Tag Archives: Bill Scheffler

2 Degrees Of Art Separation

As every Kevin Bacon fan knows, everyone in the world is connected by just 6 degrees of separation.

With a Westport connection, those degrees of separation are much closer.

Alert “06880” reader Evan Stein sends along a story that begins with Kate Burns-Howard and Scott Froschauer.

Before graduating from Staples High School, they had worked together at Fine Arts IV. Now Scott’s a Los Angeles-based artist, getting attention for works that use street signs to convey more useful instructions (like “Breathe” and “All We Have is Now”).

On Facebook, Kate reposted a story about a friend who was selling Scott’s art at a Palm Springs show. Kate mentioned Ann Sheffer in the post — probably because Ann is the mother of Kate’s good friend Emily Reich. And Ann (a longtime Westporter and proud Staples grad) now spends a lot of time in Palm Springs. And Ann is a noted art collector.

Turns out, Ann and her husband Bill Scheffler had already bought a piece in Scott’s show — but had no idea he’s from Westport, or that he knew their daughter and her friend.

Kevin Bacon would be proud.

Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler, with their new Scott Froschauer work..

 

Down By The River

It’s a beloved tradition: In mid-July, the Westport Downtown Merchants Association  hosts a Fine Arts Festival on Parker Harding Plaza and Gorham Island.

Across the Post Road, the Westport Library fills a jinormous tent with over 80,000 items, for its annual books (and much more) sale.

Part of the tradition: It’s always held on the hottest day of the year.

Today marks a nice break from that tradition. Rain did not keep 300 folks from lining up before the book sale opened. Every artist, sculptor and photographer was good to go too.

By mid-afternoon the clouds lifted. Over 3,000 books-and-more lovers hauled boxes and bags to their cars. A similar number strolled along the river, admiring (and buying) artwork.

The 42nd annual Fine Arts Festival continues tomorrow (Sunday, July 19) 10 a.m.-5 p.m..

The “Bookstravaganza” continues tomorrow and Monday (July 19-20), 9 a.m.-6 p.m. It ends Tuesday (July 21), 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Scores of artists invited art-lovers to admire their works.

Scores of artists invited art-lovers to admire their works…

...like this painting...

…like this painting…

...and this piece of glass.

…and this piece of glass.

Parker Harding Plaza is a great location for the art show. The river provides a welcoming backdrop -- and permanent art lines the walkway.

Parker Harding Plaza is a great location for the art show. The river provides a welcoming backdrop — and permanent art lines the walkway.

Living art was on display too this afternoon.

Living art was on display too this afternoon.

Noted art patrons Bill Scheffler and Ann Sheffer enjoyed the show today, with Ann's daughter Betty Stolpen (she works at the Whitney Museum) and her friend Matt Glick.

Noted art patrons Bill Scheffler and Ann Sheffer enjoyed the show today, with Ann’s daughter Betty Stolpen (she works at the Whitney Museum) and her friend Matt Glick.

Meanwhile, at the Westport Library book sale, there was something for everyone...

Meanwhile, at the Westport Library book sale, there was something for everyone…

...no matter what your taste in books ... (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

…no matter what your taste in books … (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

... or magazines. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

… or magazines. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

New library director Bill Harmer does not officially begin until July 27. But he was at the book sale today, checking out the legendary event.

New library director Bill Harmer does not officially begin until July 27. But he was at the book sale today, checking out the legendary event.

One satisfied customer, among thousands.

One satisfied customer, among thousands.

 

 

Concours, Of Course

Today’s 1st-ever “Concours d’Caffeine” was a roaring success.

No. there were not a lot of loud engines.

Just plenty of cars — antiques, classics, limited editions, expensive, and very cool ones.

You did not have to be an automotive buff to admire the buffed, shining vehicles. All you needed was an admiring eye, and a cup of coffee as you strolled around the train station.

The Concours was sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, with help from Bill Scheffler, John Shuck, Tim Walsh and Frank Taylor.

Let’s hope it becomes an annual tradition. Maybe one day my 2000 Camry will fit right in.

(NOTE:  Click or hover on any photo to enlarge.)

Little GTO, you're really lookin' fine...

Little GTO, you’re really lookin’ fine…

Like Jaguars today, this 1948 model must have been the envy of many other drivers.

Like Jaguars today, this 1948 model must have been the envy of many other drivers.

This 1915 Trumbull was built in Bridgeport. There were 20 on the Lusitania when it was sunk by the Germans that year. Also on board: Isaac Trumbull, who was traveling to Europe to close a deal. His company went down with the ship.

This 1915 Trumbull was built in Bridgeport. There were 20 on the Lusitania when it was sunk by the Germans. Also on board: Isaac Trumbull, who was traveling to Europe to close a deal. His company went down with the ship.

George Dragone -- of Dragone Classic Motorcars -- loves this 1928 Packard. He says it represents a transition from "boxy, unexciting" cars that preceded it, to "beautifully styled ones"that followed.

George Dragone — of Dragone Classic Motorcars — loves this 1928 Packard. He says it represents a transition from “boxy, unexciting” cars that preceded it, to “beautifully styled ones” that followed.

Only in Westport do 8-year-olds like Max Manchester have their own Escalades.

Only in Westport do 8-year-olds like Max Manchester have their own Escalades.

Two symbols of American automotive power: a Chevrolet (front) and Ford (Mustang Mach 1).

Two symbols of American automotive power: a Chevy and Ford (Mustang Mach 1).

Among the attendees at Concours d'Caffeine: Jim Motovalli, a 1970 Staples graduate and noted car journalist (New York Times, NPR's Car Talk, etc.).

Among the attendees at Concours d’Caffeine: Jim Motovalli, a 1970 Staples graduate and noted New York Times and NPR car journalist.

Most classic cars don't have stickers. The owner of this one has a good sense of humor.

Most classic cars don’t have stickers. The owner of this one has a good sense of humor.

Why can't the railroad station always look like this?

Why can’t the railroad station always look like this?

 

Word On The Street (And We Do Mean “Street”) …

… is that Michael Douglas is making a movie about Westport.

An unconfirmed source says that the famed actor/producer’s new project looks back on his teenage days here. It will focus on his beloved Downshifters — the club that met at the Y to talk about, learn about, work on (and sometimes race) cars.

American Graffiti: Eat your heart out.

In 2013 -- while filming "And So It Goes" in Bridgeport -- Michael Douglas drove Westporter Bill Scheffler's Mercedes.

In 2013 — while filming “And So It Goes” in Bridgeport — Michael Douglas drove Westporter Bill Scheffler’s Mercedes.

Bill Scheffler’s Benz Is A Movie Star

There’s something about Michael Douglas and Westport cars.

Growing up here, he was a member of the Downshifters — the high school club that met at the Y to talk about, learn about, work on (and sometimes race) cars.

Last summer, he filmed “And So It Goes” in Bridgeport. Directed by Rob Reiner, and also starring Diane Keaton, it’s about a self-absorbed realtor suddenly left in charge of a granddaughter he never knew existed until his estranged son drops her off. It was released last week.

Besides the familiar Black Rock scenes (and familiar former Westport actor), there’s a familiar car.

Michael Douglas driving Bill Scheffler's Mercedes.

Michael Douglas driving Bill Scheffler’s Mercedes.

Westporter Bill Scheffler’s 1963 Mercedes-Benz 300SE Cabriolet takes a star turn. With the star.

Douglas drives it — and it is featured prominently in the promos.

Scheffler bought the Benz in January 2013, at a Scottsdale auction. It’s a fairly limited production car — about 3100 hard tops and convertibles were made over the model’s 6-year life — and was built to rigorous standards.

The auction catalogue says the 300SE offered “a stirring combination of luxury and performance along with technical specifications better than anything else of its era.”

So how did Scheffler’s car make it onto Rob Reiner’s set?

It was spotted by a “talent scout/car wrangler” while being restored in Stratford.

And so it goes.

Michael Douglas poster

 

 

 

Honoring Ann Sheffer: Queen Of Arts

If you’ve lived in Westport for any length of time, you know the name Ann Sheffer.

You may know her work with the Westport Arts Center. Or the Westport Country Playhouse. Or Westport Historical Society. Or Westport Library.

If it’s related to culture — and Westport — Ann is involved.

Last Saturday, the WAC honored her as its “Queen of Arts.” (Pretty clever: The event was their annual fundraiser, with a “Wonderland” theme.)

Ann Sheffer in her role as "Queen of Arts."

Ann Sheffer in her role as “Queen of Arts.” (Photo/Helen Klisser During)

The tribute included a 10-minute video, produced by Westporter Doug Tirola’s 4th Row Films. Plenty of boldface names appear, like Senators Blumenthal and Murphy, Jim Himes, Maxine Bleiweis, Miggs Burroughs and Gordon Joseloff, along with Ann’s brother, son, daughter, grandkids, and husband Bill Scheffler. (They met sitting next to each other alphabetically in a Staples homeroom, then re-connected 25 years later).

There are some great lines, including Miggs’ “her canvas is Westport, her palette is everyone in it.”

In whatever capacity you know Ann — or even if you’ve just heard her name — this video is well worth watching. It’s Westport — and Westporters — at their finest.

(If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.)

Christopher Walken: Funny Or Not?

Funny or Die is a website that is usually, well, funny.

“Cooking With Christopher Walken,” though, could be the least amusing of the thousands of videos, stories, jokes and picture captions on the entire site.

Basically, Richard Belzer meets Walken at Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler’s Westport house. They go to Stew Leonard’s, shop for chicken, go home, cook dinner, and muddle through a conversation that is supposedly a parody of a cooking show.

I did not laugh once.

Although it is certainly a very nice house.

House Of Morgan: The Sequel

Yesterday’s photo of Main Street’s long-forgotten House of Morgan spurred alert “06880” reader Gary Singer to send one of his own.

It’s taken from almost the same angle as the one Bill Scheffler sent. However, Gary says, this one —

— was taken a decade earlier.  He guesses it’s the late 1930s or early ’40s.

In Gary’s photo, Brightwood Market is where both Kiddie Lane  and House of Morgan eventually settled.

Meanwhile, alert “06880” reader R. Hammond logged onto Ancestry.com, and found 2 city directories.

He says the House of Morgan appears in 1950 as a gift shop at 13 Main Street. It’s owned by Carl L. and Florence E. Morgan. Seven years later it was still listed as a gift shop. Elsie Zabelle was the 1957 owner.

The 1950s era photo, showing the “House of Morgan” (center).

Alert “06880” reader Jack Whittle added more info:

Westport’s town clerk online info shows a trade name for “House of Morgan” filed on 9-27-51 by Carl and Florence Morgan, and a subsequent filing for the same trade name by Mary Lucas Crawford on 3-31-54. Carl and Florence Morgan look to have bought some some property on Wright Street in 1944. (I also see that Carl Morgan’s death certificate was filed on 6-5-53, and it looks like he died in Massachusetts on 10-5-52).

As for date of photo, I am guessing early ’50s. Welch’s Hardware was incorporated in 1946; the House of Morgan info, and that woody wagon parked in front looks late ’40s, and the Kiddie Lane trade name was filed in 1949.

Checking R. Hammond’s city directory info, I noticed that Morgan was not the only “House of…” in Westport. There was also a “House of Byse” listed on State Street East (now called Post Road East).

It was on the ground floor of the office building just east of where Great Cakes and the gas station are today. I vaguely remember it from my youth, though I always thought it was the “House of Buys.” (Apparently it was cleverly named for its owner, Abraham B. Beiser.)

Well, that’s at least 2 Westport “houses” that were not torn down and replaced by mansions.

The House Of Morgan?

Alert “06880” reader Bill Scheffler sent this photo along:

Despite 2-way traffic, it’s Main Street near the Post Road intersection. The boy is rounding the corner near the Bedford (old) YMCA building.

Architecturally, the stores look familiar. But today they’re long gone. From the left there’s Grey’s Drug Store; something that starts with “Kiddie”; the House of Morgan; Welch’s Hardware, and the Westport Food Center.

Bill wonders — and so do I — “What the hell was the House of Morgan?”

He also would like to know the date. He offers one clue: The cars are pre-1950.

Bill should know. Among his many activities, he’s chairman of Fairfield County Concours d’Elegance, the fabled antique and collectible automobile show.

Click “Comments” to share insights into the year, Main Street of yore — or the House of Morgan.

An Old Video Causes “Concern”

Not much gets by Bill Scheffler.

Somehow, the 1966 Staples grad spotted an eBay ad for a 16mm film. It couldn’t have been more obscure — an introduction to the field of social psychology — but Bill was intrigued that it included “community reactions to bussing and integration in Westport, Conn.”

He bought it sight unseen.

Because 16 mm projectors are almost as rare as 8-tracks, Bill had it copied to DVD. The other day, he gave me a copy.

The video focused on a long-ago local controversy: Project Concern.

In 1970, a number of Westporters — backed by the 2 Congregational churches, the Unitarian church and Temple Israel — urged the town to follow Hartford’s lead, and bring a small number of Bridgeport children to our schools.

In April, 1000 people packed a tense Board of Ed meeting. There were hisses, boos, and tearful speeches on both sides of the issue.

In December the board voted 3-2 to bus a limited number of Bridgeport youngsters — on a voluntary basis — to Westport. Almost instantly, a campaign began to recall Board of Ed chairman Joan Schine.

Republican Allen Raymond, Democrat Jim O’Connell and Westport Education Association representative Dick Leonard led the battle against recall. The fight reached the state Supreme Court. The 3-2 vote was upheld, and in 1971 25 or so Bridgeport children enrolled in Burr Farms, Coleytown and Bedford Elementary Schools.

Burr Farms Elementary School. (Computer image by Steve Katz)

They continued on through junior and senior high school, with other children taking their place in the lower grades. They joined after-school activities; slept over in Westport homes, and became valued members of our community.

Project Concern ended in the 1980s, when state funding for the buses ended.

The video Bill Scheffler bought focused on the experiences of 2 Project Concern students in Walt Melillo’s 3rd grade Burr Farms classroom. A few years before the program began, I had been a Burr Farms 3rd grader — and Mr. Melillo was my teacher.

The video — a “Psychology Today Film” — is not exactly The Hunger Games. Talking heads pontificate about the pros and cons of busing. “When black kids get to white schools, they sing white songs that is part of colonization,” one says.

Walt Melillo

Another “expert” offers: “It is bewildering for white kids to have black children suddenly disgorged in their midst. They probably talk with their parents about it. Liberal parents explain slavery and poverty, and say, ‘We don’t talk nastily to them.'”

The tape shows 2 boys — one black, the other white — hugging each other. When the white child smiles at the camera, the same “expert” explains that the white child was “seeking normative approval.”

The videos taken inside Mr. Melillo’s class, and on the Burr Farms playground, are far more compelling. The teacher helps 2 Project Concern children — Leonard and Durwin — with lessons, interact with classmates, and sing and play.

Mr. Melillo is interviewed at length (though never identified by name). He describes the differences between the 2 boys — one is very outgoing, the other introverted — and talks about how he treats them very differently based on their personalities.

He says, “This has been a tremendous experience for me. And this year my classroom is a richer place.”

The talking heads dissect Mr. Melillo’s methods, as if he and his students were creatures in a zoo: “The teacher is quite conscious of helping. He is very skillful….The teacher is willing to physically touch them. Many of us are not willing to do that.”

Walt Melillo's 1973 class did not include any Project Concern students.

The video also includes scenes of furious protest meetings. “Are we going to get a colored teacher or white?” one woman wonders. “What if (our kids) don’t understand the lingo?”

Another accuses educators of “trying to bring people from the jungle here.”

Those are not Westporters. The meetings shown were taped in Great Neck and Boston, during similar busing controversies. The video does not make that clear. On the other hand, it also does not make clear exactly who Mr. Melillo is, or where the Burr Farms scenes take place.

But I know. I remember Mr. Melillo, Burr Farms and Project Concern.

I know how much the program contributed to Westport.

And I know something the “experts” never mentioned: That as much as the Bridgeport youngsters got out of Project Concern, Westport got far more back in return.

(Thanks to Woody Klein’s Westport, Connecticut: The Story of a New England Town’s Rise to Prominence for some of the historical background.)