Category Archives: Media

WWPT: COVID Did Not Kill The Radio Star

When school closed in March, radio production teacher Geno Heiter wondered how he could keep WWPT-FM on the air.

The answer was right in his basement. The longtime musician had plenty of equipment there. His students were used to broadcasting remotely, for sports.

In a matter of days, 90.3 was back on the air.

Heiter oversees every show from his Milford “control room.” They take place during regular class time, and in afternoons and evenings too.  Students — er, the on-air talent — see each other via Google Hangouts. They plan their general talk, sports talk and music shows that way, communicating and improvising and entertaining in real time. If you didn’t know it, you’d think they were all hanging out together at 70 North Avenue.

Behind the scenes — virtually — as the staff collaborates on a WWPT-FM broadcast.

And make no mistake: These teenagers are good. They’ve snagged guests like Monday Night Football and Olympics sportscaster Mike Tirico, and New York Knicks and ESPN announcer Mike Breen.

Tomorrow (Friday, May 8, 7:30 p.m.) they’ll chat with Stephen A. Smith, host of ESPN’s “First Take.”

“I get the ball rolling. They run with it,” Heiter says modestly.

To see (and hear) how well they run, click here.

WWPT-FM advisor and radio production teacher Geno Heiter, in his Milford basement “control room.”

Signs Of The Times

Amy Schneider’s collage reminds us that there are plenty of restaurants open for business — with curbside pickup and home delivery, of course. (Merchants too: Earth Animal is tucked in there, bottom row.)

As the pandemic slogs into a new month, remember how important our local places are. The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce maintains a great list of open restaurants and markets; click here, then scroll down.

OneWestport offers an extensive list of restaurants, along with clothing stores, salons, fitness centers and more. Many of those businesses are closed, but links to their websites provide information on online opportunities, including gift cards.

The Finding Westport site also includes event planners, repair shops, graphic designers and the like.

Hard times continue. But thanks to these resources, we can make life a little easier for some of the restaurants and businesses that have served us so well, for so long.

PS: Hey, dads and kids! Remember: Sunday, May 10 is Mother’s Day. Many restaurants have special menus. And the Westport Downtown Merchants Association has an extensive list of restaurants and shops that offer Mother’s Day gifts. Just click here.

There are many very excellent restaurants in town. Jeera Thai is a favorite for flavor, fresh ingredients and friendliness. (Photo/Dan Woog)

“Q Is For Quarantine”

It’s not your average alphabet coloring book.

Sure, there are the usual fun letters: “B is for baking bread.” “G is for garbanzo beans.” “K is for kindness.”

But many of them are a bit, well, off. “A is for ambulance.” “E is for essential businesses.” “T is for toilet paper.”

The clue comes from the book’s title: “Q is for Quarantine.”

What might be the world’s first children’s coronavirus book was created by Westport’s own Julia Gang.

A 2007 graduate of Staples High School, with a degree in interdisciplinary arts from Northwestern University, she’s made a career of visual storytelling. Her first job was designing book covers. She now designs full time for a music non-profit, and does illustration, art direction, photography, calligraphy, sculpture and papier-mâché on the side.

Her “office” right now is in her old childhood bedroom, at her parents’ home.

Julia Gang

Her book began as she drew a series of postcards, to stay connected with family and friends.

It soon evolved into its current form. Julia wanted to keep creative juices flowing — her own, and others’ — while providing a bit of humor, entertainment and information too. (There’s a list of how-to-stay-busy and how-to-help resources at the end.)

Nowadays, coloring books are not just for kids. They can be calming for older folks too. So in true we’re-all-in-this-together fashion, Julia shared it — free! — on the internet. (Click here to download and print out.)

Now she’s on to her next projects: children’s books, and more.

“I’m grateful to have a profession where I can continue to work, while sheltering in place,” Julia says.

Meanwhile, kids (and adults) everywhere have her “P is for puzzles,” “Z is for zoo livestreams” — and of course “Q is for Quarantine” — to keep them busy.

(To learn more about Julia Gang, click here for her website. Hat tip: Joni Usdan)

Vanity Fair Features Westport’s Essential Workers

Last month, it was “the party.” This week, the short-lived “pandemic drone.”

After 2 turns in the national media glare, the 3rd time’s the charm.

Today, Vanity Fair turns its spotlight on the men and women who keep Westport going in a pandemic..

Stephen Wilkes is a photographer and National Geographic Explorer. He’s documented endangered species and habitats, rising seas, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Ellis Island in decay and more.

He’s also a Westporter.

After hearing about a young Maryland woman infected by COVID-19 who was so devoted to working at a store that it killed her, he set out to photograph essential workers here.

He said “so many great, small mom-and-pop shops are making sure that everybody is okay right now. Without them, I don’t know what we’d do.”

Wilkes’ story includes photos of Gold’s Delicatessen, Carvel and Fleishers Craft Butchery, as well as EMS headquarters and a Metro-North train.

His photos — like the one below, of the Gold’s owners and staff, masked yet still offering curbside pickup behind yellow caution tape (the caption notes that owners Jim and Nancy Eckl celebrated their 37th anniversary “serving their devoted customers”) — are powerful.

And — after all the chatter about a party and a drone — the perfect way to start the weekend.

(Photo/Stephen Wilkes for Vanity Fair)

(For more photos, and the text, click here. Hat tip: Kerry Long)

Remembering Ken And Patsy Olshan: Former Westporters Succumb To Coronavirus

Earlier this week, Rachel Maddow highlighted newspapers around the country that are devoting more space than usual to obituaries.

Among them: the Hartford Courant. The oldest continuously published paper in the US lists deaths by town. Now, the MSNBC host said, they were reaching all the way to the bottom of the page.

The Courant is also trying to highlight as many of those lost lives as they can. Among them: former Westporters Kenneth and Patricia Olshan.

Patricia and Ken Olshan (Photo courtesy of Hartford Courant)

He was an advertising executive in charge of famous campaigns like “Flick my Bic,” Alka-Seltzer’s “Plop plop, fizz fizz” and “I ♥ New York.” In 1981 he became chairman of Wells, Rich, Greene.

She was an oral historian and volunteered for several charities.

The Olshans moved to Westport in 1981. A few years ago they moved to Meadow Ridge in Redding.

The Courant reports that several weeks ago, Patricia developed a fever. It went away, and she had no cough or other coronavirus symptoms.

On April 7 her husband went into respiratory distress, and had a heart attack. A test showed he was infected with COVID-19.

The next day, Patricia’s fever was back. She died 2 days later.

Their son Matt — a 1981 Staples High School graduate — told the Courant, “If there is a bright spot in all this, it’s that they didn’t have to live without each other.”

(To read the full Hartford Courant story, click here. Hat tip: Matt Murray)

COVID-19 Roundup: Shopping, Podcast, Yarn Bomb, Trout Brook And More

The other day Janet Nevas stood outside Gold’s, awaiting her order.

Others — spaced appropriately — stood waiting for theirs. She turned to one man, said she was having trouble finding a face mask, and asked where he’d bought his.

Another person stood by her car; her husband sat behind the wheel. Suddenly, he drove away.

The woman told Janet that they’d overheard her conversation. They live around the corner, so he was headed home to bring her a couple of masks.

Janet could not believe someone would do that for a stranger. The woman explained that she had a family member involved in healthcare, so they knew the importance. They were happy to share extra masks.

Soon the man returned, with 4 masks — in a plastic bag — for Janet.

“Unfortunately, I did not get their names,” Janet says. “But I know we in Westport will get through this difficult time together. What a great place to live!”


Urlist Shopping has just opened in Westport.

College students pick up groceries, and deliver the next day (except Sunday).

The website is very user-friendly. You can also text your order to 786-606-0992 or 516-998-6438, or email it to urlistshopping@gmail.com

The site offers shopping options at Stop & Shop and Stew Leonard’s — or “other.” Payment is by Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, check or credit card (3% surcharge for cards).

Urlist charges $20 for orders under $100; $5 delivery fee plus 15% charge on orders between $100 and $200, and a 15% charge (with free delivery) on orders over $200.

Staples High School graduates Zach Feinstein and Uri Cattan say, “We follow extremely strict COVID-19 guidelines when we shop to stay germ-free and healthy. Every driver wears a mask and gloves to ensure that he does not risk safety.”

Urlist shoppers make sure you don’t have to face crowds at local supermarkets.


In these unpredictable times, one thing is certain: Miggs Burroughs comes through.

Among his many side gigs, Westport’s favorite graphic designer hosts a very entertaining podcast with his brother, fellow artist/Staples High School graduate Trace Burroughs.

“Oh, Brother, Not Another Podcast!” is not just the best-named show on the planet. It also informs, educates and enlightens.

Yesterday, the Burroughs boys taped a great show with 3 of Westport’s most important officials: 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Police Chief Foti Koskinas and Director of Human Services Elaine Daignault. They talk about how they’re responding to the virus, and its impact on our community. Click here to listen.


For a couple of weeks, yarn bombs have been spotted downtown.

Now the idea has spread to Compo Beach. The parking lot may be closed, but walkers, joggers and bikers can enjoy this as they pass by. (Hat tip: Karen Como)


Due to unsafe parking at and usage of Trout Brook Valley on Bradley Road in Weston, the trail system and parking is shut down until further notice. That leaves both Trout Brook and Devil’s Den in Weston closed for public use.


And finally … one of the few items on my bucket list I have not yet accomplished is being invited to Keith Richards’ house to hang. Like many Westporters, my encounters with him have been limited to a few sightings around town.

But on Saturday, I got a glimpse inside his Weston home. Sure, it was via YouTube. Still, it was fun. And the Stones’ message was surely apt, in these COVID-filled days.

No, you can’t always get what you want. But eventually all this will pass. And — because Keith will live forever — there’s still a chance that someday he’ll invite me over.

COVID-19 Roundup: Optimism; Playhouse Performers; Mercy Learning, And More

CBS News’ Steve Hartman hosts an online “class” about optimism. It’s aimed at children, but should be mandatory viewing for everyone.

The most recent session was about a 4-year-old girl who befriended an 84-year-old widower. It’s a wonderful piece. But that’s not why I’m showing it.

The “06800” link is that Steve introduces it all with Mike Aitkenhead. He’s the former Staples High School/current Weston High environmental instructor who — when he was named Teacher of the Year — thanked “Mike the Mailman.”

“It’s not what you do in life. It’s how you do it,” Mike the Teacher said. Click below — and have your Kleenex ready. (Hat tip: Mark Lassoff)


The Westport Country Playhouse is dark. But this Friday (April 17, 7 p.m.), it will light up online with some spectacular performances.

The Playhouse YouTube channel and Facebook live will host “Getting to Know You: A Celebration of Young Artists.” Westport’s Tony Award-winning Broadway star Kelli O’Hara hosts 10 Fairfield County students — all accomplished musical theater artists.

Dozens of hopefuls submitted videos of songs — many of which they hoped to perform in musicals this spring. Ten were selected randomly. Among them: Camille Foisie of Staples High School, and Momo Burns-Min of Weston High.

Ten understudies were chosen to submit a question for O’Hara to answer. Staples’ Jamie Mann is one of them.

All videos submitted will be compiled into a supercut at the end of the program, and shared on Playhouse social media channels.

(For Friday’s livestream, click on westportplayhouse.org, go to the bottom of the homepage, and click on the Facebook or YouTube icon.)


For 30 years, Westporters have embraced the mission of Mercy Learning Center: to improve the lives of under-served women in Bridgeport through education.

Of course, women who are hungry cannot learn. If they can’t afford the rent or diapers, they have no time or energy to learn. Now, the coronavirus has made those needs even more dire.

In week 4 of the crisis, MLC has exhausted their food and diaper pantries — and run out of food gift cards.

Because Mercy Learning Center is not considered an “essential service,” the building is closed. But director Jane Ferreira and her staff are in touch with their students. They’re doing their best to ensure they have food and basic supplies, plus funds to help with rent and other bills.

Checks can be sent to Mercy Learning Center, 637 Park Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06604. Click here for online donations.


On the one hand, this seems like great news.

On the other hand, it’s like a tease.

Who’s driving anywhere these days? (Hat tip: Chip Stephens)


And finally, this classic duet from 2 who died way too young: Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell:

 

 

Nile Rodgers Hangs In London

If you’re not a regular viewer of Sky Arts’ “Artist of the Year” competition — and you’re probably not, because it’s a UK network only — you will not have heard of “Artist of the Year.”

Since 2013, it’s been an opportunity for professional and amateur artists around Britain to find the best portrait or landscape artist.

After several rounds of regional competitions, the finals are filmed at the National Portrait Gallery. Judges are prestigious artists.

The winner receives a £10,000 commission to paint a famous personality.

And the 2020 winner is: Christabel Blackburn!

Christabel Blackburn, in an earlier round of the competition. (Photo courtesy of Sky/Storyvault/PA)

Yeah, yeah, I don’t know her either.

But — and here’s the “06880/Where Westport meets the World” hook — the London artist was commissioned to do a painting of Nile Rodgers.

Which is why she was flown here, and painted the guitarist/singer-songwriter/ record producer/arranger/composer/former Chic frontman at his Saugatuck Shores home.

The commissioned portrait of Nile Rodgers, by Christabel Blackburn. (Photo courtesy of Sky/Storyvault/PA)

“Taking part in Portrait Artist Of The Year has been one of the most fun and crazy experiences of my life,” Blackburn told the Aberdeen Evening Express.

“I met some amazing people, and above all it has done wonders for my confidence. I never thought I would be able to paint under that kind of pressure, and to win it, well that’s just pretty mind-boggling.

“I’m so excited to see where it now takes me.”

Well: It took her to Westport. And now — thanks to Christabel Blackburn — our neighbor hangs in the Royal Albert Hall.

(Sure, this is a pretty random story. I learned about it from Vince Kelly. Most Westporters know him through his long involvement in local baseball. But his parents were from Liverpool, and family members still live there. His aunt sent him the news about Nile, which he forwarded to me. To read the full Evening Express story, click here.)

Christabel Blackburn and Nile Rodgers, at the musician’s. Westport home. The photo is from Sky Arts’ “Artist of the Year” broadcast.

In Uncertain Times, Rob Slosberg Offers Sanity, Knowledge

When the coronavirus outbreak hit, Westporters leaped to help.

Physicians treat physical symptoms. Therapists handle emotional ones. CVS and Walgreens clerks ease customers’ fears. A career coach provides free resume consultations.

But if you’re in advertising, what can you possibly do?

Rob Slosberg is a creative director. That’s apt: The 1982 Staples High  School graduate is quite creative.

His first thought was to spread “sanity and knowledge.”

That evening in his Westport home, he created a video. The goal: to show how staying home can prevent others from getting sick — and save lives.

He wrote a script, found stock footage, and spent all night editing it.

Rob Slosbereg

In the morning he sent it to Ellis Verdi, co-founder of Rob’s firm DeVito/Verdi.

He loved it too. Quickly, Ellis sent it to his connections at The Partnership for New York City.

They loved it. But they had one request: Could it include a quote from Governor Cuomo?

Sure!

“That made the video much stronger,” Rob says. “It brought it to reality, and the present moment.”

By the next day, the video was in front of Cuomo. He must have loved it too.

The spot went from concept to on-air in 1 week. The average commercial takes 4 to 6 weeks.

It will run on donated media throughout the tristate area, and on Hulu.

“I just wanted to do something to try to help,” Rob says. “I never thought it would make it all the way up to the governor.”

I could tell you how compelling the PSA is. But it’s far more powerful to watch it yourself.

Just click below:

Q104.3 Studio Moves To Westport

In his 4 decades in radio — 3 of them as one of New York’s most popular DJs — Ian O’Malley has broadcast from many venues: the top of an Alaska mountain. The Maritime Provinces. A blimp.

Until last weekend though, he’d never done a show from his basement.

The cornoavirus has upended even Q104.3.

O’Malley usually works weekends. The commute from Westport to the Tribeca studio is not hard.

It’s a happy place. Besides the classic rock station, the 6th Avenue building is home to Z100, Hot 97, Power 105.1, Lite FM and WKTU.

But when a worker on the floor below fell ill with COVID-19, the decision came quickly: All shows would now be done from DJs’ homes.

While some colleagues broadcast from closets, O’Malley was lucky. He had already set up his Greens Farms basement for voice-over work. (You’ve heard his voice. Plenty.)

It’s well soundproofed — but not perfect. Last Sunday afternoon, he heard his young sons racing around upstairs.

His many listeners were probably unaware of the noise. Even if they heard it, they would not care. O’Malley was on the air, a familiar presence playing classic rock and telling classic stories.

Ian O’Malley did not have to dress up for last weekend’s shift.

He works mostly weekends now. The rest of the time he’s a very successful real estate agent with the Higgins Group.

He adapted to home broadcasting more easily than some colleagues. “DJs like routine,” O’Malley notes. “This was out of their element. They were nervous.”

He was too — for the first 10 minutes. Then he realized he was doing fine. He and his listeners were having fun. He was back in his groove, easily mixing music and conversation: stories about Van Halen, shout-outs, birthday greetings. “Sitting around the campfire,” he calls it.

Just as in New York, all the songs were pre-loaded into a computer. His laptop showed exactly what he would have seen in the iHeart studio.

Still, he says, this time he was completely in charge. He constantly checked his mic and sound levels.

“I really had to be on top of my game,” he says. “That makes it interesting and exciting.”

Ian O’Malley’s home studio.

Another difference: Usually, he gives away concert tickets. Those have all been postponed.

At any rate, he could not have done it from home. O’Malley did miss taking listeners’ calls.

Many listeners had no idea he was broadcasting from his basement. Those who did, appreciated hearing his familiar voice.

“They said it was calming. It makes you realize that music is important,” he says.

Ian O’Malley tells stories about many famous musicians — including Fairfield native John Mayer.

O’Malley has always enjoyed working in New York. But, he admits, “It was pretty nice to hop downstairs. During long sets, I could grab something to eat. And when I finished my show, I was done. No train. I just headed upstairs.”

He heads down to his basement again this weekend (10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday). For those 5 hours — as Huey Lewis sings — the heart of rock and roll is still beating.

In Westport.