Tag Archives: Jarret Liotta

“WestportNow 2.0”: New Website Debuts

When Gordon Joseloff died in November, Westporters mourned the loss of a former 1st selectman, talented CBS journalist, and founder of WestportNow.com.

When Joseloff’s son and daughter decided not to continue the venture, Westporters mourned something else: the loss of the popular news site.

Several journalists tried to resurrect it. The obstacles were great. Their efforts did not work out.

Doug Weber persevered. He’s now launched Westport Journal. The longtime publishing sales executive and editor Jarret Liotta call their venture “WestportNow 2.o.”

Jarret Liotta

Liotta knows the territory. A 1983 Staples High School graduate returned to Westport after living elsewhere, he’s a fulltime freelance writer, photographer and filmmaker. He’s been a frequent contributor to WestportNow and the Westport News.

“It’s important in a healthy municipal ecosystem to cover everything,” Liotta says.

“The Westport News used to have 4 or 5 full-time reporters, and sports and arts editors covering Westport. There’s more going on here now than there was then. People don’t want to sort through mountains of gobbledygook on Facebook. Hopefully this will help.”

Westport Journal will cover town meetings, as WestportNow did. It includes some of the most popular features of Joseloff’s site, including a daily calendar and property transfers.

Westport Journal went live 2 weeks ago. The slow rollout was intentional, as Liotta got up to speed with staffing and coverage plans. The timing is good, he says, as Westport moves into election season.

Westport Journal screenshot.

Weber — whose sales experience includes the New York Times and The Economist — says, “I love Westport, and I love to know what’s going on. With my media background, I feel it’s incumbent on me to create a trusted, credible, adored and sustainable Westport Journal.”

Like WestportNow, the Journal’s business model is ad-based.

Like WestportNow too, the Journal and “06880” will be friendly rivals. We each tried to get good stories, first. But Gordon Joseloff and I recognized that we took different approaches. When a story idea was not right for one of us, we suggested the other outlet.

“As a resident and longtime subscriber, I’m extremely grateful for ‘06880”s broad coverage,” Liotta says. “‘06880’ has been vitally important for our town, and will continue to be.”

Welcome to Westport, Westport Journal. One thing is for sure: In this town, you won’t run out of stories to cover.

COVID-19 Roundup: World Premiere, Student Art; Girls Track, And More

Jarret Liotta’s Home Movie” — that’s the name of his new film — has its world premiere this Saturday (May 2, 9 p.m.).

It would probably open in a theater. But theaters are closed. So it’s there on the next best platform: YouTube.

Jarret says, “A dark comedy for a dark and comical time, ‘Home Movie’ is my gift to the viral community — everyone sitting home dying for a mediocre (but free) movie.

“Filmed entirely in Westport on the lowest budget I could afford, it’s the story of a young woman returning home for her father’s funeral who becomes convinced her mother killed him.”

The 1983 Staples High School grad — now a filmmaker/writer/photographer — got great help from Cathy Walsh, Dwain Schenck and Matt Porio. There were many others too, but he says, “wait for the credits to see them.”

You’ll recognize places like Gold’s Deli, police headquarters, the Senior Center, Westport Woman’s Club and (of course) Harding Funeral Home.

Click here for the YouTube link. Then pass the (non-virtual) popcorn.

Jarret Liotta

High school students throughout the area are invited to submit art — a drawing, painting, photo or sculpture, particularly in response to COVID-19, for a special MoCA online exhibition. It replaces the annual in-person art show.

The deadline is May 10. For details, click here. Questions? Email liz@mocawestport.org.

The Staples High School girls track season is on hold. But the athletes are not sitting around feeling sorry for themselves.

This Saturday (May 2), they’ll go for a run — of course, while maintaining social distancing. Family and friends are sponsoring them, choosing a set amount per mile.

All funds will be donated to Stamford Hospital, where the ICU is at near full capacity.

You can help too. Click here, to support this important run.


And finally … Katie Augustyn sends along this video from Houston County, Georgia. Music teachers from many schools created a virtual chorus, showing students they’re not alone. Of course, this inspiring song from “Dear Evan Hansen” was co-written by Justin Paul — who had his own wonderful musical career in the Westport schools just a few years ago.


Be The Stewardesses Of Our World. Totally.

Jarret Liotta is a man of many talents.

The 1983 Staples High School graduate is a Westport filmmaker and writer. Recently, he put his talents to work on a short film about the environment — specifically, car idling, and the idle thinking behind it.

Jarret filmed “Save the Trees” in front of (of course) Starbucks, with a local cast including Sara Levine and Annie McCarthy.

It’s well worth the 2 1/2 minutes. Enjoy!

Jarret Liotta’s Movies Hit Home

Jarret Liotta has a love-hate relationship with Westport.

After college, the Staples High School graduate spent years in Los Angeles. The journalist was a regular New York Times correspondent, and contributed to 100 publications.

But in 2008, he returned to give his kids some suburban experience.

Now — with nearly a decade back home, as a freelance writer and photographer — he’s gained a new appreciation for Westport’s uniqueness. He’s deepened old relationships, and made new acquaintances.

Jarret Liotta

“Sad to say, many of us are so paralyzed by the fear-based myths of being ‘practical’ that we shun the directions our hearts want to lead us,” he says.

“Instead we waste time talking ourselves into believing we’re happily situated in our work life.”

Two years ago, he decided to go all-in pursuing film and video — interests he’d had since dabbling in them decades ago at Coleytown Junior High.

He wrote “Home Movie,” a feature-length dark comedy. Filmed entirely in Westport, it’s the story of a young woman’s trip back to her hometown after her father dies.

But the title also refers to the help Liotta got from many local people and groups, including the Westport Woman’s Club, Senior Center, Police Department, Kaia Yoga, 323 restaurant, Gold’s Deli, even the Harding Funeral Home.

A Kickstarter campaign — running through Thanksgiving — will help him place “Home Movie” in film festivals.

A scene from “Home Movie” …

While working on that project, Liotta talked with Bill Harmer. The Westport Library director mentioned that his previous library in Michigan was involved with films on local subjects.

Bob Mitchell of the Westport Historical Society heard that Liotta was interested in a Westport-based documentary. He suggested veterans.

“I’ve always been a dove,” Liotta says. “I’ve had relatively set ideas about the military, and what I imagined was a typical veteran.”

But he liked the idea. After each interview, his impressions evolved.

“On a personal level, it was very enlightening,” he explains. “I found myself understanding many positive aspects about the involvement I wouldn’t otherwise have considered.”

… and one from his veterans’ documentary.

Liotta started with World War II veterans, including well-known Westporters Leonard Everett Fisher, Ted Diamond and Bob Satter. Some he knew personally. Others, he says, “I had the good fortune to meet.”

While he still considers any kind of military machine “repugnant” — though “perhaps necessary” — he now has a different perspective on those who choose to serve.

“The people I interviewed seem to recognize the tremendous value in living a service attitude — giving back or taking responsibility to help their larger community,” Liotta says.

“That’s a brilliant and honorable concept. To me, that’s really the core reason to honor veterans.”

Right now, Liotta is editing the film. It’s called “Community & Country: A Spirit of Service.” It will be shown at Town Hall on Monday, November 13 (7 p.m.)

He hopes the library and Historical Society will make copies available after it’s screened.

That will be their — and his — way of giving back, just as our veterans have done.

Jarret Liotta’s “Home Movie”

Some people know Jarret Liotta as a Westport News writer. Others know him as a parent volunteer, with Staples Players and Coleytown Middle School. Some even recall him as a former teacher at Saugatuck Elementary School.

But the Staples High School Class of 1983 graduate is at heart a movie maker. It is, he says, “what I do best.”

Jarret Liotta

Jarret Liotta

And though he’s proud of his 2 feature-length films — “How Clean is My Laundry” (shot in Westport in 2002) and “The Acting Bug” (Los Angeles, 2009) — he has never been more passionate about a project than his current one.

Called “Home Movie,” it draws on lessons learned in L.A., where Liotta worked for several years at Fox Searchlight.

The main character is based on Liotta’s mother. He calls her “a larger-than-life alcoholic narcissist that some people in Westport will certainly remember — fondly, I hope.”

He futzed around with the idea for 2 years. Finally this spring, he wrote a script that he’s thrilled with.

“Home Movie” is about a young woman who comes home after her father’s death. When she arrives — in a town not unlike Westport — she begins to suspect that her mother may actually have killed him.

It’s a comedy, but a dark one that he hopes shows some heart. It lies somewhere among “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Fargo,” with fun twists and a surprise ending.

Liotta plans to shoot in Westport, with plenty of community involvement.

Westport’s own Cynthia Gibb — a Staples grad, film and TV star, and the writer’s first choice to play the mom– loves the script. She is interested in doing “Home Movie,” if possible.

But first things first. And high on that list: financing.

Liotta has organized an Indiegogo campaign. His goal is $250,000.

Some Westporters are already involved. Liotta hopes for more. “It’s very exciting to make a real movie. It begins locally, but will develop into something quite special,” he says.

“I hope people take a little leap of faith and fly with this,” he adds. “I’m taking a big leap to follow my dream. But as the man said, you’ll never fly if you don’t jump off!”

(To contribute to Jarret Liotta’s Indiegogo fundraising campaign, click here.)

Westport’s Warden: Not A Tree-mendous Job

Between school vacation and the news story’s placement on an inside page (below the fold), many Westporters may have missed a very interesting Westport News piece on Wednesday.

Jarret Liotta described Westport’s Tree Board — a 3-person body “hoping to plant the seeds of renewal for its role in town government,” in areas ranging from education and outreach to political action.

Westporters are very protective -- but also ambivalent about -- our trees.

Westporters are very protective — but also ambivalent about — our trees.

Trees are on every Westporter’s mind these days. We don’t like them toppling power lines whenever the wind blows. But we also were upset when a number of them suddenly disappeared from Main Street just before Thanksgiving.

Westport’s Tree Board is seeking ways to influence public discussion of trees — and to get the public interested in the board itself.

But perhaps the most interesting info in Jarret’s story was buried near the end: the fact that Westport has only a 1-day-a-week tree warden.

Also of note (though not mentioned in the article): The tree warden lives about 20 miles away.

First Selectman Gordon Joseloff’s proposed 2013-14 budget includes $170,000 “to create a full-time tree warden position and to increase the town’s overall tree work,” Jarret wrote.

But right now — today, as we all love and fear them — there is almost no money for monitoring, removing, planting and pruning trees.

Or for anyone to oversee them.

Jarret Liotta: CL&P, Spare That Tree!

Jarret Liotta is a 1983 Staples grad. He’s now a writer (New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Connecticut Magazine among many credits), and a blogger.

Recently, he wrote about his close encounter with the CL&P tree guys. Here’s an excerpt:

Jarret Liotta

How ironic it was to return home on Earth Day to find a representative of  Connecticut Light and Power tagging trees in our neighborhood for take-down. (CL&P apparently hires local “gardening” businesses to do this sort of work, and I have to assume — it only makes sense — that the more trees they cut down — the more they tag —  the more money they can make.)

So it shouldn’t have surprised me that he was suggesting a beautiful, large healthy tree at the corner of our property — at least 12 feet off the lines, and in no way presenting a danger — be given the ax (or chainsaw, as it were).

What was also hysterical (and frightening) was that the CL&P flyer — entitled “You Can Help Prevent Power Outages” — ONLY talked about PRUNING trees, and referenced their “tree-trimming program.” But on the enclosed permission sheet — the empowering written consent form that CL&P NEEDS to do their dirty work — they had a little line checked for “taking down,” with the numeral “1” next to it.

Were you to see the tree, you’d laugh that CL&P (or in this case, its paid assassin) would even TRY to argue this lovely life form should be taken down. But what’s so scary is that — and I have no doubt — many people throughout the town, throughout the whole state, are going to quickly sign these consent forms without even realizing it means they’re going to kill a healthy tree simply because 1) the tree killers will make more money and 2) it may save CL&P trouble in the long run.

Jarret Liotta is not a big fan of tree cutting. (Note: This is NOT Jarret Liotta.)

The carelessness with which people take axes to healthy trees — ESPECIALLY so-called gardeners and tree caretakers, ironically — is pitiful. Modern housing construction starts with clear-cutting lots, rather than trying to design structures that work in tandem with the natural world (meaning big, beautiful trees).

Homeowners consider fine landscaping cutting down everything that makes shade and grows on the ground, planting the most artificial-looking chemical-saturated grass money can buy, and surrounding it all with wood chips, wood chips, wood chips — the stinkier, the better!

On a parallel note, the state is taking great steps to cut down as many trees as possible along the scenic Merritt Parkway. Apparently everyone is feeling paranoid because of some lawsuits involving trees and death and storms, so the logic is to always blame the trees (because we can’t blame the state, or the drivers), and so they must be cut down en masse, and scenery, nature and trees be damned …

(To read Jarret’s entire post, click here.)

Responding To Nazis

Jarret Liotta’s support of legislation banning public displays of the Nazi flag — spurred by an incident in Fairfield last December, and reported 2 days ago on “06880” — has drawn this passionate response from Westporter Eric Burns.

In 1978, as an NBC News correspondent based in Chicago, I was assigned to cover a march of neo-Nazis through Skokie, Illinois.  The Nazis had chosen Skokie because it had an extraordinarily high number of Holocaust survivors.  The American Civil Liberties Union supported the Nazis, and helped persuade local authorities to permit the march.

I watched the whole thing.  I wrote about it.  I reported on it that night for “NBC Nightly News with John Chancellor.”  Viewers saw the so-called Nazis:  young, tattooed, their faces twisted into sneers.  They saw the Holocaust survivors — old, wrinkled, their faces contorted in pain and bewilderment.  Viewers could hear, in edited fashion, the vile obscenities that the Nazis spewed at the Holocaust survivors; they heard the whimpers and occasional tormented shouts of their victims.

I interviewed some of the former, holding my breath, looking away.  I interviewed some of the latter.  They wondered whether their suffering would ever end.

I lost all respect for the ACLU that day, and have not changed my mind since.  Faced with a choice of supporting the civil liberties of villains or victims, it chose the latter.  The group’s definition of civil liberties, not only then but in many instances since, is an obscenity as grotesque as anything uttered by the Skokie Nazis.

Free speech?  Is that the right the ACLU supported?  Why did it not take the side of the Holocaust survivors and support their right not to be singled out for vilification by thugs?

In truth, the march in Skokie was not an issue of free speech at all.  The Nazis could have spoken freely in literally thousands of different forums.

No, the issue in Skokie was one of pain, pure pain, nothing more.

The Nazis petitioned for the right to cause it.

The ACLU supported them.

A judge supported the ACLU.

That is what happened in a suburb of Chicago more than 30 years ago, and it is the story I recall most vividly in my entire career in journalism.

No More Nazi Flags

Jarret Liotta is a writer.  His essays and articles have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Connecticut Magazine.  He recently completed his 1st novel.

He’s a blogger, with an incisive voice and view of the world.

He calls himself a strong advocate for free speech.

But — on the heels of an incident in Fairfield last December, when 3 masked men carrying Nazi flags and shouting obscenities tried to disrupt a public Menorah lighting — Liotta has also become a strong advocate for legislation banning the public display of the Nazi flag.

The Staples graduate has written an op-ed piece for the Minuteman.  He’s spoken with Jim Himes.

Now he’s trying to drum up broad-based support.

Liotta says:

As a writer and thinking American, I understand the value of free speech better than anyone.  At the same time, we as a society have determined that some things stretch beyond reasonable bounds of appropriateness.

We don’t allow the public display of pornography on American streets.   Why then should we tolerate the public display of a Nazi flag?  It’s a terribly potent international icon, in a class by itself for what it represents.  To me, it’s a gross aberration that an intelligent society such as our should allow it, especially in 2010.

Regarding free speech, Liotta does not understand how it deserves constitutional protection any more than a written death threat.

The events of 9/11 have prompted much less tolerance in the area of threats, regardless of the validity behind them.  Displaying a Nazi flag has an implicit threat, based on its intense history.  They don’t allow it to be displayed publicly in Germany, its country of origin.  Now, in the 21st century, in our civilized country, I see no good reason to still allow it here.

As a writer, Liotta says, he spends most of his time observing.

But when I learned about that grotesque event in Fairfield last December, I was frightened, shocked and sickened.  I think it takes some emotional passion to get one active for a cause, but I also really saw a weird illogic there — that these mutants were actually allowed to display a Nazi flag in a public park like that.  It just felt like some kind of strange mistake that somehow got overlooked — like somehow as we moved into the 21st century, someone forgot to repair this little bit of broken civil law.

Now I just feel compelled to try and help right that wrong.

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.