Category Archives: Media

Remembering Michael Brockman

Michael Brockman — a longtime Westporter, with unique interests and talents — died recently. He was 74 years old.

In the Army, he was a nuclear weapons specialist. He graduated from the University of Central Florida in 1975.

Michael Brockman

Michael worked as road test editor at Motor Trend Magazine. He began racing professionally in 1979, and competed in the 24 Hours of Daytona and Le Mans.

He went on to work as a film actor and stuntman in “Harry & Son,” “Fat Man And Little Boy” and “Road to Perdition,” among others.

After moving to Connecticut, Michael lived and worked here until his death. He was, most recently, the owner of Mazda of Milford.

Michael’s friend for 30 years, Ian Warburg, writes:

“Brock” was a legendary character. He came to live here because of his best friend and partner in crime, Paul Newman. He stayed because of his marriage to Westport native, Jennifer O’Reilly, and their children, Keleigh and Spencer. Spencer is now a noted race car driver too.

Brock was a class act through and through. A true southern gentleman with a warm heart, an easy smile and always a mischievous twinkle in his eye. Cooler than cool, this humble Florida boy packed his life with fun and adventure that took him to every corner of the globe, and had him raising jars and rubbing elbows with some of the most notable and interesting people of our times.

Michael Brockman (right) and friend.

His stories, and the telling of them, were legendary. Just ask Jack Nicholson. Or everyone who knew him, and was lucky enough to have called him their friend.

He lived a life most men might well have dreamed of, “working” as a professional race car driver, a writer for Motor Trend, an actor, a stuntman, camp counselor at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, and a businessman, owning and operating Connecticut Volvo and Mazda dealerships for the better part of the last 25 years of his life.

He was a great friend to his friends, and a loving husband to his former wife, Jennifer, with whom he enjoyed a warm and caring relationship that extended beyond their run as a married couple.

More than anything he delighted in his role as the father to Keleigh and Spencer, something we often talked about over a cold Budweiser. He revolved around them with absolute joy, celebrating and supporting their dreams and wishes.

With Keleigh he shared his love of acting, and joined her as a cast member of “Blue Bloods” from time to time.

With Spencer he delighted in celebrating his “gift” for making race cars go fast — very, very fast — besting racers with more money and newer technology, and watching him stand on the podium almost every time he raced.

Michael and Spencer Brockman.

And with both he shared his love of so much, including sushi, enjoying weekly feasts as fixtures at the sushi bar at Sakura.

Brock and I got together late summer with another pal, Ian O’Malley, for what would wind up being our last beer at the Black Duck. We had a heck of a good time, raised a little hell, and traded stories and laughs, toasting to the next time we’d be together.  Turns out, it won’t be at the Duck.

Until we meet again, my friend: This Bud’s for you! Cheers.

(A celebration of Michael’s life is set for Sunday, December 8, from 2 to 6 p.m. at his dealership, 915 Boston Post Road in Milford. If you plan to attend, please email brockmaninfo@gmail.com. In lieu of flowers, friends may consider a contribution in Michael’s memory to the Boggy Creek Gang Camp, 30500 Brantley Branch Rd., Eustis, FL, 32736.)

“Persona” Of The Week: “Mamma Mia” Cast And Crew

Staples Players‘ “Mamma Mia” opens tomorrow. It’s another fantastic show, from the nationally known high school troupe.

If you’re like me, you go to Players’ musical every year and wonder, “Who are these kids? And how do they put on such an amazing show?”

Persona’s Rob Simmelkjaer went backstage to speak to some actors and crew members, as they get ready for opening night.

Persona Of The Week: Lauren Bromberg

Each year, Craft Westport brings over 175 artisans from a variety  of genres  to town.

The 44th annual event is set for this weekend at Staples High School. It kicks off the holiday shopping season — and all funds raised by the sponsoring Westport Young Woman’s League go to local charities.

The other day, WYWL president Lauren Bromberg sat with Persona’s Rob Simmelkjaer to preview the event. They talk about WYWL’s mission, and its work in and around Westport.

(Craft Westport will be held tomorrow — Saturday, November 9 — from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, including tickets, click here.)

Andrew Wilk Presents …

Like many Westporters, Andrew Wilk is very impressed by the recent transformation of the Westport Library.

But, he knows, a building that pulses with creativity is a lot more than “sticks and bricks.”

What really counts is the activity inside.

Andrew Wilk

Wilk is in a position to help make the library buzz even more than it does. An Emmy-winning television executive producer and director — as well as a playwright and symphony conductor — he has one of the most impressive Rolodexes* around.

Now he’s tapping his countless contacts — men and women he’s met through “Live at Lincoln Center,” as chief creative officer of Sony Music Entertainment, and vice president for the National Geographic Channel — to bring exciting, provocative pioneers in science, the arts and humanities to the interactive library stage.

“Andrew Wilk Presents…” debuts next month. Though he’s not crazy about the title — “I just find people, set them up for success and let ’em go,” he demurs — the library series looks like yet another Andrew Wilk smash.

The first guest (Thursday, December 12, 7 p.m.) is Michael Davie. A filmmaker who has worked on major projects for Oprah Winfrey, National Geographic, Discovery and many more, he’ll weave together hair-raising adventures from Kosovo to the Congo, adding personal reflections on travel, family and connecting with people all over the world.

Michael Davie in action.

Davie most recently co-created Oprah’s landmark 7-part series “Belief.” He began his video career by walking from Cape Town to Cairo (!) — alone (!!) — and recording that amazing journey.

Along the way Davie chronicled police brutality in Johannesburg, landmine victims in Mozambique, the sexual abuse of street children in Zimbabwe, and the disparity between rich and poor in Kenya.

He has also interviewed Nelson Mandela, and reported on terrorism, the persecution of gays in Iraq, the environmental cost of mining in Peru, and rescue climbing on Denali.

The second speaker is the celebrated oceanographer Dr. Robert Ballard. He found the Titanic, Bismarck, USS Yorktown and John F. Kennedy’s PT-109, and explored the Lusitania.

Dr. Robert Ballard

His next goal: discover Amelia Earhart’s plane. Wilk has no doubt Ballard will accomplish that too. “He’s an amazing person, with riveting stories,” Wilk says.

The third speaker is filmmaker Kevin Bachar. A 3-time Emmy Award-winning writer and cinematographer, he spent 10 years as a National Geographic producer. He also wrote specials for Discovery Channels’ Shark Week.

“There are so many great series at the library,” Wilk says. “I hope this is one more that will elevate the community.”

And — with speakers like Dr. Robert Ballard — take us to unimagined depths.

(General admission seats for Michael Davie are $20 each. VIP tickets cost $100, and include preferred seating, and pre-show food and drinks with Davie and Andrew Wilk. Click here for tickets.)

* The virtual kind, of course.

Good Morning, Olivia!

A couple of years ago, Westporter Olivia Cohn invented Happy Ride. The personal air vent cured car sickness — while not bothering other passengers.

She was in 4th grade at the time.

Happy Ride earned her a National Invention Convention medal.

Her video was posted on YouTube. A producer at “Good Morning America” saw it, and loved it.

He contacted Coleytown Elementary School. Administrators did not give out her number. So the producer reached out to Town Hall; Olivia’s dad Neil is on the website, as a Planning & Zoning Commission alternate.

Flash forward to today. Olivia — now a Bedford Middle School 6th grader — was on “Good Morning America’s” 3rd hour. It’s called “GMA3 Strahan, Sara & Keke,” and airs at 1 p.m. on the East Coast.

All week long, GMA is featuring inventors. On Friday she’ll be on again, with the other 4.

Olivia, her invention (left) and the “Good Morning America” hosts.

Olivia continues to do great things. She’s very involved in sciences, and solving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

She’s also part of a worldwide group called Girls In Science 4SDGs. Click here for one of her great posts.

The group will help moderate the UN’s annual International Day of Women and Girls in Science next February.

You go, girls! Especially our hometown inventor, Olivia Cohn.

(Hat tip: Jeff Mitchell)

Olivia Cohn, on TV.

Click below for a bootleg version of Olivia’s appearance. It has not yet been shown on the West Coast! Click here for the official version.

 

“Andrew’s Army”: Remarkable Documentary Now Available Here

Last weekend, I joined a capacity crowd at Town Hall. We had the honor of watching “Andrew’s Army.”

Andrew Accardi

The 31-minute documentary traced the life and death of Andrew Accardi. The Westport native battled neuroblastoma — a very rare childhood cancer — from age 5 until his death 15 years later.

He was a Staples High School golfer, a popular young man with many friends, and a fighter whose big heart and great spirit inspired all who met him.

The film was a labor of love by Sam Bender, a 2011 Staples classmate and longtime friend. He captured Andrew’s personality and character — and also shined a light on the staff at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, who treated  him so long, and loved him so much.

“Andrew’s Army” is not just the title. It’s the name of Andrew’s many admirers — of all ages — who have raised over $1 million for neuroblastoma research.

Hopefully, the documentary will spur even more donations. It’s a remarkable video, one that deserves an audience far beyond Westport.

It’s available now on Facebook and Vimeo.

And right here, on “06880.”

 

The tagline of “06880” is “Where Westport meets the world.” So here’s my request:

If you’re reading this, and have any connections or ideas on how to distribute this video far and wide, please click “Comments” below. Or email me privately: dwoog@optonline.net.

“Andrew’s Army” must keep marching on.

“06880” Persona Interview: Board Of Education Candidate Youn Su Chao

“06880” continues our series of “Persona” video interviews with candidates for local office. Rob Simmelkjaer produces these, as part of his new venture that helps users create casual, interesting conversational videos.

Today’s interview is with Democratic Board of Education candidate Youn Su Chao. Saugatuck Elementary School PTA member Jen Berniker conducted the interview. Click below:

To see all other Persona conversations, click here.

“06880” Persona Interview: Board Of Education Candidate Lee Goldstein

“06880” continues our series of “Persona” video interviews with candidates for local office. Rob Simmelkjaer produces these, as part of his new venture that helps users create casual, interesting conversational videos.

Today’s interview is with Democratic Board of Education candidate Lee Goldstein. Saugatuck Elementary School PTA member Jen Berniker conducted the interview. Click below:

To see all other Persona conversations, click here.

“06880” Persona Interview: Board Of Education Candidate Liz Heyer

“06880” continues our series of “Persona” video interviews with candidates for local office. Rob Simmelkjaer produces these, as part of his new venture that helps users create casual, interesting conversational videos.

Today’s interview is with Republican Board of Education candidate Liz Heyer. Click below:

To see all other Persona conversations, click here.

Lynsey Addario And Maternal Mortality: The NPR Interview

NPR is an auditory medium. But its website complements its radio features. A few days ago, that site featured some stunning photos.

They were taken by Lynsey Addario. The Staples High School graduate has spent the past decade — in addition to covering life in Afghanistan and the plight of Syrian refugees, for publications like the New York Times, National Geographic and Time magazine — documenting the brutal reality of maternal mortality.

Every 2 minutes around the world, a woman dies in childbirth or from pregnancy-related causes. Since 2009, Addario has photographed overcrowded hospitals, bloody delivery room floors and midwives in training.

An overcrowded maternity ward in India. (Photo/Lynsey Addario, courtesy of NPR)

She’s done it thanks to a MacArthur Fellowship. Known popularly as a “Genius Grant,” the no-strings $625,000 award can be used however the recipient sees fit.

Addario has pursued a subject that is not “sexy.” It’s one many editors, readers — even male photojournalism colleagues — don’t understand.

In the NPR interview, Addario talks about a formative experience: watching a woman in Sierra Leone hemorrhage and die.

She describes the intimacy of her photos; her own experience becoming a mother while documenting maternal mortality, and the reality that childbirth is not a Hallmark card.

It’s a fascinating story. Thanks to NPR, it is seen — as well as heard.

(Click here for the full interview. Hat tip: Dick Lowenstein)

The aftermath of a stillbirth in a Somali hospital. The woman survived, thanks to skilled midwives. (Photo/Lynsey Addario, courtesy of NPR)