Tag Archives: Jose Feliciano

Roundup: Jose Feliciano, Hiking Trails, Utility Wires …

José Feliciano is an international star.

And he’s our wonderful Weston neighbor and friend.

Many of those friends will be at New York’s Angelika Theater this Friday (September 2, 7 p.m.). They’ll celebrate the theatrical release of the film “José Feliciano: Behind This Guitar.”

The movie’s website says: “From the slums of Puerto Rico to the world stage, José Feliciano embarks upon a 55+ year career and becomes a 9-time Grammy winner.

“From ‘Light My Fire’ to ‘Feliz Navidad’ to ‘Chico and the Man’ to global stardom, the film chronicles this under-appreciated singer/songwriter/ musician.”

Click below for the trailer. Then — if you can’t be at the Angelika — watch the film when you can.

And when you see José around town, tell him: “¡Felicidades!”

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Thayer Fox writes:

“My wife and I moved to Westport about a year and a half ago, and fell deeply in love with Westport.

“I am an avid hiker, but have mostly struck out finding good hikes with great views. I’ve been through Devil’s Den, Lake Windwing and Bennett’s Preserve, but still feel like I haven’t fully figured it out.

“Can you ask your readers for suggestions? With fall coming, this is a great time to go hiking.”

Done!

Readers: Please help Thayer (and every other new resident/avid hiker). Click “Comments” below, and tell us your favorite trails.

Devil’s Den. Where else can Thayer hike this fall? (Photo/Claudia Sherwood Servidio)

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Longtime Westporter Michael Brennecke writes:

“Driving around, I constantly see trucks stringing up new wiring on telephone poles. I wonder, given that there are only 3 companies (I believe) delivering cable services around here, are all of those fat wires still active?

“I asked one of the crews if they ever take down obsolete wires. The answer was that they have no clue. I suspect there are a lot of derelict wires, and taking them down is a cost the companies do not want to incur.

“Only the very top wires on the poles are actually power lines, and they are comparatively thin. It’s really unsightly wire pollution, and it’s getting worse all the time.”

Utility wires near Westport. Some may actually be in use. (Photo/Mike Brennecke)

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Wynston Browne — the non-speaking autistic rising Staples High School senior, whose ability to communicate using a simple board device inspired and thrilled Westporters this summer — returns to The Porch @ Christie’s today (Monday, August 29, 12:45 to 2 p.m.).

During his visit earlier this month, he used his letter board to speak with customers. He answered questions about his life, in a session that was as gratifying for them as it was for him.

Wynston looks forward to meeting new friends again today, at the popular Cross Highway gathering spot.

Wynston and Elisa Feinman, at work with his spelling board.

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I don’t care if you are from out of town. The sign is pretty clear: “Boat Launch Ramp/No Parking.” For extra clarity it’s paved, while all the cars around it are parked on grass.

But this Masshole didn’t care.

David Meth reports: “The driver took a photo of the sky while standing near the sign. She opened the back door, took out her folding chair and walked to another part of the beach. I was on my way out. I told one of the guys at the entrance.”

(Photo/David Meth)

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Continuing our drought coverage, Peggy O’Halloran says of this sad tree at Grace Salmon Park: “It looks like it already has a headstone.”

(Photo/Peggy O’Halloran)

And thought the lack of rain has done a number on Tracy Porosoff’s hydrangeas …

(Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

… her basil is thriving:

(Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

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All of the above leads to today’s “Westport … Naturally” shot. No drab colors here!

(Photo/Jamie Walsh)

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And finally … in honor of José Feliciano’s new film (story above), a few moments from his amazing career:

(“06880” is your hyper-local blog. Please click here to support it!)

Roundup: Jose Feliciano, Fred Cantor, Angelo Veno …

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There are lots of Christmas songs I get sick of.

“Feliz Navidad” is not one of them.

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.

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Speaking of entertainment: Monday’s “06880” story about next month’s “Stars on Stage From Westport Country Playhouse” PBS series noted a major gift from Roz and Bud Siegel.

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.”

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Have you found “Finding Westport”?

That’s the online site for local-themed apparel and more.

Jillian Elder has just added a new Minute Man design. It’s available on tank tops, t-shirts, hoodies, tumblers, mugs and tote bags.

It’s a great way to show off your town pride (and a lot cheaper than that other Westport icon: a Range Rover). Click here for styles and orders.

“Finding Westport”‘s Minute Man hoodie.

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Yesterday’s “06880” story on fences reminded June Rose Whittaker of this one:

(Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

It’s one of Westport’s most visible: Riverside Avenue, at Treadwell.

The intricate, whimsical fence — designed by Andrew Hamilton Reise — was the subject of an “06880” Photo Challenge in July.

As many readers knew, the owners are Pietro and Janine Scotti. He’s the owner/chef of the former and still beloved Da Pietro’s restaurant, just down Riverside (and across the street) closer to town.

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A Conservation Department reminder:

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.

Property owners and/or contractors should contact the Conservation Department before work starts, to determine what permits are required.

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Looking for a gift for a sports fan?

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.

Click here for more information. Click here for last night’s News12 story on Cantor and the book.

Screenshot from last night’s News12 interview with Fred Cantor.

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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.

Angelo Veno

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The family of Joel Hallas has announced 2 options for donations in his memory. Click here for the Connecticut Food Bank; click here for the American Radio Relay League, for ham radio operators.

Joel Hallas

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It’s already gone. But yesterday morning’s snow provided the perfect subject for today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo, from Bob and Karen Weingarten’s lawn:

(Photo/Karen Weingarten)

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And finally … Emily Dickinson was born today, in 1830. She may be the only 19th-century poet immortalized in the words of a 20th-century singers.

Roundup: Motorcycle Ride, Political Signs, Finding Westport …

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The CT United Ride is a great event. The largest motorcycle ride in Connecticut travels through 9 towns — including Westport — paying tribute to the victims and first responders of 9/11.

But it also has a huge impact on traffic.

Tomorrow’s event starts at Sherwood Island State Park at 11:30 a.m. Riders take I-95 to Exit 17. They head up Saugatuck Avenue and Riverside Avenue, then follow straight on Wilton Road, into Wilton. T

The route is closed and continuous. With the assistance of a police escort, motorcyclists drive through traffic lights and do not stop at stop signs.

There will be long traffic delays along the route — 45 minutes or longer. Roads will be impassable, until the entire procession clears.

It’s an inconvenience, sure. But in comparison to what happened 20 years ago tomorrow, we all ought to be able to cope.

 

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As Election Day looms, lawns and traffic islands will be filled with political signs. And the Westport Police Department will field complaints about the removal of them.

The WPD says:

“Residents and visitors are advised against taking it upon themselves to remove signs that do not belong to them, from either public or private property.

“The enforcement of the town’s rules is the responsibility of the town of Westport, not that of private citizens. The removal of signs from public or private property by someone not authorized to do so by the town, or by the owner of the sign, may constitute theft.  Entering onto private property to remove signs may also constitute trespassing. Both of these acts can ultimately result in an arrest.

Town property includes traffic islands and road rights of way. It is not advisable to place signs on State of Connecticut property (including rights of way and islands along Routes 1, 136, 57, 33, and the Sherwood Island Connector, or on the exit or entrance ramps of I-95 or the Merritt Parkway) as the state may remove them.

In addition, signs may not be placed on school property without permission of the superintendent’s office, nor may they be put inside Compo Beach or Longshore, Town Hall, or on trees or utility poles. Signs my not interfere with traffic visiblity.

Signs on private property cannot extend beyond the property line or into the town right-of-way. They should be removed within 2 days after the election.

The political sign scene in 2012.

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Sure, wearing masks indoors — again — seems like a step backward.

But Molly Alger noticed an even more ominous sign yesterday at Stop & Shop.

Once again, the toilet paper aisle was bare.

(Photo/Molly Alger)

Is it a supply chain issue? Are we expecting a huge weather event? Or just an (excuse the pun) run on the product?

And — most importantly — where else in Westport can we stock up on TP?

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Every month, Jillian Elder directs 10% of sales from her “Finding Westport” online shop to a deserving local non-profit.

From now through October 10, it’s the Westport Farmers’ Market.

Click here to see all the tees, totes, mugs, stickers and buttons that can help support the market, and all the farmers who supply it.

A Finding Westport farmers’ tee.

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The 3rd annual Weston Flea is Saturday, September 18 (9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Weston High School). Over 60 vendors will sell tag sale items, furniture, crafts old and new, antiques and more.

Calise’s Market, Christophe’s Crepes and Skip’s Good Humor Ice Cream truck will be there too.

The event benefits the Weston Senior Activities Center. There’s a suggested donation of — can you handle it? — $1 per person.

Not the Weston Flea Market. But you get the idea.

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Hummingbirds are notoriously hard to photograph.

But JC Martin captured this one beautifully, for our “Westport … Naturally” feature.

Note: By way of comparison: The feeder is only 11 inches high.

(Photo/JC Martin)

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And finally … today is the 76th birthday of one of America’s most cherished musicians — and Weston’s own — Jose Feliciano.

Feliz cumpleaños!

 

 

Friday Flashback #232

A recent “06880” story on the death of Hal Holbrook noted his 1959 Halloween appearance — as Mark Twain, of course — at Staples High.

I wrote: “The school had just opened its modern North Avenue campus. The PTA had an active arts program, bringing musicians, dancers and actors to the new auditorium stage. Hal Holbrook might have been the most famous name of all.”

Staples High School auditorium in its first year: 1959.

He sure had competition. As John Kelley notes, in those early days of the new high school, Ottilie Kaufman — who lived right next to the south entrance — organized and produced a one-of-a-kind, first-ever performing arts series at Staples that included (in addition to Holbrook) the Weavers, Marcel Marceau, Ferrante and Teicher, Odetta, Sir John Gielgud , Andrés Segovia and others.

Segovia — a world-renowned Spanish classical guitarist — died in 1987, at 94. But his legacy — and his visit here — lives on.

Soon after another legendary Latin musician — José Feliciano — turned 75 last year, our Weston neighbor received a gift: Segovia’s footstool.

Autographed. And from that March 1960 Staples concert.

A page from the 1960 Performing Arts series program.

The back story: Prior to his show, Segovia came to the Kaufmans’ home next door to the high school. He warmed up in the living room using that footstool. Many classical guitarists do that; it supports the instrument, as they play seated.

Growing up in Spanish Harlem in the 1950s, Feliciano was highly influenced by the skills and intrigue of Segovia’s delicate flamenco style.

The antique stool sat in the Kaufman family’s attics for decades — first on North Avenue, then at Ottilie and Zenn’s son Roger’s house. A guitarist, singer and founder of Old School Music’s concerts, promotions and events, he’s as famous locally as Feliciano and Segovia are internationally.

The stool seemed a fitting present for Feliciano, who always sits when he plays. Now the “Feliz Navidad” and “Light my Fire” Latin/jazz/blues/soul/rock musician is sitting pretty with Segovia’s stool in hand — er, under foot.

From left: local drummer Tyger MacNeal, Jose Feliciano and Roger Kaufman, with Andres Segovia’s footstool. The 75th birthday presentation was at Sakura.

Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz” Turns 50

In the fall of 1970, José Feliciano needed one more song to round out his upcoming Christmas album.

It took just 15 minutes to bang out a tune. The lyrics were simple yet warm; the melody, joyful and catchy. When he added a jangly cuatro to his guitar — and recorded it in just one take — he had a smash.

Fifty years later, “Feliz Navidad” remains one of the greatest holiday songs of all time.

It’s a worldwide classic, right up there with Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” and Nat King Cole’s “Christmas Song.” Of course, José’s tune is a lot livelier than those chestnuts.

Now, as it reaches the half-century mark, “Feliz Navidad” is enjoying renewed attention.

Jose Feliciano

Last month, José released a revamped version. It includes nearly every genre imaginable. The 30 artists from 9 countries include  Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jason Mraz, Gloria Gaynor, Styx, Sam Moore, CNCO, Isabela Merced, Shaggy, Jon Secada, Rachael Ray,  Big & Rich and Los Temerarios.

Michael Bolton sings too. But that’s not the only local connection to Feliz’s 50th.

A global livestream concert is set for this Sunday (December 20, 7 p.m.). Feliciano will be joined by Andrés Cepeda, Austin Jenckes, Haley Reinhart and Kalsey Kulyk.

José Feliciano is a longtime Weston resident. Assumption Church parishioners know him from his Christmas Eve entertainment there; Westport Y members see him working out at the gym.

Much of the livestream was recorded at Norwalk’s Factory Underground studio.

Jose Feliciano and his wife Susan, at home in Weston. (Photo/Dorothy Hong for Wall Street Journal)

In a normal year, José would be performing all over the world. He’s spent previous Decembers everywhere from South America to the Vatican. (He also sang “Feliz” one summer in China. The audience joined happily in.)

In 2020, the pandemic kept him home. So he worked on many 50th anniversary projects — not just the livestream, but books (in English and Spanish), an animated film, merchandise like a stuffed bear and t-shirts, and more.

José and his son Jonnie spent Labor Day weekend in their home studio, recording answers to questions that people might ask Alexa about Jose.

This has been another active month. The other day — accompanied by Jonnie on drums, and his other son Michael on bass — José appeared on Jimmy Fallon. It too was taped at Factory Underground.

He’s also been on CBS’ “Sunday Morning” and Telemundo. He gave interviews to the New Yorker, Billboard and the AP, among many others.

“Feliz Navidad” is “simple and joy-filled,” José says. Its long-running popularity has been “a blessing” for him and his family.

The other 7 billion people on the planet appreciate it just as much. So, from José Feliciano’s Weston home, to the rest of the globe:

Feliz Navidad
Próspero año y felicidad!

Click here for tickets to Jose Feliciano’s December 20 livestream. Click here for the link to the 50th anniversary recording on Amazon Music. Click here for all 50th anniversary information.

FUN FACT #1: “Feliz Navidad” has been recorded by everyone from the Three Tenors to the Wiggles. But Feliciano’s favorite versions are the videos sent in by fans, singing it themselves.

FUN FACT #2: “Feliz Navidad” is #10 on this week’s Billboard Hot 100 chart. (Hat tip: Mike Pryor)

Feliz Navidog!

Ari Halper is an advertising creative director.

very creative director. He developed the E*Trade Baby, made a short film with Ron Howard that shortlisted at the Oscars, and won an Emmy for his work on Canon. These days, the Westporter heads his own creative consultancy, Sauce.

Halper’s daughter Reya sure inherited his creative genes.

Last year at Christmas, the Saugatuck Elementary School student picked up their black goldendoodle’s paw. Reya began singing: “Feliz Navidog.”

Halper asked about her take on our Weston neighbor Jose Feliciano’s lovable holiday anthem. “That’s Santa’s dog,” Reya replied.

The creative director’s creative brain kicked in. Reya loves to read! What a great idea for a children’s book!

Ari and Reya Halper, and their goldendoodle.

Most people would leave it there. Halper — and his daughter — are not most people.

Over the next several weeks they wrote several drafts. It was fun. And, they realized, they had a salable product.

As they searched for a publisher — and Halper stresses this was a collaborative effort, with Reya providing plenty of input — they realized how big and unwieldy the children’s book world is.

They eventually discovered a children’s self-publishing group. The control and speed of that option appealed to them. Halper went to a writer’s workshop, educating himself on the ins and outs (aka the challenges and perils) of self-publishing.

There were many.

One was finding help. They found one through Reedsy, an online site matching authors with professionals.

“She was great,” Halper reports. “I wanted the book to be very Dr. Seuss-ish. Anapestic tetrameter is very regimented. She really held me to meter.”

The next task was finding an illustrator. Halper and Reyna settled on a woman who clearly understood the concept.

She lives in Mumbai. Fortunately, the internet shrinks the world. Unfortunately, the time difference made their collaboration less than instantaneous.

In July — just as the project neared its end — someone asked Halper if Rudolph was in the public domain. The world-famous reindeer was a central character in “Feliz Navidog.”

Turns out there are still 7 years left in Rudolph’s copyright. Turns out also though that Rudolph’s management is controlled by Character Arts. The company is based right next door in Wilton.

Aha! Halper thought. What an in!

He told them his tale. It was the middle of the pandemic; people were looking for a feel-good story. He added some personal details. How about licensing the rights to Rudolph?

Halper got “a categorial ‘no.'”

Christmas was coming (at least, in the book publishing world). What to do?

Fortunately, every other character in the book — Santa, Mrs. Claus, the 8 non-Rudolph reindeer — are all fair game.

Halper and Reya devised a new hook. They rewrote the book. The illustrator redid 10 of the book’s 40 pages. Just like Rudolph’s guided sleigh ride, everything worked out in the end.

Of course, it still was not easy. Normally a book like this would be printed overseas. But COVID complicated matters. Printing was done in the US — at a higher cost.

The hardcover version should be available any day. The paperback and e-book versions are live now, on Amazon.

Oh, yeah: The plot. It’s Christmas, and Pittsburgh is covered in a terrible fog. Even worse, the reindeer all get sick and can’t fly. When all hope seems lost, Feliz Navidog — Santa’s pet — raises his paw to help.

The book’s lesson is all about overcoming obstacles. The father-daughter author team sure did.

Here’s wishing them much success.

And, of course, Feliz Navidad.

(To order “Feliz Navidog: The Story of How Santa’s Pet Dog Saved Christmas — click here. To learn more, click here. Hat tip: Jerri Graham)

Roundup: Sunrise Rotary, Dylan Diamond, Wildfires, More


Every year, Westport’s Sunrise Rotary raises nearly $100,000 from 2 events: The Duck Race, and a wine tasting gala.

Eighty percent of the proceeds are donated to organizations that serve the health, hunger, safety and education needs of adults and children from Stamford to New Haven. The other 20% funds disease prevention, health, peace promotion, education and economic development across the globe.

COVID -19 forced the cancellation of both fundraisers.

To partially fill the gap — and provide safe, fun activities that may also attract new members — Sunrise members collaborated with the Remarkable Theater. They showed “School of Rock” on the Imperial Avenue parking lot screen. The famous yellow duck — and a duckling — were there, welcoming movie-goers.

More events are planned. To learn more about membership, email
info@westportsunriserotary.org. To support charitable giving, send a check to
Westport Sunrise Rotary, PO Box 43, Westport, CT 06881-0043.

Nothing is wrong. The convertible’s driver adjusted its hydraulics, for a comfortable viewing spot at the Remarkable Drive-In.


As a Staples High School student, Dylan Diamond made frequent appearances on “06880.”

At 15, he built an app that allowed classmates to view their schedules and grades — then rolled it out nationally, with hundreds of thousands of downloads.

He followed up with apps that helped skiers find buddies on the slope, and let users book everything from babysitters and yardwork to concert tickets.

Now Inc. has taken notice. He and Wharton School classmate Max Baron have gone all-in on Saturn, a calendar app.

Inc. says “they are working to build community around the calendar in high schools, with a big vision fueling them: to own the time layer of the internet.”

To hear Inc.’s podcast — in which the two discuss “why retention is social, how living together has given the co-founders an ‘always on’ mindset, and what they learned from their early work experience at Tesla and Havas” — click here(Hat tip: John Dodig)

Dylan Diamond, in San Francisco. While still a Staples High School student, he scored a coveted invitation to Facebook’s F8 conference.


How bad are the wildfires out west?

Peter Gold notes that Connecticut has 3.548 million acres.  As of Saturday, over 3.2 million acres have burned in California this fire season alone. In addition, 900,000 acres burned in Oregon, and over 600,000 more in Washington.

“It’s hard to imagine an area almost one-and-a-half times the size of Connecticut burned in just 3 states,” he says.

Battling a blaze in California.


Jane Mansbridge is a professor of political leadership and values at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

A recent Harvard Gazette story traces her “jagged trajectory” from her youth in Weston, and years at Staples High School (Class of 1957) to her current role as one of the world’s leading scholars of democratic theory.

She loved growing up in a small town. But, she says, she was bullied in Weston and at Staples for being “bookish and a smart girl.”

Realizing that not everyone liked the kind of person she was, or the values she held may have contributed to her later drive to find out more about people who were not like her, she says.

Click here for the full story. (Hat tip: A. David Wunsch)

Jane Mansbridge (Photo/Stephanie Mitchell for Harvard staff)


The porgies are in! This was the scene yesterday, at Sherwood Island State Park. Of course, fishermen always observe social distance.

(Photo/Roseann Spengler)


And finally … On this day in 1814, Francis Scott Key watched a British bombardment of Maryland during the War of 1812. Inspired by the sight of an American flag still flying at daybreak, he wrote a poem. “The Defence of Fort M’Henry” was later set to music. In 1931 “The Star-Spangled Banner” became our national anthem. One of the most famous versions was sung by our wonderful neighbor, Weston’s Jose Feliciano, before Game 5 of the 1968 World Series in Detroit. It was controversial at the time; no one had ever delivered such a non-traditional rendition.

His performance nearly ended his career. But 42 years later — in 2010 — he was invited back to Detroit, to perform it again. This time, the crowd roared.

Jose And Friends

If you think José Feliciano rests only on his “Feliz Navidad” laurels: Think again.

The singer/composer has won 8 Grammy awards, and released over 60 albums.

His newest debuts today. “Behind This Guitar” features a cover of “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac.

The recording is getting great media attention. But what makes it especially gratifying to the Weston resident — a devoted husband and father — is that his son Jonnie is the drummer.

And, when José and his band appeared on”Good Day NY” yesterday, he and Jonnie were joined by guitarist Trevor Coen. He’s a Staples High School graduate, and longtime professional musician.

Also on the set: Steve Sasloe of the Westport Music Center. He’s José’s music director and keyboardist (and host for occasional rehearsals).

“Behind This Guitar” is — like everything José Feliciano touches — pure gold.

Let’s hope it goes platinum.

 

 

(Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

06880 (Dan) and 06883 (Jose) Wish You A Merry Christmas

Once Again, Jose Feliciano Strikes Gold

I seldom listen to WEBE 108.

It’s playing holiday music now though, so it’s on my pre-sets. I have this ridiculous false hope that one day I’ll hear an actual Christmas carol — Luciano Pavarotti belting out “O Holy Night,” say — instead of the squintillionth rendition of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”

Yet last week, what to my wondering ears did appear but a yuletide song I had never heard before.

It was a Christmas miracle.

This was no longer background music, as I waited impatiently behind an idiot driver who did not know that since 1979, it has been legal in Connecticut to make a right turn on red. This time, I listened closely to the song.

The voice was familiar.

It was Jose Feliciano’s.

When the fresh, beautiful song ended, Danny Lyons said he had just played a  “world premiere.”

I had to know more.

I called Jose at his Weston home. He was off on tour somewhere. Hey, this is prime Feliz Navidad season.

But his wonderful wife Susan was happy to tell me the fascinating back story.

It begins 50 years ago, when Rick Jarrard was a staff producer for RCA Records in Los Angeles. He convinced Jose to record “Light My Fire.”

Jose Feliciano and Rick Jarrard

The young singer/guitarist was dubious. It had been a hit for the Doors less than a year before. What could he add?

Plenty, it turned out. It reached #3 in the US, and #1 in the UK, Canada and Brazil.

The duo collaborated on 6 best-selling albums, including one in 1970 of Christmas songs. It was filled with classics like “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night.”

Rick asked Jose to write an original song too. He didn’t think he could.

But he’d just gotten a cuatro — a Puerto Rican stringed instrument. He thought back to his childhood on the island.

So — in the middle of July — Jose wrote “Feliz Navidad.” It’s become one of the best-selling Christmas songs of all time.

A few years ago, Rick wrote “On This Christmas Night.” Jose recorded it in his Weston studio. It’s beautiful, inspirational and sing-along-ish. But it was never released, so Rick just put it on Spotify.

He and Jose basically forgot about it.

Somehow though, the creators and producers of “Hamilton” found it.

And chose it — out of hundreds of contenders — to be their curtain call finale during this holiday season.

Soon, their interpretation will be released on a CD — with music from other Broadway, off-Broadway and traveling productions — called “Carols for a Cure, Volume 20” to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

When they heard the news last month, Jose and Susan were thrilled — not for themselves, but for their longtime friend and collaborator Rick. Susan said she cried for 3 days, with joy.

Then — just before Thanksgiving — Jose did a “Countdown to Christmas Music” promotion for WEBE 108. Susan told program director/midday DJ Danny Lyons how “On This Christmas Night” had dropped from the sky, into “Hamilton” and Equity’s AIDS benefit.

Danny listened to the song. He called it “providential.” His minister’s sermon had just noted that most Christmas songs today completely miss the meaning of Christmas.

Which is how Danny came to play “On This Christmas Night” that day last week. The fact that I heard it on its world radio premiere was — well, providential.

Danny told Jose he’d pass the song on to his programming colleagues around the country. Which means it may join “Feliz Navidad” as another great holiday contribution to the world, from our neighbor Jose Feliciano.

Of course — this being the holiday season — Jose is in great demand.

He’s playing all over the world this month: Palm Springs, New York, England, Vienna (with the Boys’ Choir) and the Vatican (for — of course! — the Pope’s Christmas program).

But Jose always has time for us. He returns home December 23. The next night, he offers his annual gift of music at Assumption Church’s Christmas Eve mass.

Feliz Navidad indeed. And muchas gracias, Jose Feliciano!

(Click here, then scroll down to hear “On This Christmas Night.” The Broadway Cares CD can be bought after shows. It will be available after Christmas on iTunes.)