Tag Archives: Fred Cantor

The Historical Society That Rocks!

One of the most persistent urban suburban legends in Westport is that the Doors played a concert in the Staples High School auditorium.

Also the Animals, Yardbirds, Sly & the Family Stone and a host of other rock ‘n’ roll legends.

It’s all true.

To find out more, you can click here to read an “06880” story from 2014.

You can click here to download “The Real Rock & Roll High School,” Mark Smollin’s meticulously researched, fantastically illustrated and awe-inducing history of that remarkable era in Westport history.

Or you can go to the Westport Historical Society. “The High School That Rocked!” opens tomorrow (Friday, June 16, 6 p.m. reception). The exhibit runs through September 2.

The Yardbirds’ “For Your Love,” part of the exhibit’s stacks of wax.

The walls are filled with photos, posters, ticket stubs  and press clippings from and about those mid-’60s concerts. A record player sits near the entrance, with a stack of 45s; choose your favorite, and play it. (Kids: Ask your grandparents how!)

A screen plays clips from the “High School That Rocked,” the video that inspired this show. Staples Class of 1971 graduate Fred Cantor produced the documentary, with much younger (Class of 2014) filmmaker Casey Denton.

Cantor also curated this show, with ’70 Staples grad Mary Palmieri Gai.

Ironically, Cantor never saw any of those concerts. He still can’t figure out how he missed them.

Fifty years later, he’s made up for all that. He zeroed in on some of the most recognizable names — the Doors, Cream, Animals, Rascals, Yardbirds, and Westport’s own Remains — but also includes information about proms (the Blues Magoos played for the seniors, the Blues Project and Left Banke for the juniors), and Lester Lanin’s short-lived Nines Club discotheque (with groups like the Youngbloods and ? and the Mysterians).

Miggs Burroughs — who has his own rock ‘n’ roll stories — puts the finishing touches on the Westport Historical Society exhibit. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

The exhibit pays homage to Dick Sandhaus and Paul Gambaccini — Staples students who had the vision (and audacity) to bring those bands to Westport — and to Cantor’s classmates Charlie Karp (Buddy Miles’ sideman), Brian Keane and Michael Mugrage, all of whom still rock the music industry.

The Westport Historical Society usually highlights events like the Revolutionary War. This is quite a different show.

Then again, so were the ’60s at Staples.

(Other cultural venues are tying in to the WHS exhibit. The Westport Cinema Initiative screens the “High School That Rocked” video on Saturday, July 15 [4 p.m., Town Hall]. The Westport Library hosts a panel discussion on ’60s music on Monday, August 14. And the Levitt Pavilion may soon announce — well, stayed tuned for that one!)

Ginger Baker, Cream’s drummer, at Staples. The copyrighted photo by Jeremy Ross is part of the “School That Rocked” exhibit.

Staples: The High School That Rocked!

It’s a story so outlandish, folks who were there don’t believe it: In a 2-year period in the mid-1960s, the Doors played a concert at Staples High School.

So did Cream. The Yardbirds. Sly and the Family Stone. The Rascals. The Animals. The Beau Brummels.

Plus over the next few years, the Byrds, Rhinoceros, Buddy Miles, J. Geils,  Peter Frampton and Taj Mahal. And Steve Tallerico, before he became Steve Tyler.

I saw most of those bands. I’ve written about it, on “06880.” So has Mark Smollin, a 1970 Staples grad, in his great book The Real Rock & Roll High School: True Tales of Legendary Bands That Performed in Westport CT.

Still skeptical? Now there’s even more proof: a video documentary, called “The High School That Rocked!”

high-school-that-rocked-poster

It’s a labor of love from Fred Cantor, a 1971 Staples alum who missed most of those performances, but is now making up for lost time.

Rock has never died — witness all the young rock lovers born decades after Jim Morrison died — and Cantor enlisted the help of a very recent Staples grad to bring his vision to reality.

Casey Denton (Class of 2014) led a high-level Emerson College camera and sound crew, then edited the final prodcut.

Doors posterThe video includes research Cantor had done for Smollin’s book, and over a dozen interviews with people who were there at the concerts. (Spoiler alert: I’m one of them. Our recollections seem pretty accurate, despite the admonition that if you remember the ’60s, you weren’t there.)

Cantor focused on a 2-year period, when 6 bands now in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame all took the Staples stage. He is convinced no other high school that could make such a claim.

The video also includes Staples grads from that era who made their mark in the music world. One is Paul Gambaccini, perhaps Britain’s most famous music presenter. Another is Charlie Karp, who at 16 years old was influenced by the concerts to leave Staples and join the Buddy Miles Express. A third is Emmy winner Brian Keane.

Cantor is working with the Westport Cinema Initiative, Westport Historical Society and Levitt Pavilion, to bring “The High School That Rocked!” to a wide audience here.

He’s also entering it in festivals (film, not rock). The first is Film Fest 52 at the Bethel Cinema (Wednesday, March 8, 6 pm VIP party meet and greet, 7 pm film, followed by a Q&A and reception). It will also open the SENE Film, Music & Arts Festival in Providence on April 25.

You don’t have to have seen any of the Staples concerts — or even to have been alive then — to love this film.

But if you were there, you’ll appreciate the final credits.

They say the film was produced by “Sally’s Record Dept. Productions.”

Ginger Baker, Cream's drummer, at Staples. (Photo copyright Jeremy Ross)

Ginger Baker, Cream’s drummer, at Staples. (Photo copyright Jeremy Ross)

 

Here’s Looking At You, Longshore!

A few years ago — very quietly — the entrance to the Longshore pool and tennis courts was renovated and upgraded.

What had been a shabby, neglected piece of the park is now a warm, welcoming space.

Alert “06880” reader/longtime Longshore fan Fred Cantor took this image the other day. The entryway frames the park — and Fred’s shot frames it beautifully.

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Fred Cantor Grants Staples A Special Gift

All year long, Staples Tuition Grants raises money for scholarships.

Tonight, they give it away.

Staples Tuition Grants new logoOver 100 students — soon-to-be graduates as well as alumni from the past 4 years — will receive $300,000 in college aid.

The ceremony is low-key, but warm and inspiring.

And very, very important. Contrary to myth, there is plenty of need right here in Westport.

Fred Cantor did not receive an STG grant when he graduated from Staples in 1971. He no longer has formal ties to the school; he’s just a proud alum.

But the longtime Westporter is eager to give back. Recently, he found a unique way to do so.

For the 1970s on, he’s taken photos of iconic Westport scenes. Now he’s licensed 5 of them to STG: Main Street with Remarkable Book Shop; Fairfield Furniture and the Saugatuck River; Fine Arts Theater; Longshore’s main entrance, and Railroad Place.

They’re displayed on gift items like luggage tags, coffee mugs, magnets, note cards and tote bags. They’re on sale to the public — with all profits going to the scholarship organization.

Actually, they’ll go to one specific fund: the STG award named after Chou Chou Merrill. The 1970 grad reveled in her childhood and youth here — the memories she shared, the friendships she nurtured, the opportunities she was given. She died in 2014.

A luggage tag, with an image of the Longshore entrance.

A luggage tag, with an image of the Longshore entrance.

Fred says that the photos and souvenirs are a perfect way for Westporters, current and spread around the globe, to show their affection for this town. And help a great cause.

How generous of Fred — an avid “06880” reader — to think of Staples Tuition Grants in this way.

How fitting that he’s chosen Chou Chou’s scholarship to be the recipient of his generosity.

Now all you have to do is click here for a great Fred Cantor-themed/Westport-style/STG-assisting souvenir. (NOTE: More items will be added soon!)

(The public is invited to today’s Staples Tuition Grants ceremony [Thursday, June 9, 5:30 p.m. in the Staples library]. To donate to Staples Tuition Grants, click here.) 

all feature Fred Cantor's photos of Westport.

Luggage tags, coffee mugs, magnets, note cards and tote bags feature Fred Cantor’s photos of Westport. Fairfield Furniture is now back to its original name: National Hall.

Save This Post For Next January

(Photo/Fred Cantor)

Pasacreta Park

Click on or hover over photo to enlarge (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Click on or hover over photo to enlarge (Photos/Fred Cantor)

Enjoying A Max Shulman Revival

Back in the day, Westporter Max Shulman was a bestselling author. He also achieved success on Broadway — writing the book for the Tony-nominated “How Now, Dow Jones” — and in Hollywood, with many screenplays.

Max Shulman - How Now Dow JonesLike many authors who achieved fame more than a half century ago, Shulman’s books went out of print. Then, last month, Open Road Media made his works available once again, as e-books.  

In addition, the complete run of the hit TV show “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” — based on Shulman’s short stories — is now available on DVD.

“06880” contributor Fred Cantor recently reached asked Max’s son Dan — a Staples High School 1962 grad, now a prominent antitrust attorney in Minneapolis — for his recollections about growing up in Westport in the 1950s as the son of a celebrated writer. Here is Fred’s report:

Max Shulman moved his family to Westport in 1948, when Dan was 4. Max, the son of Russian immigrants, had grown up poor in St. Paul, Minnesota. He came east because the publishing industry was based in New York. Dan says Max considered this “a dream come true…a nice house in the country.” In 1950, Westport’s population was just 12,000.

Shulman was soon immersed in a community of fellow writers, and others who made their living in the arts.

Max Shulman at work.

Max Shulman at work.

Among his Westport friends were actor David Wayne and writers Jerome Weidman (the 1960 Pulitzer Prize co-winner for drama), Jean Stafford (a Pulitzer winner for fiction), Rod Serling and Peter De Vries.

Fairfielder Robert Penn Warren came over to the house too.

Dan was not star-struck seeing such famous people hanging out with his dad. He viewed them as “just family friends.”

But Dan recalls that it was “a big deal” when, at 10, he traveled with his family to Boston for the pre-Broadway run of a play his dad co-authored, “The Tender Trap.” Dan was thrilled to have dinner with the play’s co-star, Robert Preston. A year after the play reached Broadway, it was made into a movie starring Frank Sinatra and Debbie Reynolds.

While a number of Westport dads commuted to New York in the 1950s, Max Shulman had a much shorter commute: to a 2nd-floor office in the Sherwood Building on State Street (the Post Road), next to the Westport Bank & Trust building (now Patagonia). The office door had frosted glass, with “Max Shulman” painted on it.  It looked just like Sam Spade’s door in ‘The Maltese Falcon.”

Shulman used an Underwood typewriter, and was “a very meticulous writer. If he wrote 5 pages, that would have been a very good day.” He spent considerable time editing and rewriting.

Rally Round the Flag - 2

As part of that process in creating “Rally Round the Flag, Boys!” — the book set in Westport that led to the movie that led to Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward moving here — there was even a role for Dan. He read chapters aloud, so his father could hear how it sounded.

At age 13, he excitedly watched the book rise on The New York Times bestseller list.

Max Shulman’s writing was not done solely for publishers. In the 1950s, the Y held an annual father-son banquet. Each year Max wrote a comedy routine for Dan and his brother Bud to perform and sing. Here’s a sample:

A child should be polite.
His manners should be sweet.
A child should help old ladies
When they try to cross the street.
Especially a lady whose leg is in a cast,
‘Cause when you snatch her purse away,
She cannot run so fast.

You can’t keep a good humorist down.

It’s Called Violet Lane…

…but today the road off Myrtle Avenue was all about crocuses:

(Photo/Fred Cantor)

(Photo/Fred Cantor)

But don’t open the pool quite yet.

Snow showers are possible Friday and Sunday.

“Loving” The Academy Awards

Westport has long ties with the Academy Awards. Over the years, dozens of Oscar-winning actors, producers, screenwriters and other industry machers have lived here.

For decades too, movies have been set in Westport. Others were filmed here. We’re familiar with many: “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit,” “Rally Round the Flag, Boys!” and “The Swimmer” are just 3 examples.

In honor of tonight’s film industry gala, indefatigable “06880” reader/researcher Fred Cantor unearthed a lesser-known production that not only explored postwar suburban life, but was also set here.

Loving” — released in 1970 — was based on “Brooks Wilson Ltd.,” a novel by Westporter John McDermott. Clearly, he was writing about his hometown. (The plot includes a successful illustrator, his mistress and alcohol.)

A promotional still from the film "Loving."

A promotional still from the film “Loving.”

The film starred George Segal and Eva Marie Saint (a Westport Country Playhouse regular). Local residents Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward appeared as extras, while Westporter Diana Douglas also had a role.

“Loving” was filmed in part at the Saugatuck train station, Greens Farms Elementary School, Main Street, and a private home on 27 Long Lots Road.

The film’s setting was important enough for it to be featured in an ad campaign. (“It tops ‘Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice,'” the copy read.)

'Loving' ad

It was not exactly a hit.

Seven months after its release, Roger Ebert wrote that “Loving”

received a reasonably warm critical reception and then disappeared all summer into some kind of distributorial limbo, turning up finally this week in neighborhood theaters. Somehow it deserved more attention than that. It’s not an earth-shaking film, but it is an amusing and intelligent comedy of manners, and George Segal is fun to watch.

Sounds interesting.

So if you’re bored tonight with all the fake I-can’t-believe-I-won-oh-thank-you! speeches, click on Netflix.

Download “Loving.”

And enjoy a trip back to Westport’s movie-making past.

The house at 27 Long Lots Road, where scenes from "Loving" were shot.

The house at 27 Long Lots Road, where scenes from “Loving” were shot.

A Bridge To Somewhere, Once

As Westporters debate the fate of the Bridge Street (aka Cribari) Bridge, we’ve heard a lot about the temporary span erected during the most recent (1980s) renovation.

What’s a temporary bridge? How did it divert traffic while the permanent bridge was worked on? What did it look like?

Thanks to indefatigable “06880” reader/researcher Fred Cantor, everyone now knows:That’s the temporary structure on the left, cutting from Bridge Street over the Saugatuck River, through what was then the Mansion Clam House (now Parker Mansion) parking lot.

Pretty cool, huh?

Bridge Street bridge - temporary from 1980s

(Photo/Steve Turner)

BONUS FEATURE: Hump-backed Ketchum Street is at the lower right. It’s been lowered considerably since then, during the Saugatuck Center project.

Big Open House Today Near Elvira’s

Fred Cantor captured this intriguing scene, as the house and small cottage on Hillspoint Road, across from Elvira's was torn down today.

Fred Cantor captured this intriguing scene, as the house and small cottage on Hillspoint Road across from Elvira’s was torn down today.