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Stony Brook Village

By Ed Blair

One was a Broadway star who flew as Peter Pan, vowed to “wash that man right out of my hair” in South Pacific, and frolicked with the Von Trapp children in “The Sound of Music.” The other was a sweet southern singer and popular TV hostess who urged viewers to “See the USA in your Chevrolet.”

Audiences will have the opportunity to learn about the lives of two legendary stars while enjoying musical highlights from the iconic ladies’ careers, as The Ward Melville Heritage Organization presents “Holiday Wishes from Mary Martin & Dinah Shore” at its Educational & Cultural Center in Stony Brook Village. Actors will portray the duo in a beautifully decorated seasonal setting through Jan. 11. The event, presented by St. George Living History Productions, is followed by a high-tea luncheon featuring finger sandwiches and delectable desserts.

Mary Martin
Mary Martin


As a girl, Mary Martin took an early interest in performing. She channeled her creative impulses by teaching dance, opening her own studio in Mineral Wells, Texas. Fate intervened, however, and when her dance studio burned down, Martin decided to leave Texas and take her shot at making it in Hollywood.

After a number of auditions proved fruitless, Martin got her break when she caught the eye of Oscar Hammerstein, who thought her voice could play on Broadway. She became an overnight sensation in her stage debut in 1938, when the 25-year-old won audiences over with her poignant rendition of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” in Cole Porter’s “Leave It to Me!” Martin followed up with a Tony Award for her role in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific.” The classic song from the show, “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair,” was actually written at her suggestion, and Martin dutifully washed her hair on stage every night during the run — eight times a week.

The now-famous star added Tony Awards for her performances in the title role in “Peter Pan” and as Maria in “The Sound of Music.” She also starred in “Annie Get Your Gun” and played opposite Robert Preston in “I Do! I Do!” Martin made media history, when, on March 7, 1955, NBC broadcast a live presentation of “Peter Pan.” The musical, with nearly all of the show’s original cast, was the first full-length Broadway production to air on color TV. The show attracted a then-record audience of 65 million viewers, the highest ever up to that time for a single television program. Martin won an Emmy Award for her performance. Mary Martin died in 1990 at the age of 77. There are two stars bearing her name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Dinah Shore
Dinah Shore

As a student at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee native Dinah Shore began her career by performing her own short program on a Nashville radio station. After graduation in 1938, she moved to New York City, where she landed a job as a singer on WNEW. Her career progressed slowly, but she scored a few hits and became more well known during the World War II years, when she traveled with the USO, performing for the troops. “I’ll Walk Alone,” “I Love You for Sentimental Reasons” and “Buttons and Bows” were all major hits that catapulted her to stardom.

Shore appeared in a few films, but she made her impact on television as TV sets became standard features in homes across the nation in the early 1950s. Her variety show made its debut in 1951. It evolved into “The Dinah Shore Chevy Show” in 1956, which became a mainstay through 1963. Shore’s warmth and engaging personality appealed to TV audiences, and she followed her earlier successes by hosting popular talk shows — “Dinah’s Place,” “Dinah!” and “Dinah and Friends.” Along the way, she accumulated 10 Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award and a Golden Globe Award.

Shore also had a passion for golf. She founded the Colgate/Dinah Shore Winner’s Circle Golf Championship and sponsored the Dinah Shore Classic for a number of years, earning her an honorary membership in the Ladies Professional Golf Association Hall of Fame. Three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame honor Dinah Shore, who died in 1994 at the age of 77.

What led writer/director Sal St. George to pair Martin and Shore in his production? “Mary did a special with Noel Coward in 1955, and that inspired me to ponder what a collaboration between her and Dinah would be like,” he explained. “It is a nostalgic part of the Golden Age of television of the 1960s when ‘Specials’ or ‘Spectaculars’ were well produced and had legitimate star quality. This is also Dinah’s 100th birthday year, so we took this opportunity to celebrate her life.”

St. George added, “This is also our 15th year presenting programs for WMHO. We wanted to make this show different and more glamorous than ever before. Consequently, we thought about adding a second celebrity guest. We have never had two high profile women together on the stage. This is the perfect holiday show for the family — great tunes from the Broadway songbook, plenty of good old-fashioned comedy and dazzling costumes — plus an appearance by Peter Pan. Who can ask for more!”

The WMHO Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., Stony Brook will host “Holiday Wishes from Mary Martin & Dinah Shore” through Jan. 11. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday shows are at 11:30 a.m.; Sunday shows at 12:30 p.m. The high-tea luncheon performance, catered by Crazy Beans, is sponsored in part by the Roosevelt Investment Group Inc. General admission is $50; seniors 60 and over $48; groups of 20 or more $45. Advance reservations are required by calling 631-689-5888. For more information, visit www.wmho.org.

Photo courtesy of The WMHO

Blast from the Past: Do you know when and where this photo was taken? What show are these people getting ready to see? Email your answers to [email protected] To see more wonderful vintage photographs like this, visit The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s ongoing exhibit, It Takes a Team to Build a Village, at The WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main Street, Stony Brook. For more information, call 631-751-2244.

Neil Watson leans against one of the trees in the Crocheted Tree Project on the grounds of the LIM. Photo by Katelyn Winter

By Katelyn Winter

When Neil Watson, the executive director of the Long Island Museum (LIM), sat down with me in his office for an interview, he warned me not to be alarmed if, during our session, people came up close to the window to take a photo with a tree covered in crocheted yarn. It is one of five trees in the Crocheted Tree Project, a current exhibition at the museum, and visitors love to take photos with the stunning pieces of art.

Watson, who began his career as a maker of art, loves the attention the trees are getting. Living and working in the heart of Stony Brook Village, his appreciation for art and eagerness to engage with the community has shone through since becoming executive director in 2013.

What do you like the most about working at the LIM?

There are so many aspects to what I do, which is the beauty of it, because I’m involved in curatorial, education, fundraising, the site itself and the community. So if I could take one of those things, it would be that as the director I get to work with the community and make this museum as vibrant and as relevant to here as possible. This job is so far from boring because there’s something new all the time.

What is the most popular exhibit at the LIM right now?

Having a show from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience) is terrific, because a lot of people can’t go to Cleveland, so to have that here is great and having it alongside the Long Island in the ‘60s exhibit that was curated by Joshua Ruff, our chief curator, there’s a connection to that. While they are two different exhibitions, they are speaking of culture in America, a lot of which overlaps with what was happening on Long Island in the ‘60s; it’s looking at the political, the economic and also art and design. Those two shows overlap as the ‘60s, and the culture and the counterculture of the ‘60s and music festivals, from those in the past to more contemporary.

What kinds of exhibits would you like to see the Long Island Museum present in the future?

Well, there’s the vehicles — we have the carriages and people have become so disengaged from the idea of carriages, while at the same time they’re completely engaged with their cars. This is the car that was available for them before cars. The way cars and carriages work is, to me, so similar, and what we like to do is we like to make that connectivity come to life. We have a long-term desire to create a new interactive space in the carriage exhibit, … a simulated ride in a carriage, so people could not just ask what it feels like to ride in one, but actually experience it. It would involve using technology in some capacity to create a virtual ride. It’ll connect people to our collection. We have the finest collection of carriages in America — it’s a major part of what people know about us. The carriages already have a certain draw to them, but to engage people even more is what we’d really like to do.

How have the LIM’s summer events been?

It’s been great, and we love to have events that tie into what we’re showing at the museum currently. On Aug. 7 we’re showing “Neil Young: Heart of Gold,” which is a documentary by Jonathan Demme on Neil Young. It’s such a great concert film. Andy Keir, the film editor, will be speaking about cutting that film at the showing. We also have a new bluegrass series, and there will be a concert for that on Aug. 12 [with Jeff Scroggins & Colorado]. I love having a variety of music series. People will come here for all kind of music who maybe haven’t been here before, and then want to come back and explore more. We are an art museum, but we are also a cultural hub: for music, for talks about books, for history — it’s very broad.

Do you have any hobbies?

If I do have a hobby, it’s cooking. I prepare all the meals for my family; I love to cook. I think it’s a great way of separating yourself from what you’ve done during the day, good, bad, whatever, it’s nice to focus on the task at hand. And feeding people is such a great thing to do; [whether it’s] feeding them knowledge, visual information, or food — I love it. Music is also always on in the house, and I play guitar. I still have the callused fingers; I started when I was 13, and I have the same guitar that I bought in 1974. Now it’s actually vintage, which is scary. I also love going to museums. My family and I just went to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art up in Amherst, and it’s a wonderful museum. We also went to the Emily Dickinson Museum, which is the house where she grew up.

What is your favorite thing to do in Stony Brook Village?

My family and I walk every morning. We walk in the village, because I live right here, right by the museum — when I say I’m here all the time, I’m really here all the time! Having the Long Island Sound here, I mean, the water is just such a gift. I also like to shop locally whenever I can. I love Pentimento; I love the wine shop, Lake Side Emotions & Spirits; Brew Cheese; my drycleaner’s. I try to support everyone as much as I can. So that’s what I like to do here — walk and shop. It’s a beautiful place to be.

Author Katelyn Winter is a rising junior at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., majoring in English and creative writing. She is from Stony Brook and hopes to one day work in the publishing industry.