The Beatles may or may not have visited famed disc jockey Murray the K at his Westport home in the 1960s. No evidence exists that they did, though several folks who grew up here then insist it’s true.
But — 50 years after the release of the ground-breaking “White Album” — one fact is not in dispute: One of the songs was written about a Westporter.
In 1963, 15-year-old Prudence Farrow was living in Los Angeles. Her father — director John Farrow — died suddenly.
So Prudence’s mother, Maureen O’Sullivan — an actress, then starring in a Broadway show — brought Prudence, her older sister Mia and other siblings to New York.
Maureen O’Sullivan and John Farrow with their children in 1950. From left: Mia, Patrick, Maureen, John holding Stephanie, Prudence and Johnny. Michael is in front.
But Maureen thought it would be best for Prudence and the other kids to live outside the city. She rented a house in Westport, with a cook/caretaker.
The 157 Easton Road house was well known: It was owned by Leopold Godowsky Jr. — a concert violinist and photographer who helped develop Kodacolor and Ektachrome — and his wife Frankie Gershwin, George and Ira’s younger sister who was a noted painter and singer.
It was a beautiful house: 7 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms on 2.75 acres, with a boathouse, indoor pool, 2 bars, a wine-tasting room, guest quarters, tennis court, waterfalls, walking paths, and stone bridges. The Aspetuck River flows through the back yard.
There was a lot of room to play. In her memoir, Prudence describes hiking in the woods, canoeing and skating on the pond, and playing with neighborhood kids.
157 Easton Road
But apparently the caretaker did little taking care of her charges. “We briefly saw Sue for a few minutes daily” when she drove them to the bus stop, Prudence writes. But when her brother Johnny got his license — and a Porsche convertible — she rode with him the short distance up North Avenue to Staples.
Prudence calls the school “impersonal and empty.” She told a guidance counselor she was not interested in college, so he put her in classes like “typing, homemaking, art, sewing, home economics and general math.”
However, she adds, “School was irrelevant. I couldn’t figure out the purpose of going. I thought I knew everything.”
She quickly learned Staples’ social structure, which include “creeps” (now called nerds), “High Y’s” (today’s jocks) and “greasers.” She was a “beatnik.”
Prudence writes: “They seemed so much more interesting than the others. They loved good music, art and philosophy, and I learned a lot about these disciplines from them. But overall, they were self-destructive, spoiled, and using way too many drugs.”
Prudence’s house — with the caretaker not taking much care — became the hangout. It was the place to go, on weekends, evenings, even during school. People helped themselves to food and sofas. There was always plenty of alcohol and drugs.
It was in Westport that Prudence was first exposed to Eastern thought. Her friend Tom — “a quiet soul, very sensitive” — inspired her to read Siddhartha. She thought that Buddhist principles encompassed “the most beautiful, simple, universal and most profound philosophy of life.”
She no longer drank, but continued using drugs and taking pills. The parties continued. Finally, in late spring of 1964, the police told her mother that “we could no longer remain in Connecticut unattended.” Maureen took her brood back to New York.
But the actress soon departed on a national tour. Prudence and her siblings were once again left with a caretaker — this time in a Manhattan apartment. She dropped out of a private school, and got even more deeply into drugs.
Finally — after a bad experience with LSD — Prudence found Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and his Rishikesh ashram in the Himalayan foothills. She studied transcendental meditation.
In early 1968, the Beatles were there too. John Lennon and George Harrison were assigned to be her “team buddies.” They too had experimented with acid before learning about TM.
2 images of Prudence Farrow — including in India, with Ringo Starr.
Deep in meditation, Farrow refused to leave her bungalow. The 2 Beatles tried to coax her out.
And while they were at it, Lennon wrote a song. It began:
Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play?
Dear Prudence, greet the brand new day
The sun is up, the sky is blue
It’s beautiful and so are you
Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play?
Though Harrison told her about the song, she did not think much of it. And she did not hear it until the “White Album” came out.
When she did, she was “flattered.” She was also glad it was not a negative song about Rishikesh, like Lennon’s “Sexy Sadie” and “Bungalow Bill.”
Prudence had another brush with fame. In 1981 she was near the end of a 3-year affair with New York real estate heir Robert Durst, when suddenly his wife went missing.
Prudence taught TM for several decades. One of her pupils was comedian Andy Kaufman.
She went on to earn a BA, MA and Ph.D. from the University of California, majoring in Asian studies.
She worked in theater and film — including as a production assistant on The Muppets Take Manhattan.
Using her married name — Prudence Bruns — she has written magazine stories on Asia, world religions and healthy living. She published her memoir (Dear Prudence: The Story Behind the Song) in 2015.
Prudence Bruns today.
And in 2012 she established the non-profit Dear Prudence Foundation. It raised funds for a documentary film about an Indian festival.
There is no record that the Beatles ever visited Westport. And there’s no reason to believe Prudence Farrow ever returned here, after moving in 1964.
But the song imploring her to open up her eyes and smile — well, that’s one more great example of where Westport meets the world.
FUN FACT: Mia Farrow has her own claim to fame: In 1966, when she was 21 and Frank Sinatra was 50, they spent time on his yacht, anchored off Compo Beach. Their marriage lasted 2 years.
(Click here for more information on Prudence Farrow’s memoir, Dear Prudence: The Story Behind The Song. Hat tip: Fred Cantor.)