Tag Archives: James naughton

In Death, The Gift Of Life

Like many others, Dan Levinson moved from New York to Westport when his children were young. He thought it would be a great place to raise kids.

He was right. He grew to love the town, and has been active in many non-profit organizations here and in Bridgeport.

Like some others, his father — Peritz Levinson — moved in with the Levinsons late in life. He too learned to love the beach, Longshore, the library and Senior Center.

Peritz died a year later. Unlike many others, however, his death was not frightening, painful or brutal.

Instead, it was powerful. It was meaningful.

And now it’s become the impetus for an intriguing, important book project.

Peritz Levinson spent his life in Cincinnati. That’s where he took care of his own parents, until they died.

Peritz Levinson, with a very young Dan.

A psychiatrist, he came to Westport when he was 90. His wife had died, and he was ailing. He did not want to impose on his son.

Peritz need not have worried. He had prepared to die. During the last year of his life, he “became transcendent,” Dan says. “He was less present, but more brilliant.”

As they heard Dan talk about his father’s death, people who befriended Peritz during his last year — Sue Pfister at the Senior Center, Bill Harmer of the Westport Library, Sharon Bradley at Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County — encouraged Dan to write about the experience.

Peritz and Dan Levinson take a selfie.

He realized there were other stories out there, of “good deaths.” He decided to find them, find writers to tell them, and collect them in a book.

In Death, The Gift of Life is hyperlocal, he says. It  features 10 stories from here.

Some of the names are familiar, like community activist Estelle Margolis and musician Charlie Karp.

“It’s not a book for the world. But I think it can influence a lot of people.”

For much of history, Dan notes, death was seen as a natural part of life. People died at home, surrounded by loved ones. But advances in technology and medicine have made us think we need to “fight and scrap,” to put off the inevitable end of our days.

Peritz Levinson, enjoying his son Dan’s back yard.

Peritz Levinson had thought for years about death. He was a founding member of Exit International. The non-profit organization wants to ensure that all rational adults have access to the best available information, so they can make informed decisions about when and how they die.

“My father wanted to be present as he died,” Dan says. “He was calm. He had clarity.”

The final 3 months in particular were “spectacular.”

Dan took his father to meaningful places. Peritz loved the beach. At Elvira’s, Stacy gave him rice pudding. When they drove through the golf course, people waved. Dan’s son Jesse — Peritz’s grandson — was around for much of the time too.

Peritz Levinson, surrounded by (clockwise from lower left), his grandchildren Andie, Adam and Jesse, plus Andie’s now-husband Steve and Adam’s girlfriend Hayley.

“It was beautiful,” Dan says. “We had quality time, and closure. There was acceptance and peace.”

Dan is fully aware that his family’s experience is rare. Part of the reason for the book is to spark conversations about dying. So he sought writers who knew their subjects, and could tell their stories lovingly and insightfully.

Estelle Margolis, longtime activitst and a Westporter who prepared well for her own death.

Longtime civic volunteer and political activist Margolis, for example, prepared well for her own death. Her grandson wrote her story.

Author Mary-Lou Weisman wrote about Pamela Parsons Naughton, the wife of actor James Naughton. Karp’s sister Eleanor Duffy writes about him.

Other familiar author names include Sarah Gross, Jarret Liotta, Robin Weinberg and Craig D.B. Patton. I was honored to contribute Peritz Levinson’s story.

The title — In Death, the Gift of Life — comes from something someone told Dan Levinson: “Your father gave you his life. And he gave you his death.”

On October 13, the book launches officially, at the Westport Library. There’s a 6:30 p.m., reception; remarks from Levinson, Liotta, Weisman, Naughton (and me), and music by The Name Droppers, Charlie Karp’s band.

The public is invited. It will be a joyful celebration of this book — and of the joys of good, meaningful deaths.

(For more information on the October 13 event at the Westport Library, click here.)

(“06880” is entirely reader-supported. Please click here to contribute.)

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Roundup: Winslow Park, Tarry Lodge, Dunkin’ …

In May, “06880” published the sad story of Winnie the Pooh.

Fifth grader Alex Johnson eulogized his dog. It had run through a break in the Winslow Park stone wall, and been struck and killed by a car on Compo Road North.

Thanks to the efforts of the Johnsons — and many others — tragedies like those may soon be diminished.

Last week, Westport’s Parks & Recreation Commission voted unanimously to fill in 3 breaks, in the park’s off-leash area.

The plan includes split-rail fencing, backed by “nearly invisible” mesh fencing, plus a 3 1/2-foot gate at each of those 3 areas. (Hat tip: Tricia Freeman)

Winnie The Pooh.

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The Sweet Remains are a highlight of every Levitt Pavilion season.

But last night’s concert was extra special. The usual local pride — Sweet Remains leader Greg Naughton grew up in Weston, and lives in Westport — swelled when the trio was joined onstage by Greg’s wife, Broadway star Kelli O’Hara; his father James, the noted actor, and sister Keira.

Alert “06880” reader/longtime music fan/superb photographer Tom Kretsch reports: “It was a truly incredible evening, with a packed crowd enthralled by the group’s performance.”

The Sweet Remains, with James Naughton, Keira Naughton and Kelli O’Hara.

Levitt Pavilion, last night (Photos/Tom Kretsch)

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What’s up with Tarry Lodge?

Recently, alert and hungry reader Patti Brill has noticed the “unkempt” appearance of the Charles Street restaurant. Yesterday, it looked like it was closed.

I checked the website. Nothing unusual; it was taking reservations and pickup orders.

I called. I was about to hang up when — on the 10th ring — a recording said, “We are pleased to announce our new hours.”

That’s usually a euphemism for “shorter hours.” I don’t know their previous schedule, but according to the chirpy voice, Tarry Lodge is open Wednesdays through Friday from 4 to 9:30 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 9:30 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 8 p.m.

This was Sunday. I pressed “2” to order by phone.

Nothing. Nada. Zippo for some za.

If any reader knows more, click “Comments” below.

Tarry Lodge, yesterday. (Photo/Patti Brill)

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Around the corner from Tarry Lodge, the Bridge Square Dunkin’ Donuts is definitely open.

Alert “06880” reader John Karrel was there this morning.

The music playing in the background was a bit mystifying: Christmas carols.

Hey! Only 153 shopping days left.

Meanwhile, in other Dunkin’ news, a large sign promises that the Compo Shopping Center spot — newly relocated from across from Fresh Market — opens in 3 days.

We’ll soon find out which is more dangerous: The drive-thru Starbucks, or its competitor in an already overcrowded and dangerous plaza.

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Today’s “westport … Naturally” feature shows a serene Sherwood Mill Pond weekend scene. And how did you spend your Saturday evening?

(Photo/Gary Weist)

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And finally … if you missed the Sweet Remains last night — or want to hear more — click below:

 

 

 

Roundup: Staples Soccer, Library, Jim Naughton, Jose Feliciano, More


In a first for Staples High School sports — and perhaps for any team anywhere in the country — the boys soccer team broadcast last night’s match at Norwalk on a drive-in movie screen.

With a limited number of spectators allowed due to COVID at most schools — and Norwalk banning even parents — the Wreckers have livestreamed all their games this year.

GKess Films of Cheshire provide high-def quality video. WWPT-FM students provide play-by-play; alumni athletes, former coaches and other soccer aficionados add color commentary.

Cars filled with parents, siblings, younger players and random soccer fans headed to the Remarkable Theater Imperial Avenue parking lot for tailgating, and the game. They honked their horns and flashed their lights when Haydn Siroka and Alan Fiore scored early goals, and when Sebi Montoulieu saved a penalty kick.

Staples won 2-1 — their 3rd consecutive victory — and perhaps a new tradition was born.

A scene from the big screen at the Remarkable Theater. (Photo/Neil Brickley)


Good news from the Westport Library!

Starting Monday, November 9, they’ll expand hours, institute cart-side pick-up, and will offer access to the media studios, Maker Space and Children’s Department (by appointment).

New hours are Monday through Friday (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and Saturday (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.). The Library will remain closed on Sunday.

Patrons can browse for materials in the Library, place them on hold remotely, or do so by calling 203-291-4807. Items placed on hold can be picked up in the tent outside the building at any time during operating hours. This replaces the current curbside pick-up arrangement.

Delivery services will continue for residents who are homebound or in a high-risk category that prevents them from visiting the Library.

The Library is also adding printing services to its 3 Express computers. and will reintroduce loans from in-state Libraries.

Shopping in the Library store will continue in person or virtually by appointment. Click here to schedule.

The Library will continue to limit the number of people in the building to 100 at any time.


Tony Award-winning actor and noted director James Naughton is also a noted animal advocate. He writes:

Having lived in Weston for 43 years, and been raised in Connecticut, I count myself very lucky to have shared this wonderful, woodsy environment with nature’s creatures.

Just in the last 6 months while sequestered, we were entertained daily by a couple of foxes raising their 5 little kits in our yard, then a family of groundhogs and a raccoon family. Owls hoot in the woods , hawks circle overhead, and we watch out for fawns crossing the roads.

When some of these animals aren’t so lucky — hey are orphaned or encounter an automobile they (and we) are lucky to have a place to take them right here.

Dara and Peter Reid created Wildlife in Crisis, and have been its stewards for over 30 years.

Normally, they take in 5,000 animals a year.  This year they’ve taken in an unusually large  number of creatures–and they need our help.

They’re a 501C3, and depend on charitable contributions. Click here, and watch a 10-minute video of them releasing back into the wild some of the animals they’ve raised or  rehabilitated.

It’s inspiring, and a delight to show to your children and grandchildren. Then please: Make a donation.

Jim Naughton with a baby possum.


Speaking of famous Weston residents: This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time. The other day, singer-songwriter Jose Feliciano popped into a Norwalk TV studio to talk with Telemundo about the jazzy, jangly classic.

Click here to see. The interview is in Spanish. But if you don’t speak it: no hay problema.

The song — and Jose’s exubertant personality — are universal.


Want $10,000?

Saturday (October 31) is the deadline to apply for a Westport Young Woman’s League Super Grant.

They’re awarded to local organizations working in areas like food insecurity, education, and health and wellness.

Despite the impact of COVID on fundraising, the WYWL continues to support our community. For a grant application, click here. To learn more, click here.


Halloween is not yet here.

But Christmas is, at Anthropologie downtown.

Can spring be far behind?

(Photo/Amy Schneider)


And finally … thanks to Jose Feliciano and Anthropologie, “06880” officially kicks off the holiday season:

UPDATE: Staples Pops Concert At Levitt Sold Out

At this time, no tickets remain for the free “Staples Pops at the Levitt” concert. This status may be updated on Friday, May 27 — check back by clicking here or calling 866-811-4111 then!

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The Staples High School music department is famous for its professional-style concerts.

That’s not hyperbole.

For the 1st-ever “Westport Pops Concert at the Levitt” (Thursday, June 9, 7 p.m.), the symphonic and chamber orchestras, jazz band and Orphenians vocal ensemble will be joined by a pair of Broadway notables.

James Naughton

James Naughton

James Naughton emcees the all-star event. The Weston resident and 2-time Tony Award winner has a long history as a narrator and soloist with orchestras like the Boston Pops, New York Pops and Rhode Island Symphony.

He’ll feel right at home. The Staples event is modeled on the Boston Pops’ Esplanade concert series (right down to the riverside setting).

Meanwhile, Andrew Wilk — executive producer of “Live from Lincoln Center” and a 5-time Emmy-winning director, writer and producer of TV programming — is consulting on the production. Staples students and alum will capture all the action for a Cablevision special.

Wilk — a Westporter and father of a Staples grad — worked with Naughton several years ago, on “Lincoln Center.” He says the emcee will add “real elegance and sizzle” to the evening.

From right: Andrew Wilk and Adele Valovich meet with Staples senior Emma Cataldo and Elon University junior Katie Shannon, for a Levitt Pavilion pre-production session. The 2 students will be part of the camera crew for Staples' pops concert June 9.

From right: Andrew Wilk and Adele Valovich meet with Staples senior Emma Cataldo and Elon University junior Katie Shannon, for a Levitt Pavilion pre-production session. The 2 students will be part of the camera crew for Staples’ pops concert June 9.

Selections range from “Rodeo” and “Phantom of the Opera” to “I Got Rhythm,” “Shenandoah” and a rousing finale.

Staples Orchestra Plays Boston Symphony Hall

Earlier this month, the Staples High School chamber orchestra took a field trip to Boston.

They enjoyed a master class with a Boston Symphony Orchestra bassist. They heard the BSO play.

Then they took to that historic stage — with its amazing sound — themselves.

Professional photographer (and Staples parent) Melani Lust accompanied the young musicians. Media instructor Jim Honeycutt took her wonderful images, adding music and comments from orchestra director Adele Valovich and several students. James Naughton recorded a prologue.

The result is a short but wonderful video journey, powerfully showing the magic of music.

Valovich says she has 3 roles as an educator: teach musical skills; instill love and respect for her material, and plant a seed for a lifetime love of the arts.

Watch the video below. See the smiles. Listen to the music.

The future of our arts is in good hands.

Westport Stands For The Troops

When an all-star cast — James Naughton, Leslie Orofino, Robin Batteau, David Buskin and Chris Coogan — takes the stage at the Unitarian Church on Friday, March 15, they’ll do more than sing and entertain.

SFTT logoThe “Spring Fever” concert (plus auction, gourmet food and wines) is a fundraiser for Stand For The Troops. The organization does great work nationally — helping soldiers and veterans through Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, traumatic brain injury and suicide prevention programs — but next month’s event has strong local connections.

The family of Tyler Hicks — the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who has spent years covering wars across the globe — is on the Honorary Committee for Spring Fever, and will attend. Tyler’s sister Darcy spoke last year on his behalf. This year, her son’s band will perform.

Leslie Orofino’s father served in  World War II. He returned home with PTSD, a condition that had a profound effect on his family.

Dr. Paul Epstein — a Westport naturopath, meditation teacher and therapist — works with PTSD. He’s on the Westport chapter’s medical task force and honorary committee. His father, too, suffered from PTSD in World War II — and it too impacted his family.

James Naughton and Leslie Orofino

James Naughton and Leslie Orofino

Eilhys England — Stand For The Troops’ co-founder — has seen Westport’s outpouring of support. The wife of co-founder Colonel David Hackworth (America’s most valor-decorated soldier), she hopes to make this town a base for their organization. She will attend this year’s Spring Fever.

The March 15 event is for troops returning home. Some are local; many are not. Wherever they are, Spring Fever provides one more example of Westport meeting the world — and doing it with talent, passion, and plenty of action.

(For ticket information, click here or call 203-629-0288.)

“Smash”: The Bernadette Peters Sequel

Yesterday morning “06880” profiled David Marshall Grant, the Staples grad now serving as executive producer/writer of NBC’s new hit series “Smash.”

A few hours later, the show featured a shout-out to the Westport Country Playhouse.

Last night’s storyline alluded to the character played by musical theater legend Bernadette Peters singing “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” (from “Gypsy”) at the playhouse.

Although “Gypsy” has never actually been produced there, in 1966 Peters appeared at the playhouse in the musical “Riverwind.” She returned to that stage in 2008 to present a special tribute to Angela Lansbury.

Last September, Peters herself was honored with Westport Country Playhouse’s Distinguished Dedication and Service to the American Musical Theater Award.

As they say in TV land, “stay tuned” to “Smash” for more Westport references.

(Click here to view last night’s show. The Playhouse reference can be heard at about 00:54.)

Bernadette Peters and Weston's James Naughton at last year's Westport Country Playhouse Gala. (Photo/Kathleen O'Rourke)

6 Degrees Of Playhouse Separation

Once upon a time, Richard Rodgers lived near the Westport Country Playhouse.  He saw “Green Grow the Lilacs” there; soon, that show turned into “Oklahoma!”  (You can read all about it in Westporter Max Wilk’s book “OK!  The Story of Oklahoma!“)

Richard Rodgers’ daughter, Mary Rodgers Guettel, became an apprentice at the Playhouse in 1950.  She later earned fame writing the music for “Once Upon a Mattress.”

James Naughton

James Naughton

Mary Rodgers’ son, Adam Guettel, wrote “Light in the Piazza.”  That musical starred Kelli O’Hara — whose father-in-law is noted actor Jim Naughton, our neighbor in Weston.

What’s the purpose of this “6 Degrees of Westport Country Playhouse Separation”?

All those folks — except of course Richard Rodgers, who is dead — will appear Monday at the Playhouse’s Gala 2009.  The evening includes a salute to Mary Rodgers Guettel.

Part of the proceeds will support the Joanne Woodward Intern and Apprentice Program — a fitting tribute to both the former Playhouse artistic director, and former apprentice Mary Rodgers.

One more “6 Degrees” note:  Stephen Sondheim, another 1950 apprentice, will be there to honor Mary Rodgers Guettel.

Kelli O'Hara

Kelli O'Hara

A musical performance — “An Enchanted Evening:  The Music of Richard Rodgers” — will feature Naughton, O’Hara, Steven Pasquale (who created the role of Fabrizio in — ta da! — Adam Guettel’s “Light in the Piazza,” and others.

Talk about a “community theater”!

(A cocktail reception and silent auction begins at 5:45 p.m., followed by the performance and tributes [7:30 p.m.] and dinner [9 p.m.].  Benefit tickets start at $500.  For tickets or more information, contact Kim Maresca, 203-227-5137, ext. 138; kmaresca@westportplayhouse.org.)