Greenwich Gossip

Friday, August 31, 2007

In Which Your Scribe Meets Princess Olga..., all of just a few minutes ago. Still hyperventilating, he hastens to share the gladsome news with all and sundry.

It seemed like just another ordinary Friday here in Greenwich. Your scribe was sitting at a computer terminal in the library wondering what he should blog about today when he noticed a young woman asking for information at the reference desk. Something about her looked vaguely familiar, but from a distance it was hard to pin down.

Then the young person walked over to the staircase and started to ascend. The long blonde hair and the slim denim-clad legs set more bells a-ringing. By the time she was halfway up the staircase the penny had dropped: it was Princess Olga in person!

What was a scribe to do? Duty was clearly calling, and so he answered. He, too, climbed the curving Cesar Pelli staircase, and looked around. Olga was nowhere to be seen. She was not among the long rows of music CDs, nor wandering in the art gallery, nor looking over the shelves of DVDs, nor browsing the fiction stacks. For a moment your scribe thought she had simply vanished out of his life.

But then his eye caught a glimpse of her yellow shirt over at one of the on-line catalogues. He walked over, wondering what to say, his usual eloquence inexplicably AWOL. "Are you Olga?...Olga Litvinenko?" he stammered. "Yes," she replied, with a megawatt smile, and held out her hand to shake. "I blog about you," muttered your tongue-tied scribe; "I nominated you for Queen of Greenwich." She seemed to take this slightly off-the-wall statement in stride. Her poised and unaffected manner had a calming influence, and your scribe managed to carry on a actual conversation for a few minutes, asking about her college plans (California, here she comes!).

Having by then all but used up his dwindling reserves of intestinal fortitude, your scribe allowed as how it was nice to meet her, and bade her farewell while he was still able to walk without tripping over his own feet. He wishes to report that Olga's pictures do not begin to do her justice, as they fail to capture her warm and open personality, and her kindness in taking a few moments to chat with a total stranger.

What is it that Sir Alexander Fleming said about chance favoring the prepared mind, by way of describing his discovery of penicillin? Well, he was pretty much right on the mark. Slow of wit though your scribe may be, he was able to muddle through and recognize Princess Olga when opportunity knocked.

So much for the mind. But the hand - well, that's another matter. What hand, do you ask, gentle reader? The hand that shook the hand of Princess Olga, of course. Your scribe may never wash his hand again....

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

It's a Dog's Life

Your scribe, ever eager to pass on the latest hard news from good ol' Greenwich, wants to be sure everyone knows that the biggest single living legatee of Leona Helmsley's estate was her dog, Trouble.

$12,000,000 was Trouble's cut. That's a lot of dog biscuits, for sure. Oh, and as for Leona's human heirs, some got $5,000,000, and some got none.

Your scribe wonders if Trouble gets to keep the house, too...surely Leona would have wanted her to be kept in the style to which she was accustomed, no?


Saturday, August 25, 2007


Well, the tumult and the shouting dies; the captains and the kings depart; still echo all the scribal sighs; but Olga's Queen of our Town's heart....

Alas, dear reader, the judges in Pasadena appear to have grievously misjudged, but the results are in, and our Olga did not win. What shall we say to these tidings? "Better luck next time" doesn't cut it; "for she's a jolly good fellow" seems a bit off; "atta girl" is a little better; "you go, girl!" is better yet.

Maybe we should all be glad, deep down, that Princess Olga will be allowed to spend her senior year at Greenwich High School unencumbered by all the glitz and glitter of pageant-winner publicity and stray paparazzi dogging her every step. She'll probably accomplish far more without the necessity of making public appearances hither and yon, and concentrating on the things that matter to her. And frankly (though your scribe hates to admit it), her chances of getting into an Ivy League school are probably enhanced by not having won. I mean, who wants to explain to their freshman colleagues at Harvard or Brown what that rhinestone tiara is all about?

So let us all be quick to welcome Olga home, and breathe an inward sigh of relief that she (and we) will be spared the news cameras and popping flashbulbs. As far as your scribe is concerned, she was a winner before she headed off to Pasadena, and she still is.


Addendum: August 28th

Your scribe thought these links might be of interest:

Miss Teen USA contestant re-answers question

Miss Teen USA 2007 - South Carolina answers a question

This was Olga's competition?! (Sounds of scribal sighs...)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Princess Olga Prepares to Ascend the Throne

Yes, folks, tonight's the night! Tune in to NBC at 9 pm EDT to watch our own home-grown Princess Olga vie for the crown of Miss Teen America.
With the recent passing of Leona Helmsley, Greenwich is temporarily without a resident Queen. All in favor of elevating Princess Olga to the rank of Queen of Greenwich, raise your hands. (We're nothing if not democratic in this Town, even when it comes to electing our Queen!)
If - or rather, when - Olga wins, your scribe will put forth a charter amendment proposal changing Greenwich into a consitutional monarchy, thereby abolishing the post of First Selectman, and turning the reins of power over to the young people of this Town, who can certainly do no worse - and probably a great deal better - at running this place than the politicians have done.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Queen of Mean Is No More

No, gentle reader, do not jump to the conclusion that Leona Helmsley has reformed her character and become Little Miss Sunshine. Rather, she has shuffled off this mortal coil, and is no doubt having a heart-to-heart chat with St. Peter at this very moment. It would be interesting to be a fly on a nearby cloud listening to this conversation, but such is not permitted to mortal ears. And flies are mortal, too; as the Psalmist put it in his elegant mixed metaphor, all flesh is grass. (David obviously never played "Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral".)

She died here in Greenwich, at the age of 87. Your scribe is certain that she will have a roaring send-off from the community, for she was not ungenerous around Town. The Helmsley Wing of the Greenwich Hospital is now the main entrance, having replaced the historic Benedict Building which was torn down to make room for the new construction. Your faithful reporter well remembers the day the new wing was dedicated, when for perhaps the first and only time a pet dog was allowed into the hospital. The dog, of course, was Trouble; but she spent most of her time in Leona's arms and did nothing to live up to her name.

If the radio report is correct, however, Ms. Helmsley did not die at the hospital but at her estate on Round Hill Road. As is well known locally, this property, formerly known as the Topping Estate, has had a long and unhappy history. Some say it bears a curse. Certainly none of the owners has lived a quiet and happy life: one was murdered by his wife (OK, she claimed she was shooting an intruder, but people continued to wonder); various divorces and forced sales have diminished the original acreage; and of course Leona herself did hard time for tax evasion.

Nonetheless, she has enriched the language with her pithy apothegm: "We [the super-rich] don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes." Even though she was called to account by the IRS for business-expensing every nickel she spent on her house and her wardrobe, your scribe feels we are all in Leona's debt for her astute summing-up of the Way Things Work in America. Maybe if she'd been a little nicer to people, she could have gotten away with it like everyone else she knew.

Local lore loves to recount the Tale of the Disappearing Driveway. Tight as a tick, Leona habitually stiffed the tradesmen in the grand tradition of an English nobleman of the old school. Your scribe heard the story straight from the pavior himself of the new driveway that was put in, but never paid for. One day, said pavior arrived with his crew at the mansion and began to tear up the driveway. Leona's secretary came running out of the house, screaming and caterwauling and demanding an immediate cessation to the outrage. The pavior calmly presented his bill (for the umpteenth time), and was told he would get a check immediately.

Not good enough, he said. Cash or certified bank check only. The minion screeched, and the paving crew kept digging up the pavement. Finally, the pavior was handed a bank check, and he told his men to stop work. They got into their trucks and started to drive off. "Wait!" shouted the secretary. "Aren't you going to fix this mess?"

"That will cost extra," replied the pavior, as he and his men rode off into the sunset. To this day, he is probably the only person in the Town of Greenwich who actually got the better of Leona Helmsley.

Well, having seen Leona only in her public persona as generous philanthropist. your scribe doesn't know what he would do if he were in St. Peter's place. On the one hand, Leona made a lot of people miserable, and broke the laws of the United States. On the other, she paid her debt to society, got bitten back in karmic fashion by the pavior, made it into Bartlett's, and significantly improved and enlarged Greenwich Hospital. Oh, yes, and she was kind to her small dog, Trouble.

Maybe that last bit will weigh in her favor at the Last Trumpet.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tony Blair Comes to Town

And what did the former Prime Minister of Great Britain do when he came to Greenwich Avenue? He shopped, of course.

Ah, dear reader, where did he shop, I hear you ask? So glad you inquired. Did Mr. Blair visit the ubiquitous chain stores that are ruining both our Town and so many towns in Great Britain? No, indeedy; he went to one of our oldest and finest family-owned stores, Richards, where he is reported to have looked for a new suit.

One of the nice things about Richards is that they keep your vital stats on file. Your scribe fondly remembers walking into the former store across the street and having salesman Edgar coming up to greet him with a smile. "What can we do for you today, Mr. Clark? A pair of gray flannels? Of course. Are you still a 32 waist?"

(Brief pause while your scribe reminisces about the days when he used to have a 32-inch waist.)

You get the point, dear reader: the level of personal service at Richards is unexcelled by any other store here in Greenwich, with the possible exception of Betteridge's, where the service is equally outstanding, and Terry himself probably remembers everybody's ring size. (Your scribe once shopped for a drop-dead engagement ring there, and Terry to this day remembers how he had to size it down for the drop-dead young lady in question.)

So Mr. Blair is now in the Richards database, and if he wants another suit all he has to do is call his host for the day, Scott Mitchell, who will undoubtedly see to it personally. Who says the best bespoke tailors are in Jermyn Street and Saville Row? As Mr. Blair can now attest, Greenwich Avenue is right up there, too.

Scott, ever the perfect host, ordered in lunch for the Blairs and their six-car entourage. The menu was turkey pastrami and chicken fingers from Bruckner's Good to Go on Grigg Street, just across from Richards (Scott himself eats there every day). You gotta love it, dear reader: last Saturday was a home run for the family-owned businesses of downtown Greenwich, and by extension a slap in the face for the cookie-cutter chain stores and restaurants that have become such an unfortunate part of the local streetscape.

By the way, if you have never been to Brucker's Good to Go, you are in for a treat. The food is all fresh and homemade, healthy and tasty, and it's one of those places where you have trouble making up your mind because you want to have one of everything. Your scribe saw Skip Bruckner making a delivery on Greenwich Avenue just an hour ago, and congratulated him on the good publicity. "Bill," he said earnestly, "don't ever call my restaurant a deli." Your scribe said he never had and never would, wondering what had brought that comment on. But then he looked at the Local Rag, aka the Yellowwich Time (their motto, of course, is "All the News That's Unfit to Print") and saw what Skip meant. The LR referred to the restaurant by the d-word no fewer than three times. Utterly typical of their lack of accuracy and sensitivity. If it weren't for the comics and the horoscopes, no one would bother to read the wretched tabloid.

Well, dear reader, as your scribe has said before, there's always something of interest going on in this Town. Had you been in Richards the other day, you would have found the affable Mr. Blair chatting with all and sundry, and probably have been invited to share a chicken finger or two. Ah, yes, just another day on Greenwich Avenue....

Monday, August 13, 2007

Princess Olga Update

Here's another picture for our scrapbooks. This one was taken by the talented Amy Mortensen of the Greenwich Citizen. Click, as always, for the wide-screen view.
According to the article that accompanied Amy's pic, Olga and her mother left yesterday for Pasadena to attend the pageant festivities. Remember to tune in to NBC at 9 pm on August 24th for the finals!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Most Unpopular Town Employee: Betty Sternberg

Every day the Local Rag runs an online poll for those with nothing better to do. Thursday's question asked us to rate the Superintendent of Schools, Betty Sternberg. And Friday's issue published the results:

F - 66%
D - 11%
C - 7%
B - 8%
A- 5%
Incomplete - 3%

Well, that's pretty clear. Your scribe, unfortunately, forgot to vote; otherwise the F's would have been 67%.

Why is it, dear reader, that Greenwich - which should have the best top-level employees on its payroll - always seems to wind up with the worst? We had Petey Robbins and then Jimmy Walters as two of the most unpopular and untrustworthy chiefs of police ever; we had Bob Morgan as comptroller, who when fired for incompetence turned around and sued the Town (successfully) for millions; we have Mario "I'll get back to you" Gonzales at the library [ed. note: he never does, of which and of whom more anon]; and we used to have Larry Leverett as schools superintendent, whose inability to speak an English sentence was legendary.

Your scribe was therefore prepared to look on Betty Sternberg as a breath of fresh air. But having heard her attempt to speak publicly on several occasions, he can attest that she, too, is utterly appalling. What kind of message do we send our young people when we hire bozos to be in charge of their education?

It's not that we don't have talent within the ranks of our Town educators - we have a huge abundance of it! Mike Bacheller, one of the most popular teachers ever (he made his students sweat for their knowledge, and they loved him for it), would have made a superb top administrator, because he understood the process and the people so well. But no - the Board of Education in its wisdom - or, quite obviously, lack thereof - keeps going outside the system to bring us clown after clown, jerk after jerk, dummy after dummy. Why, dear reader? Why?

Your scribe thinks that this Town has some kind of death wish when it comes to hiring key administrators. Much of the responsibility lies with the various boards - the library board, the schools board, the finance board - but a lot of it has to rest with the Board of Selectmen as well, since they either initiate or sign off on each top appointment. One supposes that by spreading the responsibility among various boards and groups, the blame is also spread around; but the results to date have been pretty unsatisfactory, to say the least. When are we going to get some accountability for the abysmal hiring record of this Town?

It's a little like what your scribe has said here before: if you want to commit a murder, or steal millions, come to Greenwich - the safest place on earth to get away with it. And if you want to screw up royally and then wind up soaking the Town for big bucks (the unspeakable thief and habitual liar Inga Boudreau comes to mind), well, then, look no further than good ol' Greenwich, Connecticut.

Do you suppose the Board of Ed will do anything about Betty Sternberg, dear reader? Or will they simply circle the wagons around her and pretend that she is utterly brilliant, and it is the rest of the Town who are the nincompoops?

(Your scribe thinks that he already knows the answer, alas.)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Up and Down Greenwich Avenue

Today the humidity has broken, and glorious high-summer weather has returned - mid-80s, sunny with fluffy clouds, dry air, and a general zing in the overall atmospheric ambience that makes one glad to be alive.

Thus your scribe found himself perambulating along Greenwich Avenue this morning, where as usual change is the only constant. The movie set at Gaia restaurant that was abuzz yesterday with Robin Williams and John Travolta and dolly grips and best boys is all but deserted today. Speaking of movies, the marquee at the Clearview Cinema informs us that they will be closed as of August 27th after many decades of service to film buffs here in Town. And across the street, the long-time locally-owned shop Wendy's Closet has already shut its doors for good. The rate of vacancies on the main drag is cascading out of control. Will Greenwich become a ghost town?

As your scribe was pondering these things at 11:10 this morning, a droning sound from on high caused him to lift his eyes to the heavens. There he saw an appropriately melancholy sight: a wing of six World War II fighters, passing slowly overhead in the Missing Man formation. What's up with that, dear reader? Who in heaven's name still has that many P51 Mustangs in flyable condition, let alone the pilots to fly them? And what were they doing overflying Greenwich Avenue on this lovely day?

Perhaps Scott Frantz would know...he's an aviation buff and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bradley International Airport up in Windsor Locks. (Who knew, by the way, that airports have directors and chairmen?) Scott was the host, as you may recall, for the President's fund-raising trip to Greenwich last fall that netted half a million or so. He also recently flew a group of Boys & Girls Club kids down to Washington, DC in his Cessna Citation to take them on a visit to the Air and Space Museum. Talk about style - Scott practically defines the term.

So Scott, if you happen to read these words, your humble scribe would love to know more about the Missing Man overflight this morning. It looked as though the wing was heading to HPN (that's Westchester County Airport for you non-aviation buffs), and they may not have been P51's - they were several thousand feet up, and some of us were not trained as aircraft spotters - but that's the general synopsis of what your scribe observed this morning.

As said before, life in this Town is an ever-changing tapestry...there's always something new and different for those who keep their eyes open.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

School Days, School Days...

You Passed High School with an A+

You have the brains of a high school graduate... at least!

Another quiz from Miss Vicki. Your turn, gentle reader!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Princess Olga, Part III

Curious as always, your scribe decided to google Ms. Litvinenko to see what else he could learn. Turns out there's a website that is wobbly enough so that your scribe decided against providing a hot link to it - after all, we don't want to crash it!

And wobbly is what your scribe's knees became at the photo posted thereon:

One wonders how long before the Hollywood talent scouts start hanging around Greenwich High School when they discover this publicity shot. Geez, folks, we haven't had a real live home-grown movie star in this Town since Glen Close made it big in The Big Chill. Your scribe well remembers piling into various cars for the 1983 sneak preview screening and after-parties with which her friends in Town celebrated the momentous occasion. Woo-hoo!!

Glen is related, BTW, to Brooke Shields and Dina Merrill. Must be something in the genes.

Anyhow, it's been almost 25 years since then. Kudos, of course, to Olympians Dorothy Hamill and Sue Merz for keeping the flame alive, as it were. But it's now time for another local celebrity - a native one, not just the multitude of famous faces who move here after winning fame and fortune elsewhere (although they are - for the most part - welcome, too). And so your scribe hereby nominates Princess Olga for the role of Greenwich's next locally-bred celebrity. A product of Parkway Elementary, Western Middle, and of course Greenwich High, Olga is clearly Our Town at its best.

Must be something in the, genes.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Princess Olga Update

(Photo by Bob Luckey Jr., Greenwich Time, 8/1/07)

Thankfully, the Local Rag (aka the Yellowwich Time) is not the only news publication in our fair Town. The Greenwich Citizen, heir to a string of weekly papers that goes back several decades, is a welcome counterpoise for those of us who would like to know what's really going on, as opposed to the slanted and jaundiced (pun intended) output of the LR.

Case in point: the Citizen also recently ran an article on Olga Litvinenko, Miss Connecticut Teen USA who will be going to Pasadena for the finals on August 24. And this article actually told us much more of the full story on who this remarkable young woman is.

Your scribe found it sufficiently interesting that he thought he would do an update for his gentle readership. Olga's family emigrated from Kiev, in order to escape the toxic aftereffects of the Chernobyl disaster. Here in Greenwich, her list of activities and accomplishments already reads like a Who's Who listing - and she's only 17!

Here's what the Citizen mentioned: "student government, concert choir [see your scribe's earlier reviews of this outstanding choral group], track, cheerleading, basketball, yearbook staff, honors student, and LINK - a service club that raises money for the community."

But wait - there's more! Olga recently returned from Mexico where she helped to build a house under the auspices of Habitat for Humanity. In her "spare" time (ha, ha) she does volunteer work for the Red Cross, Make-a-Wish Foundation, and the Boys & Girls Club.

And in what the Citizen calls her "free time", she "enjoys tennis, reading, writing, horseback riding, dancing and singing." Kinda leaves one breathless, doesn't it?

So let's all tune in to NBC at 9 pm on August 24 to cheer for Olga. Clearly this young lady is a winner, and one can only hope that the judges have the wit and wisdom to recognize this fact.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Vocabulary Test

It's hot out today, so I'll just post a link I found at Vicki's blog. Give it a shot, and stay cool!

Your Vocabulary Score: A+

Congratulations on your multifarious vocabulary!You must be quite an erudite person.

(The above was posted on Thursday, August 2, but because I saved the vocab quiz HTML yesterday, it appears as though the post itself was written yesterday. Does anybody know if there's a way to modify the publication date to relect the actual date of posting?)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Finally! An Issue of the Local Rag Worth, Reading

Yes, dear reader, today's Local Rag, aka the Yellowwich Time, has *finally* come up with a front page that 1) has some news worth knowing, and 2) has outstanding visual appeal. To see what your scribe means, click on the link below:

Miss Connecticut Teen USA Olga Litvinenko has her crown adjusted by her mother, Tamara Litvinenko, in their Byram home yesterday. (Bob Luckey Jr./Staff photo)

Who knew? A Miss Teen USA contender from little ol' Greenwich? And one who represents immigrants to boot? What a great story!

Turns out Miss Connecticut Teen USA came here from the Ukraine 14 years ago, at the tender age of 3. Bilingual in English and Russian, Olga will be entering her senior year at Greenwich High School (Go Big Red!) in a month or so. But not before she heads out to Pasadena, CA, for the pageant finals.

"Being an immigrant, [I] had to have the attitude of, 'You can do this.' I want to show other girls that you can." Your scribe thinks that with that kind of spunk, as well as her Honor Roll brains and self-evident comeliness, Olga has an excellent shot at taking the top spot. Stay tuned for further details!