Tag Archives: Tom Seligson

Saddam Hussein Comes To Westport

Watch out, Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.  Saddam Hussein is taking your literary place.

The 1955 novel about materialism, conformity and social-climbing began:  

By the time they had lived seven years in the little house on Greentree Avenue in Westport, Connecticut, they both detested it. There were many reasons, none of them logical, but all of them compelling.

Tom Seligson grew up in Westport during those 1950s.  After boarding school (with a classmate named George W. Bush), he’s enjoyed a long career as an Emmy Award-winning TV producer and writer.

Tom Seligson

So it’s no surprise he chose Westport for the setting of his 4th and latest novel, King of Hearts. (Seligson calls the town “Soundview” — a reference to his current Compo Beach home.

What may be surprising is the plot:  2 unsolved mysteries of the Iraq War.

The 1st concerns whatever happened to one of Saddam Hussein’s most feared associates:  the “king of hearts” on the U.S. military’s Most Wanted cards.  He has never been found.

The 2nd mystery is what happened to the $1.5 billion stolen from the Iraq Central Bank at the beginning of the war.  “The government said all the money — which was in euros — was recovered,” Seligson says.  “Of course, they also said the WMD would be easy to find.”

Like the successful formula of “Law & Order,” Seligson wanted those 2 large mysteries to be revealed in the course of a separate, smaller investigation.  A murder in a suburban town seemed a good starting point for his international plot.

A good character to throw into the mix would be a seasoned detective who was an Iraq veteran.  That way, he’d have a personal connection to any unresolved mysteries from the war.

As for Westport:  “It’s always more fun to write about something you know,” Seligson says.  “It gives you a chance to have your characters express your own thoughts and feelings about your home town, whether it’s McMansion fever, or how where you go on vacation becomes a competitive sport.”

Many of the sites in “Soundview” are easily recognized.  The story opens with a murder in a place much like Earthplace; the neighborhood closely resembles Old Hill, where Seligson grew up.  (In 1962 a woman was murdered and her teenage daughter raped and abducted in that very neighborhood.)

Other scenes are set at Compo Beach, the police station, along the Saugatuck River, and at a real estate office like the one that was next to Westport Hardware.  The agent is a colorful character inspired by a larger-than-life soap actress-turned-realtor Seligson knew long ago.

In “Soundview,” people have coffee at Starbucks, and dinner at a barbecue restaurant downtown.

As a good writer, Seligson did plenty of research — even into a town he knows intimately.  To learn more about the life of a Westport policeman, he interviewed his old friend Tony Giunta.  The retired cop “is not to blame for any and all liberties I took,” Seligson notes.

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit spawned a movie, starring Gregory Peck, Lee J. Cobb and Keenan Wynn.  It was filmed here; the last scene shows Peck getting into a car near  Achorn’s Pharmacy.

No word on who would star if a film version of King of Hearts were filmed in “Soundview.”  But Achorn’s is still here.

(King of Hearts was published last week.  For more information, click here.)

Take A WYFF

Harvey Weinstein is big (in more ways than one).

And Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Bette Davis, Liz Taylor and Marilyn Monroe are just a few of the boldface names who at one point called Westport home.

But you can spot mega-mogul movie producers and Oscar-winning actors many places besides Westport.

One thing you can’t find anywhere but here is the Westport Youth Film Festival.

Organizers call it “the only youth film festival in the world run for high school students, by high school students.”

And while Hollywood is known for hyperbole, this is Westport.  We’ll take their word for it.

The 7th annual WYFF returns this weekend.  The schedule is remarkable — and what’s even more remarkable is how few Westporters know about it.

This Friday and Saturday (May 7-8), 65 high school student films — chosen from over 200 submissions, around the world — will be shown at Town Hall and Toquet Hall. Prizes will be awarded to 9 of them.

Friday night’s highlights include 8 movies from “Peace It Together,” a Canadian program involving Canadian, Palestinian and Israeli youth — plus Q-and-As.

On Saturday — in addition to the 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. film screenings — there will be musical performances on Main Street, free popcorn and soda at Oscar’s, and t-shirt sales.  At 9 a.m. there’s a bagel breakfast with WYFF organizers and filmmakers.

The films range widely:  politics and current events; music; romance; comedy; self-discovery (hey, they’re teenagers).  At 5 p.m. Saturday Toquet hosts “The Roy Orbison Project,” spotlighting WYFF alumni including Jon Karmen and Jake Andrews of Rubydog fame.

I have no idea what the Roy Orbison Project is, but if it’s half as good as his voice, I’ll be impressed.

Tom Seligson, a Westport-based Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, keynotes Saturday’s 6 p.m. awards ceremony (Toquet).

WYFF is one of those Westport events you shouldn’t miss — though it also may be one you never heard of.

And even if the tagline — “the only youth film festival in the world run for high school students, by high school students” — is not true, this one may be:  “The only youth film festival in the world in a town without an actual movie theater.”

(For the WYFF YouTube trailer, click here.  For a detailed schedule of events, click here.)

Farewell Travels

Farewell Travels seems like an odd name for a website.  Perhaps it is filled with tips on trips to take if you are dumping a partner?  Terminally ill?  Or even your final destination, after you’re gone?

The name becomes easier to understand once you learn its founder and editor is Westport’s Susan Farewell.

Susan Farewell

Farewell — a former travel editor at Condé Nast Publications; freelance writer and editor for “Travel + Leisure,” the New York Times, and in-flight and regional magazines; and travel correspondent for radio and TV programs (among much more) — has launched a “boutique online travel magazine for the discriminating traveler.”  The 3rd edition has just gone live.

The lead story asks “Where is travel going?”  (The answer:  Despite earthquakes, economic woes, security lines and flight delays — pretty well, for reasons ranging from adventure and food to romance.)

There are sections on family travel, health and fitness travel — even “travel fashion tips” by “Queer Eye” star Carson Kressley.  Farewell covers the waterfront — and mountains, deserts and cities — around the globe.

FarewellTravels takes the world as its stage, but many of the stars are from right here in Westport.

Susan’s husband, Tom Seligson, oversees the multimedia productions for the site — animated maps and the like.  The films are edited by Compo Beach resident Charles Gelber.  Even Tom and Susan’s Bedford Middle School daughter, Justine Seligson, gets into the act, writing a teens travel column.

The site — designed by Westporter Miggs Burroughs — includes artwork by Elaine Clayton, who also lives in the Compo Beach neighborhood. Even this month’s video focuses on a local travel adventurer, Richard Wiese.

But the success of the magazine reaches far beyond Westport.  Readership continues to grow, with subscribers in 46 states and 41 countries.

“06880”‘s tagline is “Where Westport meets the world.”  FarewellTravels is doing the same.

Strategic Films At Home

After a career spent traveling the globe, Tom Seligson says “it’s a lot more fun to work in Westport.”

The former CBS News film producer has teamed up with his wife — digital, print and broadcast journalist Susan Farewell — and other Westport media types to form Strategic Filmworks. The full-service production company specializes in cinematic-quality films for websites and broadcast media. It targets travel, sports and fitness, medical, architectural and non-profit clients.

One of Strategic Filmworks’ first efforts is “Keeping America’s History Alive.”  Produced for the Westport Historical Society, it weaves together interviews, archival images and jaunty music.  The video’s prominence on the WHS website may lead to heightened interest, new members and– who knows? — a donation or three.

The company’s client roster is broad.  “They’re not all local — although that would be nice,” Seligson notes. “There is definitely a market for this here, and we’re glad to help.”

The WHS video highlights the impact of creative men and women on Westport’s history.  In the digital age, Strategic Frameworks proves a worthy successor to that heritage.

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