Tens of millions of Americans raved about Joe Biden’s speech last night.
Many also raved about the music playlist, fireworks and drone display.
No one even mentioned the lighting.
But the reason all those people were able to see the president-elect — and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris — so well, outside the hard-to-light Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware, was Andrew Lott.
The view from Andrew Lott’s lighting board. (Photo/Andrew Lott, via Staples Players)
At Staples High School, the Class of 2009 alum served as lighting director for many Players shows. He continued his studies — and lighting — at the University of Michigan.
Andrew went on to work at the Spoleto Festival, Williamstown Theatre Festival, the Public Theatre, Shakespeare in the Park and Lincoln Center.
He spent 2 years as lighting director for “CNN Tonight.” He now works nationally on a wide variety of events.
Last year, he returned to Westport to run a lighting workshop for Staples Players.
No one notices a lighting director (unless he screws up). But last night, as many Americans envisioned a brighter future, they saw it — with perfect clarity — thanks to Westport’s own Andrew Lott.
Unofficial results — but including in-person voting, and absentee and early drop-off ballots — show Westporters favoring Democrats in every contest yesterday.
The Biden-Harris presidential ticket outpolled Trump=Pence, 12,775 to 4,184.
Congressman Jim Himes was re-elected to his 7th term in the 4th District, helped by 11,968 Westport votes to challenger Jonathan Riddle’s 4,881.
In Connecticut’s 26th Senatorial district, Will Haskell won a 2nd term, aided by 10,230 Westport votes to 4,721 for Republican Kim Healy.
Democrat Michelle McCabe outpolled Republican incumbent Tony Hwang 1,198 to 843 in Westport. But results in the rest of the State Senate District 28 came in slowly, and as of 5 a.m. today, McCabe’s lead in the entire district was less than 100 votes. That outcome is uncertain.
Six-term state Representative Jonathan Steinberg beat back a challenge from fellow Staples High School graduate Chip Stephens, with 10,446 Westport votes compared to 5,266 in the 136th District.
Democrat Stephanie Thomas led Patricia Zukaro , 753 to 480, in Westport. Final results from the entire District 143 are not yet in.
Overall, more than 85 percent of Westport’s registered voters participated in the 2020 election, either by mail, drop-off or in person.
Ryan Hartmann spotted 3 dolphins just a couple of miles off Cockenoe Island.
Here’s a screenshot of them playing alongside his boat. Click here for a minute-long video on Facebook Live.
The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce does windows.
Saturday, October 24 — one week before Halloween — is the date for the town’s Window Painting Contest. Westport students can sign up to request a merchant’s window, or be assigned one. They’ll decorate it, and judges will pick winners in 3 categories: Scariest Artwork, Best Halloweeen Theme, and Most Original.
There are different divisions for elementary, middle and high school.
Winners — who supply their own water-based paint, drop cloths and brushes, and clean up after themselves — receive a $25 gift certificate from Donut Crazy.
I thought the most obnoxious robocall was the constant “courtesy call” from someone who had been “trying to reach” me about my (non-existent) automobile warranty.
But that’s almost welcome compared to the daily barrage from (supposedly) the presidential campaigns.
Every day I am assaulted by calls from both sides. The voice sounds the same — and for some reason, all I can think of is George H.W. Bush.
The scripts are similar too: How great the Biden (or Trump) ticket is, as opposed to the awful other side.
Then comes the kicker: Contribute $35. Or $5,000.
And — of course — the acknowledgment that this group with a made-up-but-official-sounding name has no affiliation with the actual campaigns.
It’s a scam. Don’t fall for it. If you want your money to get to Joe Biden, click here. For Donald Trump, click here.
And speaking of politics:
An “06880” reader received an anonymous letter, addressed to “Our Neighbors.” It says:
We have been hesitant to contact you but as the number of signs in your yard has grown, we felt we must reach out. We are writing not about the content of the signs displayed on your front lawn but about the quantity of signs.
This note has no reference to politics; everyone has the right to their beliefs and to the expression of those beliefs. However, your one sign has now blossomed into ten and frankly it is an eye sore to the neighborhood.
Our request is simply that you choose two of the signs to display in front and either display the others elsewhere or remove them altogether. Your consideration of this proposal is greatly appreciated.
The homeowner’s response: “Cowards!”
And finally … Johnny Nash died Tuesday. He was 80. But songs like this will long endure:
Last week, a story about Joe Biden’s stutter gave Americans better insights into his speaking style and “gaffes.”
Also last week, a Westport 7th grader’s video about his own stutter went viral. It’s as personal as the vice president’s tale — and perhaps even more powerful.
Jonathan Costello’s stutter began when he was 5. He was bullied a bit in his New York City school — but there were moments of kindness too. When his 2nd grade teacher explained to the class that Jonathan was trying to get over his speech disorder, a girl said, “Don’t change! I like you just the way you are.”
His family — father Sean, mother Lauren and younger brother William — moved to Westport just before 4th grade. Jonathan was very nervous. He worried that kids would think he was “weird.” He might have no friends.
From left: Sean, William, Jonathan and Lauren Costello. They’ve got a “soccer room” in their Westport home.
Jonathan is an excellent soccer player. A week before school began, he went to Mickey Kydes’ soccer camp. He made a good friend.
On the first day at Coleytown Elementary School, Jonathan blasted a home run in kickball. “I got known as the soccer kid, not the stutter kid,” he says proudly.
Jonathan’s stutter is caused by his vocal cords shutting when he speaks. He has no trouble putting thoughts together. They just don’t always come out as quickly as he’d like.
For the past 5 years, Jonathan has worked with world renowned speech therapist Becca Grusgott. She was just minutes from his Riverdale Country School.
But he moved to Westport, and she to Kansas City. They’ve continued their work via FaceTime. Jonathan has flourished. Now a 7th grader at Bedford Middle School, he plays premier soccer for Inter Connecticut FC, basketball for the Westport PAL travel squad, and attends Hebrew school at Temple Israel.
Soccer — the world’s sport –has helped give Jonathan confidence and poise.
Last spring, as his bar mitzvah loomed, Jonathan wanted to do his “mitzvah” (good deed) project about his stutter. His mother suggested a public service announcement.
A project should involve “tikkun olam” — an element of “repairing the world” — Lauren explains. A PSA video could help repair not only the world around him, but also Jonathan’s world.
Lauren and Sean were happy to help. But, she notes, “we’re not helicopter parents. We did not want to do this for him.”
Jonathan loved the idea. But he felt nervous too.
He was a fan of John Green’s crash courses. (The novelist creates clever, quick videos that use words and illustrations to explain history and science.) Green is also a Liverpool soccer fan. Sean suggested to Jonathan that he use the “crash course” model himself.
Jonathan wrote a script. Through a website for graphic artists, the family found someone in Utah to add illustrations.
His parents recorded Jonathan in their basement (they put up a green screen background, just like the pros). He created a teleprompter, and read his script.
Jonathan Costello, with the improvised green screen in his basement.
He stuttered a bit. But that’s what the whole video is about. Jonathan explains what stuttering is. He talks about his own life (including a worker at Subway, who asks what’s wrong when he’s trying to order).
And he offers strategies for family members, teachers, friends and strangers: Be patient. Don’t finish sentences for someone. Be kind.
Plus: “Share this video.”
That’s a fantastic idea.
Jonathan’s video debuted at his bar mitzvah, earlier this month. Rabbi Michael Friedman agreed to show it during the ceremony.
It was a powerful moment. There was not a dry eye in the synagogue — and then everyone erupted in cheers.
Much of the ceremony involves speaking. Jonathan stuttered often. But he delivered his words with poise and confidence.
The next morning, Sean and Lauren emailed the video to everyone at the bar mitzvah — and all the guests who could not attend. Jonathan’s parents also uploaded the video to YouTube. Temple Israel forwarded it too.
Almost immediately, people shared it on Facebook and Twitter. Quickly, it rocketed around the world.
Speech therapists in Sweden and Portugal asked for translations. A girl watched it 4 times, then asked her teacher to show it to the class. An 18-year-old who had lived his life “in the shadows” said that Jonathan’s video perfectly articulated his life.
Becca — Jonathan’s speech therapist — shared it with a number of professional groups. Many members said other people had already sent it to them.
Referring back to “tikkun olam,” Lauren says, “The reaction has been amazing. But we feel like we’re just getting started repairing the world.”
What a start! With stuttering in the news, the Costellos sent Jonathan’s video to the Biden campaign. A staff member quickly responded.
Soon, Jonathan will meet the former vice president.
Alert “06880” reader/photographer JP Vellotti is an equal-opportunity political rally-goer.
On Saturday night, he attended the Donald Trump rally at Sacred Heart University. Afterward, he sent photos and a report to “06880.”
Here’s Part 2 of his journey to Election Day:
There was a lot to process after the Trump event. Having never been to a political function, I wondered if his rally was a normal state of affairs.
The next day I checked out Hillary’s website, to see if she had any events planned nearby (other than the $34,000-per-person dinner in Greenwich).
To my surprise, there was an event Monday in Scranton, Pennsylvania. I clicked the link, and got a ticket. I don’t have $34K, but I do have enough for a tank of gas.
At 5:30 a.m., I headed 150 miles west on I-84. It’s a nice drive. I was early, but that helped me get a great spot close to the stage.
The same type of vendors were there as at the Trump rally, selling pins, hats and t-shirts. They seem to be price-fixed, no matter which party (all overpriced and low quality). Bernie Sanders merchandise was marked way down.
There were about the same number of protesters in the parking lot — all peaceful. I’m not quite sure what the people with the giant inflatable spliff were protesting (or supporting).
It was really interesting to see both sides. I don’t think a lot of people can say they did that, especially in a 48-hour span.
Part of the anti-Hillary protests.
I’d be interested to hear what Hillary said at the $34K event, versus this free one in Scranton. I especially wonder how she can tell the people of Scranton certain things will be done with money that comes in from the wealthiest 1% paying their fair share of taxes.
I imagine some of that 1% paid to see her in Greenwich. Are they ok with her plan? Maybe she laid it out in greater detail during the dinner? I’ll never know.
Unlike the Trump event, there were no vulgar t-shirts or pins — or chants of the same, from the crowd or candidate.
The arena was much larger, but it was closed off to nearly the same size as the SHU Pitt Center. Both events were hot, but nothing beats the Trump rally heat.
Hillary’s event had a live, local coffee shop-type band. They played mellow songs like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” then funk like “Superstition” and “ABC.” They did not repeat anything.
The Trump rally blasted mostly the Rolling Stones (who asked him to stop using their songs) and Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend” (an odd choice). His playlist repeated 3 times, and the crowd noticed. He also had an opera tune in the mix.
The crowds were almost equal in size — about 5,000. The demographics were again very similar — a bit younger in Scranton, predominantly white, but with more outward signs of diversity (buttons, pins, hats for various causes).
Much of the same speeches from both sides were snippets from the primaries. The Scranton one had a bit of hometown flavor, because of Hillary’s and Joe Biden’s roots there. Both told funny anecdotes.
Biden was a dynamic speaker. He made his speech feel personal, like your uncle was telling you something important. He also gave direct facts and statistics about consequences of things like dismantling NATO. He said he was off to Kosovo immediately after the rally, to assure them of America’s support.
I thought the talk in Scranton would be more about factory workers and old mills. Not at all. There was no relishing in the past for the American worker, which is the sense I got from Trump’s speech.
Hillary outlined her agenda at a high level. There was no badgering of the press, no name calling, and no Democratic version of “Lock her up!” She did wonder if Trump will ever release his tax returns.
Both Clinton and Biden came to the front row, and worked the crowd for a very long time. I was amazed at how close I could get. I believe Trump left as soon as he was finished, but I couldn’t see that side of the stage so I don’t know for sure.
After the event, I walked over to Sonic to get something to eat. I met an 83-year-old Korean War vet named Daniel. He had been undecided, but will now vote for Hillary.
JP Vellotti’s new friend, a Korean War veteran named Daniel.
I bought him lunch, thanked him for serving our country decades before I was born. And then it was back on I-80, to Westport. Without a limo.
Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden leave Scranton. (Photos/JP Vellotti)
Yesterday’s “06880” post about the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act — and the formation of a possible town commission on disabilities — resonated with Dorian Kail.
The Westport native manages the professional wheelchair division at New York Road Runners (including the marathon). She’s been awed by the accomplishments of the men and women who use wheels to run.
One of her top athletes — the fastest wheelchair marathoner of all time — is Tatyana McFadden. She won a lawsuit against her high school to allow wheelchair participants in sports.
Last week, McFadden invited Kail to the White House, to celebrate the ADA’s anniversary. McFadden and Kail met the president; Kail also had a quick conversation with Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Bob Dole (who as a senator helped pass the ADA).
Dorian Kail and Vice President Joe Biden, at the White House.
Thanks for all you’ve done, Dorian. Keep on pushing — and keep helping these remarkable athletes run.
Dorian Kail and Tatyana McFadden stroll through the White House.
Former senator Bob Dole — now 92 years old — asked for a selfie with Dorian Kail.
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