Category Archives: Media

#How To Raise A Human

On Monday, NPR’s “Morning Edition” aired a sobering story about the “pressure cooker” environment faced by so many teenagers today.

Allison Aubrey could have focused on any high-achieving, high-expectations community like Westport.

She chose our next door neighbor, Wilton.

The piece — titled “Back Off: How to Get Out of the High-Pressure Parenting Trap,” with the hashtag #HowToRaiseAHuman” — described the “anxiety and despair” of Savannah Eason when she grew up there.

The pressure to take Advanced Placement and honors courses, play varsity or club sports and do many extracurricular activities was overwhelming.

The results — elevated risks of anxiety, depression, and drug and alcohol use — can be seen in many youngsters raised in privileged communities.

(Francesco Zorzi for NPR)

“People choose communities like this to give their children opportunities, but it comes at a cost,” Savannah’s mother Genevieve says.

For Savannah, a crisis forced a change. Her mother said, “I know I was talking to her by 8th grade about how she needed to find out what her passions were, so she could get involved in the right activities … so that would look good on her college applications.”

After Savannah’s problems began, her mom backed off. She helped Savannah drop some tough courses. And, Aubrey reported, the family started to focus on well-being.

Her mom noted: “Up to that point, I totally bought into the idea we’re supposed to push our kids to achieve. When they encounter obstacles, we push them to overcome those.” But pushing too hard can backfire.

The NPR story said that 30 percent of Wilton High students showed sadness, anxiety, depression, and internalized symptoms like headaches and stomach aches. The national average is 7 percent.

Drug and alcohol use was higher than national norms too.

Aubrey quoted Suniya Luthar, professor emerita at Columbia University’s Teachers College, who surveyed Wilton. Several years ago, she was involved in a longitudinal study in Westport.

Genevieve Eason has a solution: “We have to broaden our definitions of success, and celebrate more kinds of success.”

That means understanding when her daughter says, “I don’t want to work on Wall Street; that sounds miserable to me.”

Instead, Savannah enrolled in culinary school. She is training to be a pastry chef.

She has a new set of priorities. “It’s not about how big your house is and what kind of car you drive,” Savannah says. “It’s about happiness and peace.”

(Click here for the full NPR story.)

Skip Lane Gets His Super Bowl Ring

Two games into the 1987 NFL season, the Players Association struck. The issue was free agency.

To break the union, team owners hired replacements. For 3 weeks, they played.

One of those substitute athletes — derisively called “scabs,” though “replacement player” is the preferred term — was Skip Lane.

He was well known in Westport. Lane was a 1979 graduate of Staples High School — where he starred at quarterback for his father, legendary coach Paul Lane — and then at the University of Mississippi.

Yet with only 5 Canadian Football League games behind him – and brief stints with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs, after college — he was unknown to much of the football-loving American public.

In 1987 Lane was out of the game, working in commercial real estate in Fairfield County — a job he still holds.

But he excelled as a safety with the replacement Washington Redskins. They went 3-0 during the strike, culminating with a Monday Night Football win over a Dallas Cowboys team filled with veterans who had crossed the picket line.

Some fans wanted familiar players back.

When the 3-game strike was over, the Redskins released Lane. They went on to win the Super Bowl — but neither Lane nor his fellow replacements received a championship ring.

That story was part of an ESPN “30 For 30” documentary that aired in September. “Year of the Scab” explored the lives of the 1500 replacement players. They were “caught in the crosshairs of media fueled controversy between owners, players and fans alike,” the network said.

Lane was featured frequently in the video. He mentioned his “buddies from Westport” who attended the game against the Giants. There were only 9,000 fans that day.

Over the years, Lane had no contact at all with the Redskins.

But the ESPN documentary created a groundswell of support for righting a wrong: getting rings for the replacement players. Washington probably would not have reached the Super Bowl without them.

Yesterday — in a brief ceremony at the Redskins’ practice facility — Lane and his former teammates got their rings.

It took 31 years.

But it sure looks good.

Skip Lane shows his Super Bowl ring to current Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith.

“The Hate U Give” Brings Schools Together

There’s tons of talk about the vast gulf between school districts in Connecticut. Westport and Bridgeport — just a few miles apart — offer particularly stark differences.

Much of the time, it’s only talk.

But a collaboration involving 2 schools, 4 English teachers, and 95 students this year showed what happens when people try to bridge the gap.

The project began with Staples High School librarian Colin Neenan. He thought The Hate U Give — a popular young adult novel about a girl who becomes an activist after witnessing the police shooting of her unarmed friend, and exists in both her urban neighborhood and a wealthy private school — would be a great vehicle to bring suburban and city students together.

Danielle Spies and Barb Robbins — who teach 3A and 2 Honors English respectively at Staples — were selected from among several volunteers. Neenan and co-librarian Tamara Weinberg connected with Fola Sumpter and Ashley LaQuesse, Harding High teachers who were enthusiastic about the collaboration.

First, Westport students went to the Bridgeport school. They met their counterparts, and discussed the first 26 pages of the novel.

One of Robbins’ students was nervous about meeting new, “different” people, the teacher says.

After the first session though, she told Robbins, “They’re just like me. We had so much to talk about.”

Staples literacy coach Rebecca Marsick — who was also involved in the project — adds, “They’re all teenagers!”

Staples and Harding High School students work easily together.

A dramatic reaction came from a Westport girl. She was stunned to hear Bridgeporters say that nearly every day they heard of a friend treated unfairly by police — and at least once a month, someone they knew was shot by an officer.

“I couldn’t think of even one person who had a really negative interaction with the police,” she said.

“I never doubted that people of color constantly face racism. I just never heard about it face to face. It’s crazy to me that I can live a town away from them, and have such a different life experience.”

The next step involved Flipgrid, a video education platform. For 6 weeks the teenagers exchanged videos, posted questions about the novel, and shared responses.

They also read articles about race relations throughout history, explored current events, and studied pop culture and poetry. The common thread was themes that both unite and divide communities.

After 6 weeks, the Harding students came to Staples. They gathered in the library for lunch, free-wheeling discussions, and a special activity.

They created “body biographies”: mapping out what various characters from the novel held in their heart and backbone, for example, and what their eyes focused on.

Collaborating on a “body biography.”

They dug deep — and shared their own lives and experiences too.

“The book is not easy. There are some hefty topics,” Robbins says. “But the interactions were sensitive, and very respectful.”

Then they all posed for a group photo.

The final project was to write stories about current events, and share them with everyone.

Some students said the project was the most important experience they’d ever had in high school. One called it “the most important event of my life.”

“It opened our kids’ eyes to their opportunities here,” Robbins says. “But they also saw how much they have in common with the Bridgeport kids.”

Last fall, two Staples girls wrote research papers on inequality in educational opportunities. To actually see that gap with their own eyes, they told Robbins, was “really compelling.”

The Staples instructor echoes her students’ reactions.

“It took a lot of work. There were logistical issues, and tons of preparation. But this is one of the best things I’ve ever done as a teacher. I learned so much!”

Fola Sumpter — one of the Harding teachers — adds, “This project gave my students confidence as readers, writers and collaborators. They have a new perspective on people, and I am seeing them operate as thinkers on a whole new level.”

A group shot, in the Staples library.

The collaboration may not end. Among other ideas, students from both schools talked about forming a book club.

That’s a great idea. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.

“In Westport, if we want to add a book to our curriculum, we pretty much can,” Robbins says.

“In Bridgeport, they have a tough time even funding the books they already study.”

Pulitzer Prize Winner Photographs Westport Protest

Tyler Hicks — the globe-trotting, Pulitzer Prize-and-many-other-honors-winning New York Times photographer — was in his hometown of Westport today.

If there’s a newsworthy event, he finds it.

Several dozen people — including Congressman Jim Himes and State Senate candidate Will Haskell — stood on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown.

They held signs deploring the separation of children from families at the US border; the detention centers those young kids are placed in, and the government’s refusal to let even a US senator investigate conditions.

(Photo/Tyler Hicks)

From his current home in Nairobi, Tylel Hicks roams far and wide. He covers deadly conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Russia, Bosnia, the Mideast, Chechnya and across Africa.

In 2011, he and fellow Westport Pulitzer Prize winner Lynsey Addario were kidnapped in Libya.

This protest was quieter than those he usually sees.

But the cause — the treatment of human beings — is as important as anything else Tyler shoots. As Rep. Himes said: “This is not a political issue. It’s a moral issue.”

So — as he always is — Tyler Hicks was there.

Tyler Hicks’ sister Darcy turned the tables, and photographed the photographer as he photographed the protest. (Photo/Darcy Hicks)

“King In The Wilderness” Comes Home

It’s been 50 years since Martin Luther King was gunned down in Memphis. He was just 39 years old.

King was part of a generation of courageous, determined and energetic civil rights leaders. Some are gone. Others are alive — and still fighting for social justice.

But they’re in their 70s, 80s and 90s. They won’t be here forever. It’s fallen to a new generation to pass along their stories — and keep their hopes and dreams alive.

Trey Ellis is one of those storytellers. The Westporter is a leading voice of the African American experience.

Trey Ellis

He’s written movies, books, TV shows and a play about the Tuskegee Airmen. He’s been a political pundit, social critic and Huffington Post contributor; won a Peabody and been nominated for an Emmy.

He teaches at Columbia University, was a non-resident fellow at Harvard, and taught or lectured at Yale, NYU, and in Brazil and France.

But his most recent project was extra-special. He served as executive producer for “King in the Wilderness.” The 2-hour documentary showed a side of the civil rights icon and Nobel Peace Prize winner that’s seldom discussed today: a conflicted leader who at the time of his death was assailed by critics on both the left and right.

Ellis spent a year crisscrossing the country, interviewing 17 men and women who lived, breathed and molded the civil rights movement.

John Lewis, Jesse Jackson, Marian Wright Edelman, Joan Baez — all spoke with candor and insight about Martin Luther King. Ellis also interviewed unsung heroes of the movement, like Diane Nash.

This Wednesday (June 13, 7 p.m., Bowtie Cinema, 542 Westport Avenue, Norwalk), the Westport Library and TEAM Westport host a free screening of the film. It premiered in January at Sundance, then was shown at the Smithsonian’s Museum of African American History and New York’s Riverside Church, before airing on HBO in April.

Making the film was “the experience of a lifetime,” Ellis says. He held intimate conversations with men and women who shaped our nation’s history. He worked with rare archival footage, some of it never before seen by the public.

He helped bring nuance — and human frailty — to a man who has become shrouded in myth.

In the final years of his life, which the documentary focuses on, King was “more radical, and more disregarded” than most of us remember, or realize, says Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times and NPR.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow notes, “I consider myself kind of a King fanatic, King-ophile … And I was just shocked by  how much I leaned, how much new footage I had never seen.”

Wednesday’s Bowtie screening will be followed by a Q-and-A with Ellis.

The executive producer is proud of his film. And — because he’s a professor too — he’s eager to put his work in a larger context.

“With the state of the nation so fractured,” Ellis says, “‘King in the Wilderness’ seems ripped from today’s headlines.”

(The June 13 screening of “King in the Wilderness” is free. However, pre-registration is required. Click here for a free ticket; click here for more information.)

Dwain Schenck’s PR: From Barbara Bush To Guy Smith

Dwain Schenck first met Guy Smith at a refugee camp in the Middle East.

It was the first Gulf War, right before Kuwait was liberated by allied ground forces.

Dwain Schenck

Schenck was communications director for Americares. He lived in Jordan, helping coordinate medical relief airlifts from the US. Working together, the two men became fast — and lifelong — friends.

Schenck has had an intriguing career. He was the first Western TV reporter in Armenia after a devastating earthquake. He worked in disaster areas and war zones around the world, including Iran, North Korea, Nicaragua, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda and Bosnia.

In 1993 he traveled with former first lady Barbara Bush to the war-torn Croatian port of Split, on a humanitarian mission, delivering medical relief supplies to hospitals. He wrote several speeches for her.

Bush was “inquisitive and very compassionate,” Schenck recalls. “She was also tough and a real trouper, braving cold and difficult conditions at clinics and refugee camps. She was a class act, with a down-to-earth style all her own. She looked like America’s grandmother, but she was young at heart and full of energy.”

Dwain Schenck and Barbara Bush share a moment.

Schenck, his wife and 3 children moved to Westport in 2003. It’s a town he’d always loved, from his early days with Stamford-based Americares.

Today he owns Schenck Strategies, a boutique PR and strategic communications firm.

Last December, Smith called. He’s running for governor of Connecticut. Schenck signed on as communications director.

Smith is a Democrat from Greenwich. After Americares he joined Diageo as a senior executive. He was a special adviser to Bill Clinton during the president’s impeachment proceedings.

But, Schenck says, Smith is “not a career politician or a career candidate.”

Guy Smith

Schenck calls him “the right man for the job, at this point in our state’s history.” His communications director says Smith brings people together, and can “break through the divisiveness that keeps government from working for the people of this state.”

Westport is not exactly ground zero in the gubernatorial race. We do, however, have 2 candidates: Republican Steve Obsitnik and unaffiliated Marisa Manly.

Now another neighbor is helping a Democratic candidate.

There are about 25 candidates in the ever-changing list of hopefuls to succeed Governor Dannel Malloy. May the best man or woman win.

Unsung Hero #48

Earlier this year, WestportNow celebrated its 15th anniversary.

Since 2003 the site has provided readers with political news, police reports, coverage of community events like library talks and fundraisers, obituaries, photos of sunrises and sunsets, and the immensely popular “Teardown of the Day.”

The founder, editor and publisher is Gordon Joseloff. He gave up his editor’s post between 2005 and 2013 — that’s when he served 2 terms as the town’s 1st selectman — but he’s been back at the helm ever since.

Gordon Joseloff (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Joseloff’s journalistic chops are real. He worked for UPI. Then, during 16 years at CBS News, he rose from a writer for Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather to correspondent, senior producer and bureau chief in New York, Moscow and Tokyo.

Joseloff covered the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the downing of Korean Air Lines flight 007, the assassination of India Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (for which he won an Emmy Award in 1984), the Bhopal gas leak, and the overthrow of Philippines President Fernando Marcos.

And he’s a Westport native. His family’s roots run deep: They owned downtown property including the Fine Arts Theater, a very popular spot for over 8 decades. (Today it’s Restoration Hardware.)

Joseloff was a teenage reporter for the Westport Town Crier, and helped create the predecessor of Staples’ WWPT radio station, broadcasting at Compo Beach.

Prior to running for first selectman, Joseloff served 14 years on the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) — 10 of them as moderator.

A member of Westport Rotary and an honorary member of the Westport Historical Society advisory council, Joseloff is also a volunteer firefighter, and a former Emergency Medical Technician.

Congratulations on 15 years to WestportNow — and thanks to Gordon Joseloff, its founder, guiding light, and this week’s Unsung Hero.


Remembering Mike Joseph

The name Mike Joseph may not sound familiar to many Westporters.

But the former resident — who lived here from 1959 through the early ’90s, and died recently in Los Angeles at the age of 90 — had an enormous impact on the sounds Americans listened to, for several decades.

Joseph has been called the nation’s first independent radio programming consultant. With Rick Sklar, he turned WABC into one of the premier AM stations in the country. He hired Dan Ingram, “Cousin” Bruce Morrow, Scott Muni, Chuck Leonard and Ron Lundy as DJs.

Beginning in 1977 he turned around over a dozen major market radio stations, with the “Hot Hits” format he created. His first success was flipping WTIC in Hartford from a low-rated classical station to the very popular “96 TICS.”

Other stations included WFBL in Syracuse, and WCAU in Philadelphia (“98 NOW”, WBBM in Chicago and WHYT in Detroit (both “96 NOW”), and KITS in San Francisco.

Mike Joseph

Before WABC, his radio turnarounds included stations in Flint, Michigan — one of the first Top 40 formats in America — and others in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Rockford, Illinois; Syracuse, New Orleans, Honolulu, WPRO in Providence, and powerhouse WKBW in Buffalo.

In the early 1960s, he was vice president of NBC radio.

Joseph was born in Youngstown, Ohio to Syrian/Lebanese immigrants. He studied pre-law at Western Reserve, and married Eva, an immigrant from East Berlin after World War II.

The basement of his Westport home was filled with thousands of records, including rock and roll, soul, funk, jazz, classical, even Arab music.

Joseph is survived by his ex-wife, 2 sons and 2 daughters (all graduates of Staples High School), and a grandchild.

Buy Nothing. Get A Community In Return.

Alert — and gratified — “06880” reader Mary Luvera writes:

I don’t remember when I joined the Buy Nothing Westport group, or how I heard about it.

However, Facebook tells me I first posted to the group on September 20, 2017.  It was a “wish” post, asking to borrow a helium balloon holder that I needed for a party.

Another member of the group granted my wish later that day.

On Easter Sunday, a :Buy Nothing” group member offered this.

While I soon became conversant in the language of the Buy Nothing group (“Wish,” “Wish Granted,” “Interested,” “Give,” “Gifted,” etc.), I was a bit of a reluctant group member. I felt guilty accepting gifts from others, or offering gifts that might better serve someone in a less affluent community.

That was before I understood what was actually happening on the Buy Nothing group.  While many of the “gives” and “wishes” were for material items, some were humbling.

One group member gifted key lime pies. Another gifted a pizza making lesson. A third wished for hand-written get well cards to deliver to a local resident injured in a recent storm.

Beyond that, I noticed the support that group members and admins offered each other in the posts.

For example, a post by a first time grandmother asking for a crib received a number of congratulations.

One of my own stranger “gives” was offering soy pulp left over from making tofu. I added “Is this too weird?” to the post.

The admin quickly liked my post and replied, “Not too weird at all!” It was a weird offer, but I appreciated the no judgment attitude.

No one wanted the soy pulp, but I did have a nice exchange with another group member interested in my recipe for tofu.

Want bikinis? The giver says they were worn “maybe once each.”

Then I started seeing “gratitude” posts. One thanked a group member for the gift of a shower cap. It reminds her of Paris where she had fallen in love with a similar one.

Another thanked a local couple for offering their home and washing machine during a power outage. One more thanked a group member for dropping off cookies when picking up a gifted item.

Countless group members have also expressed gratitude to the admins for the friendships and connections the group has given them.

Clearly, a community was developing. Although I’ve gifted and received a number of material items, and like others have expressed gratitude to the admins, the best outcome for me has been the local connections.

A request on “Buy Nothing.” Several members quickly responded.

Earlier this year Parul Kamboj, a Buy Nothing member, offered Indian cooking lessons at her home. A lover of all food, and especially new cultural experiences, I quickly added my name to the more than 40 other replies.

Luckily, I was selected to join one of her classes. On a cold winter day, Parul generously opened her home to 4 members of the Buy Nothing community. She taught us how to make sabudana khichdi, a vegetarian dish with tapioca balls, carrots, peanuts and spices.

A few weeks after our lesson I met Parul again. I couldn’t get her passion for her culture and cuisine out of my mind. I had to write a piece about her for my blog, where I explore culture through food stories.

Mary Luvera

I spent over an hour at her home, chatting and sipping ginger tea. I really got to know Parul that day. I felt very fortunate to have had this view into her life, culture and food. It was all thanks to the Buy Nothing Westport group.

It’s true that members of the Buy Nothing Westport group exchange material items, which could possibly better serve someone somewhere else.

Scratch below the surface though, and you’ll find that real connections are happening behind many of these exchanges. People are meeting, learning about each other, becoming friends, and supporting one another.

Of course if you’re looking for a trampoline, shoes, soccer cleats, softball pants, an American Girl doll, a storage bench, a bookcase or blender, you can find those through the group too!

Ian O’Malley: Westport’s “Home” DJ, In More Ways Than One

He’s the DJ who introduced Nirvana to New York.

Van Halen brought him and his wife together.

He’s in the “School of Rock” movie, was on the “Big Brother” TV show, and has been a mainstay of the tri-state radio scene for nearly 30 years.

Now Ian O’Malley is moving to Westport.

These days, the Q104.3 jock holds down the Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. spot. That gives him time to indulge his other interests.

And in his “other” career O’Malley is a real estate agent, with Westport’s Higgins Group.

Ian O’Malley

Talking — to listeners and clients — is in his blood. His father recorded talking books for the blind. Insatiably curious, he moved his family around often. O’Malley lived — among other places — in Santa Fe, New England and the Maritime Provinces.

He started his radio career on Prince Edward Island, while still in high school. He worked nights, then headed to classes in the morning.

He asked his boss how to get better shifts. “Get better,” the man replied.

Then it was on to Alaska, for TV and radio work. At 21 he was hired in Boston. He was a DJ and — in the fledgling days of music videos — a VJ too.

In October of 1989, WNEW FM — New York’s reigning rock station — had a rare opening. O’Malley sent in a tape (actually, a cassette), and was called down to do a Saturday night audition show. He got hired Monday, to start the following weekend.

His first day at the station, Tony Bennett walked in. A few minutes later, Jerry Garcia strolled by. “I’m in a whole different radio stratosphere,” O’Malley thought to himself.

After that first day, Ian O’Malley and Tony Bennett became good friends. They often worked out at the same New York City gym.

WNEW was a great opportunity. Scott Muni, Dennis Elsas, Carol Miller and Pat St. John were already legends. Friends with many musicians, they were happy to let the “snot-nosed 25-year-old kid” represent the station at concerts.

“I had the keys to the city,” O’Malley says.

When he added work as a VH1 VJ, O’Malley got to know — professionally and socially — even more musicians. Now he’s got stories galore.

In 2000, WAXQ — classic rock Q104.3 — came calling. He’s been there ever since.

“I love the story-telling aspect,” O’Malley says. “I can communicate with people.” Though satellite radio and apps like Spotify have cut into stations like his, O’Malley says listeners still love the local touch.

He’s happy to oblige. The other day, he gave a shout-out to Westporter Bert Porzio for some great tree work, and his daughter Jennifer, a Staples High School . Both were thrilled.

Westport’s Ian O’Malley and famous Fairfield musician John Mayer.

In his long career, O’Malley has seen plenty of changes. 45s gave way to albums. CDs followed. These days the music is on computers.

When he started, fans wrote letters. Now they email or text. It’s instant feedback — and it keeps his show lively.

It also brought him love.

In 2008, a listener named Debbie emailed that she had not heard any Van Halen lately. O’Malley obliged. They wrote back and forth — longer and longer — for 3 months.

He asked her to lunch. Then he broke his own rule about dating listeners. Two years later, he married her.

They both remembered the 1st song he played on the radio for her: “Dance the Night Away.” Eddie Van Halen signed one of his guitars that way — and gave it to the couple as a wedding gift.

Eddie Van Halen’s wedding gift to Ian and Debbie O’Malley.

O’Malley clearly loves what he does. He’s never gotten jaded. He’s proud that children of his former young listeners now listen to him. “I’m very fortunate to do this for so long in New York — and in a business not known for longevity,” O’Malley says.

Like many DJs, O’Malley does plenty of side work. He’s in great demand for voice-overs. For several years he was the voice of Saab. Commercials, instructional videos — you name it, he did it.

It’s a wonderful life. And he is particularly excited to be moving with Debbie and their 2 young sons from Wilton into his new home: a beautiful house (with a basement recording studio) in Greens Farms.

In fact, real estate is another one of O’Malley’s passions. He got involved in New York City in the mid-2000s, and did well.

Now he’s joined the Higgins Group. He fits in well with Rich Higgins and crew, and has already begun selling the area.

So if Ian O’Malley drives you around to see properties in town, you’ll be treated to many intriguing stories.

While — I’m sure — Q104.3 plays on the car radio.

Ian O’Malley’s “business shot” for the Higgins Group.