Category Archives: People

Nile Rodgers’ Journey: From Disco To Abbey Road

Nile Rodgers seems to have done it all.

The 65-year-old Westporter/musician/ producer/ composer/arranger  has performed or produced for everyone from Sister Sledge (“We Are Family”) to Duran Duran, David Bowie, Madonna and Britney Spears.

He’s earned Grammys for Record of the Year and Album of the Year (for Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories”).

Those of us a bit older remember his guitar work with Chic (“Le Freak”).  Nearly 40 years later, he played at President Obama’s final White House party. It lasted until 6 a.m.

Nile Rodgers has even been honored as the Westport Library’s “Booked for the Evening” star.

But now he’s got a new gig: chief creative advisor at Abbey Road.

The legendary artist joins the most legendary studio on the planet. He’ll record rock and pop stars, while also mentoring up-and-coming performers.

Rodgers — who told the BBC he dreamed of working at Abbey Road ever since he heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand” — says that every day at work, he sees people recreating the road-crossing made famous on the Beatles’ eponymous album.

But, he adds, the studio remains cutting-edge. “I’m an audio fanatic. I want my new stuff to sound amazing.”

He’s already worked with Bruno Mars there.

It really must be “Something” to watch the 2 stars “Come Together.”

(For more details on Nile Rodgers’ new project, click here. Hat tip: Alan Hodge.)

Nile Rodgers outside Abbey Road Studios. (Photo/Jill Furmanovsky for BBC)

Students, Selectmen Speak In Hartford On Bump Stock Bill

More than a dozen Westporters traveled to Hartford today. They testified before the Judiciary Committee, supporting a bill that bans bump stocks and related rifle accessories.

Alert “06880” reader Jaimie Dockray reports that at least 11 students were at the state capitol. Lily Kane testified. Kaela Dockray submitted written testimony. She and her mom had to catch a train to Washington for tomorrow’s March For Our Lives.

First Selectman Jim Marpe and Third Selectman Melissa Kane both testified. “They were awesome,” Jaimie Dockray says.

“The chairman of the committee asked their party affiliations, knowing they are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. When asked if they agreed on this issue, they emphatically answered ‘yes.’ They said their only problem was keeping their combined testimony to under 3 minutes.”

Lily Kane is interviewed at the Capitol. (Photo/Jaimie Dockray)

Friday Flashback #83

Buell Neidlinger — longtime “06880” reader and commenter/Westport native/world-renowned musician/all-around good guy — died last week. He was 82 years old.

Three days before his sudden death, he emailed me a suggestion for a Friday Flashback.

He sent a few pages from an old cookbook he’d found. “The New Connecticut Cookbook, Being a Collection of Recipes from Connecticut Kitchens” was compiled by the Woman’s Club of Westport, and illustrated by Connecticut artists. It belonged to his mother.

Buell’s pages did not include a publication date. But — judging from the car in the illustration, which may or may not be parked on a stylized version of Main Street — it was early in the papacy of Pope Pius XII.

Why that example? Because the preface (below), by literary critic/ biographer/historian Van Wyck Brooks — a Westport resident — notes that as Cardinal Pacelli, “the present Pope has been a visitor here.” Pius XII was Pope from 1939 to 1958.

Brooks mentions two other famous visitors to Westport, separated by more than a century: the French gastronome Jean Anthelem Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826), and Luigi Pirandello. The Italian writer and poet attended a performance at the Westport Country Playhouse. That was sometime between 1931 — when the summer theater opened — and 1936, when Pirandello died.

The pages that Buell sent are fascinating. Then again, everything he did for “06880” was.

This one’s for you, good friend.

Staples Freshman Battles Gun Violence

The Parkland massacre — and a subsequent assault rifle scare at their own school — affected, then galvanized many Staples High students.

Audrey Bernstein and Kaela Dockray met with Florida survivors, and began speaking out. Over 1,000 students participated in last week’s walkout.

Elana Atlas took to the internet.

She’s just a freshman — though you wouldn’t know it from her activism.

Elana Atlas, at work.

First, she composed 3 letters. One is for Republican legislators. Another is for Democrats. The third is for President Trump.

Though each is different, they share the same message: The founding fathers gave all of us rights to life and security. They did not give anyone the right to an AR-15.

“I am not asking you to ban all guns,” Elana writes. “I am asking you to ban the ones that are not necessary, that aren’t our right to have, the ones that are meant for mass killing. These include all automatic and semiautomatic guns, as well as bump stocks.”

Her letter ends, “We are fed up with thoughts and prayers. The time for change is  now.”

Elana distributed the letters to friends across the country, and asked them to pass it on too. She called them templates, which anyone could revise as they wished.

But she wanted even more people to see her letter — and learn about gun issues.

The result is ActionAgainstGunViolence. The strongly researched, well-presented website, is a go-to site for anyone interested in facts, resources and action.

Elana Atlas’ website includes these heartbreaking texts between Parkland High School student Matthew Zeif and his younger brother Ben.

Elana has collected background information on the epidemic of school shootings; texts sent by terrified students in the midst of gunfire; counter-arguments to the “right to bear arms” clause; links to gun safety organizations; advice on how to start your own movement — and of course, her letter templates.

She even cites all her sources. Her teachers have taught her well.

Now — like students all across this town and country — she is taking everything she’s learned in school.

And turning it into action for her country.

(Click here to visit Elana Atlas’ website.)

New SoNo Mall Looms Large

If you drive through Norwalk on I-95, it’s impossible to miss.

A 700,000-square-foot mall is rising inches off Exit 15.

Artist’s rendering of the SoNo Collection mall.

It won’t open until October 2019. But — with its size, its freshness, and its retailers like Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s — the SoNo Collection seems to pose a direct threat to Westport’s Main Street.

Matt Mandell disagrees.

The executive of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce told the Fairfield County Business Journal, “We offer an open-air experience instead of an enclosed mall. People come to Westport for a change of pace.”

Westport Downtown Merchants Association president Randy Herbertson adds that the mall offers “opportunities” for our town.

“They are focusing on mid-tier to aspirational retailers, and only 6% devoted to food service which will most likely be fast-service casual (chains like Olive Garden).”

That will “further accentuate our opportunity to provide a more upscale, specialty, open-air and experiential shopping, dining and living district that will complement this offering.”

Main Street is open air — not enclosed.

But, Herbertson says, to attract new merchants and downtown residents — and continue drawing investments like Bedford Square, the new Elm Street property, Belden Place, the former Save the Children complex, and the building that’s replacing Bobby Q — “we need to prioritize stronger cooperation and co-investment between our town and commercial interests.”

It’s already started, he says, through a constructive meeting he attended with First Selectman Jim Marpe and his team, Mandell, and area developers, landlords and merchants.

Meanwhile, the clock ticks down toward October 2019.

(Click here for the full Fairfield County Business Journal story. Hat tip: Scott Smith)

Unsung Hero #40

Last month, Karin Kessler opened Backspace — a vintage typewriter sit-and-hang-out shop behind Little Barn.

It’s a great new venture. It’s warm, welcoming — and welcome.

Of course, her mail carrier might not think so. He’s the guy who has to deliver all those heavy packages to Karin.

Fortunately, Karin’s carrier is Kevin Logue.

She says:

I have the best mailman. Kevin has delivered hundreds of typewriters to me with kid gloves.

He has such a thankless job. He could easily be disgruntled, and throw my boxes into the garage. Yet he neatly places packages close to the door, and has never commented on the weight or how many he delivers.

Kevin Logue, in his truck.

Kevin has only inquired with excitement about my collection, how my store was coming together, and when it was opening.

He even showed up late afternoon after work to check it out. And he was as excited as I was when I heard from Tom Hanks.

Kevin is a part of the community. He’s much more than just a delivery person. He cares.

Thanks, Kevin! We hope you know that “06880” — the blog and the community — care about you! 

(Readers: To nominate an Unsung Hero, email

Sturm, Ruger Protest: “Not In My Backyard!”

Sturm, Ruger — one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of assault weapons — is headquartered less than a mile from Westport. 

Their Southport office is almost in our backyard.

Which is why the rally Greg Kraut is helping organize is called “Not In Our Backyard!”

This Saturday at 11 a.m. — while many Westporters march against gun violence in New York, Washington and Hartford — Ruger will be the site of a special protest.

Kraut — a Westport RTM member — calls it “a peaceful, educational, family-friendly stand.” Information on ARs will be provided, along with solutions moving forward.

Protestors will stand for 17 minutes — one for every student and teacher murdered last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

They’ll also sign a letter urging Ruger’s investors and vendors to enforce socially responsible investing — and to divest.

Kraut notes that assault weapons account for a small percentage of all gun deaths yearly in the U.S.. But, he says, “they can kill dozens of people in seconds. If a business can’t survive not selling assault weapons with adequate restrictions, then maybe they should have a better business strategy.”

According to Kraut, company co-founder William Ruger Sr. told Tom Brokaw in 1992, “No honest man needs more than 10 rounds in any gun. I never meant for simple civilians to have my 20- or 30-round mags or my folding stock.”

(The event is organized in conjunction with the Fairfield and Westport police departments. Ruger will let protestors use their private property off the Post Road — just past I-95 — to gather. For more information, email


Bedford Musicians, Sean O’Loughlin: An Innovative Collaboration

At a time when arts education is under siege nationally — forget the frills! teach engineering and coding! — Westport is offering its students something else.

A chance to compose music with Sean O’Loughlin.

Sean O’Loughlin

The award-winning composer/arranger/conductor — he’s got over 200 compositions to his credit, and has collaborated with Adele, Josh Groban, Itzhak Perlman, Pentatonix, Kelly Clarkson and others — is in the midst of a unique project. His collaborators: 6th, 7th and 8th orchestra students at Bedford Middle School.

A Westport Public Schools Innovation Grant funds the effort. The grants give students and staff the chance to think outside the box, using creative new ideas.

The relationship began last year, when the 6th grade orchestra Skyped with O’Loughlin during rehearsals of one of his pieces.

Last summer, BMS music teachers Michele Anderson and Anthony Granata asked the composer to continue the connection. He was happy to oblige.

This past November, string students explored the music-writing process. They looked at tempo, mood, style, even titles for future pieces.

Next — via multiple Skype sessions — they offered O’Loughlin suggestions for key and time signatures, bowing styles and advanced techniques. Afterwards, students discussed and wrote about those interactions.

Michele Anderson rehearses her Bedford students. Composer Sean O’Loughlin watches in the background, via Skype.

Based on their input, O’Laughlin then created 3 unique pieces.

In early January, he sent his original compositions to the very excited Bedford students.

Since then — again by Skype — the youngsters and O’Loughlin rehearsed together. As they did, they asked questions and shared ideas.

On Monday, the musicians met O’Loughlin in real time. He came to Bedford from California, as a composer/conductor in residence. He rehearsed the students, and gave a presentation.

After an exciting day, all orchestra students gathered for a performance conducted by O’Loughlin. Music educators were invited to watch the creative process in action.

Sean O’Loughlin conducts the Bedford orchestra.

“Because these pieces are brand new, our BMS orchestra students were the first ones to interpret the music in their very own way,” Anderson notes.

“There was no recording to listen to. The music came from them.”

The process is working well. And in May, the middle schoolers will share their work with the public.

The prestigious Carl Fischer music company will publish the compositions. They’ll be available to schools across the globe.

Bedford’s spring concerts — when they’ll debut the O’Laughlin pieces — are set for May 1 (grade 6), May 3 (grade 7) and May 14 (grade 8). They begin at 7 p.m. in the school auditorium, and are free.

Justin Paul’s Lin Manuel Miranda Moment

Justin Paul. Lin Manuel Miranda. Ben Platt. The March For Our Lives.

That’s quite a combination.

Yesterday, the 4th #Hamiltondrop video was released. The series features monthly “Hamilton”-inspired mashups, combined with other well-known songs.

The one mixes “Hamilton”‘s “Story of Tonight” with “You Will Be Found,” from “Dear Evan Hansen.” That tune was written by Staples High School graduate Justin Paul, and his songwriting partner Benj Pasek.

The mashup is sung by Miranda and Ben Platt, a Tony Award winner for his portrayal of the “Hansen” title character. says it may be the best of the entire series.

The video includes quick shots of Justin, sitting on a couch watching the recording. It was made just a couple of hours after he visited Staples High and Coleytown Middle Schools. He was exhausted, but excited.

Proceeds from downloads (click here) go to this weekend’s march, organized by teenagers to draw attention to gun violence and political inaction.

Emma Gonzalez — a Parkland High School student, political activist and march leader — tweeted: “I just listened to it and I can’t stop crying. I’m gonna listen to this forever holy heck.”

“Merrily” Broadway Star Boosts Staples Players’ Show

It wasn’t easy.

Serial snowstorms knocked out crucial rehearsals. Plus there were the normal teenage challenges of putting on a complex show, alongside the usual demands of school, family and social life.

But Staples Players has scored another success with “Merrily We Roll Along.” Opening weekend audiences loved the troupe’s interpretation of the 1981 Stephen Sondheim musical — based on a 1934 play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart — that Players first staged in 2003.

Senior Charlie Zuckerman plays Charley, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and former best friend of Frank (the lead character, played by Nick Rossi).

Charlie Zuckerman, Avery Mendillo and Nick Rossi perform “Old Friends” in “Merrily We Roll Along.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

Lonny Price originated the role of Charley on Broadway. It ran for only 16 performances, and 52 previews. But “Merrily” has since taken on a life of its own. Audiences have learned to love its intricacies.

And in 2016 Price directed “Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened,” a documentary about “Merrily”‘s original Broadway production, and the hopeful young performers whose lives were transformed by it.

Price’s documentary was named one of the New York Times’ top 10 films of 2016.

Lonny Price, Ann Morrison, and Jim Walton in “Merrily We Roll Along,” and today. (Right photo/ Martha Swope; left picture/Bruce David Klein)

Price will be in the audience for this Friday’s Staples production (March 23, 7:30 p.m.). Afterward, he’ll lead Players’ first-ever talkback. Audience members are encouraged to stay, and enjoy insights from the Broadway icon.

In addition to his “Merrily” and “Best Worst Thing” credits, Price directed Glenn Close in “Sunset Boulevard,” “Audra McDonald in “110 in the Shade,” and Danny Glover in “‘Master Harold’ … and the Boys.” He’s a 3-time Emmy winner.

Price also collaborated with Westporter Andrew Wilk — executive producer of “Live From Lincoln Center” — on broadcasts of “Camelot,” “Candide” and “Sweeney Todd.” For years, he has heard Wilk rave about the high quality of Players’ productions.

Now he’ll see for himself.

“Andrew has excellent taste,” Price says. “So when he asked me to check out their production of ‘Merrily,’ I was eager to see their take on a show that has meant so much to me for the last 37 years.”

You’ll be inspired by “Merrily We Roll Along.” You’ll love Lonny Price’s talkback.

And if you want to get the most out of both, you can watch “Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened” on Netflix — or right here:

(“Merrily We Roll Along” will be performed on Friday and Saturday, March 23 and 24, 7:30 p.m. Click here for tickets. A few tickets may be available in the lobby at 7 p.m.)