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Great, Gatsby! Library-as-speakeasy hosts jazzy Fitzgerald party

Published 10:25 am, Sunday, March 3, 2013

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  • Paul and Mariel Ulane of New York City, with Pamela Norman of Southport at the Great Gatsby Party at Westport Public Library on Saturday night.  WESTPORT NEWS, CT 3/2/13 Photo: Mike Lauterborn / Westport News contributed
    Paul and Mariel Ulane of New York City, with Pamela Norman of Southport at the Great Gatsby Party at Westport Public Library on Saturday night. WESTPORT NEWS, CT 3/2/13 Photo: Mike Lauterborn

 

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The joint was jumpin' -- no ssssssh-ing! allowed.

The usually sedate environs of the Westport Public Library's Great Hall were transformed Saturday night into the setting for a Jazz Age shindig, a tribute to the Roaring '20s styles of one-time town residents F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

The "Great Gatsby" party was a culmination of the month-long WestportREADS celebration of Fitzgerald's great American novel, which set the theme for this year's community reading program.

The fete featured music by Uptown Jazz, a martini bar, peacock feather decor, a parlor with games of chance and hors d'oeuvres.

Guests also got into the evening's jazzy spirit with speakeasy-style attire like flapper dresses, tuxedos and other get-ups reflecting the Jazz Age era.

" `The Great Gatsby' was our WestportREADS selection, which was marked in January with dozens of events and programs celebrating the seminal work of Westport resident Fitzgerald," said Maxine Bleiweis the director of the Westport Public Library. "This evening was scheduled for early February but winter storm Nemo crashed the party, so this was rescheduled. There's no less enthusiasm -- even more in fact, like a snowball going downhill."

Fitzgerald's novel, Bleiweis said, "marked a period of time in America in which people were breaking out from the morays and hard times of war and a worldwide flu epidemic. It was a time of great fun, exploration -- anything goes. Our sultry setting and attractions, which include Charleston dance lessons, a photo area and signature drinks, reflect that."

Bleiweis was unsure if Fitzgerald ever visited the library while he and his wife lived on Compo Road South. "We don't have the records to confirm it, but perhaps he was inspired by our facility," she said.

A 12-person committee worked long and hard planning and coordinating the Gatsby party. Deirdre Brice, a volunteer doing set-up right up until the party kicked off, made a quick change into a flapper dress with a tiara as the fun got under way. "We've been planning this since the fall," she said. "We were looking to effect a classy speakeasy setting with decorative accents. Our concepts really transformed the Great Hall."

Maury Hatfield wore a fine fedora and neck scarf, while his partner Theresa Kovacs donned pearls, a gold hair band and a long cigarette holder.

The servers, like Jacqueline Luchsinger, also dressed in Jazz Age finery. Even a marble bust of philanthropist Morris K. Jesup, whose support made the Westport Public Library a reality, was decked out with a hat and wad of fake cash.

None of the party goers claimed to have been around long enough to have met the Fitzgeralds. Gail Smith of Weston, however, knew someone who did. "My uncle's father partied and summered with F. Scott, who lived over on Compo. His residence was modest we understand. It's cool to be at an event that celebrates his work and the times."