Tag Archives: “Westport’s Got It All”

Friday Flashback #180

I’ve written about this before.

But every so often, a reader discovers a 35-year-old video about Westport. And sends it to me, as if I’ve never seen it.

If you lived here in 1985 — as I did — you know it well.

That year, the Marketing Corporation of America gave the town a 150th- anniversary: a 30-minute film.

MCA is no longer around. Westport is no longer the “marketing capital of America.”

But after 3 1/2 decades, “Westport’s Got It All” is the gift that keeps on giving.

The video is filled with celebrities who lived here. Strangely — or, perhaps, understatedly and on purpose — none are named. Jim McKay reads a newspaper by the river. Harry Reasoner sits near a tennis court. Joanne Woodward has a cameo.

ABC's "Wide World of Sports" anchor Jim McKay sits on the banks of the Saugatuck River, in the town he called home.

ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” anchor Jim McKay sits on the banks of the Saugatuck River, in the town he called home.

Okay, so Rodney Dangerfield cracks, “The town of Westport has my respect.” But that’s the closest anyone comes to identifying him or herself.

The video opens with a cheesy, “Westport’s Got It All” song (including the line “Kids hanging out at the Dairy Queen…”). It’s sung by former Westporter Dara Sedaka — Neil’s daughter.

But the pace quickens. There are shots of Main Street, the Playhouse, Staples, Compo, the downtown art show, Longshore, Cockenoe, the Levitt and the Memorial Day parade (ending at Jesup Green).

Most look pretty much the same today. But there are plenty of other places and things that are long gone: Remarkable Book Shop. The White Barn Theater. Mohonk House. Hay Day (in its original location, opposite Carvel). MCA.

And, of course, restaurants: Manero’s, Chez Pierre, Ships, Peppermill, Three Bears, Allen’s Clam House, Connolly’s … and on and on.

I found the voiceovers fascinating. Mason Adams, Alan Parsell, Herb Baldwin, Claire Gold, Julie Belaga, Dick Leonard, Cary Pierce — I recognized the voices of so many former politicians, educators, students and others.

Crusty Yankee Alan Parsell was 83 years old when he was interviewed for the 150th-anniversary video.

Crusty Yankee Alan Parsell was 83 years old when he was interviewed for the 150th-anniversary video.

Here are some of the things they said:

  • “Nothing goes on here that people aren’t concerned about. For every issue, there are at least 10 sides.”
  • “I’m worried the town is losing its mix of a variety of people.”
  • “Westporters have extraordinary aspirations for their children. And they’re willing to pay for it.”
  • “I work 2 jobs, 90 hours a week, to keep my head above water here.”
  • “Westport has the sophistication of New York, the exuberance of a California town, the quaintness of New England — and a sense of humor.”
  • “We do have latchkey children, as more and more parents go off to work.”
George Weigle conducts the Staples Orphenians. They sound great in the video.

George Weigle conducts the Staples Orphenians. They sound great in the video.

  • “It’s a very loving community, in many ways.”
  • “We draw people into town, to go to the theater and movies.”
  • “The Post Road is a disaster. But every town has its Post Road. This one looks better than many.”
  • “Commercialization has really changed this town. It’s been good and bad.”
  • “It’s a generous, gregarious, outgoing town. You can dress any way you like. You can be anyone you want to be. That’s the uniqueness of the community.”

That was Westport, 1985. Thanks to MCA, we’ve got a video record — promotional, but still pretty honest — of who we were.

What’s happened in the past 35 years? Are we better, worse, just different — or the same — as we were back in the days when big cars roamed Main Street, the Church Lane YMCA was still new, and people came from out of town for the movies?

Click on the video below (then wait 10 seconds to begin). Then click “Comments.”

Remembering Jim McManus

In the 1970s and ’80s, Westport was known as “the marketing capital of the world.” An inordinate number of marketing companies was headquartered here.

Perhaps the best known was Marketing Corporation of America. Founded by Jim McManus in 1971, it was a behemoth. It also served as an incubator for other creative marketers, who went on to create their own companies, right here in town.

McManus died last week at his home in Fairfield. He was 84.

Jim McManus

Like many Westport marketers, McManus began his career with Procter & Gamble. He went on to build the first integrated marketing services firm to serve Fortune 50 consumer companies. Between 1971 and 1997 — when it was sold to the Interpublic Group — MCA grew into a $500 million enterprise. Clients included Frito-Lay, IBM, Quaker Oats, Lipton, Procter & Gamble, Lorillard, FedEx, Saab and Dunkin’ Donuts.

McManus’ firm provided strategic consulting, market research, advertising, sales promotion programs and venture capital. It was the model for many marketing companies that followed — in Westport, and around the world.

In 1985, MCA gave the town a gift for our 150th anniversary: a 30-minute video. “Westport’s Got it All” includes cameos by famous local residents: Harry Reasoner. Joanne Woodward. Rodney Dangerfield.

And “ABC’s Wide World of Sports” host Jim McKay — whose real name was also James McManus.

(Services for MCA’s McManus were private. Donations in his name can be made by clicking here. Specify “McManus Center, Kellogg Student Programs.”)

“Welcome To Westport” Video: The Back Story

As the “Welcome to Westport” video continues to rocket around cyberspace — and rack up comments — a bit of background adds some intriguing context.

The film was a group project on “satire” for an Advanced Placement English Language class. While I credited Nick Ribolla for it alone, he wrote and directed it with Jimmy Ray Stagg and Harrison Knapp. It was filmed all in 1 day.

But wait! There’s more!

Part of the inspiration came from a 1985 video called “Westport’s Got It All.” Produced by MCA as a gift for the town’s 150th anniversary, it was a very upbeat ode to the town.

Nick, Jimmy Ray and Harrison subtly satirized the cheesy music, and the opening scene of a man with a newspaper on the banks of the Saugatuck — though I’m sure the Staples juniors have no idea that guy was famed “ABC Wide World of Sports” anchor and Westport resident Jim McKay.

Nick Ribolla (right) channels Jim McKay.

Nick Ribolla (right) channels Jim McKay.

The final line — “Westport’s got it all!” — is a direct ripoff of the 30-year-old video. That’s the mark of great satire: It works for everyone, but it’s especially sweet for those who are in on a deeper joke.

Back in 1985, here’s what Westporters were saying about their town:

  • “I’m worried the town is losing its mix of a variety of people.”
  • “Westporters have extraordinary aspirations for their children. And they’re willing to pay for it.”
  • “Westport has the sophistication of New York, the exuberance of a California town, the quaintness of New England — and a sense of humor.”
  • “We do have latchkey children, as more and more parents go off to work.”
  • “The Post Road is a disaster. But every town has its Post Road. This one looks better than many.”
  • “Commercialization has really changed this town. It’s been good and bad.”

So check out “Westport’s Got It All”:

Then look (again) at “Welcome to Westport” (click here if your browser does not take you directly to YouTube.)

Now tell me Nick, Jimmy Ray and Harrison don’t deserve an A+ for satire.