It’s been more than 20 years since Bonnie Behar Brooks lived in Westport.
But the multi-talented teacher/TV producer/media director’s latest project had its roots here. And — with 16 grandchildren of her own, and 9 great-grandchildren — Bonnie knows it will resonate with her many “grand” friends still in town.
As well as anyone else looking for a fun book for young kids that includes a connection to one of the most noted session musicians in the world.
“Gramps Has a Ponytail” is the bilingual (English and Spanish) story of a young girl who spends her birthday in the recording studio with her grandfather. He’s Bonnie’s husband, Harvey Brooks.
The bassist has played and/or recorded with Jimi Hendrix, Richie Havens, Stephen Stills, John Sebastian, Seals & Crofts, Mama Cass Elliot, Boz Scaggs, Judy Collins, Loudon Wainright III, Phoebe Snow, John Cale, Phil Ochs, Al Kooper, Mavis Staples, and Peter, Paul and Mary.
He’s featured on Miles Davis’“Bitches Brew,” the best-selling jazz album of all time. He laid down some of the most famous lines in music history — including “Like a Rolling Stone” — and his work was the hook on the Doors’ “Touch Me.”
This is the second marriage for both. They were friends growing up in 1950s Queens. But she only dated college guys. He figured she was out of his league.
In the late ’80s, Bonnie contacted Harvey. They reconnected, a bit awkwardly at first. It took a while for Bonnie’s daughters to warm up to this new man. She herself was not ready to commit to a guy who had lived all around the world, and still enjoyed a free, unfettered life.
But they had great chemistry. Harvey moved into Bonnie’s Compo Road North home. Her girls eventually came to love him too. They lived happily ever after, even after 2 moves: one cross-country, the second overseas.
Bonnie was well known in Westport. After teaching at Saugatuck Nursery School, she was one of Cablevision’s first community access producers. Interviews with the likes of Paul Cadmus and Ann Chernow turned into a project now at the Smithsonian. She also produced the first TV pilots for Martha Stewart.
Bonnie served as media director for Bridgeport’s Discovery Museum, In 1988 she created “Rock & Roll: Art and Artifacts,” the first exhibition covering the relationship between art and rock. It included Hendrix’s guitar, the original “Yellow Submarine” model, photos by Annie Leibovitz, and works by Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Ron Wood.
The exhibit led to Bonnie’s reconnection with Harvey. Their relationship was solidified as she fought breast cancer. She had surgery before the wedding, chemo and radiation right after.
Years ago, Bonnie wrote a children’s book starring her first granddaughter, and Harvey. (At the end of the day with “Gramps” she gets a tambourine, and everyone sings “Happy Birthday”).
She shopped it around herself, without an agent. No publisher was interested.
“I loved my Westport life. But I married a musician,” Bonnie says. In 1998 they moved to Tucson, a music and arts town that promised adventure. Seven years later they moved again — to Jerusalem. Her oldest daughter lives there.
“It’s another adventure. We’ve made a great life here,” Bonnie says. Their multi-cultural neighborhood is “like the UN.”
Last year, Tangible Press published Harvey’s memoir, “View From the Bottom: 50 Years of Bass Playing With Bob Dylan, The Doors, Miles Davis and Everybody Else.”
Now they’ve published Bonnie’s book too. Reviews call it “a delightful story told with great illustrations,” “fresh and fun,” “warm-hearted and engaging.” It also fills a small niche: books about music that grandparents can read with their grandkids.
Whether anyone has a ponytail or not.