Events

By Rita J. Egan

On April 19, residents joined Stony Brook Village Center President Gloria Rocchio, Chairman Dr. Richard Rugen, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Three Village Chamber of Commerce President Andrew Polan in welcoming five new businesses to the center.

The grand opening and ribbon cutting stroll included gift and clothing store Madison’s Niche, Camera Concepts & Telescope Solutions, interior design business Cervo Design, Village Florist and Events and Sweet Mama’s Family Restaurant. Before and after the ribbon cuttings, attendees had the opportunity to stroll through each establishment, and enjoyed refreshments at Cervo Design and Sweet Mama’s.

Burton Gilliam, center, in a scene from ‘Blazing Saddles’
Burton Gilliam set to host special screening of 1974 classic 

By Kevin Redding

Harrumph harrumph harrumph. On Saturday, April 28, the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington invites one and all back to Rock Ridge circa 1874 for a screening of the groundbreaking, controversial and hysterical “Blazing Saddles” more than 44 years after its original release, featuring a very special appearance from one of its stars.  

It was February 1973 when Burton Gilliam, a Dallas, Texas, firefighter of 14 years and a Golden Gloves champion boxer during his time in the Coast Guard, got a phone call from a fast-talking “little ball of energy” from Hollywood he’d never heard of named Mel Brooks. 

Brooks, best known at the time as a staff writer on the Sid Caesar-led variety program “Your Show of Shows,” the co-creator of “Get Smart” and the writer-director of the 1968 film “The Producers,” was offering Gilliam the role of a cowboy in his upcoming film, a then-untitled Western-themed comedy. Gilliam laughed and thanked “Mr. Brooks” before hanging up. 

Just one of his buddies at the fire station putting him on, he thought. “‘Cuz that’s what firemen do to each other,” Gilliam, 79, recalled, laughing.

Months prior, Gilliam, who was 35 at the time, had responded on a whim to an ad in the Dallas newspaper about a local casting call for extras in director Peter Bogdanovich’s film “Paper Moon,” starring Ryan and Tatum O’Neal. 

Despite having no acting experience, Gilliam showed up with his big old grin and even bigger Texan exuberance. Over the course of a few weeks, he beat out hundreds of people in the audition process and impressed Bogdanovich enough to be given a small speaking part as a desk clerk named Floyd. After filming in St. Joseph, Missouri, wrapped, he returned to Dallas and his job at the fire department, looking forward to the June release of the film and thankful for his brush with movie stardom. 

But that phone rang again 10 minutes after he hung up and it was Brooks once more, explaining that he had seen a rough cut of “Paper Moon” and wanted Gilliam to meet with him to play this part. Gilliam was hesitant to abandon his job and $12,000 a year salary to go to Los Angeles and commit to the film. He wound up meeting with Brooks and producers three times before finally agreeing to come aboard.

“I remember that first time I met [Mel] — this little guy jumped over a desk and ran over to me and jumped into my arms, pushing me against the wall,” Gilliam said. “He was like a koala bear. I had no other thought but to like him. He was so open and funny.”

Between Gilliam’s first and third trip to Hollywood, Brooks and his team expanded his once-tiny role as Lyle, a dim-witted and callous antagonist to the film’s hero Sheriff Bart (played by Cleavon Little), into a much heftier one that sets the stage for the entire film (“What about ‘De Camptown Ladies’?”). 

He received a call of persuasion from Richard Pryor, one of “Blazing Saddles’” many writers, and Brooks promised to pay him his yearly salary at the fire department in the three weeks he’d be filming for, plus overtime.

Burton Gilliam and Slim Pickens

“About four weeks later, I quit the fire department,” said Gilliam, one of 10 members of his family to serve as a fireman. “I was the only one that ever quit. And after I did, everyone came out of the woodwork to tell me how crazy I was. But I went to Hollywood and stayed for 23 years! And what a great 23 years it was.”

Since appearing in Brooks’ 1974 classic, Gilliam has acted in more than 50 films and television shows, including “Fletch” starring Chevy Chase, “Back to the Future Part III,” “Honeymoon in Vegas” with Nicolas Cage, and episodes of “Mama’s Family,” “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “Knight Rider” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.” He has also appeared in countless commercials and has even lent his instantly recognizable voice to video games. 

“To me, the most rewarding part has been meeting the people working behind the scenes — the makeup people, the wardrobe, lighting, sound departments,” Gilliam said. “They were all so good to me.”

When he isn’t in front of the camera, Gilliam has become a staple at various charities across the country. 

Through it all, the actor said he never gets tired of answering questions about, and quoting lines from, the movie that made him famous. Although, he admits he never would’ve guessed “Blazing Saddles” would remain so popular and beloved nearly 50 years later, especially one that very clearly could never be made today.

“It’s really a mystery almost that something like this can last this long, and it’s going to last a lot longer,” Gilliam said. “And Mel Brooks is as surprised as anybody that it’s lasted this long. I don’t know what to make of the whole thing. When we did the picture, Mel always said the people at Warner Brothers gave him $3 million and told him to go have a good time. And that’s it right there … it’s something that had never been done before, saying those words and doing those things we did and getting away with it.”

Burton Gilliam as Lyle, right, in a scene from ‘Blazing Saddles’ with Slim Pickens as Taggart

The film, of course, about the arrival of a black sheriff in an over-the-top racist town, is a raunchy (it’s the first film to feature a flatulence scene!), chaotic, uproarious, surreal, wholly politically incorrect and brilliant satire of the western film genre and a no-holds-barred takedown of racism and prejudices. 

In the opening of the film, Gilliam’s character Lyle, joined by his gang of thuggish cowboys, orders a group of black members of a railroad crew, led by Little, to sing a song while they work, saying “When you was slaves, you sang like birds.” Lyle expounds a series of racist comments here, including the N-word, which he recalls made him uncomfortable while filming the scene on set. 

“It was the second week I was there and I had to say those words to about 25 black guys, saying these things that had never been spoken before in movies and that was a bit hard,” Gilliam said. “So after we were on the scene for probably 25 minutes, they were switching cameras for somebody’s close-up, and Cleavon said, ‘Hey let’s take a walk.’ He told me, ‘Listen, I know you’re having a little bit of trouble saying these things but this is a movie and we’re having fun. Be comfortable and call me anything you want to … it’s okay, this is all fun…”

But, Gilliam said, Little warned him, “After they say ‘Cut!,’ if you call me that, we’re gonna go to fist city.’”

Cinema Arts Centre co-director Dylan Skolnick said he considers “Blazing Saddles” one of the funniest movies ever made, and remembers seeing it in theaters when it came out. While it’s been shown at the theater several times, he said he’s excited to have Gilliam emcee the screening.

“Burton’s one of those guys — his name’s not necessarily famous, but when you see him, since he’s been in a lot of movies and things as a character actor, it’s like, ‘Oh! That guy! I love that guy!’” Skolnick said. “It was great to be able to build an event around somebody like him, where he can be the star for the evening … It’s such an iconic movie and he has a crucial scene in one of the most famous moments.”

Gilliam said he’s looking forward to meeting and talking with the fans, and reminiscing about the making of the movie. “I enjoy those things because I get to talk a lot,” Gilliam said, laughing. “And I always get new questions; I have to be on my toes a little bit and I like that.”

As part of its Cult Cafe series, The Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington will present a special screening of “Blazing Saddles” on April 28 at 9:45 p.m. with a Q&A with Burton “Lyle” Gilliam. Tickets are $15 per person, $12 members. To order, call 631-423-7611 or visit www.cinemaartscentre.org.

Photos courtesy of Bobby Bank 

Lori Presser, on left, will take over from Carol Moor, on right, as the new Invited In soup kitchen director at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rocky Point. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

After 27 years directing the Invited In soup kitchen, a program she helped create, Carol Moor feels she has reached the point to step down, yet it would be impossible for her to step out.

Every Thursday in the parish hall behind the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rocky Point, Moor and a number of volunteers help feed close to 60 hungry mouths. Moor has overseen the kitchen through more than 75,000 total meals. She has worked to secure grants and donations so that the program can continue helping those in need.

“I thought maybe it was time to find a successor,” Moor said. “I’m still going to be involved, but I won’t be in charge. It would be impossible for me to step away completely — this has been my life.”

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker, on left, and the Rev. Bruce Kaifler, on right, honor Carol Moor, at center, following her decision to step down as director of Invited In soup kitchen at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rocky Point. Photo from Suffolk County

Invited In feeds people of low income and of all ages, as well as senior citizens who use the meal as a means of interacting with others when they normally don’t have the means to do so.

“I feel wonderful,” Moor said of the work she does. “To me it’s such a joy to be able to do this, and I’m very touched by the response of the guests.”

The volunteers have seen the project grow from the small kitchen and dining space of the old parish hall to a new renovated space with a larger kitchen and more elegant setup. The soup kitchen now boasts a rotating staff of close to 50 volunteers, who often include children from local schools helping set the tables before service begins.

“She truly has helped shape the identity of Trinity in terms of compassionate care for people in need,” said the Rev. Bruce Kaifler, a pastor at the church. “She has led with such compassion that it has set the tone for what is outreach for the church. That is what has lent itself to the long-term success of the program.”

Moor’s replacement, Lori Presser, has been with the soup kitchen for five years and said she’s excited to take the reins.

The former director’s “biggest strength is she can understand what everybody needs,” Presser said of Moor. “You can’t imagine the wealth of knowledge that Carol has in here — its connections, it’s the way she treats people, it’s her organizational skills, it’s everything.”

“She truly has helped shape the identity of Trinity in terms of compassionate care for people in need.”

— Rev. Bruce Kaifler

Moor said she believes Presser will help take the program into the future.

“She’s really, really capable, she’s already brought new ideas and new energy,” Moor said. “When you’ve done something for this long you kind of let it keep going the way it is — it needs growth and change because the world changes.”

Kaifler said Presser’s transition will be easy.

“She was thoughtfully considered and elected,” he said. “She has shown to be such a beautiful continuation of Carol’s primary principles of kindness, compassion and respect.”

Invited In tries to maintain its inviting atmosphere not just in ambiance but in the food that’s served, keeping the meals whole, hearty and traditional. Recently the soup kitchen served beef enchilada casserole. It was a slight deviation from the usual chicken, pasta or meatloaf.

“These are hot meals, and there are not a lot of organizations that provide hot meals,” said Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who honored Moor with a proclamation for her nearly three decades of service. “Carol has just been an angel in what she’s been able to provide to so many people.”

Invited In soup kitchen services are held at 5 p.m. every Thursday at 716 Route 25A in Rocky Point. The nonprofit accepts donations in person, through the mail or online at www.invitedin.org.

The Bates House in Setauket will host Camp Kesem at Stony Brook University's fundraising event. File photo

Camp Kesem at Stony Brook University is planning its annual fundraising gala, Make the Magic. The event will be held at The Bates House in Setauket April 21 starting at 5 p.m.

The gala will include a cocktail hour, dinner, silent auction, paddle raise, prizes and more. Tickets are $65 per person or $500 for a table of eight.

Vacation prizes include a Zulu reserve trip to Africa for two, Royal Caribbean International cruise for two, a Florida trip to the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront for four and a Martha Clara Vineyards wine trip for six.

Camp Kesem is a nonprofit organization run by college students who are committed to providing programs and free summer camp to support children in the Long Island community who are impacted by a parent’s cancer.

For more information, contact Camp Kesem members at 631-716-5173 or email stonybrook.mtm@campkesem.org. To learn more about Camp Kesem, visit www.campkesem.org/stonybrook. 99The Bates House is located at 1 Bates Road in Setauket.

Kings Park Food Drive

The Kings Park Knights of Columbus will hold its annual food drive on Saturday, April 21 and Sunday, April 22 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 44 Church St., Kings Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Donations will support the needs of local families. Canned and packaged food such as cereal, pasta, peanut butter, jelly, soup, baby food, pancake mix and juice boxes are needed. To arrange a different date for drop-off, please call Bob at 631-724-1410.

Town of Brookhaven residents will fill the Pennysaver Amphitheater at Bald Hill to declare war on addiction April 21.

Hosted by Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), Brookhaven Town and Hope House Ministries, an
organization with locations across the North Shore dedicated to providing support for those in need, including those suffering from addiction, the War on Addiction Rally will serve to both raise awareness and funds. All proceeds raised by the event will benefit Hope House Ministries to support its work in fighting addiction and assisting in the care of those trapped by drug and alcohol abuse.

The event is being dedicated in memory of Billy Reitzig, a Miller Place resident who died as a result of a heroin overdose in 2016 when he was 25 years old. The rally will feature speakers, self-help experts,
community leaders and local celebrities sharing personal experiences, as well as raffles and activities geared toward children, according to a press release for the event.

The program begins at 10:30 a.m. at the theater, located at 1 Ski Run Lane in Farmingville. It is free to register and attend, though donations to benefit Hope House Ministries will be accepted. For more information visit www.waronaddictionrally.com.

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All Souls Episcopal Church in Stony Brook will host a poetry reading April 14. Photo from All Souls Episcopal Church

Two familiar faces in the Three Village area are ready to share their creative sides with their fellow residents.

Former Suffolk County Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher and Emma S. Clark Memorial Library’s librarian Carolyn Emerson will be the featured poets at All Souls Episcopal Church’s Second Saturdays Poetry Reading April 14 in Stony Brook.

Former Suffolk County Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher is one of the featured poet readers at the Second Saturdays Poetry Reading at All Souls Episcopal Church in Stony Brook April 14. Photo from All Souls Episcopal Church

While politics and poetry may seem part of two different worlds, Viloria-Fisher said she believes reading fiction of any kind helps a person develop empathy, something she feels is essential for an elected official to have.

“Literature is an avenue to receive and to give, and that’s what art does,” she said. “It expresses what you’re feeling, and I think that you’re able to express that when you have empathy for the feelings of others.”

Viloria-Fisher served six full terms as Suffolk County legislator and was deputy presiding officer for six years. She currently is campaigning to be on the ticket for the Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District. Before embarking on a political career, she taught English and Spanish in local schools, including Advanced Placement Spanish in the Three Village Central School District. She later went on to become chair of the district’s foreign language department.

Despite two busy careers, she said poetry has been part of her life for as long as she can remember, writing for herself and special events.

“I love to capture moments and feeling in poetry,” Viloria-Fisher said, adding that she prefers her poems to rhyme, and she feels imagery, metaphors, cadence and similes are important in the genre.

The former legislator said she hopes attendees at the April 14 reading will appreciate seeing a different side of her.

“I think people see me a little bit more in terms of social justice and science, and I want them to see the artist in me as well,” she said.

For Emerson, her job allows her to show a bit more creativity on a regular basis, she said. She is involved with poetry readings, literary programs and writing workshops at the library. The librarian said she’s a lifelong lover of literature and has been writing poetry since fifth grade.

“I love the compact form of poetry,” Emerson said. “My parents were members of a poetry group in Miami, which I occasionally attended, and my father sometimes recited lines of poetry at the dinner table, so I grew up having a lot of exposure to poetry.”

Emerson, who has been a featured reader at Suffolk County Community College, said her poetry tends to be nature oriented.

Librarian Carolyn Emerson is one of the featured poet readers at the Second Saturdays Poetry Reading at All Souls Episcopal Church in Stony Brook April 14. Photo from All Souls Episcopal Church

“I like to observe nature, and I feel that I can use it as a metaphor,” she said.

The librarian’s poems have appeared in several publications, including Long Island Quarterly and Long Island Botanical Society Newsletter. Emerson is the founder of the Euterpe Poetry Group, and in 2007, she was a semifinalist for The Paumanok Poetry Award. She is currently working on a manuscript about her experiences searching for her birth mother.

The librarian said she has attended the Second Saturdays Poetry Readings at the church in the past and has read a few of her pieces during the open reading portion.

“It’s a wonderful space for poetry,” Emerson said. “It’s intimate and just a lovely, serene space to listen to poetry.”

All Souls Episcopal Church is located at 61 Main St., Stony Brook. The Second Saturdays Poetry Reading will be held Saturday, April 14, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is hosted by Suffolk County Poet Laureate Gladys Henderson. An open reading will follow the intermission, and all are welcome to read their own work or that of another. For more details, call 631-655-7798.

On Tuesday, April 10, Harbor Country Day School will host a community forum, titled “Addictive Behaviors in Adolescents and Adults: Warning Signs, Risky Behaviors and Helpful Resources.” The forum will feature mental health, medical, and social services experts, who will lead attendees in a candid discussion about various forms of addiction, including technology and video game addiction, social media dependence, alcohol and other substance abuse, vaping and “gateway drugs,” and opioid addiction.

WHAT:   “Addictive Behaviors in Adolescents and Adults: Warning Signs, Risky Behaviors and Helpful Resources”

Panelists will include:

  • Kym Laube, Executive Director of Human Understanding and Growth Services, Inc. (HUGS)
  • Linda Ventura, Founder of Thomas’ Hope Foundation
  • Noam Fast, M.D., Medical Director of the Mather Hospital Chemical Dependency Clinic
  • Jason Bleecher, Licensed Master Social Worker & Substance Abuse Therapist
  • Carissa Millet, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

WHEN:      Tuesday, April 10, 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.

WHERE:     Harbor Country Day School

17 Three Sisters Road

St. James, NY 11780

HOW:   Free tickets are available at https://hcds.eventbrite.com or by calling (631) 584-5555

WHY:   As today’s adolescents and their parents and caregivers face growing societal and personal challenges, addictive behaviors are appearing in many new forms and to extreme degrees. The forum will provide an opportunity for a candid discussion about the prevalence of these addictions, warning signs to be aware of, and solutions and community resources for those in need.

 

About Harbor Country Day School

Founded in 1958 by conscientious parents, Harbor Country Day School is an independent, co-educational day school for children from preschool through eighth grade in St. James. Emphasizing a whole-child approach to education, Harbor offers a rigorous curriculum enhanced by signature programs in STEAM, global languages, math, and language arts, with a strong emphasis on character development. The school’s mission to “cherish childhood, cultivate wonder, and inspire confident learners and leaders” underscores every student’s experience and ensures that all of its graduates are prepared to lead fulfilling lives filled with wonder, confidence, and many successes. Harbor Country Day School’s summer camp program, Camp Harbor, is among the leading summer camp programs on Long Island.

Harbor Country Day School is chartered by the New York State Board of Regents and is accredited by and a member of the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS).  It is a non-sectarian, nonprofit organization under section 501(c) (3) of the IRS Code governed by a self-perpetuating board of trustees.  For more information, visit www.hcdsny.org.

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta star in ‘Grease.’ Photo courtesy of Fathom Events

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, “Grease” will return to select movie theaters nationwide on April 8, 11 and 14, courtesy of Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies. 

Based on the 1971 Broadway musical, the movie, starring John Travolta as greaser Danny Zuko and Olivia Newton-John as his sweet and innocent girlfriend Sandy Olsson who dance their way through their senior year at Rydell High, was a smash hit when it was released in 1978, becoming the highest grossing film of the year and it is still the second-highest grossing movie musical of all time. 

The cast also included Stockard Channing (Rizzo), Didi Conn (Frenchie), Jeff Conaway (Kenickie), Eve Arden (Principal McGee), Sid Caesar (Coach Calhoun) and Annette Charles (Cha Cha DiGregorio) with a special appearance by Frankie Avalon.

The movie’s unforgettable soundtrack, which includes such hits as “Summer Nights,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “You Are the One That I Want” and “Sandy,” was the second best–selling album of 1978, behind “Saturday Night Fever,” which also starred Travolta. 

“Whether you’ve seen it dozens of times and know the words to every song, or you’re in for the rare treat of seeing it for the first time, watching ‘Grease’ on the big screen with an audience is an unforgettable experience that we’re delighted to offer movie lovers,” said Tom Lucas, VP of Studio Relations at Fathom Events.

The screening will include an exclusive commentary from TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz who will give insight into this classic film that has become a pop culture phenomenon. 

Participating movie theaters in our neck of the woods include AMC Loews Stony Brook 17, 2196 Nesconset Highway, Stony Brook at 2 and 7 p.m. on April 8 and 11 and at 2 p.m. on April 14; Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas, 1001 Broadhollow Road, Farmingdale on April 8 at 2 p.m. and April 11 at 7 p.m.; and Island 16 Cinema de Lux, 185 Morris Ave., Holtsville on April 8 at 2 p.m. and April 11 at 7 p.m. To purchase your ticket in advance, visit www.fathomevents.com.

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The Easter bunny left behind thousands of eggs in Setauket this weekend to the delight of North Shore children.

Benner’s Farm held its annual Easter egg hunts March 31 and April 1. The farm hosted three hunts each day, and the Easter Bunny was on hand to greet children. After the hunts, families explored the farm and visited its animals including bunnies, chicks and baby goats.

On April 1, St. James R.C. Church in Setauket held its annual egg hunt after the 9:30 a.m. Mass. Dressed in their Sunday best, children ran around the church’s lawn hoping to fill their baskets to the brim with colorful plastic eggs filled with goodies.

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