Tag Archives: Clay Garner

Roundup: Ukraine Rally, Nic + Zoe, MOMBAS …


Hundreds of cities and towns around the world are rallying in support of Ukraine.

Weston is one of them.

First Selectwoman Samantha Nestor inviting everyone to join her tomorrow (Monday, February 28, 5:30 p.m.), on the front steps of Weston Town Hall.

She says: “The Russian invasion of Ukraine is devastating, infuriating, and heartbreaking. I assure you all that you are not alone in feelings of despair. One thing we can do is come together for the sake of unity and peace. As such, please join me to express in solidarity our support for the Ukrainian people, and pray for the safety of those whose homeland is under attack. I’ll be there with my candle. Feel free to bring one of your own.”

The Weston rally will show Ukrainians that they are not alone. (Photo/Tyler Hicks for The New York Times)


Nic + Zoe — one of the first stores to open in Bedford Square — closed Friday.

A manager for the women’s clothing store was packing up yesterday. She said, “We’re sad to be leaving. We’ll miss everyone.”

Ten other locations remain open, as does online shopping.


It’s clear from a quick look around any part of town: the babies are here.

Which means there are plenty of new moms. Which means there are plenty of people looking for a group.

The Westport Library is strolling (ho ho) over to help. On Friday (March 4, 10 a.m.) and again April 1, they’ll host meetings of the new MOMBAS: Moms Offering Moms Baby Activity Support.

It’s the brainchild of longtime Westporter Sooo-z Mastropietro. The mother of 3 became a birth doula during the pandemic to provide essential support for pregnant women, who really needed it.

It’s an opportunity to exchange resources, birth stories, and talk. Sooo-z says, “Whether it’s your first or fifth, having the support of people in a similar point in life can be rewarding, informative and empowering.”


Eight years ago, “06880” highlighted Clay Garner.

The lifelong Westporter and recent Greens Farms Academy graduate was unknown here.

But hundreds of millions of Chinese people knew — and loved — him. Using the stage name of 高山 (“Tall Mountain”), he was a recording sensation there.

Singing his own songs — a combination of traditional styles, R&B and pop — in both English and Mandarin — he was all over the Chinese versions of YouTube and Facebook. He has a huge following on Weibo (the Chinese Twitter), and appeared regularly on Beijing TV and China Radio International.

Because of strict government control of websites, “Tall Mountain” made no money from his fame. “It’s my contribution to international relations,” he said.

At that point, Clay was a freshman at Stanford University. Today — 5 years after graduation from there — he is …

… the chief innovation officer for San Jose, California.

The other day, he was a guest on the “Think Civic” podcast. Click here for a transcript of his insights into a wide range of topics, from how technology helped his city respond to the pandemic, to his advice to young people on the importance of local government.

Clay Garner


Yesterday’s “06880” Roundup included a reference to Sam Waterston, the “Law & Order” Manhattan DA who was also filmed in Westport for “Gatsby in Connecticut” — the documentary about F. Scott and Fitzgerald’s 1920 summer her.

Jeanne Reed notes that the film was not Waterston’s only connection here.

Turns out Sam Waterston was married to Barbara Rutledge-Johns. Known as “Barby” Johns, she and her younger sister Sandy (Alexandra) both attended Bedford Junior High School in the 1950s.

They are not Staples High graduates, though. Both went off to the Mary A. Burnham School in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Sam Waterston


Registration is open for Challenger baseball. Focusing on fun and building life-long friendships, it’s Little League’s adaptive program for people with physical and intellectual challenges. Those born between September 1, 1997 and August 31, 2017 are eligible. Out-of-towners are eligible, if their community does not have its own Challenger program.

Through generous donations, Challenger is completely free. To register, click here. For more information, email commissioner Beth Cody: westportball@aol.com.


Stop the presses (or the pixels): “Westport … Naturally” offers what may be the first hint of spring. The photo is from Thursday morning — the day before our latest snowstorm — in Bob Weingarten’s yard.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)


And finally … Sally Kellerman died Thursday in Los Angeles, of heart failure. She was 84.

Kellerman was Maj. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, in the 1970 “MASH” movie directed by Robert Altman. Her performance earned her a Golden Globe award, and an Oscar nomination.

Loretta Swit is better known for her portrayal as the lusty head nurse in all 11 years of the TV series that followed. But Kellerman was the original. Click here for a full obituary.

Westport’s “Tall Mountain” Towers Over Chinese Music Scene

You may never have heard of Clay Garner. But hundreds of millions of Chinese have. They adore him.

Well, they adore 高山. That’s Clay’s stage name. Pronounced Gaoshan, it means “Tall Mountain” (though he’s hardly Yao Ming).

Clay Garner -- aka "Tall Mountain."

Clay Garner — aka “Tall Mountain.”

Like Justin Bieber here, Clay is a huge pop star in China. Unlike the Canadian heartthrob/thug though, Clay — a lifelong Westporter who graduated last spring from Greens Farms Academy — records and uploads all his own songs and videos.

Unlike Bieber, Clay’s career is totally at the whim of a government halfway around the world.

And of course, Clay does not get into regular alcohol-infused legal difficulties. After captaining GFA’s soccer team for 2 years, he is now a freshman at Stanford University.

Clay walks around Westport unnoticed, but in China his face, voice and guitar are easily recognized. Singing his own songs — a combination of traditional styles, R&B and pop — in both English and Mandarin, he’s all over the Chinese versions of YouTube and Facebook.

He has a gigantic following on Weibo — the Chinese Twitter — and appears regularly on Beijing TV, China Radio International, Youku.com and 56.com. He has been to China 5 times, though one trip was just 48 hours long. (He had to get back to school.)

Not bad for an 18-year-old American who, when he began, could not find the “upload” button on Chinese YouTube.

Clay Garner, on Beijing TV.

Clay Garner, on Beijing TV.

Clay’s unusual path to fame began nearly 5 years ago, when he took his 1st Mandarin class at GFA. (He already spoke Spanish.) He liked the sound of Chinese pop — “sad love songs and ballads,” he says, not unlike the Carpenters’ music — and soon was writing his own tunes.

The next step was recording them, in his grandmother’s attic. He did all the arrangements, production and editing himself. Then came — why not? — uploading them for the enormous Chinese audience.

Clay Garner, at work.

At work.

But the government blocks many sites, so China’s version of the internet is quite different from the rest of the world’s. Clay had to figure it all out on his own.

Three years ago, he had a small group of followers. They left comments saying his Chinese was good, and he should keep going.

One day in 2012, a video received “thousands and thousands of views.” He was — literally — an overnight sensation. He still does not know what caused that song, at that moment, to go viral.

His channel has now been viewed 50 million times. Hundreds of millions may have seen him on CCTV — the country’s major network. “I have no way of knowing,” Clay says.

“It’s the oddest fame I know of. I don’t feel famous, but millions and millions of people know me.”

Clay Garner, aka Gaoshan.


With strict government control of websites, and no Chinese iTunes — though piracy is rampant — Clay makes no money from his music. He does it strictly for fun. “It’s my contribution to international relations,” he says.

He thinks it’s important for Chinese people to see an American trying to learn their culture. For years, it’s been the other way around.

Seeing firsthand the power of social media, he’s become interested in using it to promote openness and political movements. While the Chinese government encourages Clay’s work — it’s a validation of their culture — he realizes he could been regarded as their puppet.

Once, in China, he was made to sing “Red Song” — a communist anthem. He vowed never to do that again.

“Chinese entertainers are not taken seriously,” he says. “Someone wrote somewhere that I sing ‘harmless love songs.’ I want to do more than that.”

Clay Garner, on a previous trip to China.

Clay Garner, on a previous trip to China.

At the same time, he knows, officials could “cut me off in a second. All my videos, all my views could be deleted in an instant. I’d have no access to my fans, to the internet, to anything. I’m walking a fine line.”

This summer, Clay hopes to make his 6th trip to China. There’s a new indie scene there, which he’d like to be part of.

Millions of Chinese would love to see 高山 return.

Millions of Americans could not care less.

(Click here for Clay’s English-language website. Click here for an interview with Clay on CCTV, the Chinese national television network.)