Category Archives: Entertainment

COVID-19 Roundup: Winslow Park Rules; Virtual Bingo Helps Non-Profits; Keep Your Distance!; Restaurant, Retail News; More

As of yesterday, there were 89 positive cases of COVID-19 in Westport — the smallest daily increase here since the spread was first reported. Norwalk has passed Westport for the most cases in Connecticut (105).

Social distancing appears to be working. Governor Lamont emphasized that again, restricting all social and recreational gatherings to no more than 5 people.

The Parks and Recreation Department institutes these rules at Winslow Park:

  • No off leash areas. All dogs must be kept on leash.
  • Pets must be kept close to the handler.
  • The 6-foot physical distancing protocol is to be followed for people and pets. 

These protocols should be followed everywhere in town, including Longshore. Park.


Reader Stan Witkow reports that a group of Westporters has started a virtual bingo night every Thursday. The winner chooses a non-profit to get the buy-in pot. This week’s beneficiary is Westport EMS.

Over 20 people played last week, from as far as Florida and California. Most met 20 years ago at New Neighbors, Temple Israel and parents’ night at Bedford Middle School.

Even more signed up for this Thursday. Bingo!


A reader writes:

My wife and I walk on our sidewalks and roads. We’re mindful of the 6-foot distancing recommendation, so we’re distressed to encounter people who seem oblivious or apathetic. Young folks seem most careless, though some are mindful. Some older folks are careless too.

Yesterday, a young man running and breathing heavily came up from behind and nearly brushed my shoulder. That single encounter could easily have spread the virus. Unfortunately it was not our only close call.

A reminder: The virus is in the community. We all must avoid spreading it.

Be careful out there!


Nefaire, JoyRide and Haus of Pretty have teamed up on a “self-care bundle.” It  includes a facial, cycling class and blowout.

15% of proceeds go to retail employees across the 3 businesses: estheticians, therapists, cycling instructors, front desk hourly staff and hair stylists.

The bundle can be purchased at www.westportisstrong.com.


In restaurant news, Bartaco is donating 100% of all gift card sales to an employee fund.

And although Bobby Q’s moved from Westport to Norwalk, its heart is still here. They always contribute generously to town causes, like Christ & Holy Trinity Preschool. A reminder: Their smoker is open now, with curbside and delivery service.


Last month, “06880” profiled Ben Saxon. The bright, creative Staples High School 9th grader had just launched a math, robotics and coding tutoring service  for 6- to 14-year-olds.

Schools closed, but Ben hasn’t. He now offers weekly LEGO building, Kano Star Wars programming and Makeblock robotics courses, for 2-3 students each. They’re 1 hour a day, 5 days long, starting on Mondays, all via Zoom Video Conferencing. For details, click here.


The Berniker family has had a tough time during this crisis. Jen is now recovered from a bout with COVID-19. Her husband Eric is at home after an encouraging chest X-ray.

The other day, Jen Berniker interviewed her 6-year-old son Max about the ups and downs of family isolation.

That’s today’s Persona interview (below). Download the Persona mobile app to share your own stories, by interviewing family members and answering questions we’ll be sending around. Tag “6880 Dan Woog” in the interviewee field.


Finally, this has absolutely nothing to do with COVID-19. But it has everything to do with the idea that everything we do matters. Bruce Springsteen took a chance and invited a kid onstage. Look what happened next. So cool!

 

Remembering Richard Marek

Longtime Old Mill resident Richard Marek died yesterday of esophageal cancer. His wife, Dalma Heyn, children Alexander Marek and Elizabeth Marek Litt, and 4 grandchildren were by his side.

Richard Marek and Dalma Heyn (Photo/Pam Barkentin)

During his half-century in book publishing he published the final works of James Baldwin; The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris; the first 9 books of fellow Westporter Robert Ludlum, and many other bestsellers.

Marek began his publishing career at Macmillan, refurbishing its backlist, but soon moved to acquiring original titles and to another house, World Publishing. There he edited Ludlum’s first thriller, The Scarlatti Inheritance, which sold to Dell paperbacks for the highest price ever paid at the time for a first novel.

He was quickly hired as editor-in-chief of the Dial Press by publisher Helen Meyer. “I turned down The Scarlatti Inheritance when I first read it in manuscript,” she said, “but wound up paying $155,000 for the paperback rights. I figured I’d better hire its editor, too.”

At Dial Marek, working with his lifelong colleague editor, Joyce Engelson (“The hottest Platonic relationship in publishing,” a friend called it), published 4 bestsellers in 1974. Among them was James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk.

His relationship with Baldwin began disastrously. On Marek’s first day at Dial, Meyer told him that Baldwin had signed an unauthorized contract with a different publisher. It was Marek’s job, she said, to make sure that no Baldwin book would be published by any house but Dial.

Baldwin was living at his home in St. Paul de Vence, France. Marek wrote him every day for months. He never replied.

Marek was sent to track down the author in person, first in Paris where Baldwin never showed, and then to the Negresco Hotel in Nice, where he did — flanked by a lawyer, an agent and a lover.

“This nigger ain’t never goin’ to pick another bale of cotton on Helen Meyer’s plantation,” he announced. A drag-out fight ensued, and the two men fled to the hotel restaurant.

There, oiled by several bottles of wine, they became friends. At the end of the night Baldwin handed Marek some words scribbled on a napkin, guaranteeing him free passage from New York City on the day the Revolution took over. Meyer got her author back, and Marek and Baldwin remained friends the rest of their lives.

Impatient with the stodgy ways of publishing, Marek took chances. On receiving the first novel brought in by Joyce Engelson about 4 doctors going through their residencies at a mythical hospital called, as was the book, The House of God.

Marek’s sales manager at Dial said it was so bad, he’d have to give it away.

“Terrific idea!” Marek said, and did the unthinkable. He printed 10,000 copies with their jackets stamped so they couldn’t be returned, and gave them away to booksellers. In exchange, they had to agree to display the book in their front windows.

The industry was aghast. Marek was accused of trying to bankrupt Dial. But the promotion cost far less than a full-page ad in The New York Times, and people began to rave about the book. It sold to paperback and, while Marek promised not to try such a stunt again, the book has now sold over 2.5 million copies.

Marek was a novelist himself. His 1987 Works of Genius concerns the psychological takeover of his literary agent by a great (and narcissistic) modern writer. Readers suspected the writer character was based on Ludlum, but Marek denied any such association.

Marek was born on June 14, 1933. He married Margot Ravage in 1956, and had 2 children, Elizabeth and Alexander. Four years after the death of his wife in 1987, Marek married author Dalma Heyn. They maintained joint offices in their Westport home. Together they wrote How to Fall in Love: A Novel, which was published last year.

“Love is more important than anything else in this world,” Marek said shortly before he died. “If you’re lucky enough to have it — and write about it — you will have a happy life.”

(Hat tip: Pam Barkentin)

COVID-19 Roundup: Longshore Golf Course; Paul Newman; Jon Gailmor; Food, Art, And More

1st Selectman Jim Marpe and Parks & Recreation director Jen Fava confirm that the Longshore golf course fairways, rough and cart paths are open to walkers. The greens are not open, and of course the course is closed to play.

Oh, yeah: It’s closed to dogs too.

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)


Can’t get to the Westport Country Playhouse? Missing Paul Newman?

In 2002, our town’s hero appeared on stage — as the stage manager — in Thornton Wilder’s classic “Our Town.”

It was one of the most memorable performances on that venerable stage. And now you can watch it all, through the magic of YouTube. Click below — and thank your lucky “stars.”


Speaking of stars, Jon Gailmor shined brightly — and sang beautifully — even before graduating from Staples High School in 1966.

Decades later, “Peaceable Kingdom” — his Polydor album with classmate Rob Carlson — remains one of my favorites ever. (You’ve got time on your hands. Click here and here for 2 of the greatest tracks.)

Gailmor then moved to Vermont. He runs music-writing workshops in schools, writes and performs all over, and has been named an official “state treasure.”

Ever the social commentator, he’s taken his guitar and pen to the coronavirus. “What We Have Found” (“This is 2020 from a distance”) is all too true, and very poignant.

There’s not a lot to enjoy about COVID-19. This, though, is one of them:


They’re located just a few yards over the border, in Southport. So Garelick & Herbs did not make the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce’s great list of markets open for takeout and delivery.

However, their many local customers will be glad to know that G&H offers curbside pick up and home delivery, via phone (203-254-3727) or online (click here).


Trader Joe’s is limiting the number of customers in the store at a time. Mornings are the most crowded, but the line moves quickly. This was the scene this morning, as shoppers lined up (properly socially distanced) beyond Jersey Mike’s.

(Photo/Tom Cook)

At 12:30 there was no line. When I left 15 minutes later, 2 people waited outside.


Reader Adam Murphy writes about this generous act: “When the owner of The Simple Greek in Norwalk (its really close to Westport!) found out that a recent catering order was for the Gillespie Center, he voluntarily doubled the amount of food. ‘I want to make sure everyone has enough,’ he said. In times that must have him worrying about his business surviving, he still has generosity for others. Great food and great people!”


Westporter Steve Parton reminds readers that — with galleries closed, and self-isolating the new normal — our neighbors who make their living from art and art lessons are having a tough time.

“We would all like to make a sale if possible,” he says. “Everything must go! No reasonable offer refused!”

Check out his website — and those of any other local artists you like. As you look at your walls (what else is there to look at?!), now is the perfect time to buy new works!

“Compo Beach,” by Steven Parton

Very Important Message From The Police

Click here to view.

COVID-19 Roundup: Virtual Dance Party Tonight; Face Mask Collection; Business News; How To Help; Staples Rocks; The Ospreys (!) And More

Joe Agostino, an enthusiastic participant in the STAR program for people with disabilities, is a budding DJ. Tonight (Saturday, March 21. 6:30 to 7 p.m.) he’s hosting a Facebook Live Virtual Dance Party, in celebration of World Down Syndrome Day. Go to Facebook; search for @djjoegetdown — then get down!


Need a delivery of food? Medications? Toilet paper (the holy grail)?

Cup of Sugar can help. Its mission is simple: make deliveries for those who need them.

It’s simple — just click here, then click “Request a Delivery.” I’m not sure who is behind this, but for many people it could be a literal life saver.


She la la in Playhouse Square is closed. But the popular store placed a box by the front door. They’re collecting N95 masks, face shields, wipes and sanitizers for health professionals and first responders. If you’ve got some to spare — give generously!


With shipments coming in to Compo Farm this week and next, “06880” reader Peter Huggins says, “It would be great if people order flowers for delivery both to help a local business survive, and make their homes a little happier in these troubling times.”


Stacey Henske is helping ease isolation, loneliness, fear and anxiety among seniors. Kids, teenagers, adults — anyone — can write poetry, letters, short stories, essays, cards, illustrations or anything else that can be slipped under a door.

They can be dropped in a bin by the front door at 10 Poplar Plains Road, off Wilton Road. If you can’t leave the house, email staceyhenske@gmail.com; she’ll arrange for pickup. PS: Please don’t lick any envelopes!


Logan Goodman is a Bedford Middle School 8th grader with a great business customizing sneakers. Some designs are her own; others are based on famous artists’ works.

With time on her hands, she’s eager for work. Check out her Instagram (@lacedbylogan), then DM her for details.


The UPS store at 606 Post Road East next to Dunkin Donuts is considered an “essential business.” It remains open, offering printing, scanning, faxing and notary. For anyone working from home, those services can be truly essential.


Starbucks may or may not be an “essential business.” But dozens of Westporters believe it is.

They’ve voted with their feet — well, their tires. This was the scene on the Post Road at 10:45 this morning.

Gotta have that quad long shot grande in a venti cup half calf double cupped no sleeve salted caramel mocha latte with 2 pumps of vanilla substitute 2 pumps of white chocolate mocha for mocha and substitute 2 pumps of hazelnut for  toffee nut half whole milk and half breve with no whipped cream extra hot extra foam extra caramel drizzle extra salt add a scoop of vanilla bean powder with light ice  — well stirred!

(Photo/John McKinney)


Not long ago, Westporter James Mapes created a 2-disk toolkit, all about helping users manage stress.

In these stressful times, he’s giving away the download to the first 20 healthcare workers who email him (jjm195@aol.com). Include your affiliation, please. For more info, click here.


Remember all those stories you’ve heard about the bands that played at Staples High School: the Doors, Cream, Sly & the Family Stone, Animals, Rascals and Yardbirds?

Remember the 2017 documentary produced by Staples grad Fred Cantor, and directed by another alum, Casey Denton? Remember how mad you were that you missed its showings in Westport?

Now — thanks to Cantor and Denton, and their desire to bring a bit of rock joy into socially isolated America — you can relive (or learn about) those amazing days.

They’ve made it available — free — on YouTube. Just click below.

And even if you’re quarantined in your room, start dancing.


Running out of things to do? Board games are great — and right around the corner.

Looking for educational toys for your schooling-in-place child? They’re right around the corner too.

Amazing Toys in Compo Shopping Center offers curbside service. So does Age of Reason on Post Road West — and they deliver (within reason). Just call ahead!


Hank May’s Tire & Auto Centers offer curbside drop-off and pick up. Call ahead to be checked in by phone. Cars can also be dropped off before or after hours. Leave keys and information in the night drop box; they’ll call back.


This has absolutely nothing to with the coronavirus, other than raising everyone’s spirits when we need it most.

Alert “06880” reader Lynn Wilson reports that the ospreys are back at Fresh Market!

The 2019 ospreys. (Photo/Carolyn McPhee)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, From “06880”

(Copyright John Cole/Scranton Times-Tribune)

Winslow Animal Hospital, Post Road East (Photo/Ed Simek)

And thanks to Suzanne Sherman Propp — the Greens Farms Elementary  School teacher whose “Sing Daily!” inspires us each morning — for posting this one today.

It’s lovely, lively Irish music. And a poignant reminder of how brutally the world has changed.

Unsung Heroes #137

Alert “06880” reader Amy Herrera writes:

My family and I moved to the area a little over a year ago. We came to town after Coleytown had merged into Bedford.

The town was in a bit of an uproar. Some of our first interactions with neighbors were invitations to sign petitions or accompany them to meetings to speak out against the combined schools.

We respectfully declined the invitations. We were grateful the town had a facility that could absorb the Coleytown students, and honestly, our 7th grader was having an amazingly seamless transition despite the crowded hallways.

Although we were sensitive to other people’s concerns, in the grand scheme of things we really didn’t feel like we had anything to complain about.

Since then, our children’s experiences in the Westport schools have continued to be positive, but the angst swirling around education has certainly not subsided. Between redistricting/split feeder scenarios. budget cuts and the uncertainty surrounding the reopening of Coleytown, residents have not been at a loss for things to complain about.

In the midst of all of it I have witnessed something kind of remarkable.

Rehearsing for “Matilda the Musical.”

My middle son, now in 8th grade, has become very involved in the theater program at Bedford. This year, rather than keeping the 2 school populations separate, they combined all of the resources and created a single student body.

This has been a tremendous benefit to the arts, in my opinion. I think of the combined theater program at Bedford as the “something beautiful” that grew out of the chaos of the past year and a half.

The program that resulted from the collaborative efforts of the Coleytown and Bedford educators is worth talking about. Instead of being overwhelmed by the combined population, they took it as an opportunity to further develop their programs and provide an even more enriching theater arts experience.

They created a tech program that is thriving and enabling students to become skilled in all aspects of production, while supporting an ambitious year of performances across the 3 grades. They even created student directing experiences for 8th graders in support of the 6th grade spring production.

Learning the tools of the theater trade.

The Bedford Theater Company, which is co-led this year by Karen McCormick and Ben Frimmer, with help from Alicia D’Anna, is currently rehearsing for Roald Dahl’s “Matilda the Musical.” There will be 4 performances the weekend of March 27.

Mr. Frimmer assembled an all-star production team of working professionals to help him bring this quirky piece of literature to life. Matilda is the only offering this year that included all 3 grades. If Coleytown reopens on schedule it will be the only time this ever happens.

“Matilda” creates an opportunity to highlight what is possible when a community comes together and makes the most of a situation. The students. educators and professionals have taken this tumultuous moment in Westport’s time and turned it into something to celebrate.

“Matilda the Musical” will be performed at Bedford Middle School the weekend of March 27. (Photos/January Stewart)

“Matilda” is a great example of how the Coleytown crisis actually served to enrich the middle school student experience in Westport. It is fitting that one of the overarching themes of “Matilda” is the idea of standing up in the face of adversity.

Thanks, Amy. You nailed it. This week’s Unsung Heroes are everyone who makes this production of “Matilda the Musical” possible. Click here for tickets and more information. To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net. 

Emma Charles’ “Connecticut”: A Musical And Video Homage

Texas has its “yellow rose.” Georgia was on Ray Charles’ mind; Gladys Knight took a midnight train there, and Brook Benton sang about a rainy night.

There are too many California songs to count: “Girls,” “Dreamin’,” “Hotel” — you name it.

But Connecticut?

A quick Google search shows one from 1945, by Judy Garland and Bing Crosby. There’s “Kylie from Connecticut” by Ben Folds, and a couple of others — including (I’m not kidding) “Connecticut’s For F*cking,” by Jesus H Christ and the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

I haven’t heard of any of them.

Hopefully, all of us — in 06880, 90210 and everywhere in between — will soon hear “Connecticut,” by Emma Charles.

It may be the tune that puts us on the musical map.

Emma is certainly on the fast track. The 2015 Staples High School graduate — known then as Emma Ruchefsky — went on to the prestigious Berklee College of Music. She concentrated on performance and songwriting, and studied with Livingston Taylor.

Her first professional gig, as a sophomore, was at Rockwood Music Hall.

After graduating, Emma (whose professional last name, Charles, comes from her mother, Rondi Charleston — she’s a professional singer too) relocated to Los Angeles. She’s recorded and toured nationally. Billboard named her a Best Emerging Artist of 2020.

That initial trip to LA was the impetus for “Connecticut” — the song, the EP of the same name, and the video.

Emma wrote the title tune after a 2-week road trip from Westport west. She took the southern route, and called it “amazing.”

Along the way — and then in California — Emma reflected on her lifetime in the Nutmeg State, and the people she grew up with here. “Connecticut” flowed easily.

The video, meanwhile, began this past Christmas. Home for the holidays, Emma and her parents watched old home videos.

She also toured the town with former Staples classmate Sarah Quagliariello. They videotaped favorite sites.

Emma and her creative director, Msrina Piche, spliced together those old and new tapes, plus footage from Emma’s road trip to create the video.

It’s an allegory for transitioning from the familiar to the unfamiliar, the comfortable to the unknown. She grew up quite happily here, but is eager now for whatever comes next.

Viewers love the video, with its “old-timey” format.

“They say it’s organic — not curated or perfect,” Emma explains. “They like that it’s raw. They see a lot of me in it.”

Four more songs from the “Connecticut” EP rolls out soon. In May and June Emma heads off on a 12-city tour, opening for a band called Shell. The last date is at Joe’s Pub, in New York City.

Many of her Connecticut friends and fans will be there.

No doubt singing along with “Connecticut.”

(For more on Emma Charles — including songs from the “Connecticut” EP — click here.)

COVID-19 Update: Lamont Declares Emergency; Library Cancels Programming; “Seussical” Postponed; State Basketball Tournaments, WIN Canceled

The coronavirus continues to play havoc with Connecticut life.

Gov. Ned Lamont has declared both a public health emergency and a civil preparedness emergency.

The first edict gives the state power over quarantine. The second allows the governor to restrict travel, and close public schools and buildings, among other powers..

Right now, however, Lamont says that decisions about school closings and large gatherings are being made by local government and public health officials.


The Westport Library will postpone or cancel all “in-person programming” through the end of March. Some events may be live-streamed — as was Sunday’s public meeting on the COVID-19 virus.

The Spring Book Sale scheduled for this weekend has also been canceled. The summer book sale will be held July 18 through 21, at a new location: Staples High School.

Right now, the library plans to remain open for patrons, and is “extra vigilant” about cleanliness.

Executive director Bill Harmer encourages users to take advantage of the library’s “extensive downloadable and streaming digital resource, eAudiobooks, eBooks, eMagazines, music, movies, and many other entertaining and educational resources are available to all cardholders.” Click here for links to the digital collection.


Staples Players’ production of “Seussical” — scheduled for a 2-week run, beginning this weekend — has been postponed until April 24 and 25 (matinee and evening shows) and April 26.

Ticket holders will be contacted by the box office within the next few days regarding transitions or exchanges.

“We will work as quickly as we can to respond to patrons, but we ask the public to be patient,” say directors David Roth and Kerry Long.


The actors and tech crew — who have dedicated themselves to the show since December — are not the only Staples students disappointed by the effects of the rapidly spreading virus.

Wrecker basketball players were stunned today to learn that the Connecticut State Interscholastic Athletic Conference canceled the boys and girls state tournaments. (Click here for a video of the announcement.)

Both Staples teams were having their best seasons in decades. Last night, the girls beat Glastonbury to advance to the semifinals. The boys were set to begin their tournament this evening, home against Enfield.

It’s an abrupt ending for both squads.


Meanwhile, the Westport Soccer Association’s WIN tournament — for over 30 years, the kickoff to the spring season — has been canceled too.

The event — which draws over 160 boys and girls teams to indoor and outdoor fields at Staples High and Bedford Middle Schools — is a fundraiser for the Coleman Brother Foundation.

Over the years, it has collected and donated more than $100,000 in scholarships.


The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce — which looks out for the interests of local businesses — has forwarded a CDC document: “Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers/Plan, Prepare and Respond to Coronavirus.” Click here for the link.

“Seussical” Sequel: It’s A Clean Show!

Coronavirus scare got you down? Never fear, there’s a doctor in the house.

Dr. Seuss!

To ease the minds of audiences for the upcoming show — “Seussical: The Musical” — Staples Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long have ensured that all hard surfaces in the high school auditorium will be disinfected between each performance.

Echoing  (and adding to) signs that have already appeared throughout the school, they say: “Keep calm, wash your hands — and come see the show!”

(“Seussical: The Musical” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 13 and 20, and  Saturday, March 14 and 21, with matinees at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 14 and 21, and Sunday, March 15. Characters are available for autographs following each matinee; a small fee will be collected, to help the Curiale School library. For tickets, cast lists and more information, click here.)