Today, alert “06880” reader and ace researcher Fred Cantor takes us down an entertainment rabbit hole. He writes:
Westport made its way into the recently released paperback edition of “You Can’t Fall Off the Floor and Other Lessons from a Life in Hollywood.” It was co-authored by Harris Katleman, whose career included stints as an MCA agent, president of MGM Television, and CEO of 20th Century Fox Television.
Booklist called it “A worthy entry in the lexicon of books chronicling Hollywood of yesteryear.”
When Katleman was at MCA his boss, Hollywood icon Lew Wasserman, wanted him to acquire the game show giant Goodson-Todman Productions. “This meant weekends at Westport, Connecticut with Mark,” he writes.
I’d never heard that Mark Goodson had a home here. The only other Westport connection for Goodson I could find on the internet was that his son Jon was an apprentice at the Westport Country Playhouse as a college student in 1964.
Goodson-Todman Productions hit pay dirt in the 1950s with shows like “What’s My Line?,” “To Tell the Truth” and “I’ve Got A Secret.”
Longtime Westport resident Brett Somers was a celebrity panelist on another Goodson-Todman hit show, “Match Game,” in the 1970s. A producer of that show was Mark Goodson’s son Jon. Whether there was a Westport connection to Brett’s being selected, I have no idea.
Brett Somers on “The Match Game.”
Another Westport connection: Katleman attributes his good fortune as president of MGM Television, and in later positions,, to someone who years later settled in Westport and became a prominent supporter of the Playhouse: Bill Haber, an agent at the William Morris Agency.
With Katleman’s background, could there be an interesting Paul and Joanne story?
His cousin, Beldon Katleman, ran a successful hotel/casino, El Rancho, the first full-scale resort built on what ultimately became the Las Vegas Strip. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward held their wedding in El Rancho’s ballroom.
Welcome to our first-ever Christmas Day online art gallery.
Many submissions reflect a holiday theme.
The subjects are always up to you. And by “you,” I mean anyone who creates art. Of any kind, in any style.
Whatever your age and level of experience — professional or amateur, young or old — this gallery is open to you. In every medium.
All genres are encouraged. Watercolors, oils, charcoal, pen-and-ink, acrylics, lithographs, macramé, jewelry, sculpture, decoupage and needlepoint — whatever you’ve got, email it to email@example.com. Share your work with the world.
Today, from this gallery to your screen: Merry Christmas!
PS: If you’re looking for a subject for our next edition: It’s New Year’s Day.
“Away in the Manger” (Brian Whelan)
“Star of the Nutcracker” — acrylic on canvas. Weston artist Cindy Wagner says, “happy dancing and happy holiday to all,”
José Feliciano’s buoyant, jangly tune is 51 years old. Now — just in time for Navidad — a documentary about the life and music of the longtime Weston resident will be screened just a couple of miles away.
The Norwalk Film Festival will screen “Behind This Guitar” on Saturday, December 18 (7:30 p.m.) at the Wall Street Theatre. The movie follows Feliciano’s journey from growing up blind in Puerto Rico, to his 9 Grammy Awards and international acclaim. Click here for details and ticket information.
But several other Westporters were big contributors too. Hats off to Judy and Scott Phares, Eunice and David Bigelow, Kate and Bob Devlin, Joyce Hergenhan, Anna Czekaj-Farber, Mary Ellen and Jim Marpe, Christian J. and Eva Trefz, and Stacy and Howard Bass.
The show will go on — thanks to some very generous neighbors!
(From left): Shoshana Bean, Brandon Victor Dixon, Gavin Creel: stars of “Stars on Stage.”
If your property has or is adjacent to wetlands, a watercourse or a pond, all residents and contractors should “call before you dig.” If you’re unsure whether the property contains wetlands, call the Conservation Department: 203-341-1170.
The last year has seen an increase in violations. resulting in unpermitted building, cutting, clearing and filling of wetlands.
Violations cause owners having to cease work, appear at public meetings, pay fines and post bonds. Violations are also part of the public record.
It helps if he or she loves the New York Knicks. But a fan of any team — or any sport — can appreciate the passion of Fred Cantor. The 1971 Staples High School graduate and longtime “06880” contributor recently wrote Fred From Fresh Meadows.
It’s a loving account of the ups and downs of fandom, sure. There’s another reason to buy it though: All proceeds go to the John Starks Foundation. The Stamford-based nonprofit helps high school students afford college.
Angelo “Cookup” Veno — a true son of Saugatuck — died earlier this month, after a long and happy life.
Born in Saugatuck in 1928 to Louis and Mary Veno, he went through the Westport public school system. After school each day, Angelo manually set pins at the bowling alley downtown.
He was a 3-sport athlete at Staples High School, starring in football, basketball and baseball. After graduating in 1946 he played semi-pro football with the Westport Advertisers, and basketball with the Saugatuck Veterans, Westport YMCA and Clam Box 5.
Angelo also took up boxing, and had a 12-2 record as a pro. In 1986 he earned a Sportsman of Westport award.
In 1951 Angelo joined the Navy. He served for 4 years on the USS Howard D. Crow as an engineer. He joined the fleet’s boxing team, and lost only one fight.
Following his service he came back to Westport and helped coach the Westport PAL football team. He and his first wife, Judith Lissberger, had 2 children, Timothy and Belinda. Both remember their trips to New York Giants’ exhibition games in Pittsburgh, then straight to the Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy for dinner.
Angelo married Theresa Karutz in 1984, a former Miss Atlantic City winner. He enjoyed spending time with his stepsons Wallace and William Karutz.
Angelo had a long and successful career in the world of construction as president and CEO of his company, AJ Veno Construction. He started the business as a window replacement company, and grew it into a full-fledged construction company. He built corporate buildings and residential homes for many years.
Angelo made friends and made people everywhere, from the local pizza restaurant to nurses caring for him. He loved spending time at Compo Beach, with friends or alone feeding birds.
Angelo is survived by his brother Joe and sister Theresa (Richard Valentine). He was predeceased by his sister Ida Lockwood. He is also survived by his children, Timothy Veno (partner Gwen Purcell) and Belinda (Richard Benincasa); grandchildren Richard (Nora Benincasa), Ryan (Noelle Benincasa) and Morgan Benincasa; many cousins, nieces and nephews, and his recent great-grandchild, Ryan Casey Benincasa.
A funeral is set for Monday (December 13, 10 a.m., Assumption Church) for a Mass of Christian Burial. Interment with full military honors will follow in Assumption Cemetery on Greens Farms Road. The family will receive friends in the Harding Funeral Home on Sunday (December 12, 2 to 6 p.m.) Click here to leave online condolences.
Next month marks the 10th anniversary of the murder of Kuti Zeevi.
The popular Westporter was killed during a robbery at his jewelry store, on the 2nd floor of Compo Shopping Center.
The next day, Fred Cantor — a long-time friend and player on the Late Knights, a group of local men who enjoyed the game, and socializing together afterward — remembered the Israeli-born businessman and teammate. Fred wrote:
Many years ago someone told me you can learn a lot about a person by how willing he is to pass the ball and share it with teammates. Kuti was always looking to pass to an open teammate, and it was indeed just one indication of his great generosity — both on and off the field….
Kuti Zeevi, on a trip to England with the Late Knights soccer team in 1999. He’s in the middle of the back row.
There was a boyish spirit that remained inside him — one that I thought would never succumb to old age — and that was only snuffed out by a murderer’s bullet. We will all miss Kuti’s smile, and his laugh, and his joy for the game.
Other tributes poured in. Readers remembered the care with which he selected the perfect ring for customers; his pride and delight in his family, and grief at the death of his daughter a few years earlier from leukemia; his genuine concern for everyone he met; his volunteer work as a Hebrew school teacher at Temple Israel, and his sweet gentle nature, matched only by his tenacity on the soccer field.
The other day — as the hard-to-believe 10-year mark neared — his wife Nava shared her thoughts. She wrote:
His passion for soccer was beyond words, but also his passion for his trade. He was lucky to be dealing with happy people, catering to good and happy times in their lives: engagements, weddings, newborns, anniversaries, holidays and so many more.
All his clients became his friends. He dealt with them as if he was the uncle, the father, the brother. protecting them from spending too much, saving them to build their future. He added to their event his own personal excitement, as if it was his. He was family to everyone.
Before his death, Kuti waited impatiently for the arrival of his grandson. Yuval is now 10 years old, and — like the grandfather he never knew — an avid soccer player.
Kuti missed him by only 4 days.
Both grandchildren — Yuval and Noga, his sister (now 8) — hear stories about their grandfather. They are very proud of him.
Neva adds, “I feel blessed to have had Kuti by my side during those wonderful years together. He gave me a reservoir of strength, love and devotion, so I can spread it around now, among my dear ones, as he would have done, had he been spared.”
The Zeevi family, and Kuti’s many customers and friends, have never forgotten him.
Neither have his teammates.
On December 12 19 — just a few days after the anniversary of his murder — they’ll gather again, to play a memorial game in his honor.
Fred Cantor moved to Westport when he was 10. After Yale University and law school, he and his wife bought a 2nd home here. Then they moved permanently. They spent COVID in California, but are back now.
Fred is an astute observer of all things Westport. Today — looking backward and toward the future too — he trains his eye on downtown.
On Friday, the New York Times wrote about efforts in England to help keep alive and/or revitalize the nation’s “high streets” — the British equivalent of our Main Street — in towns around the country.
Among the ideas is the notion of short-term leases in certain instances — even just 3 months.
That got me thinking about one of the great mysteries of life (which perhaps “06880” readers who work in commercial real estate can answer): How come middle school students in Westport have no memory of any business operating out of the prime location where the Remarkable Book Shop was so successful for so many years?
How and why has that building remained vacant for so long?
The Remarkable Book Shop, back in the day.
And is the concept of a short-term lease for perhaps a seasonal summer-related business, or another entity that would run from the beginning of October through Christmas feasible at that location? Or any retail site on Main Street?
On a related note: The Remarkable used to have display cases outside its store. Even if the current owner of the building can’t find a suitable tenant for the space, is it worth it for the owner to consider renting to a business that wanted to operate a kiosk on its property? Are there other Main Street locations where a kiosk might make sense?
I have happily patronized the Strand Bookstore kiosk on 5th Avenue near Central Park South. Perhaps kiosks would add some street appeal to downtown.
Shopping at the Remarkable Book kiosks. (Photo/Fred Cantor)
Turning from England and New York to California: When we stayed not far from Laguna Beach, we enjoyed seeing how the town closed off the bottom portion of its Main Street equivalent — Forest Avenue — and turned it into a pedestrian mall. “The Promenade on Forest” featured temporary retail and dining decks, along with art displays.
I love what has happened here with Church Lane. And I know that Main Street has been closed off for an entire weekend for the annual Arts Festival.
I hope to hear from store proprietors on the lower half of Main Street whether they think it might be worthwhile to experiment with closing that section, perhaps for an entire week, to see if it successfully attracts more business.
At the same time, I would love to hear from local officials and residents who live near downtown whether such an experiment might be worth pursuing to evaluate the impact on traffic congestion near downtown.
This was Main Street, during the 2014 Art About Town festival.
Speaking of Laguna Beach: The town permitted installation right by City Hall of a fabulous artwork that generated a lot of interest.
Could Westport do something similar with Veterans Green on a regular basis? By that I mean perhaps scheduling periodic events such as small acoustic concerts? Would that type of “happening” help make Main Street more of a destination?
I don’t claim to have any definitive answers. But I would have no objection if Main Street became something close to Yogi Berra’s famous observation: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.
Staples High School social studies teacher Suzanne Kammerman has been named Teacher of the Year by the American Lawyers Alliance. The honor comes on top of — and in part because of — her role in leading her school’s “We the People” team to their 2nd consecutive state championship. They hope to follow in their teacher’s footsteps, and win a national title. Last year’s team placed 5th.
Kammerman initiated the “We the People” class and competition at Staples, after competing herself in high school.
A 14-year educator, Kammerman was previously selected by the League of Women Voters to train at Harvard Business School.
During COVID — and despite distance learning — she continued to develop created, engaging ways for students to learn about democracy. They researched Supreme Court cases, discussed hypotheticals, learned how to analyze and synthesize facts and opinions, and honed presentation skills.
Congratulations, Ms. Kammerman, for your passion, dedication, and profound impact on the next generation of citizens.
Volunteers help Staples students prepare for the 2021 “We the People” competition. Suzanne Kammerman is in the top row, 2nd from left.
State Senator Tony Hwang hosts lunch next Wednesday (April 28, 12:30 p.m., Tarantino’s). He’ll be joined by 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Police Chief Foti Koskinas, State Representative Stephanie Thomas and Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director Matthew Mandell.
The event — in coordination with the Chamber — will promote outdoor dining. The group will discuss ways to continue to support local businesses during COVID.
Restaurants on Railroad Place, Church Lane and other areas of town have set up tables, tents, domes and other structures for outdoor dining. The state and town have eased regulations, and owners look forward to a robust spring and summer scene.
Speaking of COVID regulations: Governor Lamont is easing earlier restrictions.
Effective May 1:
Bars that do not serve food can open for service on an outdoor-only basis. They still cannot serve only alcohol indoors.
The 8-person per table limit will be lifted for outdoors only. The limit remains in effect for indoor service.
The curfew for restaurants, entertainment venues, recreation venues and theaters will be moved back an hour, to midnight.
Effective May 19:
Contingent upon sufficiently low rates of infections and increasing vaccination rates, all remaining business restrictions will be lifted. The Department of Public Health will issue recommendations for indoor and other large outdoor events, such as concerts, and clarify where masking will continue after May 1.
(Hat tip: Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce)
The Levitt Pavilion — and many other organizations — wait for an announcement about what kind of gatherings will be allowed this summer.
“I am blessed to be able to walk to Compo Beach. This area has a very special vibe. The downside is that the vibe encourages people to drive down South Compo Road like lunatics. disregarding speed limits, crosswalks, even common sense and courtesy.
“Compo Road from Greens Farms Road to the beach might as well be the Autobahn: screeching tires, ignoring full stops, flying through crosswalks. These are not just visitors — they are locals too, rushing, blowing off stop signs and exceeding speed limits by over 25 mph.
“We have a wonderful Police Department, but they can’t be everywhere. This is going to get worse as the weather gets warmer. The weekends are a drag race by noon, through 11 p.m.
“Many dog walkers, children and elderly walking on Compo Road. Will it take someone getting killed or seriously injured to finally address the situation?”
“06880” readers know Fred Cantor as a passionate Westporter. If you’ve read many of his comments here, you know he’s an avid Knicks fan too.
He’s also proud of his roots. Until he was 10, he lived in Fresh Meadows, Queens. That’s where he learned to love the NBA team. And it forms the background of his most recent book, Fred From Fresh Meadows: A Knicks Memoir.
It’s getting great looks. Yesterday, NY1 aired a story about Fred, including 3 generations of Cantor Knick fans: his 93-year-old mother Pearl, and his brother Marc’s older son, Sam. Click here to see.
The day before, the New York Post‘s Mike Vaccaro called Fred’s book “delightful. The stories ring like a trusted friend’s from the neighboring barstool.”
The Knicks may not be at the top of the standings. But Fred From Fresh Meadows is definitely a winner.
And how about this: All proceeds benefit the John Starks Foundation. The Knick legend started the charity, which gives scholarships to teenagers in need.
Speaking of sports: There’s a Westport connection even to the controversy over a proposed “Super League” of top international soccer clubs.
Joaquim Monnerat played freshman soccer at Staples High in 2019. His family has moved to London. But there he was — photographed all over social media — protesting with over 1,000 others outside of Stamford Bridge (the Chelsea team’s home stadium).
The protest worked. The plan collapsed a few hours later when 6 of the 12 clubs — including Chelsea — dropped out.
Joaquim is in the center below, with a (dangling) face mask. And though you can’t tell, he’s wearing a Staples Soccer shirt in the image that went ’round the world. (Hat tip: Bruno Guiduli)
“06880” readers know Fred Cantor as an avid commenter, with a keen eye for Westport’s history, and a passion for its present and future. He’s also a multi-talented writer, movie and play producer, and attorney
Fred Cantor (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
The 1971 Staples High School graduate has had health issues, so for the past few years he and his wife Debbie have spent winters in Southern California. They were there last year, when the pandemic (and his doctor’s advice) turned a few months’ stay into more than a year. It was the longest time he’d been away from Westport since moving here at age 10.
After 17 months, Fred and Debbie are back. Here’s what he sees.
The first thing that grabbed our attention coming off Exit 17 was the empty train station parking lot. We had read about the large number of people working at home, but that was an eye-opener.
Yet then, almost instantly, there were old welcome sights: the approach to the distinctive Cribari Bridge — with early signs of spring (daffodils in full bloom) — and just past the bridge, 19th-century homes with yards fronted by quintessential New England stone walls or wrought-iron fences.
Daffodils near the William F. Cribari Bridge.
I don’t think Debbie and I crossed a bridge over a river once in our area of SoCal— and certainly not a bridge on the National Register of Historic Places — even before the pandemic, when we did more driving. Southern California has much natural beauty, but in the area of Orange County where we rented, numerous rivers and streams are certainly not among them.
And historic 19th century homes — well, they did not exist there. Some of those towns were created in the 1960s or later.
Handsome home on Bridge Street.
Westport’s historic homes, stone walls, rivers and meandering tributaries — such as can be seen along Ford Road — are among the sights I missed the most.
The scene along Ford Road.
Forsythias blooming all around Westport were another “welcome home” sign; that too was much rarer in our part of SoCal.
Forsythia blooms outside a 1930 Imperial Avenue home.
Heading to the beach, I had to stop at Joey’s By The Shore at its new location. I hoped to see Joey after all this time. but he’s away.
Back in business: Joey’s by the Shore.
That reinforced my feelings that, while many of us embrace longtime local establishments, it is largely the proprietors we really have such warm feelings about. That was certainly true when the Nistico family switched its restaurant operation from the Arrow to the Red Barn.
Walking across the street to Old Mill Beach instantly reminded me why that has long been a personal favorite. It’s not only beautiful; it’s often serene, as exemplified by a couple quietly reading their iPad and newspaper on a nearly empty beach.
Old Mill Beach.
When I was away I stayed in touch with Westport friends via email, texts, social media, occasional phone calls and Zoom.
I followed local Westport news via “06880,” so in certain respects I didn’t feel 3,000 miles away from what was happening here. By contrast, I vividly recall the summer of 1964. I was at camp in Pennsylvania, and learned of my Little League team winning the Minor League World Series a week after the fact, when I received a letter from my parents with a clipping from the Town Crier.
The most difficult thing about being so far away was not being able to see our 93- and 95-year-old moms. Daily phone calls and occasional FaceTime calls didn’t quite suffice.
So that first weekend back in town generated a teary reunion hug between Debbie and her mom. It was coupled with a culinary discovery: delicious mini-babka at the new Kneads Bakery, which we all enjoyed at their outdoor dining area.
Fred’s wife Debbie Silberstein, Debbie’s mother and aide, at Kneads Bakery. (All photos/Fred Cantor)
That first weekend back also generated our first experience with traffic. At 4 p.m. Saturday there was a big backup on Bridge Street toward Saugatuck. Traffic crawled on 95, spilling over onto local streets.
Other than on the single-lane canyon road leading to Laguna Beach, we never experienced major backups in SoCal. The main local roads have 3 lanes in each direction — with an additional two left-hand turn lanes at major intersections.
During that traffic tie-up on Bridge Street I witnessed an “only in Westport” moment (and something I had never seen in close to 60 years here). Moving right by the traffic on a highly unusual mode of transit were two cyclists on penny-farthings (you can look it up🤨).
Seeing that, I knew for sure I was back in Westport!
The University of California professor of astronomy is the only member of both teams that revealed the accelerating expansion of the universe, which led to a Nobel Prize. He’s been voted the Best Professor at Berkeley a record 9 times.
On December 15 (8 p.m.), he’ll visit the Westport Astronomical Society — virtually — for a free lecture on “A New Surprise in the Accelerating Universe.” It’s available on Zoom, and YouTube.
Mozy is a new member of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. The local company produces a “lower-body thermal wrap engineered to keep you 100% warmer than most blankets.”
It’s perfect for “game day, drinks on the deck or a sunset hike” — and the “BYOB” (Bring Your Own Blanket) outdoor dining initiative championed by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. Click here to buy online, or email for in-person pickup: firstname.lastname@example.org.
They just released their first book: “Fred From Fresh Meadows: A Knicks Memoir.” Author Fred is also from Westport. The 1971 Staples High School graduate is well known to “06880” readers as a frequent commenter on a variety of topics, a documentary filmmaker, an off-Broadway producer, and a keeper of the flame of local musicians like the Remains and Charlie Karp.
Fred’s Knick bona fides go back decades. He was at Madison Square Garden for the “Here comes Wilis!” game. He stayed up late the night before the SATs to watch a big game on the West Coast. In law school he chose where to live based on which neighborhood had a team cable TV package, then chose an apartment in Manhattan based in part on proximity to Madison Square Garden.
Along the way, Fred might have inadvertently caused Jerry Lucas to have one of the worst shooting nights of his playoff career, drove with Earl Monroe to a business meeting, and sort of sued Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to get revenge for Knicks fans.
Fred is a truly good guy. He’s donating 100% of the royalties from his pandemic project to the John Starks Foundation, which provides grants to college-bound high school seniors with academic excellence, financial need and a commitment to community service.
During COVID, many folks are drinking alone. Now you can do it without shame — and with the knowledge you’re helping raise money for great causes.
The Westport Woman’s Club is sponsoring a “Swirl & Sip” wine-tasting fundraiser (Wednesday, December 9, 6 to 7 p.m.). For just $25, Castle Wine & Spirits is providing sparkling wines from Italy and Spain. Silver Ribbon donates the door prize: a $200 gift certificate.
Proceeds from the virtual event help fund grants to local non-profits, and need-based college scholarships. Cheers!
MoCA Westport’s Holiday Open House has been postponed from this Saturday to next (December 12, noon to 5 p.m.).
The outdoor event includes caroling by the Staples High School Orphenians, free admission to the World Peace exhibition, performances by teachers and students of the Westport School of Music, and a holiday-themed project for kids.
There’s free hot chocolate and doughnuts, and food trucks for purchases. There is no admission fee, but MoCA suggests bringing an unwrapped toy for the Westport Police Department’s annual drive.
And finally … in honor of the Westport Astronomical Society’s lecture on the expanding universe:
Alert “06880” reader — and longtime Westporter — Fred Cantor hears frequent laments about the changes in town since “whatever decade people grew up here in.” Of course, he admits, thingsare different.
But, Fred notes, the small-town feel that existed when his family moved here in 1963 is still alive and well. As proof, he offers a series of events that occurred recently, in just one 24-hour period.
Bruce Davidson, from his Staples High School yearbook.
It started with a visit to a local periodontist which, believe it or not, proved enjoyable overall. That’s because he’s Dr. Bruce Davidson, Staples High School Class of 1965, a family friend from back in the day and a former soccer teammate of my brother Marc. Bruce has practiced for decades at the same location on the Post Road, near Sylvan Avenue.
After a thorough exam and patient clarification of potential issues raised by X-rays taken in California, there was time to catch up and hear, among other things, about the status of a documentary film by Bruce’s brother, Doc (Staples ‘70).
After my appointment I drove to Cohen’s Fashion Opticals to pick up new glasses, which were almost ready. No problem: It was close to lunchtime, so I headed a few doors down to Gold’s. Owner Jim greeted me warmly.
I had a delicious turkey salad sandwich. The food at Gold’s is every bit as good today as when my parents first took me there in the 1960s — and the setting seems exactly as it did back then.
Jim Eckl and his wife Nancy have owned Gold’s since 2003.
Later in the day, I enjoyed a timeless outdoor Westport scene: a large crowd gathered on the hill to watch a Staples soccer game, on a beautiful Friday afternoon.
I had not arranged to meet anyone there. That didn’t matter. I sat with Bill Mitchell (Staples ’61) and former soccer coach Jeff Lea. We shared a few laughs and some entertaining stories. Dave Wilson (a Staples captain in 1974) was there too.
The ageless Laddie Lawrence (Staples ’64) also joined us for a while; so did former Westport Late Knights soccer teammate, Alex Anvari. Somehow Alex’s little boy Emerson has grown up — he’s 6-1 now!—to be a Staples senior who, to my delight, is on the varsity team.
Enjoying Staples soccer on the Loeffler Field hill (from left):L Fred Cantor, Jeff Lea, Bill Mitchell, Laddie Lawrence.
It was the last weekend of summer, with near-perfect temperatures, so after the game my wife Debbie and I headed to Compo to enjoy the sunset. As often happens, we ran into a couple of longtime Westporters.
I also had a nice chat with Joey Romeo, the owner of Joey’s By the Shore. He is every bit as friendly as any Main Street storeowner was in the 1960s.
Compo Beach sunset. (Photo/Fred Cantor)
The next morning I was walking on Bridge Street toward the train station. A car pulled over. The driver was Staples alum Mike Elliot; he offered me a ride. I explained that walking is my regular exercise these days.
As I neared the station, another car stopped. Staples classmate Bob Uly wanted to know how I was doing health-wise.
It was just 24 hours. Nothing truly out of the ordinary happened.
But those little slice-of-life occurrences demonstrate, at least for me, that certain “Our Town”-like qualities still very much exist here.
That’s my usual response when organizers ask me to publicize their upcoming or recent event. If I do one, I say, I’ll have to do them all. And — sorry, guys! — your reunion just isn’t that interesting to 99.99% of “06880”‘s daily readers.
But rules are made to be broken. And if any class has experience breaking rules, it’s the rockin’, rollin’ Staples High School class of 1969.
So here goes:
Last weekend, 131 no-longer-teenage-but-still-young-at-heart former Wreckers gathered for their 50th (!) reunion.
There were no cell phones — or selfies — back in 1969. In 2019, these reunion-goers make the most of theirs.
They were rebels, back in the day. But in 2019, they got a ton of help from all corners of the town they grew up in. Former — and still — class president Peter Krieg reports:
Assistant principal Rich Franzis was a tremendous help. He helped prep Krieg for his tour of the “new” school, worked with Geno Heiter to post 1969 visuals on the lobby TV screen, and enlisted head custodian Horace Lewis and one of Lewis’ staff to guide the group around.
Not far from a banner welcoming the Class of 2023 to the “new” Staples, the Class of 1969 gathered for a group photo.
The tour culminated in the library, where librarian Jen Cirino helped screen the “High School That Rocked” movie. The film depicts the amazing (Doors, Yardbirds, Cream, Sly & the Family Stone, Rascals, Animals, Beau Brummels) concerts that so many of those former Stapleites attended.
Producer Fred Cantor — the young (Class of ’71) producer — was there.
So was former social studies teacher and administrator Gordon Hall. Now in his 90s — and living in the same Westport home as then — he spoke to the returning alums.
“He was inspiring, knowledgeable and very funny,” Krieg reports. “His comments about retirement were not just appropriate; they were a teaching moment for us.”
Krieg is giving gifts to everyone who helped. Hall, for example, will receive a framed photo of his talk.
New Staples principal Stafford Thomas gets one too. (“He was keenly interested in ‘The High School That Rocked,'” Krieg says — even though he had not yet been born when those bands were hot.)
The way we were … or at least, the way we think we were, today.
Krieg gives a shout-out to Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department as well. They provided great help for the Saturday night Compo Beach party: tent permits, use of the Ned Dimes Marina, and passes for vehicles.
The marina building was decorated with professionally produced ’69 posters and memorabilia. Organizers raffled off 3 unique pieces of art. They’ll donate (appropriately) $1,969 of the proceeds to Staples Tuition Grants.
Of course, no reunion is complete with a party at the Black Duck. Pete Aitkin hosted a boisterous crew on Friday night.
“The support we got from the school, from one of our teachers, and the town was really special,” says Krieg.
“This was Westport at its best. It felt like the Westport of old. In some ways, Westport hasn’t changed at all.”
Neither have the members of Staples High School’s Class of 1969.
Even if they did graduate half a century ago.
It’s been 50 years. But some friendships never fade.
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