Category Archives: Entertainment

Roundup: Super Bowl Raffle, End Of The World, More

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Each year, hundreds of Westporters enjoy Westport Rotary’s Duck Race and Wine Tasting events. Their support enables the organization to support worthy causes here and abroad.

Both events are COVID-canceled. Yet charities need help more than ever. Fortunately, the Rotarians have a plan.

Their new fundraiser is The Great Rotary Raffle: Super Bowl Edition.

Tickets are $50 each. On February 5 — 2 days before the game — each ticket will be assigned a randomly selected pair of numbers.

Winners will be determined by the scores at the end of each quarter. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarter winners each get a $500 Visa gift card. The winner of the final score snags a $1,000 card.

50% of all ticket sales go to those prizes. The other half goes directly to charities.

Click here to buy raffle tickets.

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At Staples, 2015 grad Rachel Treisman wrote for the school paper Inklings. In college, she became editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News.

Now Rachel writes for NPR.

Yesterday, she wrote an important, comprehensive piece. Headlined “The Vaccine Rollout Will Take Time. Here’s What The U.S. Can Do Now To Save Lives,” it covers governmental, private and personal responses to the pandemic. Click here for the story.

Rachel Treisman

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There are 72 films at Sundance 2021. According to IndieWire, 15 are “Must-See,” and can be streamed at home.

Among them: “How it Ends.” Written, directed and produced by 2002 Staples High School graduate Daryl Wein and his “partner in work and love” Zoe Lister-Jones, it is “a star-packed comedic rumination on nothing less than the end of the world.”

“Timely, no?” IndieWire adds.

The film stars Olivia Wilde, Fred Armisen, Helen Hunt, Lamorne Morris and Cailee Spaeny.

Daryl Wein

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Don O’Day’s work as chair of the Coleytown Middle School Reopening Committee ended this month. The new school looks beautiful.

As one of his last acts, he hired a new security guard.

(Meme courtesy of Don O’Day)

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And finally … Jimmie Rodgers, the pop/country singer known for “Honeycomb” and other 1950s hits — died Monday in California. He was 87.

Roundup: Theater, Sports, Bernie, More

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Good theater is hard to find right now.

But a pair of Staples High School graduates are collaborating on an intriguing work, available from the comfort of your home. And it was filmed right in Westport.

Class of 2016 graduate Adam Riegler is directing a virtual play. “Albert Names Edward” by Louis Nowra is a taped theatrical production about 2 men who meet unexpectedly. One has no memory; the other is at the peak of his philosophical musings. Albert teaches Edward about the world he has forgotten, and introduces him to new ways of thinking that Edward does not always accept.

The company of recent graduates of Dartmouth College includes Max Samuels (Staples Class of 2011). They rehearsed on Zoom before getting tested for COVID. They took all precautions as they to met to film the show here.

The budget was low. Riegler built a camera dolly out of medical equipment from his father’s office. But the quality is high.

Riegler is finishing the footage now, with an original score.

“Albert Names Edward” will be available on demand on January 29 and 30, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are free, but should be reserved ahead of time (click here). 

Max Samuels (right) in “Albert Names Edward.”

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Last month, the Hackett family collected new and gently used sports equipment for a group called Leveling the Playing Field.

This was not just a bin-ful. Westporters donated enough cleats, hockey and lacrosse sticks, bats, skates, footballs and softball gloves to fill a truck. It’s all been delivered to youngsters who want to play, but could not afford to.

The Hacketts thank The Granola Bar, WestportMoms (and “06880”) for getting the word out — and to everyone who contributed.

Play ball!

hloe Hackett (organizer) and Max Levitt (founder of Leveling the Playjng Field), Chloe Hackett and Marley, the Hacketts’ rescue dog.

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Patricia Wettach — a 50-year resident of Westport — died peacefully at home on Wednesday. She was 97 years old.

The Pennsylvania native and World War II Navy WAVES veteran met her future husband, Bob, in the service. She graduated from Carnegie Mellon University, and they married in 1951.

In 1971 GE transferred Bob to New York from Cincinnati. Patricia lived in that house ever since.

Gracious and warm, she built strong, loving friendships everywhere. She welcomed everyone to her home, and fed them well. She enjoyed bridge, book and gourmet clubs, and was a longtime member of the Westport Woman’s Club, St. Luke New Horizon Society, Delta Gamma of Fairfield County Alumnae, and Food and Friends. Patricia also volunteered with Fairfield County Hospice, and was a liturgical minister at St. Luke Church.

She traveled internationally with friends and family, but her favorite destination was the Wettach cottage in Vermilion, Ohio, overlooking Lake Erie. She spent many hours on the front porch reading, talking and enjoying the view.

Patricia is survived by her children Mary Ann Roehm (Edward), Jane (Paul Baldasare Jr.) and Robert III (Gayle); 6 grandchildren; 2 great-grandchildren; sister Mary Werbaneth; stepbrother Colman Studeny, and 6 nephews.

She was predeceased 27 years ago by her husband Bob, whom she missed intensely.

As she approached her 90s Patricia was joined by Inga Durante, an aide whose tender care allowed her to stay at home until she died. Patricia’s family is deeply indebted to Inga for her service.

In lieu of flowers, Patricia asked that donations be made to Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County (22 Danbury Road, Wilton, CT 06897). Click here to leave online condolences.

Patricia Wettach

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Cohl Katz is a hair stylist and makeup artist to the stars.

Her clients literally span A (Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin) to Z (Zelda Williams) — with everyone from Jodie Foster, Tracy Morgan, Al Hanks and Bill Clinton thrown in.

But on Wednesday, Cohl — who counts many Westporters among her devoted fans — had one of her most demanding clients ever.

Look familiar?

And after that, Bernie headed off to Compo Beach …

(Posted by Todd Zegras to Facebook)

(Courtesy of Mary Lou Roels)

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And finally … today is January 23. In other words, 1/23. So …

 

Roundup: Inauguration, Staples Sports, Restaurant News, More

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Tuesday night’s COVID remembrance at the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool will be remembered for its somber, stunning 400 lights. Each represents 1,000 Americans killed by the coronavirus.

Staples High School 2009 graduate Andrew Lott — a former Staples Players lighting director — played a major role in the event. He also helped light last night’s Biden/Harris inauguration show, featuring musical performances, fireworks, and tributes to Americans affected by the pandemic.

Lott — a University of Michigan alumnus — has worked with the Spoleto and Williamstown Theatre Festivals, Public Theatre, Shakespeare in the Park and Lincoln Center.

He spent 2 years as lighting director for “CNN Tonight.” He now works nationally on a wide variety of events.

Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and their spouses admire 400 lights, at the Lincoln Center reflecting pool.

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Meanwhile, there were no protests — in Washington, state capitals or Westport — yesterday, as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as America’s new leaders.

But Westporters Rex Fowler and Dodie Pettit — aka Aztec Two-Step — headed to the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge to celebrate.

A few people asked why Fowler was wearing a red hat.

“We are All Americans today,” Pettit explained. “We didn’t think about the color when we went out of the house. Maybe that’s the point!”

Rex Fowler, with flag. (Photo/Dodie Pettit)

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Last Sunday, author Layla F. Saad honored Martin Luther King Day with a  compelling discussion based on her book, “Me and White Supremacy.”

Two days later a panel of local leaders explored how to undertake Saad’s self-guided 28-day process of self-reflection.

It was an important talk. If you missed it — or want to see it again — click below.

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Winter sports practices have begun at Staples High School.

The usual date is around Thanksgiving. The pandemic delayed the start nearly 2 months; the first competition will now be in early February.

For the boys basketball team (shown below), along with girls basketball; boys and girls indoor track, ice hockey and skiing, and boys swimming and diving, it was one small step toward normalcy — though masks are required at all times, and spectators are not allowed.

Wrestling and competitive cheer are still prohibited.

(Photo/Dylan Goodman)

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I got a nice surprise this week with my takeout (fantastic lamb dan dan) from Kawa Ni.

The Japanese/pan-Asian restaurant has partnered with 2 others also owned by Bill Taibe — Don Memo and The Whelk — in a game. Every time you order from one, you get a letter (mine was “E”). When you have enough to spell out the name of one of those restaurants, you can post it to social media (with a tag) and win prizes (a family meal for 4, takeout up to $75, or a cocktail to go).

There are instant prizes too: guac and chips, fried oyster deviled eggs and crab rangoon.

It’s great food fun. And a lot better than a toy with a Happy Meal.

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Noted chef Matthew Redington died unexpectedly earlier this month in New York. He was 40 years old.

The Westport native learned his craft at Acqua restaurant on Main Street under Christian Bertrand, formerly of Lutèce. Matt graduated from New England Culinary Institute where at age 19 he was the youngest person offered a spot in the Advanced Placement Program.

Matt and went on to top chef positions at Jean-George Vongerichten’s Spice Market in New York, Clio in Boston and Tengda in Greenwich (a co-creation of his). At Paul Newman’s The Dressing Room next to the Westport Country Playhouse, he helped Michel Nischan create the groundbreaking farm-to-table menu.

Most recently Matt ran a consultancy, creating culinary themes, concepts and menus for new and re-launched restaurants in New York and Connecticut.

Matt also enjoyed yoga, snowboarding, and innovative art and graphics.

He is survived by his father Thomas of Colebrook; sister Jessica Redington-Jones of Taylors, South Carolina; 3 nieces, 7 aunts, 6 uncles and numerous cousins.

A memorial celebration of Matt’s life will be held at a later date. Donations may be made to the New England Culinary Institute Scholarship Fund, 7 School Street, Montpelier, VT 05602. To leave online condolences, click here.

Matthew Redington

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And finally … Happy 71st birthday to Billy Ocean!

 

Friday Flashback #227

Gatsby in Connecticut” is garnering plenty of attention. The New Yorker called the film about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Westport sojourn “one of the best of 2020.” Thanks to Amazon Prime, plenty of folks have seen — and enjoyed — it.

F. Scott and Zelda arrived here in the early days of Prohibition. From all indications, Westporters paid about as much attention to the booze ban as my generation did to weed laws.

Apparently, our town had a long history with drink. Seth Schachter found this postcard from 1912. Liquor was legal. But it looks like Westport went way beyond a drink or two.

And no, this is not just any “West Port.” The message on the other side is postmarked here.

Roundup: Dan Sklar’s Sh*tshow, Young Woman’s League Wine, More

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Dan Sklar is a beloved rabbi, cantor and musician.

Now he’s an author too.

All those identities come together in “Sh*tShow: A Memoir & Mixtape: The Tales of a Reluctant Rabbi.” It’s an insightful, deeply human expression of past and present.

This past year has been challenging for everyone. Sklar was particularly affected. “Reluctant Rabbi” explores how inherited family trauma — and trauma experienced first hand — shape the people we become.

A Spotify playlist of 29 songs that provoke and inspire accompanies the book (you’ll see when and where to play the tracks). Artists include Jimi Hendrix, Paul Simon, Lyle Lovett, Theodore Bikel, the Indigo Girls, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Rascal Flatts — and Sklar himself.

Click here for the paperback. Click here for the Kindle edition. Click here for the Spotify playlist.

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It’s called “Galentine’s: Wine Night and Bingo Fundraiser.” It’s sponsored by the Westport Young Woman’s League.

But you don’t have to be a woman to participate in this virtual event. All are welcome!

“Galentine’s” (February 4, 7:30 p.m., Zoom) raises funds for local charities. Last year, the WYWL handed out $90,000 to organizations that end hunger, and promote education and health.

The League has partnered with the female-owned vineyard Aquila’s Nest. The $65 ticket price includes 2 bottles of wine, bingo spot and fun surprises. Click here to purchase a ticket, and for more information.

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And finally … happy 53rd birthday to rapper/producer/actor/author/ entrepreneur/Kennedy Center honors winner LL Cool J.

Which, I just found out today, stands for Ladies Love Cool James.

 

Roundup: Y’s Hikers, David Waldman, Amazon’s Gatsby, More


COVID has caused many organizations to move meetings online.

You can’t do that with a hiking club, though. So the Y’s Men group has adapted. They meet in smaller numbers now. They maintain strict social distance — 8 feet, just to be sure. They wear masks when they assemble.

But they still get their exercise. And their miles.

Twice a week, Chris Lewis leads 10 to 15 hikers. He knows all the trails, throughout the county.

Wednesday hikes are 2 hours long. Friday’s are more strenuous, and can take up to 3. Only heavy rain or extremely slippery conditions stop the Y’s Men.

In addition, “walkers” meet nearly every day. They avoid difficult trail conditions.

This may not be the Y’s Men’s motto. But it should be: “COVID? Take a hike!”

(Hat tip: Michael Hehenberger)

A recent hike at Trout Brook Preserve, owned and managed by Aspetuck Land Trust.
Tom Johnson (3rd from left) is a Y’s Men hiker and ALT member. (Photo/Sal Mollica)


Dave Briggs is one of the best interviewers around. He brings out the best in his subjects, in a relaxed, fun and insightful way. His Instagram Live chats are always intriguing.

And I’m not just saying that because I was a recent guest.

Today (Wednesday, January 6, 4 p.m.), he’ll chat with David Waldman. They’ll talk about the commercial realtor’s work developing Bedford Square and the west bank of the Saugatuck River, bringing Barnes & Noble downtown, and much more.

Head to @WestportMagazine on Instagram. You’ll be entertained — and learn a lot.


“Gatsby in Connecticut: The Untold Story” is ready for prime time.

Or at least, Amazon Prime.

The 70-minute movie by Robert Steven Williams — starring Sam Waterston and Keir Dullea, covering F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s formative summer in Westport — is available on the streaming service.

The New Yorker called it one of the best films of 2020. Click here, and judge for yourself. (Hat tip: David Meth)


David Tarqueno died on December 24 at Norwalk Hospital, from complications of COVID-19. He was 61 years old.

His obituary says, “David left behind an incredible number of friends who loved him. His personality was like no other. His presence could light up a room. His smile, his laughter and his humor will remain with every heart he touched.

“David loved fishing — he was out there every fishing season opening day. Nature and animals were an important part of his life. He was devoted to his family and friends. That devotion was selfless, his trust boundless, and love endless.”

The Staples High School graduate is survived by his parents, Joseph and Marianne Tarqueno; sister Lisa Tarqueno-Crawford; brother Peter Tarqueno, and his beloved dog Harry.

David Tarqueno


And finally … today, the Electoral College meets. Will Vice President Pence do what Joe Biden did as vice president 4 years ago (and Al Gore, George H.W. Bush and many others before him), affirming the legitimate winner of the election 2 months earlier?

Or will American democracy be launched into a parallel universe, one in which lunacy rules and losers’ temper tantrums make us the laughingstock of the world?

Fingers crossed!

Roundup: Downtown Merchants, Let It Be, More

Just in time for the new (shopping) year: the Westport Downtown Merchants Association updated their “Merchants” page.

Dozens of downtown stores and restaurants now have a photo of the exterior, a short description, and links to their websites — all searchable, of course. Click here to see.

Savannah Bee and other Church Lane merchants are featured on the Westport Downtown Merchants Association website.


For a Covid-time project, the Gerards of Westport decided to teach their 11- and 8-year-old children to build a song.

They chose “Let It Be.” It’s a great tune for times of trouble — or any time.

The Gerards then filmed the process, at various sites in Westport. Take a peek:


And finally … Phyllis McGuire, the last surviving member of the McGuire Sisters, died this week in Las Vegas. She was 89.

The trio “bewitched teenage America in the 1950s with chart-topping renditions of ‘Sincerely’ and ‘Sugartime,’ in a sweet, innocent harmony that went with car fins, charm bracelets and duck-tail haircuts,” the New York Times said.

It added, “The McGuire Sisters were one of the many white groups that covered 1950s R&B hits, many by Black artists, in what critics called blander versions though better-selling ones.”

Roundup: Lucille Ball, Norwalk Youth Symphony, More

Happy New Year. Congratulations to us all. We made it out of 2020.

There’s no looking back now!


Every new year brings hope — and a fresh start — to Westport.

That’s the same thing Lucy Ricardo and her friend Ethel Mertz wanted 60 years ago. “I Love Lucy”‘s stars had just moved to the country.

And this is what the country saw, on the top-rated comedy show:

I’d heard about the photo, and searched all month for it — to no avail.

Providentially, late yesterday, Wendy May emailed me. She figured I already had it, but figured what the heck.

Amazing! 2021 is already starting out on the right foot.


Over 30 Westport 4th through 12th graders perform with the Norwalk Youth Symphony. They did not miss a beat this fall. Despite the pandemic, the 65-year-old institution added chamber music ensembles, master classes and lessons in music theory, to its regular program of 5 orchestras.

This month, the NYS offers new seminars for high school students and adults. Topics include “Women and the American Sound,” “The Roaring Harlem Renaissance,” “1,000 Years of Music in 60 Minutes,” and “Alma Mahler and Her Times.”

Ahead: a seminar for parents on motivating young musicians.

Young musicians now play remotely from their homes in sections by instrument. It’s different — but they and their instructors have risen to the challenge.

For more information on Norwalk Youth Symphony click here, call 203-866-4100, or email nysed@optonline.net.


And finally … “Do You Love Me” like you’ve never heard it before!

 

Missyfit’s 2020 Hissy Fit

The last time “06880” caught up with Mia Gentile, the former Staples Players and “Kinky Boots” Broadway star had just released a stunning, Black Lives Matter-inspired version of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?

She and collaborator musician/video producer Roger Klug called themselves MISSYFIT.

“06880” loves Mia. Previous stories covered the 2007 Staples/2011 Cincinnati Conservatory of Music grad’s clever, multi-genre interpretations of the Stanley Steemer jingle, and her many stage roles back in the days when live theater was a thing.

Which brings us to her latest project.

Once again, Mia and Roger have worked together — though hundreds of miles apart — on a new take of an old classic.

Or in this case, 2 classics.

“It was cathartic for us to ring out 2020 with some punk rock angst,” she says.

They mashed up the Ramones’ “Glad to See You Go” and “I Wanna Be Sedated.” The latter song is particularly apt — you know, “20, 20, 20, 4 hours to go…”

It’s a quick leap to 2020 — the year we can’t wait to bid adieu.

So, with just about 9 hours to go … take it away, Mia and Roger!

Roundup: Twilight Zone, Top Restaurants, More


One of my favorite New Year’s traditions is the SyFy channel’s “Twilight Zone” marathon.

It airs December 31 and January 1 — one great, thought-provoking, stand-the-test-of-time episode after another.

Rod Serling began writing and introducing his stories while he lived in Westport — right down the street from my family, in fact, on High Point Road.

Some were influenced by this suburban, post-war town. And “A Stop at Willoughby” — with a train conductor calling out to a time traveler, “Next stop: Westport!” — is on tomorrow (Thursday, December 31) at 9:20 p.m. Click here for the full schedule.


Congratulations to The Cottage and Kawa Ni — and their owners, Brian Lewis and Bill Taibe respectively. Both are included in Connecticut Magazine’s list of the Top 15 restaurants in the state.

That means our town includes more than 13% of all the best restaurants!


Did you miss last night’s full Full Cold Moon?

Wendy Crowther sure didn’t.

(Photo/Wendy Crowther)


And finally … influential bluegrass and new acoustic singer/guitarist Tony Rice died Saturday in North Carolina. He was 69.