Tag Archives: Mike Waxx

Roundup: Staples Players, Waxx Vaxx, Stop Sign …


Excitement is building in the Staples High School auditorium. The curtain rises this Thursday (and Friday, and twice on Saturday) for the first Staples Players live production in 14 months.

David Ives’ “Words Words Words … and Music” is a truly funny series of mini-plays (with 2 mini-musicals to boot). But even though each audience is limited to only 300 seats, tickets remain.

It it because the show is unfamiliar? Perhaps there’s residual pandemic fear (click here to see the precautions taken). Maybe audiences have forgotten just how professional-quality Players’ acting and music are.

Whatever the reason: The program needs community support. For 63 years, that support has sustained Players, and allowed it to thrive,

Westport cherishes the high school acting troupe. But Westporters may not realize how important it is for all 300 tickets to sell out for each show (Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 20, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m., and May 22 at 2 p.m.).

“Words Words Words … and Music” is laugh-out-loud funny — and very family-friendly. Young audiences, in fact, are the future of Players. They’ve missed a year of shows, so this is the perfect time to bring them back.

Click here for tickets and more information. See you at the show!

Sophie Rossman, Benny Zack and Samanath Webster in “Words Words Words.” Fully vaccinated actors will perform in clear visors. (Photo/Kerry Long)


The CDC’s head-turning elimination of mask-wearing for vaccinated people raises a good question: “How do I know if someone is vaccinated?”

Staples High School Class of 2009 graduate Mike Bowen has a way.

Bowen — aka Mike Waxx — owns Illroots brand. It branched out from music and videos to apparel and footwear. For a while, it’s offered a custom apparel “Shirt App” in the App Store.

Users can create their own t-shirt or hoodies. They choose the design (including pictures from their iPhone library), then add text and stickers.

So what’s the Waxx/vaxx connection? You can design a shirt like this:

Or — better yet — add a photo of yourself getting your shot.

Then wear it proudly the next time you stroll — mask-less — into Trader Joe’s.


A 185-foot sailboat drew attention yesterday, as it anchored dramatically in Long Island Sound just beyond the Compo Beach cannons. Several “06880” readers sent photos of the luxurious craft.

Westporters are reminded of the yacht that anchored near there several years ago. Rumors — never confirmed — were that it belonged to Eric Clapton, and he was visiting Keith Richards in Weston.

(Photo/Matt Murray)


Yesterday’s Roundup included a photo of a handmade poster hung beneath the stop sign on Clinton Road, at Fillow Street.

It said: “Stop! Kids live here!”

Here’s the back story, courtesy of Erika Brunwasser:

“Few stop, many ‘pause,’ and a bunch fly through without even pausing.

“I have 2 little girls, ages 2 and 5. It’s scary and unacceptable. I called the police several times and asked about a flashing light, a speed bump and a sign to monitor speed. I’ve been told none of these are possible.

“They promised me that someone would monitor the area. This happened less a handful of times. The other day I sat in my front yard screaming at people, and realized I needed a better plan.

“I brought in the help of my next-door neighbor, artist Lilie Fortino (who was raised in Westport) to make a sign. We put it up Saturday evening. It made an immediate difference. Everyone has stopped (if only to glance at the beautiful sign — that’s fine with me). It worked.”

It shouldn’t take a sign and a stop sign to get drivers to stop roaring through residential neighborhoods (or anywhere else).

But if that’s what it takes — we’ll take it.

Lilie Fortino and her 1-year-old. Erika Brunwasser and her children. SLOW DOWN!


Speaking of yesterday’s Roundup: It also included mention that Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson would read The Sly Fox of the Mind — a children’s book by Westporters Brooke Olstein and Lee Scharfstein — on her YouTube channel, “Story Time with Fergie and Friends.”

Click below to watch. It’s a wonderful book — made even greater when read in the Queen’s English.


Speaking of books: Financial journalist and author Michael Lewis will be interviewed by noted former New York Times writer Lisa Belkin.

Lewis’s newest book, The Premonition: A Pandemic Story follows 3 main characters – a biochemist, public health worker and federal employee – as they confront COVID, and find that the response from the US government is woefully inadequate.

The event is June 15 (7 p.m.). Click here to register.

Michael Lewis


Speaking of entertainment: This is a week of animated adventures and classic comedies at the Remarkable Theater.

The Imperial Avenue drive-in features:

  • “Zootopia” (Wednesday, May 19, 7:45 p.m.)
  • “Minions” (Friday, May 21, 8 p.m.)
  • “Happy Gilmore” (Saturday, May 22, 8:30 p.m.)

Click here for tickets, and more information.


The Westport Woman’s Club’s 6th annual Art Show this Saturday and Sunday (May 22-23, 2 to 6 p.m.) features an all-star list of 14 area artists. They include Nina Bentley, Amy Bock, Trace Burroughs, Susan Fehlinger, Judith Orseck Katz, Tom Kretsch, Susan Leggitt, Kerry Long, Michael Ledner, Carole McClintock, Bernard Perry, Jon Puzzuoli, Katherine Ross and Jo Titsworth.

Plus light snacks and wine, of course. It would not be an art show without them.


Everyone at Staples High School knows Laura Blair. She runs the copy machine room, and is a tireless fan of Wreckers sports teams.

She’s also one of STAR’s greatest fundraiser. For years she has participated in the non-profit’s annual Sherwood Island walk. Funds help serve hundreds of area people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

This year’s STAR Walk is virtual. But Laura is working as hard as ever. So far her team has raised over $6,000 — more than half of her $12,000 goal.

“Stars” are just $1 each. Click here to help. To learn more about STAR Lighting the Way, click here.

Laura Blair is a fundraising STAR.


Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo is from behind the pro shop, on the Longshore golf course:

(Photo/Tom Lowrie)


And finally … was Eric Clapton really on that yacht off Compo years ago?


Roundup: Reopening; Grad Merch; Ospreys; Music; More

Jillian Elder’s “Finding Westport” is another resource for events around town.

Right now, she’s updating her “What’s Open” list. If you’ve got a retail store, accounting or law firm, insurance or real estate agency, childcare center, landscaping or creative services business, restaurant — or anything else with customers or clients — contact her.

The basic listing is free. There are advertising packages and other options too. Send a brief description, website link, logo and photos to submissions@findingwestport.com, or DM Jillian on Instagram or Facebook @findingwestport.

Staples High School graduates make their marks on the world in many days.

Class of 2009 alum Mike Bowen — known professionally as Mike Waxx — made it in the rap and hip hop world. His Illroots brand then branched out from music and videos to apparel and footwear.

On his custom apparel platform, users add their own text and images to create their own looks. He launched with Travis Scott, and added a COVID charity shirt featuring Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande.

On Friday Waxx released 2020 Grad Merch. To give a gift to a grad, select the school; the logo and stickers are pre-loaded. Just add a picture to the commencement image. Then get creative.

Of course, Staples is there. Click here to order.

We start the week with great osprey news.

Carolyn Doan reports that 2 little chicks have appeared in the nest near Fresh Market. There may even be a third.

“They were making a lot of noise. Mom looks very proud,” Carolyn says.

(Photo/Carolyn Doan)

We haven’t heard much from Burt Bacharach in years. But he’s back — with a local connection.

Now 92, the legendary songwriter just released “Blue Umbrella.” The 5-song collaboration was recorded in Nashville with Grammy-winning writer/producer Daniel Tashian.

If the last name sounds familiar, it should: Daniel’s father, Barry — the front man for the legendary Remains band — went on to play with the Flying Burrito Brothers and Emmy Lou Harris, among many others. For the past 30 or so years Barry and his wife Holly — Daniel’s mom — have established themselves as great Nashville-based writers and performers.

For a Los Angeles Times story on the Bacharch-Tashian project, click here.

Daniel Tashian


And finally … Otis Redding kicks off the week, with a kick-ass song.

Mike Waxx Makes His Rap Mark

When you’re a teenager in Westport, it’s not always easy to take a path that leads away from the crowd — the road that often ends on Wall Street, or in an executive suite.

Mike Waxx did.

In 10th grade Staples — where teachers called him by his real name, Mike Bowen — he formed his own company.  Illroots promotes artists and provides graphic design for mixtapes.

Mike spent every day working to make it a viable business.  Closing in on a million hits a month, and with thousands of fans on Facebook and Twitter, the growth has been spectacular.

Last year Mike spent 5 months planning a massive relaunch, turning Illroots into something much deeper than the standard hip-hop blog.

Despite no real education in video, he and a college friend created their own content.  (Other sites rely on posts sent in by artists or their handlers.)

In November Mike shot a music video for Kanye West’s artist Big Sean, with Chiddy Bang.  That song —  Too Fake — has been viewed over 2 million times on YouTube (Big Sean’s biggest video to date).

Now Mike is working on a new video with Big  Sean, which he says will put “Too Fake” to shame.

Last month, Illroots set up a house in Austin for the famed SXSW event.  Called “The Illmore,” sponsored parties every day and night drew great attention from press, celebrities and music fans — along with visits from huge hip-hop names like KiD CuDi, Whiz Khalifa, Asher Roth, Mac Miller and the Cool Kids.

Also in Austin, Mike previewed a line of branded merchandise.  It goes into production soon.

Mike Waxx

But Mike is  not resting on his laurels.  He’s finishing artist Nero’s new mixtape, slated for release this spring. Mike has managed the 18-year-old Harlem rapper for 3 years. His 1st solo project “won’t disappoint,” Mike promises.  “Hopefully he’ll become the next big thing.”

Since November Mike has been living in New York, working for and traveling with one of the biggest artists in hip-hop.  Even I recognize his name.

As he heads into the hip-hop stratosphere, Mike Waxx looks back at his, um, roots.

“Without the support of my family and friends, none of this would be possible,” he says.

“I’ve always been really ambitious.  I love seeing growth and progress.  That motivates me the most.”

At the moment, he says, “I’m just taking everything a day at a time, while still planning 6 months ahead.  I want to surround myself with great people, and be happy with every decision I make.

“Surrounding yourself with people that believe in you is one of the most important elements of success.

And, he says, “I want to make my family proud — especially since school wasn’t really for me.”

But the rap world is.  Mike Waxx is comfortable there.  He’s talented, and his work is embraced and celebrated.

Maybe one day a former Staples classmate will call him up — from Wall Street, or an executive boardroom — and ask Mike Waxx to share the secrets of his success.

Today WYFF; Tomorrow The World

Saturday’s Westport Youth Film Festival featured dozens of entrants from around the country.  Among the winners:  1 from our backyard.

“Buck ‘Em Down” — filmed and edited by Staples juniors Michael Holmes and Josh Rauh — was named “Best Music Video.”  If you know that calling it “dope” is high praise, then you should check it out on YouTube.

I don’t understand rap, and god willing I never will.  But I do understand teenagers’ passions, and “Buck ‘Em Down” is a success story not only for its 2 creators, but for senior Mike Bowen as well.

The video features Nero, a young rapper from New York City who is being promoted by Mike. He organized the filming session in Stamford, and gave it much of its gritty look.

Mike Waxx

Mike Waxx

Mike — who is also known by his nom de rap, Mike Waxx — is president of Illroots ( “ill” is high praise too — go figure).  He  worked as hard at building his business as other Stapleites work at physics, theater, debate or swimming.  Mike does it all:  He promotes artists, is a mixtape DJ, and is a tremendously talented graphic designer (example below).

His website is professional, wide-ranging, great-looking.  And if I knew anything about hip hop, I’m sure I would find it highly informative too.

With 4 million hits, it is also one of the top-rated hip-hop blogs in the world.

Mike has not created his business in a vacuum.  Staples courses like digital darkroom, design and technology, and audio production gave him the tools he needed.  But he did the rest.

As graduation nears, much attention is focused — rightly — on the high honors students, the ones going to Harvard and Stanford, the young men and women who are “leaders of tomorrow.”

Quietly, in their own way, the Mike Bowens of the world are making their mark too.  Somewhere along the way they found something they love, and they embraced it with all their heart.

I look forward to hearing from them in the years to come.  Even if, in the case of Mike, I’m not exactly sure what I’m listening to.

One of Mike's mixtapes

One of Mike's mixtapes