Tag Archives: Mark Potts

Roundup: Staples Players, Alexandra Korry, Pumpkins, More

Mark Potts has written for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and — while he was a Staples student — the school paper Inklings.

Last night he reconnected with his alma mater. He writes:

Several years ago an unexpected storm deposited me in Kansas, sans ruby slippers. But my hometown is Westport. Once upon a time I was part of the team that launched radio station WWPT, and playing in the pit band for a Staples Players production of “Oklahoma” is one of my favorite high school memories.

So being able to sit in distant Kansas on Sunday evening and listen to the charming, expertly performed WWPT/Staples Players radio production of “The Wizard of Oz” was a great treat.

Bravo to all involved on a delightful piece of entertainment. It just proves, once again, that there’s still no place like home.

Behind the scenes at “The Wizard of Oz.” Plastic separated the actors from each other, in the Black Box Theater.

Alexandra Korry did not have a high profile in Westport. But when she died at 61 recently of ovarian cancer, the New York Times took note, with a long, admiring obiturary.

It called her “a trailblazing Wall Street lawyer whose potent legal and moral rebuke as head of a civil rights panel helped spur the abolition of solitary confinement for juvenile inmates in New York City.”

She was one of the first women elected partner in the mergers and acquisitions department of the prominent law firm Sullivan & Cromwell. She was also committed to public service, as head of the New York State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

Her committee’s reports “criticized the New York City Police Department’sstop-and-frisk strategy, intended to reduce the proliferation of guns, arguing that it was disproportionately directed at Black and Hispanic people.

“And it concluded this year that disparities in state and local funding of education should be considered a civil rights issue because they denied equal opportunity to students in poorer, Black and Hispanic school districts.”

Click here for the full obituary. (Hat tip: John Karrel)

Alexandra Korry (Dick Duane for Sullivan & Cromwell)

Gene Borio sends along this photo:

He explains: “I didn’t know what this was until a woman walking nearby said it was weird: Every pumpkin on her block had been attacked by squirrels. 76 years on this planet, and I’d never heard of such a thing. Neither had she.”

Two religious institutions’ coat drive for Person to Person is nearing an end.

Clothing should be bagged, and sorted by gender and age (adult or youth). Donations can be dropped off in a blue bin labeled “Coat Donations” on the side elevator entrance at Saugatuck Church, or The Conservative Synagogue.

Donation pick-ups are available too. Email alexandrawalsh9@gmail.com for arrangements.

And finally … after more than 50 years on the road, Arlo Guthrie has retired from performing. The 73-year-old son of Woody Guthrie has suffered strokes.

He’s best known for “Alice’s Restaurant.” But his 5 decades of work go far beyond that 20-minute Thanksgiving garbage dump talking classic.

I saw him at the Westport Country Playhouse many years ago. He was the consummate performer. And I really loved that great head of white hair. (Hat tip: Amy Schneider)

Color Us Westport: Your “06880” Coloring Book

A couple of weeks ago, “06880” put out a call. Readers could help design a fun, creative local coloring book.

The idea came from Mark Potts. The 1974 Staples High School graduate lives in Lawrence, Kansas now, and sent his mother — renowned Westport historian Eve Potts — an article about a coloring book created there.

Eve thought it was a wonderful, creative way to bring our community — of all ages — together during this crisis.

Artists of all types — professionals, doodlers, everyone in between — were invited to submit a page of their favorite Westport scene. They’d all be turned into a PDF, for anyone to print out and color.

Now — with the help (of course!) of Miggs Burroughs — we present “Color Us Westport.” The 24 page book of historic, iconic and fun spots around town includes contributions from Miggs, Eve, Mark, Kathie Motes Bennewitz, Claire England, Kris Jandora, Penny Pearlman and Melanie Yates.

Click here to download your (free!) copy now.

Claire England, director of operations for Green’s Farms Church, contributed several pages to the coloring book.

The Way We Were — And Are (Sequel)

If you’re like most “06880” readers, you enjoyed this morning’s photographic trip down memory lane.

You admired the photos. They jogged memories — or, if you’re a newcomer (or just young), you tried to imagine the Westport of yore.

If you were Mark Potts though, you headed straight to Google Street View.

Mark — a 1974 Staples grad who co-founded WashingtonPost.com, served as editor of Philly.com, and is a consultant with clients like the Los Angeles TimesVariety and Silicon Valley startups — now lives in Lawrence, Kansas.

But his heart is still here. And one of his many hobbies is taking creating “then and now” images with “06880” photos. (Click here for last October’s shots.)

Today’s batch was tough, he says. A few unusual photo angles could not be duplicated (the Merritt Parkway shot, for example, was taken from the side of the road). And Mark couldn’t figure out where the Post Road import car shop was.

But the rest worked out fairly well. Enjoy his trip back in time — and back to the present.

Then and now 1 - Saugatuck

Then and now 2 - train station

Then and now 3 - train station

Then and now 4 - downtown

Then and now 5 - Merritt Parkway exit 41


Mark Potts’ Westport: Then And Now

Staples Class of 1974 graduate Mark Potts has spent 20 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. He co-founded WashingtonPost.com, Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland, and is a consultant with clients like the Los Angeles TimesVariety and Silicon Valley startups.

He’s lived far from Westport for many years — right now he’s in Lawrence, Kansas — but his heart remains here. Whenever he’s “home” he checks out Main Street, Compo, the neighborhoods (and Westport Pizzeria, “the best in the world”).

Recently, he inserted old photos of Westport into current scenes from Google Street View (or in one case, a New Yorker cover).

The result is a striking look at how Westport has — and has not — changed over the decades. For example, in 1970 a massive crowd — many of the them Staples students — gathered on the Post Road outside the steps of the Y as part of a nationwide “Moratorium” protest against the Vietnam War:

Mark Potts - 1

Long before those anti-war days, the building at the corner of the Post Road and Taylor Place was a drugstore  –first Colgan’s, then Thompson’s — with a real soda fountain. Today it’s Tiffany:

Mark Potts - 2

The view below is from the opposite direction, in the early 20th century. The Westport Hotel occupied the corner of the Post Road (State Street) and Main Street. Disturbed at the drinking and pool-playing going on there, Edward T. Bedford built a YMCA on the site to give teenage boys a proper place to play:

Mark Potts - 3

Before Main Street morphed into a chain mall, it was filled with mom-and-pop shops like Country Gal, and the locally owned Klein’s department store:

Mark Potts - 4

Before Parker Harding Plaza was built in the mid-1950s, the back sides of Main Street stores backed right up to the Saugatuck River. Some discharged their waste right into the water:

Mark Potts - 5

Much earlier than that, tall ships sailed up the Saugatuck to trade at Riverside Avenue wharves:

Mark Potts - 6

The 3-story National Hall building (also seen above) has stood since the mid-1800s. It’s been a bank, meeting place, site of the 1st Staples High School, a furniture store, a boutique hotel and a restaurant, among other uses:

Mark Potts - 8

For decades, the Clam Box served as the place to meet for good food (and, for local politicians, to make deals). Before becoming Bertucci’s, it was Tanglewoods:

Mark Potts - 9

In 1973, the New Yorker featured the Compo Beach pavilion on its cover. It hasn’t changed much, other than the addition of a nearby playground in the mid-1980s:

Mark Potts - 7

So, has Westport changed a lot over the years? You bet.

And has it remained the same: Of course.

WWPT Rocks 40 Years: The Prequel

This morning’s post previewed Saturday’s WWPT-FM 40-plus anniversary celebration.

I noted a bit of the Staples radio station’s back story. But folks who were there have a much better perspective.

Mark Potts goes back to the summer of 1971. He writes:

I remember playing frisbee against a concrete wall with crappy 45s … the night we raised the FM antenna tower at the Bayberry Nike site by the light of car headlights … zillions of copies of albums in the record library (like Big Star) that later turned out to be major collectors’ items … learning to bleep out certain songs in exactly the right places … cutting classes to mess around in the studio in the basement of the 7 building … good, good times!

Big Star

Dan Chenok says:

My introduction to WWPT was through my older brother Dave, the program director. The station was in a spacious suite on the southern end of campus, with direct entrance from the outside and a large common area. The fact that my brother played music that included ’70s complex rock like Yes, Traffic and of course the Dead made me want to follow suit when I got to Staples 3 years later.

Well, 3 years later was the middle of Staples campus reconstruction. The cool studio became a hole in the exposed wall of the cavernous fieldhouse, which was either cold or hot and a bit scary — especially for a 10th grade DJ given the Friday night 9-12 slot. Friends came by, but mostly I talked to the occasional caller. I was always amazed when listeners from across the station’s coverage area, who had no idea we were a high-school operation, called because they liked a song.

Things got a lot better when as a junior the construction was completed. PT moved into a new and (at the time) modern studio just off the front entrance of the building. I secured a sought-after spot in the weekly lineup, thanks to a friendship with the prior occupants. The renowned Marc Selverstone and Mike Walmark bequeathed it to me.

The next two years were phenomenal. Each show included a tour of ’60s-’70s-’80s music, but never disco, pop or other music deemed inferior. Regular guests included Todd Weeks, Greg White, and Rob Hagebak.

Dan Chenok, Greg White and Todd Weeks, the summer before senior year.

Dan Chenok, Greg White and Todd Weeks, the summer before senior year.

Consistent with the long tradition of Thanksgiving weekend marathons, I joined the ranks of the midnight-4 a.m. shift both weekends. There were visits from current and former PTers in those shows.

No recounting of PT in that era would be complete without a tribute to Chuck Elliot, the general manager and a good friend. Chuck was intensely talented as a radio person on and off the mike, no doubt inspired by his famous radio father Win Elliot. One evening Chuck called the station during my show to compliment the music and commentary, which I still remember as Chuck was not one to praise radio prowess lightly.

Tragically, Chuck developed cancer shortly after we graduated. He left a bottle of champagne to Todd, Greg and me on a visit shortly before he died. I still have it. He left WWPT a stronger station, and its success over the years since owes a great deal to Chuck.

At the end of 3 years at PT, the station management came to my last show — still recorded on cassette tape at our home in Bethesda, MD, along with the hundreds of albums from which the music came — with a goodbye cake and party.  It was a great way to go out. And it’s great that PT is still a place for music and memories, over 3 decades later.

This photo was on the Class of 1981 website.  It has nothing to do with WWPT, beyond showing the kinds of students who were there then, listening to music -- on the radio, and at outdoor  concerts.

This photo was on the Class of 1981 website. It has nothing to do with WWPT, beyond showing the kinds of students who were there then, listening to music — on the radio, and at outdoor concerts.

Jeff Ruden adds some more thoughts.

I started out at WWPT during my 1st year at Staples back in 1978. We were in a pretty poor space. The student leaders of the station at that time included Jay DeDapper, who went on to become a newscaster on WNBC in New York. One guy had a job at Baskin-Robbins. There were several station meetings “after hours” in the store’s back room.

During my sophomore or junior year, the station moved into a brand new facility at the front of Staples. as part of major construction at the school. The new space included a control room and several offices.

However, we were in need of some newer equipment. I was finance director. I cold-called Mortimer Levitt, requesting $20,000. We met at his house, and while he was not prepared to write such a large check, he had an idea for a show.

Mortimer Levitt helped Jeff Ruden with WWPT, and individually.

Mortimer Levitt helped Jeff Ruden with WWPT, and individually.

It was to highlight how the same two hands could produce amazing rock as well as classical music, contrasting one song against another. He wrote us a check for $5,000, and we produced a few shows. This led to long-term friendship with Mortimer. He provided me a summer job during my senior year and college breaks at the stores he owned, the Custom Shop.

We also got local stores to become “sponsors.” While many retailers wrote checks to sponsor shows, at times we bartered. The B&G Army Navy store housed the Ticketmaster outlet, which led to an opportunity for concert tickets.

Happy Anniversary to WWPT!



Throwing A Parade For Westport Pizzeria?

S&M Pizza

Well, not exactly.

But this photo — sent by alert reader Mark Potts, showing a 1972-ish Memorial Day parade — illustrates several key takeaways from today:

Westport Pizzeria is moving to a great new location.

Westport loves a celebration.

Yes, there really was a restaurant called “S&M Pizza.”

Is this a great town or what?

Mark Potts: CNN And Facebook’s Reliable Source

Journalists interviewing journalists about journalism might sound like an Escher nightmare to some, but CNN’s “Reliable Sources” makes it work.

Part of the reason is interesting guests. Yesterday, Westport native and Staples grad Mark Potts was on.

A former technology correspondent for the Washington Post, now a media consultant and journalism professor at the University of Maryland, he and host Howard Kurtz discussed whether Facebook — on the eve of its behemoth IPO — is overtaking traditional media as a source for news.

It’s a great question. To see Mark’s insights, click here.

Mark Potts