Tag Archives: Minuteman Hill

Searching For Mr. Bullens

Just when I think I’ve heard every story about Westport’s rock ‘n’ roll history, I learn something new.

But I’ve never — ever — come across a tale quite like this one.

Cindy Bullens knew from age 4 that she’d be a rock star. In 1974 she left New England for fame and fortune. She arrived in Los Angeles with only $100, a backpack and guitar.

Elton John and Cindy Bullens.

Elton John and Cindy Bullens.

Fortune smiled. She met Bob Crewe — the legendary Four Seasons and Mitch Ryder producer. Six months later Cindy crashed a party, where she knew Elton John would be.

Two days after that, she was rehearsing to accompany him on his Rock of the Westies tour.

That meant turning down an invitation to play and sing with Bob Dylan. She’d been invited to join his Rolling Thunder Revue too.

Cindy went on to sing background on “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart.” She had 3 lead vocals on the “Grease” movie soundtrack, released 2 solo albums, and was nominated for 2 Grammys.

But that’s not the story.

In 1979 Cindy married Crewe’s brother Dan. A couple of years later — after her record company folded —  the couple moved to Westport. It was an artistic community, close to New York. They had 2 daughters.

In 1996, one of the girls — Jessie — died of lymphoma. She was 11 years old.

The rocker’s world was rocked. As part of the grieving process, Cindy wrote 10 songs. She did not intend to record them — she had no label — but after asking friends like Bonnie Raitt and Bryan Adams to join her, she recorded “Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth.” It became her best-selling album.

By default, Cindy was back in the music business. More records followed.

But that’s not the story either.

When she was just 4 years old, Cindy knew she was really a boy. In those days no one talked about transgender issues. In her teens, Cindy decided she’d have to live as a woman. She “did a work-around. I made peace with myself as Cindy Bullens.”

Four years ago, an old friend told Cindy she was transitioning from female to male.

Young Cindy Bullens.

Jessie  Bullens

Cindy was shocked. “As close as we were, neither of us had ever talked about our genders and bodies.”

Cindy’s mind imploded. Her friend’s revelation “brought up everything in my life I’d hidden away, in a very remote place.”

The timing was propitious. Cindy “had the psychic space to deal with all this. I was not in a relationship.” (She and her husband had divorced.) “My daughter had grown up and moved away. I was not in crisis.”

Once the door opened, Cindy walked through it. After deciding to transition, she spent a couple of years out of the public eye.

“I let go of Cindy. I became Cidny — but everyone calls me Cid,” he says.

But that’s not the end of the story either.

For a long time, Cindy had wanted to write a one-person show about her unusual life. Now, as Cid, he realized his transition added an exceptionally powerful narrative arc.

The result is “Somewhere Between.” The multimedia musical — a “one wo/man show” — explores the bridge between Cindy and Cidny. But it’s not just about transitioning genders. “It’s a universal and human story,” Cid says. “My transition is just a part of my life. This is about a person — not only a transgender person.”

Cidny Bullens today. (Photo/Joanne Berman)

Cidny Bullens today. (Photo/Joanne Berman)

The show begins in 1974. It travels through Cindy’s music career, the birth of her daughter and her transition. It ends with the birth of her grandchildren.

One of the most poignant moments comes with the song “Mockingbird Hill.”

“In Westport, we lived on Minuteman Hill,” Cid says of his 9 years in this area.

“It was a beautiful home, with a view of the water. We completely renovated it. It was the house I wanted to live in forever. But I was a square peg in a round hole.”

The song describes his relationship with the house and his daughters. As he sings it, a video shows footage of their renovation project, and the girls playing there.

“It’s one of the best songs I’ve ever written,” Cid says.

“Somewhere Between” earned excellent reviews in Santa Fe and Nashville. Now he’s looking to book it elsewhere.

Westport seems like a natural venue. For nearly a decade, this town meant a lot to Cindy Bullens. It was her home.

Even as she searched for her true home, where Cidny Bullens now lives.

 

Minuteman Hill: “The Street Where I Live”

My recent post on the Battle of Compo Hill got alert “06880” reader June Eichbaum thinking — and writing. She says:

When I open the window and the air smells like onions, I know it’s spring.

Before there were houses, Minuteman Hill — where I live — was an onion farm. During the Civil War, Westport farmers harvested barrels of onions. Union troops ate as many onions as Westport could grow, as protection against scurvy.

In the late 1800s yields dropped after years of single-crop farming robbed the soil of nutrients. Demand from the Army declined, and the Irish potato famine fungus arrived in America, causing an onion blight.

Minuteman Hill is a drumlin — an inverted spoon — that rises 100 feet above the moraine and wetlands below. Thousands of years ago, melting glaciers relentlessly scraped, mixed and reworked minerals, decaying vegetation and loose particles. Glaciers literally tilled the ground to make the soil in my garden as they melted.

The Minuteman statue. In the distance is Minuteman Hill.

The Minuteman statue. In the distance is Minuteman Hill.

Our street’s namesake is the bronze statue created by Henry Daniel Webster of a life-sized Minuteman soldier, crouched at the ready with musket in hand. He gazes up to where patriot sharpshooters sacrificed their lives in 1777, after ambushing British troops marching back to their war ships after burning an arsenal in Danbury.

The Minuteman is cared for by the community. When it snows, people put a woolen cap on his head and a scarf around his neck. At Christmas, he dons a Santa costume. On July 4th the Minuteman dresses up as Uncle Sam, surrounded by flags. He oversees the fireworks at the same beach where invading British ships dropped anchor.

In 1855 a house was built on the site of that Revolutionary War battle, next door to where we live now. It was sold in 1878 to Signorney Burnham, who rebuilt it in an eclectic Victorian style.

The Burnham house, on the site of the Battle of Compo HIll. (Photo by Jill Eichbaum)

The Burnham house, on the site of the Battle of Compo HIll. (Photo by June Eichbaum)

Burnham bred prize cattle, imported from his farm on the Isle of Jersey. Their manure improved the soil, and their grazing gave the land respite from farming. Burnham Hill marks the cows’ path down to Old Mill Beach.

Before 1950, our neighbors’ great-aunt owned the entire hill (it was then part of Compo Hill). My neighbor tells how her great-aunt sold a piece of the hill every time her husband wanted to travel to Europe (apparently quite often).

In 1950 she submitted a proposal to the town to subdivide some of the land. She penciled in a path to access those parcels, writing by hand “Minute Man Hill.”

Today, Minuteman Hill is a dead-end street of 22 homes. More than half sit along one of the 5 spokes that radiate out on the flat land at top.

In the early 1950s Harry Suttenfield built a modest home for his growing family on land adjacent to the elaborate Victorian. His house has been our home for 20 years. The trees he planted create a sense of place so grounded and strong that living here feels like a reprieve from a world of soundbites and short attention spans.

Weeping cherry trees on Minuteman Hill. (Photo by June Eichbaum)

Weeping cherry trees on Minuteman Hill. (Photo by June Eichbaum)

For the 7 days each spring that 2 weeping cherry trees bloom, their ethereal beauty is breathtaking. As the petals gently descend, our entire front garden, driveway and road are covered in delicate white. From a distance, it looks like snow.

Directly in front of the house, Suttenfield planted what today is an enormous sycamore tree. He also planted an apple orchard. Five trees remain. From late August to early October, neighbors pick apples. We take turns using a bright red gadget that it is as fun as it is practical.

The apples from our tree taste better than any I have ever eaten. They also make great pies.

Do you have a story about your neighborhood, home or road? Click “Comments” — or send it to dwoog@optonline.net.

A rose arbor on Minuteman Hill. (Photo by June Eichbaum)

A rose arbor on Minuteman Hill. (Photo by June Eichbaum)