May 2014 be your year!
It’s a day of change, one year ends and the new calendar begins and for Java, 2013 was one packed with anniversary celebrations, new babies, power weddings, celebrity visits, new places to eat and old ones that closed and media comings and goings that kept the buzz factor high.
Anniversaries (and the celebratory galas that marked most of them) were the big news as some of the area’s most prominent arts venues and non-profits celebrated noteworthy milestones. Among them, the Goodspeed, CPTV and Hartford Stage marked “gold” with 50th anniversaries. Hartford Symphony Orchestra marked its 70th year while Mercy Housing celebrated its 30th and Infinity Hall (which opens a second location in Hartford in the spring) celebrates its fifth anniversary. When it came to eating, Carbone’s, an iconic landmark in Hartford’s South End marked its 75th anniversary and downtown’s Bin 228 marked 10 years in the business.
Speaking of food, the anxiously awaited Capital Grille arrived in Hartford and Salute’s Jimmy Cosgrove was named restaurateur of the year by the CT Restaurant Association. Manolo Blahnik execs George Malkemus and Anthony Yurgaitis opened their chic Arethusa al Tavolo eatery in Bantam and Chris Prosperi moved his Metro Bis restaurant into the historic 1820 House in Simsbury. Dan Keller and Billy Carbone added to their dining dynasty, opening Sorella across the street from their DISH restaurant in downtown Hartford while West Hartford’s Dorjan Puka, well-known owner/chef, opened a second restaurant, Avert, just around the corner from his TREVA restaurant there.
Gary Santorso of Silo restaurant family fame got back in the business after a brief hiatus, opening his own place, 150 Central in Bristol’s Forestville Center.
Well-known eateries, Rainforest Café at Westfarms Mall and Prospect Café in West Hartford closed, as did Mortensen’s, the family friendly haven on the Berlin Turnpike. Carmen Vacalebre also closed his Carmen Anthony’s Fishhouse on the turnpike.
Wedding bells were loud and impressive with some power couples hooking up during the year. Hartford Public Library’s President/CEO and Hartford Board of Education chairman Matt Poland and Cigna exec Jeff Capelle said “they did” at a ceremony at the Wadsworth Atheneum. The Hartford residence of wedding guests Gov. Dannel P. and Cathy Malloy served as the backdrop for the nuptials of former legislative heavyweight and now deputy OPM secretary for criminal justice, Mike Lawlor and David Zakur, as well as that of former Malloy political advisor Roy Occhiogrosso and Meagan Cowell.
Also saying “I do” in 2013 were FoxCT’s Rachel Frank and Laurie Perez and WTIC 96.5 FM radio’s Damon Scott.
And hours before a new year begins, WTNH personality Teresa LaBarbera plans to tie the knot with Brandon Dufour.
Babies made the news when Dr. William Petit and wife, Christine Petit, welcomed new son William Petit III into the world. WTNH anchor Anne Craig and her husband also welcomed a baby daughter while FoxCT’s Rachel Lutzker and her husband welcomed a new son.
There were lots of comings and goings on radio and TV during the year. Among them, WTNH’s Sonia Baghdady left that station as did Jamie Muro. WFSB’s Olessa Stepanova headed to Boston while former NBC CT/WVIT General Manager Dave Doebler headed to Chicago. WDRC FM’s Jerry Kristafer was shown the door but walked through another at WJMJ. WDRC AM’s Mary Jones retired and WRCH’s Allison Demers also left the business. Veteran radio personalities stepped up. Mary Scanlon joined WRCH and Kim Zachary joined WDRC. WCCC had a bit of a ruckus during the year with a change in music format and an unwilling departure by Mike Picozzi.
The stars hone bright in the area, the biggest and shiniest being Prince Harry’s spring trip to Greenwich where he played polo and hobnobbed with VIP guests at the Greenwich Polo Club. Project Runway’s Mondo Guerra, supermodel Kathy Ireland, sports greats Tim Wakefield and Tony Dorsett, and others including Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Justin Bieber, Jillian Michaels, Tabatha Coffey, Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen King, Jimmie Johnson, Nick Cannon and Steve Carell were all out and about the Hartford area, with some doing special guest shots at Bristol’s ESPN.
Hill-stead Museum’s Sue Sturtevant left the executive director’s job there and was replaced by Susan Ballek. Rob Ruggiero officially took over as producing artistic director at Theaterworks, while at Mark Twain House & Museum, Cindy Lovell took over as the new executive director. At the Bushnell, Mike Fresher left his COO job to take a post in San Antonio.
Connecticut had a couple of ‘beauty and brains’ firsts. West Hartford native Ashley Wilson became the state’s first Playboy centerfold in 2013. Miss Connecticut, accountant and Glastonbury resident Erin Brady was crowned Miss Connecticut and went on to win the Miss USA pageant, a first for a Connecticut contestant. She represented the country at the Miss Universe pageant in Russia a few weeks ago, placing in the top 10 in the international competition.
When it came to reality shows, Connecticut did okay in 2013. The New Haven-based 3 Penny Chorus and Orchestra did the state proud as it advanced on the “America’s Got Talent.” And East Hartford’s Ashlee Feliciano was equally impressive as one of contenders on “American Idol.”
There are no words to sum up the tragic end to 2012 in Connecticut. The shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who then killed himself, is the story that will be etched in everyone’s minds as one year closes and another begins.
And while the tragedy will forever define 2012 for most of us, there were others. And in the case of this column, these were some of the stories that proved most popular in 2012 for those who stopped for a daily dose of Java.
The Break-ups and Hook-Ups
Many were stunned in the spring when WFSB personality Scot Haney and partner, the Bushnell’s Paul Marte parted ways. The two, together for 19 years, were a well-known couple who helped raise awareness and money for many Hartford area organizations in many ways including the coveted dinners at their Canton home.
There was another sad parting of the ways a few weeks later when foodie and NPR personality Faith Middleton and her wife, public relations agent Fern Berman, divorced. The two were married in October, 2002 at Manhattan’s Le Cirque 2000, a wedding that merited space in the New York Times.
One of the happiest hitches in 2012 was the wedding of Dr. William Petit Jr. and professional photographer Christine Paluf. Petit lost his wife and two daughters in a brutal home invasion attack in 2007. He later met Paluf, when she began doing the photo work at benefit events for the Petit Foundation, set up in memory of the family.
Also saying “I do” was former UTC powerhouse, multi-millionaire George David. David, an avid sailor, married girlfriend Wendy Touton in Bermuda after the two and the crew shattered the race record in the New York Yacht Club Race. David you might remember, was a reluctant headline-maker a few years ago when he and former wife, countess Marie Douglas David, tangled quite publicly in a messy and very provocative divorce.
Also saying “I do” were WFSB chief meteorologist DePrest, who married Cheryl McGinnis. And well-known Hartford artists, Tao LaBossiere and Amy Mielke, gave their friends a surprise when they staged a surprise wedding in February at the ArtSpace Gallery
Making the decision to take the trek to the altar is WTNH traffic reporter Teresa LaBarbera, who said “yes” to business owner Brandon Dufour when he asked her to marry him on Thanksgiving Eve. A 2013 wedding is planned.
Media Coming and Goings
It was a sad goodbye to weather icon, Dr. Mel Goldstein. The 66-year-old longtime WTNH meteorologist died 16 years after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma. It was an equally poignant goodbye to longtime sportscaster Arnold Dean, longtime host of WTIC’s “SportsTalk” radio program.
Former WFSB anchor Al Terzi jumped ship and joined Fox CT. The tv veteran serves as an anchor as well as co-hosting the station’s political program, “The Real Story.” Also joining FoxCt was Tom Dudchik, who turned his Capital Report blog into a weekly tv program called “CT Capitol Report.”
At WDRC, it was deliberate goodbye to talk show host Dan Lovallo while at WTIC, Will Marotti, pastor of New Life Church of Meriden, announced his departure from the WTIC radio talk show, “State and Church,” a program he shared with former governor John Rowland.
At NBC Connecticut, news co-anchor and show host Yvonne Nava left after five years to return to Texas to be near family. WTNH weather reporter Erica Grow left her post to head to Washington, D.C.
Openings and Closings
The Grist Mill and the Millrace Book Store in Farmington unfortunately closed in 2012. Miss Porter’s School purchased the historic mill on the Farmington River for its own purposes, forcing the book store to close and the relocation of The Grist Mill to the former Carmen Anthony’s space in Avon.
Also closing in 2012 was famous Farmington restaurant and party spot, Murphy & Scarletti’s.
The news was good when Hartford welcomed its Spotlight Theatres and the accompanying Front Street Bistro in the emerging Front Street Entertainment district. It also became official that the famed Capital Grille steakhouse would be opening a location in Hartford in 2013.
Former “Chopped” tv reality show star , Tyler Anderson, a star in his own right at Copper Beech Inn, finally opened his own place, Millwright’s, in Simsbury. In the meantime, famed chef Noel Jones called it quits at On20 in Hartford and moved on to Anderson’s spot at the Ivoryton Inn and its Brasserie Pip.
The People And The Events
The Hartford area said goodbye to Mark Twain House & Museum’s Jeffrey Nichols, who left his executive director job in Hartford to take a similar position at Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson’s historic plantation retreat in Virginia . Hill-stead Museum’s Sue Sturtevant, credited with initiating several new programs there, stepped down. At TheaterWorks in Hartford, artistic director Steve Campo resigned and Rob Ruggiero was named producing artistic director of the downtown Hartford theater. The theater also gained some pleasant notoriety when Mark Twain House & Museum’s Jacques Lamarre, premiered his play “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti” there.
R.J. Julia’s Roxanne Coady had the coup of the season when she lured “Fifty Shades of Grey” author, E.L. James (Erika Leonard) to come to Connecticut to talk about her naughty and record-setting “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy. More than 1,000 people, mostly women, dashed to the
Omni Hotel in New Haven to listen to the saucy English author talk about her very steamy books featuring the rich and experienced main character, Christian Grey. The story line, interestingly enough, includes a mention of the Paier School of Art in Hamden, chosen for inclusion by James because a friend of hers once attended classes there.
Parties and Stars
Connecticut had more than its fair share of celebs coming to town including former President Bill Clinton, who was the guest speaker at the Ct. Forum’s 20th anniversary program. Actress/singer Vanessa Williams and her mother, Helen, graced the Amistad Center’s anniversary luncheon, singer/songwriter Jason Mraz pitched in at a clean-up at Burns School, actress and author, Meredith Baxter, spoke at the Mandell Jewish Community Center’s “An Evening of Thriver Spirit” program while Archie Manning talked football, fatherhood and famous sons at the “YMCA Celebrates Champions” dinner. Author, blogger and syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington was the draw at the Hartford Public Library’s One Big Summer Night. ESPN in Bristol hosted a stellar list of A-list celeb visitors including actors Billy Crystal, Liam Neeson, Dax Shepard and celebrity chef, Emeril Lagasse.
The Mark Twain House welcomed actor Hal Holbrook, renaming its Great Hall in honor the veteran showman and Mark Twain impersonator, authors R.L. Stine, Sandra Brown and Steve Berry , and reality show stars, The Fabulous Beekman Boys to events and parties there.
The parties never ended in Hartford starting with Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra’s inaugural ball. The Goodspeed welcomed “The Good Wife” actor and Broadway star Alan Cumming and Hartford Hospital’s Black and Red ball featured singer Chris Botti. Hartford Stage’s then-new artistic director Darko Tresnjak showed he had what it takes when it came to throwing a wowsa soiree that include trapeze artists at the stage’s annual “Party in the Paint Shop.” The Gay and Lesbian Health Collective moved its annual “One Big Event” fundraiser over to the Connecticut Convention Center to accommodate a larger crowd. The CT AIDS Resource Coalition also need more space, moving its annual Oscar Night Hartford party over to Real Art Ways in 2012.
Richard Graziano, who heads FOX CT and the Hartford Courant, was named the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Humanitarian of the Year. Steve Abrams, Ryan Jones and Linda Sample were honored by the Ct Restaurant Association. Connecticut Democrat, Fourth District Congressman Jim Himes made the Hill’s “50 Most Beautiful People” list and Christian Kim, a 26-year-old Yale master’s student and professional violinist was named to Cosmo’s “Bachelors 2012” list.