedes Benz 37/90
1911 Simplex 90
1915 Dodge Brothers
2 Indy pace cars (Camaro ’69, Oldsmobile ’70)
Mustang retractable hard top
Mercedes Benz 190SL, 230SL, 280SL
1940 Lincoln Continental convertible
Several Porsche 356s
Several Triumph TR3s and 4s
Ferrari California
Acura NSX
2019 BMW I8.

The Ackleys from Fairfield, with their Dodge Brothers car. They were dressed in costume for a part in a new film, “The Chaperone.”

Remembering Beau James

Beau James — member of a noted Westport family; an avid Downshifter; house manager of the Westport Country Playhouse and a longtime area resident — died April 10 at his Weston home after a brave battle with cancer. He was 75.

Born Hal Wells James in New York City on December 22, 1943, he was later called Beau James, the nickname given to colorful New York mayor Jimmy Walker. It stuck.

Beau was the middle child of Hal and Florence James of Wilton Road, who moved to Westport in 1948.

Beau James, Staples High School Class of 1961.

He graduated from Staples High School in 1961. His activities included the 4-H Club, raising bantam chickens and pigeons, and cars. He loved the  Downshifters, a club devoted to building hot rods and driving safety.

He was also a member of the Staples football team, Staples Players and the Hi-Y Club.

He and a group of friends — the Jolly Jazz-Beaus — frequented the Apollo Theater in Harlem for rhythm ‘n’ blues as often as possible.

Beau spent a gap year before college taking Advanced Placement courses at Staples and working at Kerrigan’s Auto Body Shop.

At Lake Forest College Beau majored in art history and arts management. He was managing director for the Ravinia Festival outside of Chicago, and later became house manager for the Westport Country Playhouse.

He worked as an assistant to his father Hal, co-producer of the original Tony Award-winning musical Man of La Mancha. Beau produced the melodrama The Drunkard off Broadway. He enjoyed a long membership in The Players Club in New York, founded by noted 19th-century Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth.

Beau (center) with his brother Michael, mother  Florence, sister Melody and father Hal.

Beau was enrolled in the first masters program for theater/arts administration at NYU when he was drafted during the Vietnam War. Upon return he married Jane. They moved to Vermont and had 2 daughters. He returned to his childhood love of farming.

In 1978 he moved to New York and entered the toy industry. He was vice president of sales and marketing at International Playthings, a New Jersey distributor of prestigious European toy brands. He later married Caren, and had 2 more children.

Beau’s illustrious career in the toy business spanned 40 years. From 2016 until his death he was managing director of KidSource, a Maryland distribution company offering high-quality European products to specialty retailers in North America.

Beau James

He also distributed Sasha dolls, and worked at Madame Alexander, Goetz (the original manufacturing company of the American Girl doll), and Corolle.

Throughout his career Beau was a proponent of the power of play and the value of the partnership between manufacturers and specialty retailers in bringing high-quality, well-designed and developmentally appropriate playthings to children everywhere.

Shortly before his death, Beau was presented with the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association.

In addition to his father, Beau was mentored by Levon West (one of America’s foremost artists of etching), aka Ivan Dmitri, a pioneer in color photography, and the recognition of photography as an art medium. Beau often credited West with teaching him the importance of presentation and details.

Beau was the consummate host.  Having grown up in a home that always welcomed friends and made room for more, Beau hosted business and family gatherings, as well as many Staples alumni reunions for the classes of 1961, 1962 (his post-grad year), and his brother’s class of 1960.

Beau was renowned for his warmth, hospitality, wit, generosity of spirit, and an ability to listen and forge abiding friendship. He loved people, travel (especially France), museums, theater, architecture and opera.

Beau is survived by his children Jessica and her husband Chris Davenport, and their children of Aspen, Colorado; Ashley James of Brooklyn, and her children; Brooke and Travis James,  both of New York City; his brother Michael of Chicago; his sister Melody of Westport, and numerous nieces and nephews.

A memorial celebration of Beau James’ life will be held this Sunday (May 5, 12:30 p.m.) at the Jane Hotel Ballroom in New York City. For further information, email BrookeLJames@gmail.com. The family requests that no flowers be sent to the service.

Kids’ Scrabble Tournament Sequel: In Other Words…

Turns out that Jeffrey Pogue — the Bedford Middle School 8th grader profiled this morning — is not the only national-level Scrabble competitor. Long Lots 3rd grader Dylan Robbin placed 3rd in the national competition last weekend in Philadelphia, in the elementary school division.

His mother Sara writes:

A year ago, Dylan Robbin learned competitive scrabble was actually a thing. I showed him an “06880” article about Jeffrey Pogue, a Bedford Middle School student, who had just won the highest division of the National Scrabble Tournament.

Dylan, who loved the game of Scrabble, looked on the internet to see the age limit for entering. It was 8 years old. He was just 7. He said, “Next year, I’m going.”

The article mentioned a Scrabble Club at the Ridgefield Library run by Cornelia Guest, who coaches Scrabble champions.

Dylan, who had only played with family members and on the computer, tried the club for the first time this fall.

It was a far drive, and Dylan would get home at bedtime, so I figured I’d try it once.

When we got there we saw a sign-up for the Terror of the Tiles tournament to be held in the library on a Sunday in October. Dylan wanted to enter. I figured this would be an easy way to cross “Scrabble tournament” off my list.

It was Dylan’s first time playing competitive Scrabble, with timers. But he won the elementary school division. Cornelia suggested he enter the North American School Scrabble Tournament in Philadelphia.

I knew this would not be a one time thing.

My husband and I were hesitant to enter the national tournament because of Dylan’s age and lack of experience. He would be playing kids a few years older who were on the competitive Scrabble circuit (yes, there is one). But he begged to go. He loves competitive sports, so playing the board game he loves competitively was right up his alley.

Being new to the club, Dylan did not have a partner. But Stefan Fatsis, the author of Word Freak, called Cornelia, looking for one for a 3rd grader from San Antonio, Ricky Rodriguez.

The boys would never meet or play together live until the night before the competition. They did play online a few times as the tournament got closer, talking on the phone to discuss their best plays.

I heard them from the other room discussing words and where to place them. It sounded like they were speaking a different language.

They chose the name Scrabbleclef for their team, since they both play piano. And their teamwork was like 2 hands on it – one melody, one harmony. The boys had different strengths, but they worked together beautifully.

Dylan Robbin (left), Cornelia Guest and Dylan’s partner Ricky Rodriguez.

They finished the first day 6-0, beating kids from all over the country, often by several hundred points.

The second day, after winning their first game and making the semifinals, they lost in their 8th game. They missed the finals by just 10 points.

Dylan looks forward to competing again next year. And I am so thankful for learning about competitive Scrabble from “06880.”

Who would have thought Dylan’s favorite family game would take us all the way to Philadelphia a year later?

Moms Matter

Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 12.

But you don’t have to wait that long to celebrate Mom — or, more specifically, motherhood and the “MOMents that Mattered.”

WestportMoms — the wonderful, multi-platform resource — sponsors a cocktails-and-conversation event by that name on Tuesday, May 7 (7 p.m., Pearl at Longshore).

Six rock-star local moms —

  • Alisyn Camerota, CNN anchor
  • Stephanie Szostak, star of ABC’s “A Million Little Things”
  • Melissa Bernstein, co-founder of Melissa & Doug
  • Elyse Oleksak, founder of Bantam Bagels
  • Lindsay Czarniak, sports broadcaster
  • Emily Liebert, author

— will share some of the tough choices they’ve made balancing families and careers. And they’ll talk about what makes Westport special to them.

The food is on WestportMoms. There’s also a cash bar.

Attendees are asked to bring a package of diapers, for donation to the Diaper Bank of Connecticut.

It’s all a “celebration of being moms together.”

Save the date. Then book a babysitter.

Or better yet, tell your spouse to feed the kids that day.

(Click here for more information.)

Pic Of The Day #736

Levitt Pavilion and Saugatuck River (Photo/Michael Tomashefsky)

Eva Amurri — And More — At Fashionably Westport

It’s taken a few years.

But now the stars have aligned. And today the Downtown Merchants Association announces its next new community event: Fashionably Westport.

On Thursday, May 16 downtown and Playhouse Square merchants will sponsor a great runway show in Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s Branson Hall. Entertainment includes DJ/Joyride spin instructor Mo Prestor, and comedian Leah Bonnema.

All models are local, including 2nd Selectman Jennifer Tooker, 3rd Selectman Melissa Kane, TV host/author/realtor Mar Jennings, and several kids.

The next day — Friday, May 17 — is filled with storewide happenings and promotions, including pop-ups, trunk shows and giveaways.

Over 30 downtown retailers and salons have signed on so far.

So has Eva Amurri Martino. The very popular lifetstyle influencer (and “Happily Eva After” blogger) hosts and emcees the fashion show.

Eva Amurri Martino

She’s an inspired choice. She, her husband Kyle Martino and their 2 young kids have just moved downtown. Part of the reason they bought where they did was the chance to renovate a beautiful, historic home.

Eva epitomizes the WDMA’s mission: finding ways to enhance and stimulate downtown.

She says, “As a mom raising my kids in downtown Westport — and a blogger who loves all things fashion AND party — I am thrilled to be participating in Fashionably Westport to support WDMA, the local merchants, and Project Return. I hope everyone comes out to party with us!”

“We’ve wanted an event like this for a while — something downtown that’s focused on and produced with the support of our merchants, that enhances the community and draws people in,” adds WDMA marketing and membershiip director Colleen Wiedmann.

The non-profit has sponsored several well-attended events already, like the Fine Arts Festival and Westoberfest.

Which is why a business like The Grapevine — the new liquor store in the old Crossroads Ace Hardware space — asked to be part of Fashionably Westport even before they opened officially earlier this month.

And it’s why Garelick & Herbs — neither of whose 2 Westport locations are downtown — is donating catering services.

Speaking of donating: The Downtown Merchants Association is giving part of their proceeds — including a raffle — to Project Return, the Homes with Hope program serving young homeless women.

It’s become fashionable lately to knock downtown Westport. Next month, Fashionably Westport will strut its very cool stuff.

(Click here for tickets to the May 16 fashion show, and for more information on   all of Fashionably Westport — including participating merchants.)

 

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