Category Archives: religion

Beatles Came Out And Played With Young Westporter

The Beatles may or may not have visited famed disc jockey Murray the K at his Westport home in the 1960s. No evidence exists that they did, though several folks who grew up here then insist it’s true.

But — 50 years after the release of the ground-breaking “White Album” — one fact is not in dispute: One of the songs was written about a Westporter.

In 1963, 15-year-old Prudence Farrow was living in Los Angeles. Her father — director John Farrow — died suddenly.

So Prudence’s mother, Maureen O’Sullivan — an actress, then starring in a Broadway show — brought Prudence, her older sister Mia and other siblings to New York.

Maureen O’Sullivan and John Farrow with their children in 1950. From left: Mia, Patrick, Maureen, John holding Stephanie, Prudence and Johnny. Michael is in front.

But Maureen thought it would be best for Prudence and the other kids to live outside the city. She rented a house in Westport, with a cook/caretaker.

The 157 Easton Road house was well known: It was owned by Leopold Godowsky Jr. — a concert violinist and photographer who helped develop Kodacolor and Ektachrome — and his wife Frankie Gershwin, George and Ira’s younger sister who was a noted painter and singer.

It was a beautiful house: 7 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms on 2.75 acres, with a boathouse, indoor pool, 2 bars, a wine-tasting room, guest quarters, tennis court, waterfalls, walking paths, and stone bridges. The Aspetuck River flows through the back yard.

There was a lot of room to play. In her memoir, Prudence describes hiking in the woods, canoeing and skating on the pond, and playing with neighborhood kids.

157 Easton Road

But apparently the caretaker did little taking care of her charges. “We briefly saw Sue for a few minutes daily” when she drove them to the bus stop, Prudence writes. But when her brother Johnny got his license — and a Porsche convertible — she rode with him the short distance up North Avenue to Staples.

Prudence calls the school “impersonal and empty.” She told a guidance counselor she was not interested in college, so he put her in classes like “typing, homemaking, art, sewing, home economics and general math.”

However, she adds, “School was irrelevant. I couldn’t figure out the purpose of going. I thought I knew everything.”

She quickly learned Staples’ social structure, which include “creeps” (now called nerds), “High Y’s” (today’s jocks) and “greasers.” She was a “beatnik.”

Prudence writes: “They seemed so much more interesting than the others. They loved good music, art and philosophy, and I learned a lot about these disciplines from them. But overall, they were self-destructive, spoiled, and using way too many drugs.”

Prudence’s house — with the caretaker not taking much care — became the hangout. It was the place to go, on weekends, evenings, even during school. People helped themselves to food and sofas. There was always plenty of alcohol and drugs.

It was in Westport that Prudence was first exposed to Eastern thought. Her friend Tom — “a quiet soul, very sensitive” — inspired her to read Siddhartha. She thought that Buddhist principles encompassed “the most beautiful, simple, universal and most profound philosophy of life.”

She no longer drank, but continued using drugs and taking pills. The parties continued. Finally, in late spring of 1964, the police told her mother that “we could no longer remain in Connecticut unattended.” Maureen took her brood back to New York.

But the actress soon departed on a national tour. Prudence and her siblings were once again left with a caretaker — this time in a Manhattan apartment. She dropped out of a private school, and got even more deeply into drugs.

Finally — after a bad experience with LSD — Prudence found Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and his Rishikesh ashram in the Himalayan foothills. She studied transcendental meditation.

In early 1968, the Beatles were there too. John Lennon and George Harrison were assigned to be her “team buddies.” They too had experimented with acid before learning about TM.

2 images of Prudence Farrow — including in India, with Ringo Starr.

Deep in meditation, Farrow refused to leave her bungalow. The 2 Beatles tried to coax her out.

And while they were at it, Lennon wrote a song. It began:

Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play?
Dear Prudence, greet the brand new day
The sun is up, the sky is blue
It’s beautiful and so are you
Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play?

Though Harrison told her about the song, she did not think much of it. And she did not hear it until the “White Album” came out.

When she did, she was “flattered.” She was also glad it was not a negative song about Rishikesh, like Lennon’s “Sexy Sadie” and “Bungalow Bill.”

Prudence had another brush with fame. In 1981 she was near the end of a 3-year affair with New York real estate heir Robert Durst, when suddenly his wife went missing.

Prudence taught TM for several decades. One of her pupils was comedian Andy Kaufman.

She went on to earn a BA, MA and Ph.D. from the University of California, majoring in Asian studies.

She worked in theater and film — including as a production assistant on The Muppets Take Manhattan. 

Using her married name — Prudence Bruns — she has written magazine stories on Asia, world religions and healthy living. She published her memoir (Dear Prudence: The Story Behind the Song) in 2015.

Prudence Bruns today.

And in 2012 she established the non-profit Dear Prudence Foundation. It raised funds for a documentary film about an Indian festival.

There is no record that the Beatles ever visited Westport. And there’s no reason to believe Prudence Farrow ever returned here, after moving in 1964.

But the song imploring her to open up her eyes and smile — well, that’s one more great example of where Westport meets the world.

FUN FACT: Mia Farrow has her own claim to fame: In 1966, when she was 21 and Frank Sinatra was 50, they spent time on his yacht, anchored off Compo Beach. Their marriage lasted 2 years.

(Click here for more information on Prudence Farrow’s memoir, Dear Prudence: The Story Behind The Song. Hat tip: Fred Cantor.)

Unsung Heroes #90

We take our firefighters for granted.

No matter what they do — first responders to medical calls, helping out in weather emergencies, or actually putting out fires — we are grateful.

But we also say, “that’s their job.”

The number of folks who take the time to thank the Westport Fire Department after an encounter is waaaay too small.

The other night though, Platoon 3 responded to a call at Christ & Holy Trinity Church. They contained what could have been a major blaze to just a small area near the altar.

Westport Fire Department Platoon 3.

After they left — cleaning up, as usual, in their very professional way — Annie Fasnella wrote the following poem. That’s why Platoon 3 — and the entire Westport Fire Department — are this week’s Unsung Heroes.

Earth angels came
in the middle of the night
Heroes without capes
Oh, what a sight.

The Assistant Chief, Shift Commander
and his team from the WFD
put out the fire
at Christ and Holy Trinity.

How amazing, all of you work
with such wisdom and skill
and below freezing Winter’s chill.

You’re simply the best
Kudos, three cheers and hooray
for containing the blaze so quickly
on Ash Wednesday.

With profound esteem
and your brilliant knowhow
Westport salutes you
The curtain is rising on a new morn
It’s your time to take a bow.

James Brown (And The Oxford University Choir) Come To Westport

The “06880” tagline is “Where Westport meets the world.”

We could add: “Where the world meets Westport.”

The other day, Debbie Hoult was rehearsing for a vocal concert. She’s a Westport native, but moved many years ago to England.

Her group — the Wooburn Singers — will perform there this weekend, with James Brown. (An organist from Oxford, not the Godfather of Soul.)

During tea break, he mentioned that he and the Choir of New College Oxford University will be off to Westport, Connecticut at the end of the month.

New College Choir of Oxford University

“That’s my home town!” Debbie said.

It’s quite a coincidence. But there’s more.

In Westport, the choir will sing — and James Brown will play the organ — at Christ & Holy Trinity Church.

Which is the church that Debbie attended, all those years ago.

It all made Debbie a little bit homesick.

She won’t be at her old church on March 30.* But you shouldn’t miss it.

The Oxford choir recently performed at the Sistine Chapel.

This being “06880,” I’m sure someone will quickly post in the comments section, “Hey! I was at that concert!”

And someone else will reply, “Wow! I was supposed to go. But my dinner with Pope Francis ran late.”

(For more information, and tickets to the March 30 concert at Christ & Holy Trinity Church, click here.)

*”Old” is a relative term. The New College Choir was founded in 1379.

Remembering Micky Golomb

Micky Golomb — a tenor saxophone player who for many years was a major face of Westport jazz — died lastweekend, peacefully at home. He was 88.

When Micky was a teenager in the late 1940s, his family moved from Brookline, Massachusetts to Brooklyn. In Manhattan he heard legendary musicians like Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Lester Young and Stan Getz. They influenced him profoundly.

He joined the military during the Korean War, hoping to fly. But when an officer found out he played sax, he was given a choice: KP duty or the band. He served the entire time as an Air Force musician — including a fondly remembered year in Iceland.

After he was discharged, Micky enjoyed a long career playing in jazz bands, ensembles, and the occasional big band (most notably Art Mooney and Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestras).

Micky Golomb

In 1987 he toured Italy with a sextet billed as “Veterans of Jazz.” The bulk of his career was spent playing in New York City, and Fairfield and Westchester Counties.

Micky’s long-term engagements included playing and singing at Dameon’s, and the Westport Inn. He also loved monthly jam sessions in Port Chester. Most recently, he sang with the Y’s Men’s Hoot Owls.

Micky ran Regency Music Studios in Rye for over 20 years. He then served as director of the Rye Arts Center’s music division.

He taught sax and clarinet to many local young musicians. Blessed with perfect pitch, Micky also tuned pianos for individuals and and businesses.

He met Katherine, a library administrator, in 1973, when a friend brought her to the club where Micky was playing. They married 5 years later, and lived on Nash’s Pond for many years. When they downsized, they moved to Harvest Commons.

Micky loved cruising and sailing on Long Island Sound. He owned a succession of boats, named Adagio, Sea Melody and Coda. His last vessel was Fine — the musical term marking the end of a composition or movement.

Micky had a song lyric for every occasion. He sang Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” just a few days before he died. He indeed lived a life that was full. He traveled each and every highway. And he did it his way.

Greg Wall — the Jazz Rabbi — lived not far from him. Micky enjoyed listening to Greg’s Thursday night jazz series. The last time was a few weeks ago, at Pearl at Longshore.

Greg saw Micky shortly before he died. “He was fully present, at peace, comfortable, and not at all hesitant about embarking on his ultimate gig,” the rabbi says.

Micky is survived by his wife Katherine, daughter Liorah, stepdaughters Diane, Rachel and Rebecca Paxton, and grandchildren Martha and Toby Stueward. he was predeceased by  his son Kenneth.

The Jazz Society of Fairfield County will present a memorial program on Thursday March 21 (6:30 p.m., Pearl at Longshore). Greg, and Chris Coogan and his trio, will play. They invite Micky’s fellow “senior statesman musicians and collaborators” to join them for the second set.

A scholarship fund has been created, to support a local student pursuing jazz at a college or conservatory. Click here to donate.

(Click here for Micky Golomb’s memorial page on the JazzFC site.)

Unsung Hero #88

Little things mean a lot.

This year, Greens Farms Elementary School is performing its first play: “The Lion King.”

Director/producer Laura Pendergast — a GFS parent — and teachers Ellen Hardy and Suzanne Sherman Propp have prepared for months for this week’s show.

Dozens of school hours, plenty of work at home, and countless contributions from parent volunteers have gone into the production.

A crucial full-cast rehearsal was scheduled for last Saturday. Then, disaster struck. In anticipation of snow, all Westport school activities for that day were canceled.

Finding space for 70 children seemed impossible. Realizing that Town Hall auditorium might be an option, GFS parent Danielle Dobin called 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

Rev. Jeffrey Rider

It was not available. But Marpe suggested she contact Greens Farms Congregational Church, and ask about using the Fellowship Hall.

It was Friday evening. Danielle called Rev. Jeff Rider. She did not know him at all — they’d never met or spoken.

He said he’d check the calendar. Soon, he said the space was free — and that GFS was more than welcome to use it.

The location — smack in the middle of the Greens Farms neighborhood — was very convenient. The room was perfect. The cost was free.

And on Monday — when Westport schools were closed because of the overnight storm — Greens Farms Church opened its doors again, for another rehearsal.

Speaking for the entire GFS community, and citing his flexibility and generosity, Danielle nominates Rev. Rider as “06880”‘s Unsung Hero this week.

As she notes: “Thanks to Rev. Jeff, we went from stressed out to Hakuna Matata in no time flat.”

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Send nominations to dwoog@optonline.net)

The show must go on: Rehearsing in the Greens Farms Church Fellowship Hall.

Methodist Minister: Westport Church Still Welcomes All

Almost as soon as the United Methodist Church voted last week to increase restrictions against same-sex marriage, and the ordination of LGBT clergy, Heather Sinclair’s phone rang. Her email inbox filled up.

The pastor of the United Methodist Church of Westport and Weston is a longtime advocate of LGBT rights. Years ago, the Weston Road congregation voted to become an “open and affirming” church, embracing LGBT parishioners.

The messages Sinclair got were supportive. “We’re with you,” they said.

Many of the first calls came from other clergy members in Westport.

“They felt like condolences,” Sinclair — who took over the pulpit last summer from longtime minister Ed Horne — says.

“It was like when a family member dies. One pastor told me, ‘I don’t know what to say.’ That’s what I say when I’m with someone who’s grieving.”

Last summer, Rev. Heather Sinclair was still unpacking in her new office.

The vote — taken by delegates at the church’s global conference in St. Louis — was both expected and a surprise, Sinclair says.

“The official stance for the past 40 years has been to exclude LGBT people from marriage and ordination. But this region has spoken out strongly against it.”

The vote was 53% for the measure to uphold and strengthen the bans, 47% against.

“We’re clearly not a ‘united’ Methodist Church,” Sinclair notes. “That’s part of where my sadness and heartbreak is.”

The other part is her desire for the church she loves to embrace LGBT members, fully and in all capacities. The statement adopted several years ago by the Westport church welcomes people of “all ages, races, abilities, sexual orientations, gender identities and economic circumstances.”

The United Methodist Church on Weston Road.

Sinclair was at the St. Louis conference, though not as a voting delegate. “It was a blessing to be there to support friends and colleagues with prayers, hugs, singing, fellowship, chocolate, coffee and more,” she emailed Westport church members when she returned.

“Now more than ever, we must be the love of Christ in the world, to our LGBTIA friends, family and neighbors, and to those who doubt our commitment to that love. Hope moves us forward.”

Yesterday morning, at her church’s men’s monthly breakfast, she offered reflections and thoughts on her experience in St. Louis.

Across the US, churches are wrestling with the question of whether to secede from the official organization and start a new denomination — or perhaps stay and fight.

The issue is complex. Deeds to Methodist churches are held in a general trust. “We can’t just take our building and leave,” Sinclair explains.

As the local congregation debates next steps, the pastor vows, “We’re here to be the same church as before. We’ll still serve dinner at the Gillespie Center. We’ll still prepare for Lent. We’ll still be a welcoming ministry to everyone.”

And she’ll still be buoyed by all the messages of support she’s received. Including so many from her fellow ministers and rabbis, all around town.

(Hat tip: Don Roth)

Westport, Westwood And 1960s Anti-Semitism

Alert “06880” reader, longtime Westporter — and current Californian — Fred Cantor writes:

A new book, Hollywood’s Eve by Lili Anolik, is generating plenty of media attention. It tells the story of Eve Babitz, a writer, artist and real-life Forrest Gump-type: For years, she crossed paths with many prominent Los Angeles personalities.

Critics now hail Babitz for providing a keen insider’s perspective of the LA scene of the 1950s to ’80s. She grew up there, and spent virtually her entire adult life in LA –except for a short time in Italy, and one year in New York City (March 1966 to March ’67).

What does this have to do with Westport?

In Babitz’s first book — Eve’s Hollywood — she describes visiting Westport on a summer weekend, in 1966.

She had an anti-Semitic experience. She then generalizes about it, comparing Westport to Westwood circa 1960 or 1961. (Many of her high school classmates went to UCLA. Eve chose Los Angeles City College.)

Westwood, where UCLA is, is so insanely crappy you could throw up. It’s so WHITE and it’s so clean and it’s so impervious, and the closest I ever got to that feeling of Westwood was when someone took me out of the Lower East Side in New York one horrible summer day to their mother’s house in Westport, Conn., and their mother was so shocked and repelled by me (she could tell I was Jewish, where her son hadn’t noticed) that she ran slides of his ex-girl friend for 45 minutes after dinner. That’s what Westwood is like.

Eve’s observations about LA back in the day might have been spot on. As for her representation of Westport in 1966, and the comparison to Westwood — well, if you lived in Westport the ’60s, you be the judge.

Pic Of The Day #667

Bright sunshine this morning behind Saugatuck Congregational Church, near Winslow Park. (Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

A Brain Tumor Survivor, Wealth Manager And Comedian Walk Into A Church…

Plenty of Westporters have plenty of remarkable stories.

Nathalie Jacob’s is more remarkable than most.

Raised in Colombia and schooled in France, she spent 10 years in high-level marketing jobs with Fortune 500 companies, in 5 countries. She and her husband were ready to begin a family when she was stricken with a brain tumor.

Surgery left her partially blind. She could not read or write. The only number she recognized was 8.

Recovery was brutal. Nathalie experienced life like a small child, all over again. Her path was long and arduous. It still continues.

Nathalie Jacob, with her daughter and her book.

Yet Nathalie — married to Simon Gilbert, with a 2-year-old daughter Nicole — has persevered. She re-learned simple tasks, then moved on to more complex ones.

She’s now the creator and admin of popular Facebook groups like Westport Stay-at-Home Moms, Westport Women and Tumores Cerebrales.

She’s also the author of a new book. “8: Rediscovering Life After a Brain Tumor” celebrates courage, resilience, and the importance of a fighting spirit.

Nathalie is always giving back. She’s donating all profits to the Connecticut Brain Tumor Alliance.

She launches her book this Friday (February 8, 7 p.m., Saugatuck Congregational Church). But “Health, Wealth & Fun” is not a solo event. Nathalie will share the stage at the evening of food, drinks and networking with 2 other talented Westporters. Both are introducing their own intriguing projects.

Kiana Danial is the Iranian-born, Jewish-raised CEO of InvestDiva.com, an award-winning personal investing and wealth management expert, and author of the new book “Cryptocurrency Investing for Dummies.”

Bari Alyse Rudin is an accomplished comedian, writer and producer. She launches her podcast, “Community News.”

President Kennedy once called a Nobel Prize dinner “the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

Friday’s Saugatuck Church event is not quite that. But it sure is a great night to celebrate health, wealth and the human spirit.

(For more information and to RSVP, click here. For more information on Nathalie Jacob’s book, click here. For Kiana Danial’s website, click here. For Bari Alyse Rubin’s podcast, click here. Hat tip: Christy Colasurdo.)

MLK

This story has become a Martin Luther King Day tradition on “06880.”

Today is Martin Luther King Day. Westporters will celebrate with a day off from school or work.  Some will sleep in; others will ski, or take part in a Staples basketball clinic for younger players. Few will give any thought to Martin Luther King.

Twice, though, his life intersected this town in important ways.

Martin Luther KingThe first was Friday night, May 22, 1964. According to Woody Klein’s book Westport, Connecticut, King had been invited to speak at Temple Israel by synagogue member Jerry Kaiser.

King arrived in the afternoon. Kaiser and his wife Roslyn sat on their porch that afternoon, and talked with King and 2 of his aides. She was impressed with his “sincerity, warmth, intelligence and genuine concern for those about him — our children, for instance. He seemed very young to bear such a burden of leadership.”

King’s sermon — to a packed audience — was titled “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” He analogized his America to the time of Rip Van Winkle — who also “slept through a revolution. The greatest liability of history is that people fail to see a revolution taking place in our world today.  We must support the social movement of the Negro.”

Westport artist Roe Halper presented King with 3 woodcarvings, representing the civil rights struggle. He hung them proudly in the front hallway of his Atlanta home.

Artist Roe Halper (left) presents Coretta Scott King with civil rights-themed wood carvings.

Within a month Temple Israel’s rabbi, Byron Rubenstein, traveled south to take place in a nonviolent march. He was arrested — along with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

In jail, the rabbi said, “I came to know the greatness of Dr. King. I never heard a word of hate or bitterness from that man, only worship of faith, joy and determination.”

King touched Westport again less than 4 years later. On April 5, 1968 — the day after the civil rights leader’s assassination in Memphis — 600 Staples students gathered for a lunchtime vigil in the courtyard. Nearby, the flag flew at half-staff.

A small portion of the large crowd listens intently to Fermino Spencer, in the Staples courtyard.

A small portion of the large crowd listens intently to Fermino Spencer, in the Staples courtyard.

Vice principal Fermino Spencer addressed the crowd. Movingly, he spoke about  his own experience as an African American. Hearing the words “my people” made a deep impression on the almost all-white audience. For many, it was the 1st time they had heard a black perspective on white America.

No one knew what lay ahead for their country. But student Jim Sadler spoke for many when he said: “I’m really frightened. Something is going to happen.”

Something did — and it was good. A few hundred students soon met in the cafeteria. Urged by a minister and several anti-poverty workers to help bridge the chasm between Westport and nearby cities, Staples teachers and students vowed to create a camp.

Within 2 months, it was a reality. That summer 120 elementary and junior high youngsters from Westport, Weston, Norwalk and Bridgeport participated in the Intercommunity Camp. Led by over 100 Staples students and many teachers, they enjoyed swimming, gymnastics, dance, sports, field trips, overnight camping, creative writing, filmmaking, photography, art and reading.

It wasn’t easy — some in Westport opposed bringing underprivileged children to their town — but for over a decade the Intercommunity Camp flourished.

Eventually, enthusiasm for and interest in the camp waned. Fewer Staples students and staff members wanted to devote their summer to such a project.  The number of Westporters willing to donate their pools dwindled. Today the Intercommunity Camp is a long-forgotten memory.

Sort of like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Even on his birthday.

MLK speech