Thursday, July 07, 2022


Caught in the Headlights: A Deer Outside Martha Stewart’s House

As I drove by Martha Stewarts house tonight, there was a shadowy figure next to her stone wall along Turkey Hill Road South.

As I got closer, my headlights picked up a deer carefully eyeing me as I went by. There was no sign of Ms. Stewart.

Nevertheless, Ms. Stewart has been metaphorically caught in the media headlights for months now ever since the insider trading scandal emerged over her sale of shares of ImClone.

And now it’s about to get worse, thanks to NBC and Cybill Shepherd.

NBC is rushing to finish shooting of a made-for-television movie about Ms. Stewart, starring Ms. Shepherd. The Stewart Westport home plays a central role in the scenes being shot in a studio in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

A story on the MSNBC site says, The care taken in casting extends to nearly every other aspect of the production, especially the decoration for the set of Stewart’s famed Turkey Hill estate in Westport, Conn.

Many fans know the interior of her home as well as they know their own. So the set decorator spent an estimated $100,000 renting and buying antiques to fill the rooms.

The details range from the green Jadeite dinnerware in the cupboards of Stewarts television kitchen to an inexpensive replica of a $40,000 high-back double Queen Anne chair from the 1700s.

Not being as familiar as some with the intricacies of either her kitchen or her home (I was there once for a garden party tour sponsored by the Westport Historical Society), Im not sure whether NBC is duplicating Turkey Hill Road South or her made-for-television kitchen at her studio on Newtown Turnpike just over the town line in Norwalk.

In any case, it will be interesting to see if they attempt to duplicate any Westport exteriors in Nova Scotia as well.

If nothing else, the movie will remind millions of viewers that Westport is still StewartҒs home despite her now infamous New York Times Sunday Magazine article almost three years ago headlined ֓Martha Stewart Leaving.

The NBC project, set for May screening, is based on the biography Martha, Inc. by New York Post business columnist Christopher Byron, who lives in Weston.

Did You Run into Paul Newman at Westport’s McDonald’s?

To hear Tom Indoe, tell it, he and Paul Newman spent a lot of time checking out the salads at Westport’s McDonald’s on Post Road East before launching their latest venture this week.

Indoe is chief operating officer of Newman’s Westport-based Newman’s Own food company and made his remarks in an interview with cable news channel CNBC.

Newman’s Own and McDonald’s on Monday announced an exclusive agreement in which Newman’s Own all-natural salad dressings will be served with McDonald’s new Premium Salads in restaurants nationwide starting March 24.

Asked by the interviewer whether Newman or his company had any hesitation linking up with the fast-food retailer, Indoe said any concerns they had went away after repeated samplings of salads at the Westport McDonald’s.

Details of the alliance are available on the Newman’s Own site.

Background on Indoe and his extensive experience in the food industry (RJR Nabisco and Del Monte) can be found in an interview he gave several years ago to the online marketing journal

It includes such tidbits as the fact that when he arrived at the company, it had no budget, and that Newman had a plaque in his office that read, “If we ever have a plan we’re screwed.”

Q: Id Like to Speak to the Deputy Chief A: Which One?

The Westport Police Department has quietly realigned its ranks. With longtime Chief William Chiarenzelli temporarily sidelined for health reasons, the town has promoted three captains to the rank of deputy chief.

Getting the additional stripes: Don Brown, Al Fiore and David Heinmiller. All are veterans of the department and all are highly regarded law enforcement professionals.

Each will be acting chief on a rotating basis until Chiarenzelli’s return.

Brown is service commander in charge of the detective bureau and records division.

Fiore is support commander in charge of public safety and railroad parking.

Heinmiller is the line commander in charge of patrol units as well as director of the Emergency Medical Service unit.

All are seen as possible successors to the top job some day. The department has not had a deputy chief since John Anastasia retired 14 years ago.

Ganim and Giordano: The Westport Connection

The trials involving indicted mayors of two Connecticut cities Joseph Ganim of Bridgeport and (now former mayor) Philip Giordano of Waterbury ֖ both have Westport connections.

Ganim, now awaiting his fate on federal corruption charges in a New Haven court, made several trips to Westport where some of the activities under investigation occurred, jurors heard.

He dined at the Bridge Caf, where he discussed business deals, and he shopped at Mitchells, where he subsequently demanded cash refunds for several purchases.

Giordano is facing federal charges in a Bridgeport federal court that he arranged sexual meetings by telephone with two girls, ages 9 and 10 at the time, and violated their civil rights.

The Giordano Westport connection involves key players in the courtroom drama.

Giordano’s attorney, Andrew B. Bowman, has his office in Westport (but lives in Fairfield.) And U.S. Senior District Judge Alan H. Nevas is a longtime Westporter who once served as chair of the towns Board of Finance.

Waterbury’s Republican-American newspaper last week did a Westport-datelined profile of Bowman. It described him as the kind of attorney who is as good at researching the law as presenting his case to a jury.

Nevas, who maintains a low profile as a federal judge, is a native of Stamford who practiced law in Westport for many years before becoming a state legislator in 1970.

President Ronald Regan named him U.S. Attorney for Connecticut in 1981 and appointed him a U.S. District Judge in 1985.

One Westporter’s Protest

Wally Meyer plays Santa at Stew Leonard’s during the holiday season. He doesn’t need a lot of makeup and prep because he is a Santa lookalike anyway.

But don’t let the jovial demeanor fool you. Deep down he is a man of strong convictions and resolve.

Wally, who serves on the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) with me, says he has come up with his own personal plan to protest any U.S. attack on Iraq.

He’s submitted a letter to the Westport News for publication and asked friends to pass it along. So here it is:

“When the bombs fall on Bagdhad I shall be in mourning.

“As a combat veteran of Korea, I feel my country has lost its way. Once a beacon of hope for the world, we now have become the symbol of reckless power.

“Once we were the leader of nations striving for peace. Now we stand alone. We accept no advice or counsel from others. We are embarking on a pre-emptive war with little support from our longstanding allies.

“They know that pre-emptive wars are addictive. They fear that pre-emptive war will be to our liking and that we shall act that way again and again.

“When the bombing begins I shall be wearing a black armband to show my grief for the path my country has taken. Please join me and show the sorrow that so many of us feel.

“Wally Meyer
“Westport, CT”

Agree or disagree, you’ve got to admire him for taking a stance.

Commentary: Evacuation Plan for Westport? Difficult at Best

By Gordon Joseloff

According to The Hour, word from Wednesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting is that before the board can vote on any resolution regarding Westchester’s Indian Point nuclear facility, it wants to focus on evacuation plans.

Lets see, with about 26,000 resident Westporters, and thousands more or less who might be in town or passing through on any given day, that would mean almost 400 school buses to carry people out of town.

Or a little more than 100 of your average Boeing 727 passenger jets. How about getting the state to put in an extended runway at Sherwood Island only to be used in times of emergency? Or there’s always our fleet of powerboats and yachts based at local marinas.

Difficult at best, if not impossible. Any child over the age of 3 knows about traffic jams on I-95 or the Merritt. All it takes is one jackknifed tractor-trailer or even a minor fender bender to back things up for hours.

But lets take this one step further. Let’s suppose they devise a plan to have Westporters congregate at school parking lots, Compo Beach, or Sherwood Island, to board buses to somewhere.

Imagine the confusion and clogging of local roads just to get to the assigned evacuation points.

And how many Westporters will say forget about heading to an evacuation point and just point the SUV or Beamer out of here, only to quickly get bogged down in traffic?

The professionals say a more likely event is something called shelter-in-place. This is where the much-derided duct tape and plastic sheeting comes into use.

There are a number of Web resources that go into detail about what this entails and how to be prepared.

While politicians can debate endlessly about various contingencies, the likelihood is that you will be the best protector for yourself and family. Maybe stocking up on duct tape isnt such a bad idea after all.

Little-Known Westport Facts: Courvoisier, Beefeater and Kahula Call Us Home

So if someone asks you what do Courvoisier, Beefeater and Kahlua have to do with Westport, you can now give them the right answer.

These brands, and others, are marketed by Westport-based Allied Domecq Spirits North America, part of Britains Allied Domecq PLC, which also owns Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins.

Update: (In an earlier version of this I had it “Baskin and Robbins,” but Wally Woods gently pointed out I had it wrong. Thanks, Wally.)

Westporter Tom Wilen is the units president. They’re headquartered at 355 Riverside Ave.

Allied Domecq Spirits is on the newswires today for its support of an effort by The Century Council, a Washington, DC-based non-profit funded by Americas leading distillers, to curb the misuse of alcohol on college campuses. The group is headed by former Rep. Susan Molinari.

The group launched Alcohol 101 Plus, an interactive CD-ROM program that it says turns the CD into a virtual campus, that includes a Virtual Bar, an interactive game titled b4udrink, and a Virtual Brain which shows the effect of alcohol on the brain.”

Wilen is quoted as saying: As marketers of beverage alcohol, we have an obligation and commitment to market and sell our products responsibly. Alcohol 101 Plus is one step in that direction.

Westport Suburbia No More

It didnt attract a whole lot of attention, but the U.S. Census Bureau, in its wisdom, has declared Westport an urban area. And here we were blissfully thinking of Westport as suburbia.

It occurred in the spring/summer of 2002. There’s a lengthy explanation on the U.S. Census Bureau Web page of how urban (and rural) areas are defined.

Basically, the Census Bureau classifies as “urban” all territory, population, and housing units located within an urbanized area (UA) or an urban cluster (UC). It delineates UA and UC boundaries to encompass densely settled territory.

This is defined as those core census block groups or blocks that have a population density of at least 1,000 people per square mile and surrounding census blocks that have an overall density of at least 500 people per square mile.

The South Western Regional Planning Agency (SWRPA) has a map of our area on its Web page—the “Bridgeport – Stamford, CT – NY Urbanized Area.”

If you’re not an urban area, according to the Census Bureau, you’re a rural area. And by modifying its definitions between 1990 and 2000, the agency considers Westport officially as urban. So I guess you can say now we’re not a “‘burb,” but a full-fledged “urb.” Thanks, Washington.

Terrorism and Iraq on Westports Agenda

Somehow you wish we could just hunker down in Westport and block out whats happening regarding Iraq and the war on terrorism. But, alas, it’s not to be.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Westport has stepped up local preparedness by purchasing masks and protective suits for our emergency personnel. The town has also purchased and distributed radiation-protecting potassium iodide pills to residents.

And Westport/Weston Health Director Judy Nelson has made plans for mass smallpox vaccinations to take place at the new Bedford Middle School should the need arise.

Now related events are popping up on our political agendas. The Board of Selectmen on March 12 will consider a resolution urging that the Indian Point nuclear facility in Westchester County be shut down.

It asks that the closure continue until deficiencies raised in an independent review of the facilitys emergency preparedness plan are resolved.

First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell told The Hour in Sunday’s edition that she isn’t sure the board will actually vote on the the issue and that it may be referred to the Representative Town Meeting (RTM).

And an Iraq related item is headed to the RTM. A resident has alerted RTM members that their April 1 meeting will include a Sense of the Meeting resolution urging the United States not to act unilaterally on Iraq.

It calls on the Bush Administration to work through the United Nations to achieve a peaceful resolution of the issue.

Of course, by April 1 the petition could be moot. A similar petition was scheduled to be heard by the RTM last fall but was withdrawn when the United States did go to the U.N. Security Council at the time.

Undoubtedly, there will be those who say our local officials ought not to be taking on issues of national and international importance. But there will be just as many who will argue the opposite. After all, this is Westport.

Debate Comes Out of the Closet

First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell’s budget message to the Board of Finance Wednesday night (March 5, 2003) wasn’t the news.

We already knew her town budget and the Board of Ed budget would likely result in a 10 percent plus tax increase.

What was news was that a debate long discussed off the record among elected officials and townspeople alike came into the open unexpectedly in the sparsely attended BOF budget session.

It was the majority Democrats (4) vs the minority Republicans (3) on the town budget. (The voting was different on the ed budget—see below.)

Essentially, the Republicans, led by Rob Graham, argued that these are tough times that call for lean budgets. Reduce headcounts, they said. And do it aggressively.

The Democrats, led by chair Steve Ezzes, said that’s an admirable goal but reduced headcounts mean reduced services.

“Frankly,” he said, “I’m not sure the general population wants us to do that. I’ve not heard that from anyone.”

Bingo. Finally the debate was in the open. Westport is a sought-after community to live in and commands top dollar housing values because people demand—and get—top schools and services, the Democrat seemed to be saying.

And, more importantly, he implied, they are willing to pay for it.

The Republicans seemed stunned to hear their chair publicly espouse such an idea and had no immediate rejoinder. They did try to table the entire town budget, hoping it would be brought back in a reduced form. But that effort failed 3-4 on a strictly partly line vote.

The Republicans then proceeded to vote against almost every line of the town budget, including the fire and police budgets. Only on the library and health district budgets did Republican Rick Benson side with the Democrats, making it a 5-2 approval for those items.

In the end, the board approved both the town and education budgets after voting to hold back some small amounts earmarked for bonding capital projects that they have yet to approve.

On the education budget, the vote was 6-1 with the lone holdout Graham. Members have a chance to restore the cuts next month.

Meanwhile, party lines and fiscal philosophies are a lot more legible for voters to see—at least on the Board of Finance.