Tag Archives: Paul Newman

Roundup: Cribari Bridge, Senior Center, Wildfires, WTF, More


Stay away from the William F. Cribari Bridge today. The Saugatuck River span is closed through 3 p.m., for inspection. Use alternate routes!

William F. Cribari Bridge — stay away today! (Photo/Sam Levenson)


Registration for Senior Center October-December classes is underway for Westport residents. Non-residents can register beginning Monday (September 21).

The Senior Center also announces upcoming events:

  • Parkinson’s Support (Sept. 23, Zoom, 10:15 a.m.)
  • New to Medicare (Sept. 24, 5:30 p.m.)
  • Summer Concert Series: Harpist Wendy Kerner (Sept. 25, Zoom, 1:30 p.m.)
  • Caregiver Support (Sept. 30, Oct. 7 and 21, 10 a.m.)
  • Bingo (Oct. 1, with delivered lunch (Pct. 1, Zoom, 1:15 p.m.)
  • Just for Women (Oct. 1, 3:30 p.m.)
  • Walk to End Alzheimer’s (Oct. 11).

For more information, click here, call 203-341-5099, email seniorcenter@westportct.gov/seniorcenter.


Smoke from the wildfires out west have reached Westport. This was the scene yesterday evening, at Compo Beach:

(Photo/Stephen Raffel)


COVID has canceled many traditional activities. But not Oktoberfest!

Wakeman Town Farm celebrates outdoors on Thursday, October 8 (5:30 p.m.).  Chef Alison Milwe Grace cooks up a great German meal (with a veggie option for non-meat eaters). Bring a sweater or jacket and your favorite German beer or adult beverage. Click here for details and tickets.


Teaching has always been stressful. During COVID, it’s exponentially tougher.

To help educators de-stress, Positive Directions has launched a Teacher Support Group. Trained counselors lead discussions Wednesdays from 7 to 8 p.m. via (of course) Zoom. The cost is $40 per session. Email amiceli@positivedirections.org, or call 203-227-7644 for reservations.


With kids back at school — meaning more than half the time, they’re learning at home — parents may need a private office.

Serendipity Labs — the on-demand workspace at 55 Post Road West — offers a complimentary private day office for all new inquiries. It’s available weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Serendipity memberships include high-speed WiFi, complimentary coffee, spacious common areas, guest reception and concierge services. For details click here, call 203-979-4084 or email mburns@serendipitylabs.com.

Serendipity Labs, 55 Post Road West


Classic movies continue this Saturday (September 19, 8 p.m.) at the Remarkable Theater. Earthplace co-sponsors “Raiders of the Lost Artk.” Click here for tickets and more information.


Speaking of movies: Ethan Hawke will direct a new movie about the lives and careers of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. The project has the blessing of Woodward — now 90 — and the actors’ family.

The film is expected to focus on their 50-year marriage, including their decision to raise their children in Westport rather than Los Angeles. (Hat tip: Johanna Rossi)

Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman.


And finally … today would have been B.B. King’s 95th birthday. He died 5 years ago, but the thrill of his blues guitar will never be gone.

 

Paul Newman Says: Research. Register. Vote!

During his 50-plus years in Westport, Paul Newman was everywhere in town.

We saw him in supermarkets, shops and restaurants. He picked up hitchhikers. When I played summer soccer, his helicopter landed on the Coleytown Junior High School field (we scattered first). “Hi boys!” he said as he hopped out — wearing shorts, carrying a briefcase — and walked around the corner to his home.

Paul Newman, in a photo project promoting community involvement. (Photo by Robert Satter)

The actor/philanthropist/race car driver/all-around great guy died in 2008. But this Saturday, he returns to Main Street.

Once again, he’ll do something great — for his town and his country.

Newman’s daughter Melissa is a giver in her own right. For 20 yeas, she volunteered at a woman’s prison.

She was casual friends with a social worker there. For 2 years, he said he had a present for her. Finally — a decade or so ago — he handed her the gift.

It was a framed poster of her father. Looking straight at the camera — and pointing sternly — the young actor urged all “Young Citizens for Johnson” to register to vote.

Melissa had never seen that poster. “It was one of the best presents I ever got,” she says. She hung it on her kitchen wall. It’s been there ever since.

Melissa always wanted to share the poster’s message — register and vote! — with a broader audience. Now she’s got her chance.

In these polarized times, she wants the poster to be non-partisan. Besides, LBJ is no longer on the ballot.

So Melissa enlisted her friend Miggs Burroughs to help. The talented graphic designer changed the message to “Research. Register. Vote.”

Last weekend, Melissa handed out copies of the poster on Main Street, near Brooks Corner. She’ll be there this Saturday (August 29) too, at 12;30 p.m. — complete with mask and hand sanitizer.

“I’m literally a poster child for voting,” she laughs.

She hopes everyone — whatever their political affiliation — will pick up a flyer, reminding themselves to register and vote.

And why not? It’s one more Paul Newman/Westport story to add to our list.

Melissa Newman last weekend, with her poster on Main Street near Elm.

Westport Playhouse: A Look Back At 90 Seasons

Today should have been a red-letter day in Westport Country Playhouse history.

The former cow barn opened its doors — and ushered in a golden era of summer theater — on June 29, 1931. Ever since last year, the Playhouse had prepared for a landmark 90th season.

COVID canceled those plans. But “06880” — the blog and the town — can still celebrate.

The building is actually twice as old as the theater. It was built in 1835 by R&H Haight, as a tannery for hatters’ leathers. Apple trees grew nearby.

In 1860 Charles H. Kemper purchased the plant from Henry Haight’s widow.

Kemper tannery, 1860.

Twenty years later, he installed a steam-powered cider mill.

By the winter of 1930, the property — assessed at $14,000 — had been unused for several years. It was bought by Weston residents Lawrence Langner and his wife Armina Marshall Langner, co-founders of the Theatre Guild, a powerful producer of Broadway and touring productions.

The 1930 barn.

The Langners wanted a place to experiment with new plays, and reinterpret old ones. Westport was already home to actors, producers and directors.

On June 29, 1931, the Westport Country Playhouse opened. The very first play — The Streets of New York — starred Dorothy Gish. Its stage was built to Broadway specifications. Remarkably, that first show made it all the way there.

Westport Country Playhouse interior, 1933.

Bert Lahr, Eva LaGallienne, Paul Robeson, Helen Hayes, Ethel Barrymore, Henry Fonda, Tallulah Bankhead and Julie Harris were some of the many big names who appeared on the Playhouse stage.

The early days (Photo/Wells Studio)

The theater went dark for 4 years during World War II, due to gas rationing.

Thornton Wilder received his Equity card in 1946, so he could play the stage manager in his own hit, Our Town.

In the 1940s, the Playhouse began an apprentice program. The legendary list includes Stephen Sondheim, Frank Perry and Sally Jesse Raphael. The educational apprenticeship programs are still running.

An early shot of the Westport Country Playhouse.

Though Oklahoma! has never been performed at the theater, it played a key role in the legendary show’s history. In 1940, Richard Rodgers came from his Fairfield home for Green Grow the Lilacs. Three years later, he produced Oklahoma!, based on what he’d seen.

Roders also saw Gene Kelly that night at Lilacs, and a few months later gave him his big break: the lead in Pal Joey.

In 1959 the Langners turned operation of the Playhouse over to Jim McKenzie. Later named executive producer, he retired in 2000 after 41 years. His tenure was notable for many things — including his efforts in 1985 to purchase the theater and its property, thwarting a takeover by a shopping center complex.

Gloria Swanson arrives, 1961.

Appearing on stage during McKenzie’s time were stars like Alan Alda, Cicely Tyson, Richard Thomas, Jane Powell, Sandy Dennis, and Stiller and Meara.

A teenager earned her Equity card, and earned a standing ovation on opening night in The Fantasticks. Her name was Liza Minnelli.

Prior to renovation, the cramped lobby was filled with posters from past shows.

In 2000, artistic director Joanne Woodward joined an illustrious team including Anne Keefe, Alison Harris and Elisabeth Morten. They brought Gene Wilder, Richard Dreyfuss, Jill Clayburgh and Jane Curtin to the stage.

Woodward’s husband — Paul Newman — also starred at the Playhouse, in the same role Thornton Wilder played 56 years earlier: stage manager, in Our Town. 

Like so many other Playhouse shows, it (with Newman) soon transferred to Broadway.

But the building — still basically a 170-year-old barn — was in physical disrepair.Woodward and company also renovated the Playhouse physically, and revitalized it artistically.

An 18-month, $30.6 million renovation project in 2003 and ’04 brought the Playhouse into the modern era. It closed in 2003 with a revival of its first show, The Streets of New York.

It reopened in 2005 — its 75th season. At Woodward’s suggestion, a piece of the original stage is still there. The Playhouse moved forward, while paying homage to its storied past.

Westport Country Playhouse, after renovation.

The next year saw the world premiere of Thurgood. Since then — under artistic directors Tazewell Thompson and now Mark Lamos — the Westport Country Playhouse has expanded both its scope and its season.

From a tryout and summer stock house focusing mostly on light, entertaining comedies, to its current April-through-November staging of powerful dramas, musicals and exploratory plays, the Westport Country Playhouse has played a key role in American theater.

Several years ago, Lamos noted, “What had a been a leaky, vermin-infested, un-weatherized — albeit beloved — converted barn became a state-of-the-art theater as fine as any in America.”

Like Broadway, the Westport Country Playhouse is closed during this, its 90th season.

But — as its long history shows — the old barn has weathered many ups, and  a few downs. The curtain will rise again next year.

The show must go on!

(Hat tip: Pat Blaufuss)

(Photo/Robert Benson)

Photo Challenge #286

I knew last week’s Photo Challenge would be tough. But I also thought that since many Wesptorters have been taking long walks during the pandemic, more folks than usual might have spotted the banner with Paul Newman’s smiling face that was the featured shot.

Nope.

The only 2 readers who knew were artist/designer Miggs Burroughs (who seemed to have inside knowledge, when he wrote “studio garage behind 25 Imperial Avenue; it was conceived and created by the late internationally renowned futurist Watts Wacker”) and Jeff Kaufman (who, by noting “I have an unfair advantage,” must mean he works at that small office complex).

The banner is visible from a few vantage points near the police station. So, if you’re still out taking a COVID walk, check it out. (Click here for the photo.)

This week’s Photo Challenge should be much easier. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Kathie Motes Bennewitz)

Photo Challenge #285

The Westport Country Playhouse stage is dark this season.

But it remains bright and vivid in our minds. Last week’s Photo Challenge — showing an old-fashioned light above a closed window on the side of a red-painted wood structure — was easily recognized by many as the concession stand kiosk nestled in the courtyard outside one of America’s oldest and most famed summer theaters. (Click here to see.)

Wendy Schaefer, Rich Stein, Elaine Marino, Seth Schachter, Fred Cantor, Joyce Barnhart, Dan Vener, Wendy Cusick, Patricia Blaufuss, Nancy Wilson, Stephanie Ehrman, Jonathan McClure, Shirlee Gordon, Tom Risch, Elizabeth Marks, Seth Goltzer and Kathleen Lewton all knew exactly what the image showed.

All will hopefully be back next year, for the beloved Playhouse’s belated 90th season.

This week’s Photo Challenge picks up — sort of — where last week’s left off. We remember our neighbor Paul Newman for many things, including his role as the stage manager in the 2001 Playhouse production of “Our Town.” (His wife, Joanne Woodward, was the show’s sole producer when it moved to Broadway the next year. She played a major role in the Playhouse’s renovation, a couple of years later.)

We were used to seeing Paul Newman all around town. Everyone’s got a story. But where can we see this banner of him today? If you know where in Westport it is, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Sabra Gallo)

 

COVID-19 Roundup: Longshore Golf Course; Paul Newman; Jon Gailmor; Food, Art, And More

1st Selectman Jim Marpe and Parks & Recreation director Jen Fava confirm that the Longshore golf course fairways, rough and cart paths are open to walkers. The greens are not open, and of course the course is closed to play.

Oh, yeah: It’s closed to dogs too.

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)


Can’t get to the Westport Country Playhouse? Missing Paul Newman?

In 2002, our town’s hero appeared on stage — as the stage manager — in Thornton Wilder’s classic “Our Town.”

It was one of the most memorable performances on that venerable stage. And now you can watch it all, through the magic of YouTube. Click below — and thank your lucky “stars.”


Speaking of stars, Jon Gailmor shined brightly — and sang beautifully — even before graduating from Staples High School in 1966.

Decades later, “Peaceable Kingdom” — his Polydor album with classmate Rob Carlson — remains one of my favorites ever. (You’ve got time on your hands. Click here and here for 2 of the greatest tracks.)

Gailmor then moved to Vermont. He runs music-writing workshops in schools, writes and performs all over, and has been named an official “state treasure.”

Ever the social commentator, he’s taken his guitar and pen to the coronavirus. “What We Have Found” (“This is 2020 from a distance”) is all too true, and very poignant.

There’s not a lot to enjoy about COVID-19. This, though, is one of them:


They’re located just a few yards over the border, in Southport. So Garelick & Herbs did not make the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce’s great list of markets open for takeout and delivery.

However, their many local customers will be glad to know that G&H offers curbside pick up and home delivery, via phone (203-254-3727) or online (click here).


Trader Joe’s is limiting the number of customers in the store at a time. Mornings are the most crowded, but the line moves quickly. This was the scene this morning, as shoppers lined up (properly socially distanced) beyond Jersey Mike’s.

(Photo/Tom Cook)

At 12:30 there was no line. When I left 15 minutes later, 2 people waited outside.


Reader Adam Murphy writes about this generous act: “When the owner of The Simple Greek in Norwalk (its really close to Westport!) found out that a recent catering order was for the Gillespie Center, he voluntarily doubled the amount of food. ‘I want to make sure everyone has enough,’ he said. In times that must have him worrying about his business surviving, he still has generosity for others. Great food and great people!”


Westporter Steve Parton reminds readers that — with galleries closed, and self-isolating the new normal — our neighbors who make their living from art and art lessons are having a tough time.

“We would all like to make a sale if possible,” he says. “Everything must go! No reasonable offer refused!”

Check out his website — and those of any other local artists you like. As you look at your walls (what else is there to look at?!), now is the perfect time to buy new works!

“Compo Beach,” by Steven Parton

Remembering A.E. Hotchner

A. E. Hotchner — a writer who parlayed his friendship with fellow Westporter Paul Newman into a second career in philanthropy — died today at home. He was 102 years old, and lived more than half his life — 67 years — here.

The New York Times obituary described the longtime Hillandale Road resident as a “novelist, playwright, biographer, literary bon vivant and philanthropist whose life was shaped and colored by close friendships with two extraordinarily gifted and well-known men, Ernest Hemingway and Paul Newman.”

A.E. Hotchner and Ernest Hemingway.

Hotchner “was not to the manner born, nor was he a celebrity. But he was nonetheless at home among the glitterati, one of those not-so-famous people whom famous people, for whatever reason, take to,” the Times said. At Washington University, he was a classmate of Tennessee Williams.

He wrote books about his friends, including Clark Gable, Barbara Hutton, Marlene Dietrich, Coco Chanel, Doris Day and Sophia Loren.

But he included honest details about Hemingway’s suicide in “Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir,” whose publication the author’s widow tried to halt.

Hotchner wrote 2 other books about Hemingway, and one about the Rolling Stones, among others.

Yet it was his friendship with Newman that most distinguished the latter part of Hotchner’s life. According to the Times:

“We owned a series of dilapidated boats we’d take out on the water to go fishing and drink beer and have all sorts of adventures,” Mr. Hotchner told the London newspaper The Daily Mirror after Newman’s death in September 2008. “We drank a lot of beer and so never actually caught many fish.”

Mr. Newman had made it a holiday ritual to make batches of homemade salad dressing in his barn, pour it into wine bottles and drive around his neighborhood giving them away as Christmas gifts. Just before Christmas 1980, Mr. Newman was stirring up an enormous batch, with a canoe paddle, when he invited Mr. Hotchner to join him. Out of their small adventure came the idea for Newman’s Own.

Founded in 1982, the company has given away hundreds of millions of dollars through its charitable arms….

In 1988, Mr. Hotchner and Mr. Newman furthered their charitable work by founding the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in northeastern Connecticut for children with life-threatening diseases.

(Click here for the full New York Times obituary.)

Unsung Hero #123

Oops!

This one almost slipped by us.

Earlier this month, Nell Newman was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame.

The ecologist, conservationist, biologist, organic farmer — and founder of Newman’s Own Organics, and the Nell Newman Foundation — joins a long list of amazing Nutmeg State women, including Helen Keller, Marian Anderson, Clair Boothe Luce, Ella Grasso and Katherine Hepburn.

Nell Newman

Her work in organic food was inspired by her youth in Westport. When she learned that her favorite bird — the peregrine falcon — was headed toward extinction because of the pesticide DDT, she began studying ecology.

In 2014 Nell received the prestigious Rachel Carson Award from The National Audubon Society, for her environmental leadership.

Westport is justly proud of Nell’s parents, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Both were active in a number of important causes, far beyond stage and screen.

We are proud now too that this Westport native is paying it forward. Congratulations, Nell, on your Hall of Fame honor!

(Hat tip: Kathie Motes Bennewitz)

Photo Challenge #244

Whenever I post a photo of a bucolic, water-rippling-over-boulders, looks-like-Vermont-but-it’s-actually-Westport shot, the default response is: the Saugatuck, River, at Ford Road.

Sure, that’s one of Westport’s most beautiful, underrated spots.

But it’s not the only one.

Last week’s Photo Challenge showed a scene that readers thought was Ford Road. (Click here to see.) In fact, it was Newman Poses Preserve. The river is the Aspetuck.

Leigh Gage was first with the correct answer. Seth Schachter, Jonathan McClure and Alice Ely followed soon.

This hidden gem — located off Bayberry Lane and Easton Road — is the only public memorial approved by the family of the late Paul Newman as a way to honor the actor/philanthropist/race car driver/popcorn and salad dressing king. He lived nearby, and donated much of the land for the preserve.

The parcel also includes land sold to the town by Lillian Poses, a neighbor and friend of the Newmans. She worked on the New Deal in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration, and was one of the first female graduates of NYU Law School.

Newman Poses Preserve is managed by the Aspetuck Land Trust. For more information, click here.

This week’s Photo Challenge is also wonderfully scenic. If you know where in Westport you’d see this — and everyone here has — click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

Push (Up) Against Cancer — And For Kids

In 2010, Andy Berman was opening a new gym in Westport. He wanted to give back to the community.

When he heard about the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp — the amazing experience for youngsters with serious illnesses — and then learned it was founded by Westport’s own Paul Newman, he knew he’d found his cause.

Berman’s first fundraising effort was a Push Against Cancer. Twenty participants did push-ups in his Fitness Factory gym. They raised $9,900.

Each year, the event grew. Last year, 334 men, women and children collected over $150,000. That brought Berman’s 9-year total to nearly $500,000.

Hundreds of participants had a great time last year, at Levitt Pavilion.

This year’s Push Against Cancer is bigger than ever. He and his team expect over 400 participants. The goal is $200,000.

That would send 80 boys and girls to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp — at no cost to them or their families.

Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas (right) joins Andy Berman in promoting the June 9 Push Against Cancer.

The event is set for Sunday, June 9, at Staples High School’s Jinny Parker Field. The venue should draw plenty of students (and their teams).

Many Stapleites are getting into the act. The Orphenians will sing the national anthem.

Of course, anyone — of any age, or athletic ability — can sign up for push-ups.

Do them for Andy Berman. Do them for Paul Newman. Most of all, do them for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp kids.

(To register as an individual or a team on Sunday, June 9 at Staples High School’s field hockey field — or to donate — click here. To become a corporate sponsor or for more information, email PushAgainstCancer@gmail.com.) 

The Westport Fire Department will be out in force June 9, for the Push Against Cancer.