Category Archives: Entertainment

Roundup: Sea Kayak; Scream; Piping Plovers; More


When DownUnder went down under last fall, Saugatuck lost a special business. And recreation-seekers lost a Riverside (Avenue and description) site for kayak and paddle board rentals.

The space has been filled. The new tenant is … Sea Kayak Connecticut.

After 10 years in Wilton — using trailers to serve the state launch site across the river under I-95, as well as a state pond — owner David McPherson has moved to the visible and very active spot next to Saugatuck Sweets.

Sea Kayak offers rentals (single and double kayaks, stand up paddle boards); gear; instruction — and tours (Saugatuck River and Westport coast, sunset, full moon, and private outings).

Click here for more information.


This weekend’s Remarkable Theater films — “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Caddyshack” — sold out the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

This Thursday (July 2), the pop-up drive-in shifts from comedy to horror. “Scream” hits the big screen.

Parking begins at 7:45 a.m. The pre-show is on at 8:30; the movie starts at sunset (8:45-ish). Tickets go on sale Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. Click here to purchase, and for more information.

PS: The Remarkable Theater hopes to show 2 more films each week, throughout the summer. That’s contingent on Board of Selectmen approval.


Peter Green reports:

While many residents have enjoyed watching the Compo Beach American oystercatcher chicks grow into juvenile birds, the federally endangered piping plover pair have taken turns sitting on their 3 eggs

Until yesterday! Hatching occurred early in the morning. This is the the first time piping plovers have successfully bred, nested and fledged chicks at Compo Beach.

Visitors should tread carefully. The young chicks — which look like cotton balls with legs — are easy to miss. The tiny birds will forage for food on the beach.

Thanks to the town of Westport for helping Beth Amendola from Audubon Connecticut with this success story.

(Photo/Peter Green)


And finally … Bob Dylan released another album this month. He’s had an astonishing career (and a Nobel Prize to show for it).

But hardly anything compares to this 1963 masterpiece. It’s just as fitting today as 57 years ago — when he sang it with Joan Baez at the memorable August March on Washington, just minutes before Martin Luther King proclaimed “I have a dream …”

There are too many great versions of this song to select just one. So take your pick. Or listen to them all.

 

Movies In Westport: Remarkably, They’re Back

For a parking lot, the Imperial Avenue space is impressively versatile.

Besides a spot for commuters (remember them?) taking buses to the station, from May to November it’s the site of the Farmers’ Market. It’s where the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival held cooking contests.

This weekend, the sea of asphalt turned into a drive-in movie theater.

Heading to the show.

The Remarkable Theater opened its summer series there, with 2 classic films: “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Caddyshack.”

It was a win-win. The theater offers employment to people with disabilities, while families and teenagers packed the place for fun, wholesome entertainment.

It was like a throwback to the previous century — and not just because of the movies shown.

A few neighbors worried about noise. But there were no outside speakers. Sound came through the magic of FM radio.

Oh, yeah: Friday’s showing was a benefit for the Westport Woman’s Club. Proceeds helped make up for the loss of their big undraiser this year: the Yankee Doodle Fair.

You know. One more event that makes the Imperial Avenue spot more than just a parking lot.

Two more films are scheduled for next month. Watch this space for coming attractions.

 

Bringing your own candy is much cheaper than the multiplex.

(All photos/Jen Meerow Berniker)

Roundup: A Camp, A Course, 2 Concerts; More


Many sports camps are closed this summer. So are science camps, space camps — most camps, period.

But the Westport Library’s new Camp Explore is open. And open to all children, everywhere.

It’s a weekly, virtual (and free) program. Kids can experience it any time. They can watch it alone, or share with friends. There’s something for everyone.

The program kicks off on July 9 with Jennie Lynn Finch. The softball pitcher led the US to a gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics, and a silver 4 years later.

Also in July, deep sea explorer Dr. Robert Ballard returns to the library. The discoverer of wrecks like Titanic and the Bismarck, he’ll show campers what life is like on his ship the Nautilus.

Shark lovers will enjoy Emmy-winning writer and cinematographer Kevin Bachar. He spent 10 years as a National Geographic producer, and wrote specials for “Shark Week.”

Kids will also appreciate Emily Calandrelli. The MIT engineer-turned-TV host was a featured correspondent on “Bill Nye Saves the World,” host of “Xploration Outer Space,” and wrote the children’s book series “Ada Lace Adventures.”

New York Knicks star Charles Smith will share his story, from his career as an athlete to his accomplishments as a corporate executive.

Camp Explore also features Jerry Craft, author of the novel “New Kid” and comic strip “Mama’s Boyz.”

The program ends with R.L. Stine. The “Goosebumps” author will do a (virtual) reading around a campfire.

The Library will provide a “Keep Exploring Kit” to accompany each presentation, with suggested books to read, films to view, and fun activities. Separate kits are geared for children entering grades 4-5, and 6-8.

Click here for more details, and registration information.


Everyone’s talking about the skills young people need to navigate today’s world. We’re all concerned about civic virtues. Of course, everyone wants to develop creative thinkers.

Westport Continuing Education is sponsoring an online course — “The Art of Innovation: Cultivating Qualities for the Emerging Future” — for students entering grade 10 through college.

Set for July 13 to 17 (10 a.m. to noon), it will focus on skills like critical thinking, collaboration and global perspectives.

Click here to register. For more information, including scholarships, email conted@westportps.org, or call 203-341-1209.


There may not be fireworks. But Pauli’s Deli will celebrate July 4.

The Norwalk-based bagels-and-breakfast place replaces Bagel Maven that day.

Last night, Chris Fanning snapped a shot of the preparations:


One more reopening sign: MoCA Westport has announced a concert with the renowned American String Quartet.

It’s July 31. And it’s a real one. Not virtual, Zoom, Facebook Live or anywhere else in cyberspace.

The performance is outdoors at the museum, with groups spread 6 feet apart and masked. Concert-goers should bring their own chairs and snacks, though drinks and food are available for purchase before the concert.

MoCA Westport concert series curator (and Staples High School graduate) Alexander Platt will provide commentary. He knows the American String Quartet through his work over the last 18 years in Woodstock.

“Back then they were the gold standard in American string quartets — and they still are now,” Platt says.

“I can’t wait to hear their beautiful music again — now, more than ever. Their program — sublime Mozart, bracing Shostakovich and appropriately, Dvorak’s ‘American’ string quartet — will be the perfect musical tonic, after all we’ve been through.”

Click here for tickets, or call 203-222-7070. The maximum number of tickets will be limited by state guidelines.


Two organizations at opposite ends of the age spectrum — Toquet Hall and the Westport Senior Center — are partnering to present a free livestream concert tomorrow (Friday, June 26, 12 p.m.).

It features the funk band Mojo, with noted local musicians Drew Angus, Eric Lindahl and Spencer Inch. Click here to watch via Zoom (and note the password: 3qgZ4L).


The new planters on Main Street are drawing plenty of attention.

But there are colorful flowers beyond Elm Street. For example, Rye Ridge Deli is doing all it can to make the outdoor experience special too.

(Photo/Jamie Walsh)


And finally … as Westport, Connecticut prepares for jUNe Day this weekend (virtually, of course), let’s celebrate Westport, Ireland with Stuart Moyles.

PS: When the Levitt Pavilion opens next summer, we really need this lad as a headliner!

Roundup: Yarn Bomber; Rock Doc; Camper Fund; History; More


You can’t keep a good Yarn Bomber down.

In the latest installment of Westport’s ongoing, fun mystery, TV reporter Anne Craig reports on the unknown knitter’s latest creation.

But in addition to showcasing her work on Compo Beach Road — right by the marina — Anne also makes an offer.

The Yarn Bomber wants to help someone who needs a colorful, lively, humorous pick-me-up. That’s right: a “gift bomb.”

“It can be someone on the front lines, or someone who has suffered a loss,” Anne says. “Someone who has been through a lot, or has given a lot.

All that’s needed is a nomination. So watch Anne’s new video below — it’s another winner! — and if you know someone who could benefit from a yard bomb, put his or her name in the YouTube comments section.

Bombs away!


“The High School That Rocked!” — Fred Cantor’s documentary about the amazing bands that played in Westport back in the (glory) days — is going national.

From June 26-28, it’s part of the Albuquerque Film & Music Experience’s online “Best of the Fest” programming.

In 2017, the film was chosen as Best Short Documentary 1st runner-up at the event.

“THSTR” is part of 6 music documentary shorts and videos. The cost to watch all is just $1. Proceeds are split 50/50 between the festival and filmmakers — but Cantor is turning his share back to the organizers.

To see this intriguing film — and 5 others — click here.


One consequence of COVID-19: closures and reductions in summer programs has left working families without affordable childcare options.

Westport’s Department of Human Services can help. They’ve created a Campership Fund, to help cover the cost of programs.

The average weekly cost of a day camp is $300. Donations of any size can help a child attend for a day, week or the entire summer. Contributions can be made online (click here), or by check (payable to Westport Human Services “DHS Campership Fund,” 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880.

For more information, call Annette D’Augelli (203-341-1050) or email adaugelli@westportct.gov.

Summer camp is always fun. (Photos/Jaime Bairaktaris)


This year’s National History Day them was “Breaking Barriers.”

Long before the eyes of the nation focused on forgotten Black heroes, Staples High School sophomores Emma Nordberg and Lea Rivel chose Robert Smalls. A former enslaved man who stole a Confederate vessel and joined the Union, he convinced President Lincoln to allow African American men to join the army, was the first Black commander of an American warship, and became one of the first Black congressmen during Reconstruction.

The coronavirus forced this year’s History Day competition into cyberspace. But working together, Emma and Lea placed 4th nationally. It’s a great achievement for them, and their US History teacher Drew Coyne.

That’s not the first National History Day competition for Westport students — or even for a Nordberg. In 2016 Emma’s brother Konur and 4 Bedford Middle School classmates won 1st place at the state level, and went on to the national competition. They interviewed Claudette Colvin, the first Black woman who refused to give up her son, even before Rosa Parks’ famous act.

Congratulations, Emma and Lea!

Emma Nordberg


And finally … let’s all keep thinking about (and being aware of) stereotypes.

Remarkable Theater Premieres Friday

A remarkable new era begins Friday.

That’s when the Remarkable Theater opens its summer drive-in series, at the Imperial Avenue parking lot. (The same site as the Westport Farmers’ Market.)

It’s a win-win. The theater offers employment to people with disabilities, while providing safe, socially distant entertainment for the town.

Two classic films are on tap this weekend: “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” on Friday; “Caddyshack” Saturday.

Opening night is a fundraiser for the Westport Woman’s Club — the Imperial parking lot’s next door neighbor. With no Yankee Doodle Fair this year due to COVID-19, this is a great way to support their food closet.

Tickets for Friday’s fundraiser are $100 per car. Other shows are $50 per car.

Tickets go on sale at 3 p.m. today. Click here to reserve a spot.

Follow the Remarkable Theater on Facebook and Instagram to see upcoming shows, or to make suggestions for movies you want to see next.

(The screenings are made possible with the financial support of the Connecticut Department of Developmental Disabilities and the ARTHA Foundation, and help from the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Library.)

The entrance to Westport’s newest theater.

Mia Gentile Asks: “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?”

Take Creedence Clearwater Revival’s haunting “Have You Ever Seen the Rain.” Add a ’60’s girl group vibe, with Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. Mix in Mia Gentile, the multi-talented 2007 Staples High School graduate.

What do you get?

A song that — in the days following the killing of George Floyd — manages to be both poignant and uplifting.

Mia Gentile, pitching Stanley Steemer.

That’s the genius of Mia — a former Staples Players superstar who went on to Broadway in “Kinky Boots” — and musician/video producer Roger Klug.

In 2012 they collaborated on a “Stanley Steemer” mashup video, with Mia performing that ubiquitous jingle in every genre from jazz, opera, country and Latin to torch song, punk rock, gospel and Lady Gaga. It wracked up 2 million views, and landed Mia an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America.

Mia and Roger are back together, this time in a project called MISSYFIT.

After their first single, they recorded a few covers. One was CCR’s tune, which they decuded to take back in time.

Mia and Roger worked long distance, via FaceTime. She was on the computer in her Manhattan bedroom, listening on headphone to the backing track he’d created. He was in his Cincinnati studio, hearing Mia’s a cappella voice. During post-production he cut out the sounds of sirens (and an ice cream truck) that leaked through her window.

For reasons he can’t explain, Roger felt the need to work on “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” before other projects that were further along.

Mia Gentile, today.

Then the unarmed Black man was killed in Minneapolis. News of protests and an explosion of awareness of systemic racism in America felt like an echo of the past.

Roger and his family joined demonstrations in Cincinnati. As he described those events to Mia, they realized they had to release the song. They started to envision how a video could underline the lyrics, speaking to the civil rights movement of the 1960s as well as the resurgent demand for racial equality today.

The 2nd recording session — which included a toy xylophone — took place a few days later. Then Roger went to work mixing the vocals and producing the video. Its images of protests from the ’60s — and now the ’20 — are raw, and thought-provoking.

In retrospect, MISSYFIT’s decision to use a girl group/Phil Spector sound seems compelling. There’s a poignant juxtaposition of a bright, peppy, more innocent time, and the dark lyrics.

“Hearing about war, violence and systemic racism from the mouth of babes (so to speak) is powerful,” Mia says. “Youth continue to be at the forefront of progressive American culture.” (Click the link below to listen.)

The single has been released on MISSYFIT’s YouTube page. Reaction has been very positive.

“This song that came to us on a whim now shines a light on how music and art can hold a mirror up to society,” Mia notes.

“People have had enough. It’s time for action.”

Pics Of The Day #1160

COVID or not, summer is here! A pop-up concert popped up tonight at the plaza outside Pop’TArt gallery, on the corner of Post Road and Main Street. 

From left: Shane O’Reilly, Dave Rauh and Ali van Nes. Other performers included Dale Allen, Christine Cook and Ray Simonelli.

Three groups played fun music. People stopped, and tapped their feet. Kids sat on the railing, and clapped.

It was just like old times.

Almost. 

(Photos/Dan Woog)

Roundup: Supper & Soul Tailgate; French Toast; More


Live music is back!

The first in-person “Supper & Soul” concert since the pandemic shutdown is set for Friday, July 3 (6 p.m., Imperial Avenue parking lot). The Tom Petty Project headlines the “drive-in tailgate” show, sponsored by the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce and the Westport Library.

Cars will be set up every other spot, in every other row (a state requirement). But with up to 5 people per car — and tailgating starting at 5 p.m., using the empty space in front of each vehicle — it should be a great (and much-needed) evening out. The Chamber says it’s the first event like this in the state.

The Tom Petty Project includes Westporters Phil LoPresti (lead guitar) and Pete Najarian (lead singer, guitar). The band wowed a Levitt Pavilion crowd last year, and have sold out shows throughout New England. They’re volunteering their time for this show, to help the Chamber while bringing live music back to town.

Tickets are $85 per car. Ten dollars from each sale will be donated to a local non-profit — to be selected by the band.

The Chamber encourages everyone to order takeout from member restaurants, and bring it to the show (click here for the list; it will also be emailed to ticket purchasers). No food or drink will be sold on site. The cost of the meals is not included in the ticket price.

A limited number of tickets goes on sale this Monday (June 22, 10 a.m.). For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.


COVID-19 canceled many Westport Woman’s Club events. There was no March fashion show, April art show, May antique appraisal day, and — this one really hurts — no June Yankee Doodle Fair.

They can’t get those fundraisers back. But the 113-year-old civic organization still awarded $40,000 in college scholarships. And though the 10 deserving Staples High School seniors did not get the public ceremony they deserved, the get this shout-out on “06880.”

Congratulations to the honorees — and thanks to the WWC, for their continued yeowomen’s work!

  • Tamikah Boyer (University of New Haven, Emily Duvoisin Scholarship)
  • Nicole Caiati (Georgia State University)
  • Victoria Caiati (Marist College)
  • Alyssa Chariot (Penn State University)
  • Anna Fuori (Penn State University, Emily Fuller Scholarship)
  • Audrey Kramer (California Polytechnic State University)
  • Ian Kramer (Penn State University)
  • Katherine Meszaros (College of the Holy Cross, Lea Ruegg Scholarship)
  • Niyhive Michel (Morgan State University)
  • Tomaso Scotti (University of Connecticut, “Most Active Member” Scholarship, which this year honors Mira Auxier).


Hilary Arnow Burns did it all in Staples. The 1977 graduate played in the orchestra and band. She sang in the choir. She played tennis, and was on the cheerleading team.

After Wharton came consulting work with Arthur Young and Drexel Burnham. She married, moved back to Westport, started 2 businesses, had 2 children, and got divorced.

When he was 50, she caught a glimpse of someone who did not look good. It was her — in the mirror. “What happened to me?” she wondered.

At a Staples reunion a classmate said, “You were so much fun!” Hilary thought, “I’ve become another person. I was not happy.”

She lost weight. She rediscovered “athletics, my brain, and fun.” She got her life back.

Now — after writing classes with Jessica Bram (and 7 years of revisions), and  she’s written a memoir about her journey. The Second Piece of French Toast: If Marriage Was My Dream, Why Was I Numbing Myself? 

It’s been called “the wake-up call I didn’t know I needed.” To order the book, click here. For her website, blog and YouTube channel, click here.

Hilary Arnow Burns


And finally … I heard this yesterday, on Juneteenth. It brought me back several decades. Sweet Honey in the Rock is as uplifting, and important, as ever.

Pic Of The Day #1156

Saugatuck Serenade, in Grace Salmon Park (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Roundup: Reopening; Grad Merch; Ospreys; Music; More


Jillian Elder’s “Finding Westport” is another resource for events around town.

Right now, she’s updating her “What’s Open” list. If you’ve got a retail store, accounting or law firm, insurance or real estate agency, childcare center, landscaping or creative services business, restaurant — or anything else with customers or clients — contact her.

The basic listing is free. There are advertising packages and other options too. Send a brief description, website link, logo and photos to submissions@findingwestport.com, or DM Jillian on Instagram or Facebook @findingwestport.


Staples High School graduates make their marks on the world in many days.

Class of 2009 alum Mike Bowen — known professionally as Mike Waxx — made it in the rap and hip hop world. His Illroots brand then branched out from music and videos to apparel and footwear.

On his custom apparel platform, users add their own text and images to create their own looks. He launched with Travis Scott, and added a COVID charity shirt featuring Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande.

On Friday Waxx released 2020 Grad Merch. To give a gift to a grad, select the school; the logo and stickers are pre-loaded. Just add a picture to the commencement image. Then get creative.

Of course, Staples is there. Click here to order.


We start the week with great osprey news.

Carolyn Doan reports that 2 little chicks have appeared in the nest near Fresh Market. There may even be a third.

“They were making a lot of noise. Mom looks very proud,” Carolyn says.

(Photo/Carolyn Doan)


We haven’t heard much from Burt Bacharach in years. But he’s back — with a local connection.

Now 92, the legendary songwriter just released “Blue Umbrella.” The 5-song collaboration was recorded in Nashville with Grammy-winning writer/producer Daniel Tashian.

If the last name sounds familiar, it should: Daniel’s father, Barry — the front man for the legendary Remains band — went on to play with the Flying Burrito Brothers and Emmy Lou Harris, among many others. For the past 30 or so years Barry and his wife Holly — Daniel’s mom — have established themselves as great Nashville-based writers and performers.

For a Los Angeles Times story on the Bacharch-Tashian project, click here.

Daniel Tashian

 


And finally … Otis Redding kicks off the week, with a kick-ass song.