Tag Archives: Harry Reasoner

“I Caught Her In The Kitchen Playing Westport”

Hundreds of readers spent half an hour watching the “Westport’s Got It All” video I posted earlier today.

Some spent a few more minutes passing it along to relatives and friends.

One guy — presumably with a lot of time to spare — googled something Harry Reasoner said. In the video, the TV newscaster mentioned that he first learned of his future hometown from a Time magazine article. It quoted a song: “I caught her in the kitchen playing Westport.” 

Pearl Bailey sang about Westport.

Pearl Bailey sang about Westport.

The alert “06880” reader found a website called “Folk and Traditional Song Lyrics.”

Similarly inspired, I searched for a YouTube video of the song. I couldn’t find one.

But here — from “Take Five, A Julius Monk Review, ca 1952-1954,” are the lyrics.

According to the website, they come from an original cast record by Pearl Bailey and Will Holt. The version is “somewhat doctored” by R. Greenhaus.

There’s a little ranch house in the vale,
Pretty little ranch house up for sale;
All the shutters drawn,
Tenants all gone
And thereby hangs a long, unhappy tale.

‘Cause he caught her in the kitchen playing Westport,
A game indigenous to suburban life,
Where you take a wife of whom you’re not the husband,
While someone else’s husband takes your wife.

Some people may claim that the name of the game is Scarsdale,
Or Beverly Hills, or even Shaker Heights,
But commuters from Manhattan call it Westport.
And it’s the game that some of our local leading lights play
To while away those cold Connecticut nights.

Now in that little ranch house used to dwell
An advertising feller and his Nell.
Two kids and a pup, living it up,
And everything was sounder than a bell —
‘Til he caught her in the kitchen playing Westport
Between the washing machine and thermostat.

This is not the Westport kitchen the song refers to.

This is not the Westport kitchen the song refers to.

The husband thought it really was an outrage.
Said he, “You might at least remove your hat!”
Well, they may play it that way in Great Neck,
While in Levittown they’d never think it odd.
But there is not an architect in Westport
Who’ll ever forgive the cad that said, “My God! Sir.
I must have got the wrong cape cod!”

Since they are no longer groom and bride,
Quoting from the Sunday classified:
“Are there any takers
For three lovely acres
Of peaceful old New England countryside?”
‘Cause he caught her in the kitchen playing Westport
Which would ordinarily be a cause for gloom;
But though the sanctity of wedlock’s on the downgrade,
Currently housing is enjoying quite a boom!

And while they defame the name of the game in Boston,
Where naturally they think it’s a dirty shame,
In the green and fertile pastures of suburbia
The local dealers in real estate acclaim
It the best thing since the FHA, hey,

Westport is a grand old …
‘Midst pleasures and palaces …
Westport is a grand old game.

“Westport’s Got It All”

Back in 1985, the Marketing Corporation of America gave Westport a gift for the town’s 150th anniversary: a 30-minute video.

MCA is no longer around. Westport is no longer the “marketing capital of America.”

But the video — grandiosely titled “Westport’s Got It All” — has just been posted on Vimeo. It’s gone viral — at least, among Westporters and those who used to live here.

After nearly 30 years, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

The video is filled with celebrities who lived here. Strangely — or, perhaps, understatedly and on purpose — none are named. Jim McKay reads a newspaper by the river. Harry Reasoner sits near a tennis court. Joanne Woodward has a cameo.

ABC's "Wide World of Sports" anchor Jim McKay sits on the banks of the Saugatuck River, in the town he called home.

ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” anchor Jim McKay on the banks of the Saugatuck River, in the town he called home.

Okay, so Rodney Dangerfield cracks, “The town of Westport has my respect.” But that’s the closest anyone comes to identifying him or herself.

The video opens with a cheesy, “Westport’s Got It All” song (including the line “Kids hanging out at the Dairy Queen…”). It’s sung by Westporter Dara Sedaka — Neil’s daughter.

But the pace quickens. There are shots of Main Street, the Playhouse, Staples, Compo, the downtown art show, Longshore, Cockenoe, the Levitt and the Memorial Day parade (ending at Jesup Green).

Most look pretty much the same today. But there are plenty of other places and things that are long gone: Remarkable Book Shop. The White Barn Theater. Mohonk House. Hay Day (in its original location, opposite Carvel). MCA.

And, of course, restaurants: Manero’s, Chez Pierre, Ships, Peppermill, Three Bears, Allen’s Clam House, Connolly’s … and on and on.

I found the voiceovers fascinating. Mason Adams, Alan Parsell, Herb Baldwin, Claire Gold, Julie Belaga, Dick Leonard, Cary Pierce — I recognized the voices of so many former politicians, educators, students and others.

Crusty Yankee Alan Parsell was 83 years old when he was interviewed for the 150th-anniversary video.

Crusty Yankee Alan Parsell was 83 years old when he was interviewed for the 150th-anniversary video.

Here are some of the things they said:

  • “Nothing goes on here that people aren’t concerned about. For every issue, there are at least 10 sides.”
  • “I’m worried the town is losing its mix of a variety of people.”
  • “Westporters have extraordinary aspirations for their children. And they’re willing to pay for it.”
  • “I work 2 jobs, 90 hours a week, to keep my head above water here.”
  • “Westport has the sophistication of New York, the exuberance of a California town, the quaintness of New England — and a sense of humor.”
  • “We do have latchkey children, as more and more parents go off to work.”
George Weigle conducts the Staples Orphenians. They sound great in the video.

George Weigle conducts the Staples Orphenians. They sound great in the video.

  • “It’s a very loving community, in many ways.”
  • “We draw people into town, to go to the theater and movies.”
  • “The Post Road is a disaster. But every town has its Post Road. This one looks better than many.”
  • “Commercialization has really changed this town. It’s been good and bad.”
  • “It’s a generous, gregarious, outgoing town.You can dress any way you like. You can be anyone you want to be. That’s the uniqueness of the community.”

That was Westport, 1985. Thanks to MCA, we’ve got a video record — promotional, but still pretty honest — of who we were.

What’s happened in the past 28 years? Are we better, worse, just different — or the same — as we were back in the days when big cars roamed Main Street, the Church Lane YMCA was still new, and people came from out of town for the movies?

Click on the video below (then wait 10 seconds to begin). Then click “Comments.”

(Click here if your browser does not take you directly to Vimeo.)

Remembering Danny Adler

Dr. Daniel Adler — a beloved local physician who delivered of thousands of babies during 4 decades of service to Westport and Weston — died of natural causes on Sunday at his Weston home. He was 92.

Dr. Adler was a pioneer in his field. He was an outspoken practitioner in the use of midwives in deliveries, and in-office procedures like laparoscopy.

An outspoken advocate of women’s reproductive rights, he provided pro bono care to indigent patients in Norwalk, while operating a private ob-gyn practice in Westport from 1954 to 1985.

Dr. Adler was named the 1st chairman of Norwalk Hospital’s ob-gyn department in 1980. He also served as an assistant clinical professor at Yale. He retired from St. Vincent’s Hospital in 2000, age 80.

Dr. Daniel Adler

Dr. Daniel Adler

Dr. Adler’s deep interest in national and global affairs led to friendships with Westport journalists Harry Reasoner and Gordon Manning. A passionate Democrat, he hosted presidential candidate Gene McCarthy in his home, and met presidential hopefuls George McGovern and Sargent Shriver when they visited Westport. Last month, he reveled in the re-election of President Obama.

Dr. Adler’s son William honored his father — and his father’s generation — this way:

People around my parents’ ages were World War II era, and came home to build the suburbs and the life we love. They were not the Mad Men generation –they were a bit before. They were Rod Serling, or the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.  They were Cheever and Richard Yates.

They grew up on Bennie Goodman, not Elvis, and everything they stood for had to do with sacrificing so that the next generation — ours — could have it better.  Could have peace, prosperity, new opportunity. So they were mensches.

They worked and they gave and they gave. I heard my father turning over the engine on his car, middle of the night, night after night – babies were being born, and this was before doctors had teams of partners and backup for their backup.

They didn’t expect to get rich.  Danny charged $300 for a full 9-month course of care leading up to and including a delivery in the mid-1960s. One patient gave him a sculpture of a cat in lieu of payment.

This was the last generation of builders. They didn’t outsource; they built businesses, products, services. They didn’t run away to international havens; they did it here, in Westport.

Their names are on street signs and park names: Harding, Gault, Bisceglie. Most of them are gone, but to those of us who care none are forgotten. Such a name is Daniel H. Adler, MD.

PS: Among the thousands of babies Danny Adler delivered was my youngest sister, Laurie.

(Arrangements are private. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Dr. Adler’s honor to Planned Parenthood or Weston Emergency Medical Services.)

Lee Greenberg: “Liz Taylor Lived In My House”

It was once one of the largest and grandest homes in Westport.  Today — in a town of McMansions — 175 Long Lots Road merits barely a second glance.

But what history lies within its walls!

In 1957 Liz Taylor — married to film and theater producer Mike Todd, the 3rd of her 7 husbands — was pregnant.  Her mother lived in Ridgefield, and Liz wanted to be near her.  Westport was filled with actors and movie producers, so Liz and Mike came here to house-hunt.

Their realtor called Nat Greenberg — a long-time Westport real estate developer — in a panic.  He had no houses to show Liz Taylor, he said.  They’ve driven all the way up here in a Rolls-Royce — can I show them yours?!

“So in walked Liz Taylor and Mike Todd,” Nat’s widow Lee Greenberg recalled this afternoon.  “They loved the house” — it included a swimming pool and tennis court — “and asked if we’d consider renting it for a year.  My first reaction was, ‘Of course not!'”

But Nat told Liz and Mike he’d be in touch.  The Greenbergs talked, and Lee said, “If we can do something unusual as a family for a year, let’s do it.”

She quickly came up with that “unusual” idea:  Switzerland.  The Greenbergs were skiers, and their 4 young children could have an intriguing year in a Swiss school.

Nat called Mike.  “He was deliriously happy,” Lee said.  “In fact, he offered to pay — besides the year rental — for all 6 of us to go to Switzerland.  And for our chalet.”

Did the Greenbergs accept the offer?

“Of course!” she said.  “Wouldn’t you?”

The last photo taken of Liz Taylor and Mike Todd. (Photo courtesy of IMDB)

Several months later Lee was on a tram, going up a Swiss mountain.  She was just learning French, but she knew enough to translate the huge newspaper headline:  “Mike Todd est mort.”

The producer and 3 other men had been killed in the crash of an overloaded private plane, in an ice storm, near Grants, New Mexico.

The date was March 22, 1958.

Fifty-three years — and 1 day — later, Liz Taylor too is dead.

Post-script:  Liz Taylor and Mike Todd were not the only famous residents of 175 Long Lots Road.  Lee and Nat Greenberg sold their home to Harry Reasoner in 1968 — the same year the TV newscaster teamed up with Mike Wallace to begin CBS News’ “60 Minutes.”

Harry Reasoner retired in 1991.  Three months later he died — from complications of a fall at his Westport home.

3 Blogs

There’s something about the Staples Class of 1983 and blogs.

At least 3 members of that class recently joined the blogosphere.  And although they reference Westport only occasionally — and from various perspectives — it’s nice to think they honed their substantial writing chops here.

Shannon Woolfe now lives in Hillsborough, N.C.  Her blog — Do You Know the  Way to San Jose? — is filled with notes from her recently completed memoir about life with her horse-trainer mother, her life in Bermuda, and her youth in Westport.

Former Westporter Harry Reasoner had a trampoline behind his Long Lots Road house

It sounds like quite a youth.  At age 11, she found her way home — alone — from Newark Airport.  She and a friend often jumped on Harry Reasoner’s trampoline.  And she spent a hilarious night skinny-dipping with her boyfriend at Birchwood, then running from the Westport cops.

Matt Perry’s Mad-Dog Manifesto describes life in Chicken City, which one hopes is not the real name of the rural Georgia town where he teaches and coaches soccer.  Matt too is writing a memoir.  His posts are part of it, and though longer than most bloggers’, they’re hilarious.

(He was named head coach when his predecessor was “diplomatically non-renewed because he was a moron.”)

Jarret Liotta still lives in Connecticut.  His essays and articles have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and many local publications.  He recently completed his 1st novel, “Temporary Insanity.”

His “The Blog and I” is also sharp.  For instance, he’s the 1st person to write something I always wished I had the guts to.  After hearing Johnny Mathis over the holidays, Jarret said:  “I still get very uncomfortable whenever a black person sings… ‘May all your Christmases be white.'”

Shannon, Matt and Jarret have distinct, and very personal, voices.  All 3 are also working together on their writing.

A horse trainer from North Carolina, a soccer coach from Chicken City and a writer who takes on Johnny Mathis.  And they all got their start in Westport.