Category Archives: Media

Livio Sanchez’s “American Portrait”

Last month, Westport’s Livio Sanchez was chosen to be part of an elite team.

As part of its 50th anniversary, PBS selected 100 videographers and photographers from around the country — 2 per state — to help define what it means to be an American today. The “American Portrait” project will focus on the beliefs, traditions and experiences that make up this vast nation.

Little did Sanchez — or anyone else — know that soon, life in America would abruptly change.

Livio Sanchez

Sanchez — an award-winning editor, producer and director who has worked with top ad agencies, Google, Microsoft, Amazon Studios, Netflix, Nike, GM and the New York Times — quickly shifted gears.

He’d already done 3 stories. Now he’s documenting life during the coronavirus crisis.

PBS has pivoted too. They’re planning a special broadcast. Sanchez’s subject are being considered as possible leads.

The videos are short, but compelling. Subjects include Stephen “Doc” Parsons and Griffin Anthony. Sanchez met both while playing men’s baseball for the Westport Cardinals.

Also included: Saugatuck Congregational Church Rev. Alison Patton. Sanchez met her and her husband Craig when their sons played on the same Little League team.

A screenshot from one of Livio Sanchez’s PBS videos.

Click below for links to several videos. As we all grapple with COVID-19, these clips provide compelling looks into American life, yesterday and today.

Stephen “Doc” Parsons

Griffin Anthony

(In addition to pros like Sanchez, the PBS series will include submissions from the public. Click here to see the trailer for PBS’ “American Portrait.”)

Friday Flashback #186

This week — much to some Westporters’ dismay — the New York Times shined a spotlight on our town’s role in, and reaction to, the coronavirus crisis.

On September 8, 1832, the Springfield Journal took note of a cholera epidemic here.

Of course, there was no “Westport” yet — it would be 3 years before we broke away from Fairfield, Norwalk and Wilton.

I have no idea why a newspaper in Illinois would take note of what was happening here. But here’s how they reported it.

Worth noting, nearly 190 years later:

  • Then, as now, people who were able to left New York for the suburbs
  • Quarantines worked
  • Newspaper writing was a lot different then, but …
  • Just like today, mistakes crept in. “Newark” in the last sentence should be “Norwalk.” The river referred to is the Saugatuck.

I have no idea how very alert “06880” reader Mary Gai found this. But it’s important proof that we are not the first generation to face a crisis like this.

In 1832, New York’s population was 250,000. The cholera epidemic killed 3,515. In today’s city of 8 million, the equivalent death toll would pass 100,000. For more on that long-forgotten epidemic, click here.

PS: The Norwalk Gazette is long gone. But the Springfield Journal  — now the State Journal-Register — is still around. It calls itself “the oldest newspaper in Illinois.”

PPS: Did Abraham Lincoln read this story? Probably not. He moved to Springfield in 1837.

Persona Of The Day: Candice Savin

For a while, Rob Simmelkjaer and I have been talking about a “Persona of the Week” interview for “06880.” Persona — his new mobile app — makes it easy and fun to conduct interviews and create podcasts.

These days, staying connected is more important than ever. So Rob and I are using Persona’s “06880 Dan Woog” channel to help.

Once a day — usually in my COVID-19 Roundup story — we’ll share your stories. Some will be family interviews; others will be questions of special guests.

We start with Board of Education chair Candice Savin. She answered a few questions from Rob Simmelkjaer about when schools will likely reopen, the impact of this crisis on the education budget, and whether the shutdown will impact the schedule for Coleytown Middle School’s reopening.

Here’s a clip from her CMS answer. You can download the app (iPhone or Android for the full Q&A, and to ask her your own questions. Then follow “06880 Dan Woog” — and stay connected. (To share your own interviews, tag “06880 Dan Woog” in the interviewee field.

Board of Education chair Candice Savin

COVID-19 Roundup: Great Landlords; CNN; Pet, Art, Food News; Devil’s Den Closed; More

Beth Schaefer leads off with some great news!

She owns Westport Yarns. Her shop is considered “non-essential” — though everyone could do with some soothing knitting these days — and she’s completely shut down. Not even curbside pickup.

Yesterday, her landlords — Edward and Joan Hyde — suspended her rent for April. They did the same for her shopping center neighbors Body Quest and Party Hardy.

If conditions don’t improve, the Hydes will consider doing the same for Beth in May.

“This could make all the difference whether I can survive or not,” Beth says gratefully. “It’s not a guarantee, but it puts me in a much better place.”

The Hydes are not Westport’s biggest or wealthiest landlords. Plenty of Westport commercial real estate is owned by large corporations.

But Edward and Joan Hyde made that first generous, community-minded gesture. Will others do the same, to help other businesses survive?

When they do, let me know. I’ll give them the shout-out they deserve.


First it was the New York Times. Then Fox News. Now CNN has reported on Westport’s state-leading 79 coronavirus cases.

The story mentions the now-infamous party that may have contributed to the spread of the disease. But it also includes cautionary quotes from Yale New Haven Health System’s chief quality officer Dr. Steven Choi — a Westport resident.

“There was no social irresponsibility with the party,” he says. “It could have been any party.”

The spread is now “past the point of contact tracing,” State Senator Will Haskell — a Staples High School graduate — adds. “The most productive thing people could do right now is not point fingers, but stay at home as much as possible.”

For the full story, click here.


Everyone loves healthcare professionals, and pets. But who can care for the latter, when the former is at work?

Town House for Dogs and Cats, that’s who. Owner Sandy Goldman offers free “daycare” for healthcare workers. Email sandylee@optonline.net, or call 203-227-3276.


In related pet news, Westport-based Connecticut Humane Society is hosting a Zoom webinar tomorrow (Thursday, March 26, 3 p.m.).

It’s a PetTalk (the animal version of a TedTalk) about busting pet boredom. Participants will learn how to keep pets’ minds and bodies active. Click here to sign up.

The Humane Society adds, “thankfully everyone here is doing fine. Most pets have been moved to foster homes. Our Fox Memorial Clinic in Newington is seeing veterinary emergencies by appointment.”


In addition to being a frequent “06880” commenter, Rich Stein runs a catering business. He writes now about the sudden, complete end of work for all caterers and private chefs. No more galas or gallery openings; no more private parties. Justlikethat, they’re gone. (As is business for the vendors — including local farmers and markets — they buy from.)

Rich says that he and other caterers — he mentions Dash of Salt, AMG Catering, Along Came Carol, along with his own What’s on the Menu Event Services — have posted very tasty menus on their websites and social media, for anyone who wants meals prepared and delivered (and frozen). They are always scrupulous about cleanliness and health.

Remember: Easter and Passover are coming. You may not have your traditional gathering — but you’ll still want to eat well.


Speaking of food, Brian Lewis is doing all he can to help his dedicated restaurant staff.

All takeout orders at OKO support a new meal train for the employees who are temporarily out of work. He’s providing full dinners for them and their families, twice a week.

“Every dollar from takeout orders that members of the community are so graciously placing supports this meal train,” Brian says. “Each dollar also helps me keep 9 people employed. and our doors open.”

Brian also plans to help feed first responders, and medical workers.

To help OKO help others, click here. For a list of all restaurants and markets offering curbside and takeout delivery, click here; then scroll down.


Speaking even more of food, Stew Leonard Jr. was on Fox News yesterday, talking about his family’s business.

Panic buying seems over, he says. They’ve adjusted to spikes, like selling 40,000 cans of tuna fish a week, up from the usual 10,000.

He also noted changes, like eliminating loose bagel bins and (aaargh!) all those free samples.

Oh, yeah: Stew’s is paying employees an extra $2 an hour now.

Click here for the full interview.

 


The Nature Conservancy has closed Devil’s Den. A “dramatic increase” in visitors — combined with their lack of social distancing, and “not heeding the town of Weston’s request to refrain from parking on roads which can block emergency access for our neighbors” — sparked the decision.


Bridgeport Rescue Mission offers food, shelter, clothing, addiction recovery services and education to a desperate population in Bridgeport — and does it 24/7/365, with no city, state or federal funding. A number of Westporters are deeply involved in the Mission’s work.

COVID-19 hits the low income, homeless and mentally ill populations hard. Meanwhile, both food donations and financial support is down. Packaged food or wellness kits with hand sanitizer, tissues, soap and cough drops can be dropped off at 1069 Connecticut Avenue, Bridgeport (Tuesdays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Click here to donate online, or mail to: BRM, PO Box 9057, Bridgeport, CT  06601.

 


Beechwood — Frederic Chiu and Jeanine Esposito’s innovative, immersive arts salon series — offers intimate, personal encounters with music, paintings, sculpture, dance, the written word and more.

It’s the opposite of social distancing.

But you can’t keep Beechwood down.

From 6 to 7 p.m. every Wednesday in April, they’ll provide an hour of art, music, performances and special guests. And they’ll do it while connecting communities around the globe. Audiences don’t just tune in; they’ll interact too.

Each Wednesday has a theme. There are live performances, special guests, and excerpts from amazing performances over the past 9 years of salons.

Mark your calendars. Then click on facebook.com/beechwoodarts. For more infromation, click here.


And finally, a few wise words from Bill Withers:

Westport Connected: Send Photos And Videos Now!

Westporters keep coming up with great ideas to stay connected.

The latest is as simple as its name: WestportConnected.

The goal is to go beyond the usual social media platforms. Organizers Marcy Sansolo, Darcy Hicks, Lisa Newman, Jaime Bairaktaris and Melissa Kane — a who’s who of creative, concerned and well-connected neighbors — invite fellow Westporters to share a message by sending either a photo (of yourself and/or your family and/or pets), or a video (no longer than 10 seconds!).

Want to say hi to everyone? Send a photo! (Photo courtesy of Bob Weingarten)

You can also offer services or support, as a professional or someone willing to help. Just take a photo or video, holding up a poster with what you can do, and your contact info.

Need ideas? Organizers suggest:

  • Messages of love and support to fellow Westporters
  • An activity that you or your family is doing to keep sane
  • Services you can offer for people who can’t leave their homes: lawn work, shopping, outdoor repairs, etc.
  • Support contacts to get help for depression, spousal abuse, addiction, etc. If you are a professional or sponsor who can offer support, let people know how to reach you
  • Share lessons via Zoom or other virtual conferencing appointments: music or art lessons, meditation sessions, workout routines, etc.

Are you a therapist who can meet clients online? Let us know!

There aren’t many rules. Just be positive!

Organizers say, “this is an attempt to recover some of the life we’re missing due to quarantine. It’s a reminder for all of us that no one is alone.”

Of course, “06880” is happy to help. Messages will be made into a video — and it will be posted here on Monday (March 30).

Send your photos and videos to WestportConnected@gmail.com. The deadline is 4 p.m. this Friday (March 27).

Connect now. Then get ready to be uplifted on Monday!

 

Cynthia Gibb’s Triple Threat For Aspiring Actors, Writers, Dancers

As Westport teens and tweens settle down to life in a pandemic, they’re learning how to learn online.

Academics and extracurriculars are all done virtually now. But it’s one thing to learn math or history that way, or do your judo or piano lessons.

What about all those theater kids? When Mickey Rooney said “let’s put on a show!” he wasn’t talking to himself.

Cynthia Gibb rides to the rescue.

The 1981 Staples High School graduate sure has the credentials. She’s starred in “Search for Tomorrow” and “Fame”; played Karen Carpenter in her biopic; starred with Shirley Jones, Dick Van Dyke, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze and Burt Reynolds, and been on “Law and Order/SVU” and “Criminal Minds” too.

Cynthia Gibb earned a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Gypsy Rose Lee in “Gypsy,” with Bette Midler.

Cynthia worked with Oliver Stone, Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins. Her credits include 13 features, 3 network series, 24 TV movies, countless TV pilots, commercials, voiceovers and print work.

A decade ago she returned to Westport, and opened Triple Threat Academy. It’s nurtured and inspired hundreds of young and adult actors, singers and dancers. Many have gone on to schools like Tisch and Carnegie Mellon, and careers on Broadway and in Hollywood.

Cynthia Gibb, at the “Fame” reunion in Italy.

When the coronavirus pandemic turned “Contagion” into reality, acting teacher Nick Sadler (“True Grit,” “Scent of a Woman”) brainstormed how to keep youngsters — so many of whose shows were canceled just days before opening night — engaged. It had to be more than a watching-and-waiting scene study class.

Cynthia had an idea: a pandemic monologue play.

Students could journal about their experiences during this crazy time, and craft a monologue. At the end of 6 weeks, it will be performed via Zoom. With Triple Threat’s help, actors might take the resulting play to a real stage or screen — even on tour — once people can congregate again.

Westport native Jamie Mann (right) and Josie Todd (middle), last summer in “Because of Winn Dixie” at the Goodspeed Opera House. The pair will perform together again — this time virtually — in Triple Threat Academy’s upcoming online plays. 
(Photo/Diane Sobolewski)

Cynthia’s “Monologue and Play Development Class” meets for 6 weeks, starting next week (high schoolers on Wednesdays, middle schoolers on Tuesdays, from 5 to 6 p.m.).

Monologues will be good, bad, fearful funny. (Remember, “A Chorus Line” started out as monologues too.) Enrollment already includes teenagers with extensive — even professional — experience.

“Art always reflects what is going on in life,” Cynthia says. “Just think about ‘Rent’ and the AIDS crisis. We now have an opportunity to find the light in dark times, the humanity behind the grim news, and the positivity to push forward — all through the powers of creativity, collaboration and storytelling.”

Meanwhile, Nick has organized a hybrid of traditional radio theater and today’s podcasts. (Remember when Americans huddled around the radio, listening to plays? Hey — we’re back huddling together.)

Nick Sadler (center) with Phillip Seymour Hoffman in “Scent of a Woman,” starring Al Pacino. Sadler landed this supporting role shortly after graduating from Juilliard.

His “Virtual Play Series” will teach students how to stage a fast-paced play (or two). Each week the cast will meet via Zoom to read, rehearse and ultimately “release” the play to an online audience.

Students will take on multiple roles, challenging them to invent a variety of characters. It’s a collaborative effort — just like all great theater. (An adult version is in the works too.)

It runs for 7 Sundays, from 3 to 4 p.m. for high schoolers, and 5 to 6 p.m. for middle schoolers. The first session is this Sunday (March 29).

Meanwhile, the third part of Triple Threat — dance — heads online too. Kim Porio offers a class this Sunday (10:45 to 11:45 a.m.) for young actors and singers. It’s “Bring a Friend Day,” so even those not enrolled can try it out.

It all should be quite a show.

(For more information about Triple Threat Academy’s offerings, including registration, click here, email TripleThreatAcademyCT@gmail.com, search on Facebook, or follow @TripleThreatAcademy on Instagram.)

Rev. Alison Patton: The Story The NY Times Should Have Told

The New York Times’ now-famous piece on the coronavirus in Westport — “How a Soirée in Connecticut Became a Super Spreader” — included a photo of The Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton.

The caption noted that the Saugatuck Congregational Church minister “led an online fellowship hour with parishioners on Sunday after her church in Westport closed.”

That was it. No quotes or insights from one of our town’s most caring residents — a wise, insightful observer of all that goes on here.

Many Westporters thought there must have been more to her brief appearance in the Times. 

There is. Rev. Patton writes:

When a New York Times reporter called to ask me how Westport was responding to the virus, I thought she had a great opportunity to write an article about the creative ways that communities are navigating the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s not the story the Times chose to publish. So I thought I’d write that story.

Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton

This has been a profoundly trying few weeks. Contending with the virus itself, the related fears, and the disrupted schedules has put a strain on all of us.

In the words of pastor and public theologian Nadia Bolz-Weber: “We’re not only experiencing a pandemic of COVID-9, we are also experiencing an ‘epidemic of disappointment.’”

How many of us have had plans derailed: championship games, theatrical performances, business engagements or family vacations? How many have lost income, access to hot meals or life-saving support systems?

That’s a lot of grief, even if we do manage to avoid or ride out the virus itself. And of course, there are those who have contracted COVID-19. This pandemic has been hard on our hearts.

We are all scrambling to adjust, to stay safe and grounded. But here’s what has struck me: We are also working hard to stay connected as a community. Saugatuck Congregational Church, along with most other faith communities in the region, has suspended in-person worship.

But like all our other faith communities, Saugatuck is finding alternative ways to stay in touch, counter isolation, encourage people and feed spirits. We are urging physical distancing while sustaining social connection. The responses I’ve witnessed remind me that we have an amazing capacity to adapt, when our connectedness is at stake.

I have so many examples. There’s the 91-year-old member who asked for technical assistance so she could participate in our online bible study by Zoom, and the member who joined our Sunday morning social hour via Zoom from his hospital bed — just 2 days after major surgery!

Saugatuck Congregational Church has anchored Westport for centuries.

There’s the patience everyone has shown, as we figure out how to use technologies that are new to many of us. We are muddling through with remarkable humor.

As one Saugatuck member observed, in response to our Zoom social hour and online small groups, ”What we’re doing is totally different, but really touching and human.”

I know it’s not just Saugatuck Church. Creative efforts to stay connected are springing up all over town. I suspect that everyone reading this will have a story to add. There’s the Westport neighborhood where residents circulated red, green and yellow cards in mailboxes, to help vulnerable neighbors safely signal if they need supplies or other assistance.

There’s the high school student who created a Twitter account to report on the local impact of the Coronavirus and share helpful information, and the families who compiled a website designed to support local businesses by encouraging online shopping.

There are the local artists who are sharing photos and music online, to inspire and encourage us. The list goes on and on. For my part, I am grateful for and inspired by all those who have responded to these trying times with such generosity and innovation.

Westporters have expressed their emotions in many ways. A neighbor took this opportunity to thank our first responders. (Photo/Molly Alger)

Crisis can do 2 things: it can bog us down in our own anxiety or kick start our creativity. Surely, both are happening here.

We all have days when we are worn out from having to revise our habits again and again, in order to stay ahead of an invisible threat. But I hope we can also lean into those creative impulses, bearing in mind that isolation is hard because we are, fundamentally, interdependent. So we figure out how to reach and sustain one another.

The best story isn’t how this virus started or who may have contributed to its spread. It’s how we will get through it, and eventually stop the virus, because we can only do that together.

Former Westporter’s Early Infection Spread Rapidly

With so many stories — and news sources — about COVID-19, “06880” is trying to limit coverage to stories with a direct connection to Westport. So why am I reprinting this Los Angeles Times story?

Because the subject of the story — a man in his 50s — is a former Westporter. The ominous headline is “How One Man’s Coronavirus Infection Created a Web of Potential Infection Around the World.” Here’s Noah Bierman’s report:

Contracting the new strain of coronavirus was stressful enough for one Washington, D.C., aerospace consultant. But tracking down and calling the people he came into contact with may have been just as bad.

“Are you sitting down? I got bad news,” he told people at least a dozen times.

The consultant was diagnosed Friday (March 13) with the illness, one among the early waves of known cases in the United States. And his efforts to call people around the country and around the world — including some within the highest reaches of government — illustrate how far a single individual can potentially spread the virus.

His calls caused factories to shut down, airlines and a ski van service to contact everyone on their manifests, a hotel to draft a letter sent to their guests, and congressional advisors and officials in the Israeli government to consider who they might need to call.

In a phone interview Sunday (March 15), he said he was suffering from painful coughing and shortness of breath. His wife has been feverish.

The consultant asked that his name not be used to protect the privacy of his clients. But he agreed to tell his story as a warning for others to listen to government admonitions and follow social distancing guidelines.

The story talks about his attendance at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington, then going to a pro hockey game followed by a 5-day ski vacation in Vail. Then he got on a plane, and started coughing….

This is not the former Westporter.

When he got the news, he had to tell people: Israeli officials, congressional offices, his hotel and van service in Vail …

The hotel sent a letter to their guests. The van service said it had expected a call like his and was prepared to make calls to the 10 people or so from around the country who rode through the mountains with the contagious consultant. The company that gave him the hockey tickets had to shut down their factory to test employees, as did other businesses he interacted with.

 

When he reached people, after an initial silence, they were understanding, much to his relief.

“Politics didn’t matter when I spoke with these people,” he said. “We get it. We’re going to try to do the right thing.”

The hospital told him to call ahead if he needed to return, so they could set up an isolation room with respiratory equipment.

“I think a lot of people have it and don’t know it, people who have been turned away,” he said. “The symptoms are flu-like, and you don’t have to be that sick.

“They only tested me because of the fact that I went to a big conference and I pushed the issue with them,” he added.

Like many Americans, he is already weary of the isolation.

“I feel like Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining.’ I’m about to snap with this cabin fever.”

(Click here to read the story on the Los Angeles Times website.)

NY Times Spotlights Westport: “Party Zero: How A Soiree In Connecticut Became A ‘Super Spreader'”

The New York Times has taken note — and told the world: Westport is ground zero for the coronavirus in Connecticut. 

In a long story posted late this afternoon — with the subhead “about 50 people gathered this month for a party in the upscale suburb of Westport, then scattered across the region and the world, taking the coronavirus with them” — Elizabeth Williamson and Kristen Hussey report on our town’s role in the pandemic.

Businesses have closed along Main Street in Westport, Conn., where a surge in coronavirus cases has been reported.

Businesses have closed along Main Street in Westport, Conn., where a surge in coronavirus cases has been reported. (Photo/Dave Sanders for The New York Times)

About 50 guests gathered on March 5 at a home in the stately suburb of Westport, Conn., to toast the hostess on her 40th birthday and greet old friends, including one visiting from South Africa. They shared reminiscences, a lavish buffet and, unknown to anyone, the coronavirus.

Then they scattered.

The Westport soirée — Party Zero in southwestern Connecticut and beyond — is a story of how, in the Gilded Age of money, social connectedness and air travel, a pandemic has spread at lightning speed. The partygoers — more than half of whom are now infected — left that evening for Johannesburg, New York City and other parts of Connecticut and the United States, all seeding infections on the way.

Westport, a town of 28,000 on the Long Island Sound, did not have a single known case of the coronavirus on the day of the party. It had 85 on Monday, up more than 40-fold in 11 days.

 

That’s the start. The story ends …

The first partygoer to be diagnosed passed word from Johannesburg to Westport that he had fully recovered and even planned to go for a jog.

“I don’t believe I’m the problem anymore,” he told The Sunday Times. “It seems that the real problem is now the people who are too scared to say anything. The problem is the ignorance of the public.”

(To read the story on the New York Times website, click here.)

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)