Recently a giant figure of Voltron Lengendary Defender dominated the fountain on Maryland Plaza as the Koplar family's World Event Productions introduced "Form Voltron," a new series on Netflix produced by DreamWorks Animation, on a giant screen located on Scape's patio. Voltron has been a member of the Koplar family for 32 years, and friends and neighbors were invited to celebrate the occasion.
Bob Koplar, president of World Event Productions, is photographed with his wife Emily Brady Koplar, creator of Wai Ming.
Thirty-two years ago Bob's father, Ted Koplar, president of Koplar Communications and former owner of KPLR (Channel 11), set out to acquire rights to a Japanese anime series. When he received a box of several videocassettes from a Tokyo-based animation company to consider, there was one he hadn't ordered called "GoLion." That series, mistakenly added to the box, became the one he and his team wanted, and thus Voltron was born.
Voltron Legendary Defender has been a prominent figure in Bob Koplar's life since the age of 5 when he served as the sole "focus group" for the series, which debuted in 1984. It aired on weekday afternoons in most U. S. cities and 85 countries worldwide. Though the series ended after two years, Voltron lived on in cable repeats, comic books and a toy line, and of course in the lives of the Koplar family.
A life-size Voltron chatted with guests at the May 10 event.
Sam Koplar, above left, president of Koplar Properties, was one of many attendees sporting Voltron shirts.
Tambora Mills, right, manager of Bissinger's on Maryland Plaza, and an unidentified friend, pulled out their vintage Voltron shirts too.
St. Louis-based Lion Forge is producing Voltron's series of comics, above and below.
Face painters were busy painting Voltron insignias on the guests.
Younger members of the audience were anxious for dusk to settle and the show to begin. Three episodes of Form Voltron, produced by DreamWorks Animation were shown at the celebration. The series was released on Netflix on the same day.
When I step back from this particular post and think about all the creative people who live and work in this neighborhood, and expand that to the greater St. Louis area, it reaffirms how many positive things are happening here. Thanks to people like Ted and Bob Koplar for adding to what makes this city an exciting place to live right now.
Debbie Gibbens, above, proprietor of Libby's, 4742 McPherson Avenue, is closing her CWE location at the end of July. This will be a huge disappointment to many women from all over the St. Louis area, and guests of neighborhood hotels who stumble upon the shop while exploring the neighborhood.
Gibbens, who also operates a Libby's in Oklahoma, has an eye for stylish, reasonably-priced clothing that appeals to women of all ages. She also has a particular talent for enticing customers, many of whom live in the neighborhood, to work part-time at Libby's (one friend joked that she tripped her as she walked by). Seeing a familiar face behind the counter was another draw for many of us.
Following is an excerpt from a 2009 post describing how Gibbens, a former CWEnder, decided to open a shop in the neighborhood:
"While in town for a wedding, Deborah Gibbens, a former Westminster Place resident, was sitting at Llywelyn's and noticed that Bissinger's had moved. Instead of heeding her husband's call to please just have another beer, she headed over to investigate, and that was that! Libby's on McPherson, named after Deborah's dog, is her third location; the other two are in Oklahoma."
Yesterday, customers received this note:
Dear Libby's Customers,
Many of you have been customers and friends of Libby's since 2009. Because of that we are sorry to announce that Libby's will be closing the end of July, due to a variety of business considerations.
I also want to let you know that if you or anyone you know has an outstanding store credit or gift certificate please be sure to stop by the store to shop and redeem it. Currently I am uncertain if a sale will take place prior to closing or if the inventory will be transferred to my Libby's store in Oklahoma.
We all sincerely thank you for your support and your shopping with us over the last seven years.
Deborah Gibbens, owner and the staff of Libby's:
Mary Ann Libbert
….........and of course Rose Sullivan
It's official! 28th Ward Alderman Lyda Krewson is running for mayor.
In addition to Krewson's announcement on YouTube above, here's an article in today's St. Louis Post Dispatch by reporter Nicholas J.C. Pistor.
ST. LOUIS • City Alderman Lyda Krewson says she is ready to run for mayor.
Krewson will formally announce her campaign Tuesday via an online video, adding a touch of clarity to a Democratic field that’s expected to expand following the surprise announcement that four-term Mayor Francis Slay won’t seek re-election in 2017.
“I think we need a mayor with integrity, intelligence, experience,” Krewson said during an interview Monday with the Post-Dispatch. “Somebody who will do the job with civility, determination, inclusion and fairness.”
Krewson, the chief financial officer of PGAV Architects in downtown St. Louis, has served as the Ward 28 alderman for nearly two decades. The ward spans the city’s booming western central corridor neighborhoods, including the Central West End, DeBaliviere Place, Hi Pointe and Skinker DeBaliviere.
Krewson said her top priority, by far, will be public safety.
Read more here.
Photo courtesy of Cecilia Speroni
The trend of young couples gravitating toward urban neighborhoods to raise their families could not be more evident than it is on the 4500 to 4900 blocks of Pershing Place. Most of the houses that have changed hands over the last several years have been purchased by couples in their 30s with young children. This trend, which is evident on many other streets in the CWE as well, is reminiscent of the time several decades ago when we were raising our children on Lenox Place and there was a similar wave of young families populating the neighborhood.
Cecilia Speroni, second from left, and her husband Ignacio Esponda (known as Nacho) left, moved to Pershing Place a couple of years ago from Mill Hill, N. J. Cecilia described Mill Hill, a roughly 4-square-block area in the middle of Trenton, as very much like the CWE. She realized that Stoop Scoops, which was one of several family events she experienced in her old neighborhood, would be easy to recreate on Pershing Place. Last summer, with the help of neighbors Carol Ponciroli (a 22-year resident of Pershing Place), and Cindy Teasdale, Ceci introduced Stoop Scoops to her new neighbors.
Shown in the photograph with Ceci and Ignacio are Tamara Doehring, third from left, and Mike Heaney, right.
Photo courtesy of Cecilia Speroni
At last Wednesday evening's event I learned that there are approximately 30 children (20 of whom are under the age of 4) currently living on the 4500 to 4900 blocks of Pershing Place.
Photo courtesy of Cecilia Speroni
The next Stoop Scoops on Pershing Place will take place July 14. Thanks to Cecilia and Carol for letting me share this simple summertime idea with readers of this blog. It brought back delightful memories of similar gatherings in the CWE years ago.
In 1917 Mrs. Julius S. Walsh of 4510 Lindell Boulevard hosted what many claim to be the first cocktail party ever. To commemorate that occasion business owners in the CWE Business Community Improvement District (CID) threw a street party last Saturday, June 4, that would have had Mrs. Walsh wondering what she hath wrought. The planning committee included business owners Chris Lanter, Chris Sommers, Aaron Teitelbaum, and Derek Gamlin. Alexis Tucci of Tucci Events was also on the committee and produced the event. The party was held from 5 to 10 p.m. along Euclid between Maryland & McPherson Avenues.
If Mrs. Walsh were alive today, she'd likely be surprised to see children frolicking in the bubble machine, or out on the dance floor way past their bedtimes. A century ago the custom was that children were trotted out to be introduced to guests, then quickly spirited out of sight for the night.
Many in the crowd sported smiley stickers, above, compliments of Lois Severin, a self-described "80-year-old hippie," who's running for president. Yes, president.
The party had all the right ingredients - a fabulous group of party-goers, beautiful weather, great music, a cocktail contest (Gamlin Whiskey House's mixologist Izzy was the winner), and imaginative cocktails and small bites prepared by neighborhood restaurants. There was even a band of protestors who joined the party.
The restaurants did brisk business out of white tents that stretched between Maryland and McPherson. Bartenders from The Preston at The Chase Park-Plaza reportedly sold all 1000 servings of their special cocktail in the first 90 minutes, while another restaurateur lamented that he was unprepared for the huge crowd and sold out way too early.
The protestors were quickly absorbed into the mellow crowd. Lois Severin (in pink) placed a flower in one man's hair, and stuck a happy face on another. That welcoming gesture plus a big hug yielded a huge smile.
Severin, whose hippie cred includes "living in a VW van with my three children in the 70's," intends to sticker a million people with a smiley face as she campaigns her way to the White House. Check out her Instagram account @SAINT_LOIS for more info.
Dancers included a troupe of swing dancers shown above enjoying the music of Sarah Janes & The Blue Notes.
Fire jugglers choreographed their moves to the beat of the music of Kim Fuller and Galaxy New Orleans, the second band to take the stage.
Many party-goers dispersed to neighborhood restaurants and bars following the event, including a few who had never been to the CWE before. They heard about the party and thought it would be an easy way to check out the neighborhood. Also spotted in the crowd was a bachelorette party celebrating an upcoming wedding.
Thanks to the CWE Community Improvement District for hosting such a fabulous party. And thank you to Mrs. Walsh, whose idea is the inspiration for what many hope will become an annual neighborhood event.
Flying in from Brazil for a summer of love? A promising notion perhaps, but one can hardly imagine a more unlikely spot for nesting than the parking lot behind O'Connell's Pub on Kingshighway and Shaw. Strange as it may seem, 19 pair of purple martins flew in from Brazil this April to take up residence in martin houses installed 25 years ago by O'Connell's proprietor Jack Parker.
I posted a story about "Purple Martin Whisperer" John Miller, left, and his work with these migratory birds in 2013 (read it here). Miller recently suggested an interview with former CWEnder Jack Parker (Parker and his family lived on Pershing Place in the 70s & 80s), whom he says is responsible for preserving purple martins as a breeding species in St. Louis.
Jack Parker, right, became a purple martin landlord when the Missouri Botanical Garden (approximately 1/2 mile east of O'Connell's) removed martin housing to make room for The Kemper Center (the avian housing was restored later). Parker realized that the birds, who are entirely dependent on humans for housing, would be without lodging when they returned from Brazil that April. He put 4 aluminum houses on O'Connell's parking lot, which at the time bordered bustling Kingshighway, and hoped for the best. Not one tenant showed up that first spring. The following year the birds began nesting and ever since, martins have occupied every available apartment.
By John Miller's count, there are 90 pair of purple martins who summer in the City of St. Louis. Some summer in Forest Park (on the Probstein Golf Course and near Steinberg Rink), at the Missouri Botanical Garden once again, and the barren strip of ground I visited in early May that borders O'Connell's parking lot, above. The birds have adapted to the most recent* location, within earshot of heavy traffic on I-44 and adjacent to the busy service road that connects Kingshighway to Vandeventer.
*Thanks to Rich Donahower, VP of McGrath & Associates, (adjacent to O'Connell's on Kingshighway), who with the assistance of contractors working on the relocation of Shaw Avenue (which will eventually feed directly onto The Hill) the purple martin houses were moved from the front of O'Connell's property to the new parking area behind.
Purple martin "scouts" arrive during the first week of April. Over the next few weeks the rest of the birds trickle in. "Sub-adults" (year-old adults) vie for whatever nesting spots are available and if there's no room, they'll move on to other martin housing somewhere in Missouri, Illinois or farther north. What's another few hundred miles when you've already flown 3,000? In late July, the entire flock, including newly-fledged baby martins (26-32 days old), return home to Brazil.
The tenants, who are gentle by nature, don't fuss when the landlords check the nests for signs of trouble, or on that particular day, eggs (there weren't any as yet).
Being a purple martin landlord comes with many challenges. The number one concern is the weather. With the cold, wet spring we've experienced, the birds (day feeders) couldn't find their main diet of flying insects. In emergency situations, Miller supplements their diet with crickets he stores in his freezer, as martins can only last 3 or 4 days without food.
Another problem are "jumpers," i.e. baby birds that fledge before they are able to fly. It's a rare season that the landlords don't find a jumper or two on the parking lot. In most cases they are able to return the babies to their nests before it's too late.
In the photo above, you can see the birds swooping overhead as the nests are checked.
The Missouri Botanical Garden has plans to landscape the stretch of road, shown above, from Kingshighway to Vandeventer. Shaw Avenue (left) is being redirected to the road being constructed to the right, above.
Thanks to both John Miller and Jack Parker for letting me share this information with readers of this blog. While the interview earlier this month was brief - Miller had other tenants to check on, and Parker was headed to opening day at the racetrack - it was a chance to observe nature up close on a busy stretch of road I have driven past many times.
To learn more about these migratory birds, the Missouri Department of Conservation has a booklet John Miller helped update and rewrite. One of the many interesting tidbits I learned is that "The birds are a New World species only remotely related to barn swallows. Purple martins are a truly American bird; providing their housing is a tradition we've adopted from Native Americans. And here in the heartland, Missourians have a long tradition as martin landlords."
The first clue that a fundraiser for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' production of A Midsummer Night's Dream was destined to be a magical event arrived with the whimsical invitation designed by Cheree Berry Paper (see 2010 post here).
For this city dweller, another hint was the party's setting on an estate overlooking a breathtaking-stretch of the Mississippi River.
Party chairs Ted Atwood and Mary Morgan rounded up an event committee that included many CWEnders: Chuck Miller, chair of SFSTL board of directors, Jessica Holzer, former chair of SFSTL, Craft Alliance's Boo McLoughlin, St. Louis Actors Studio's William & Lisa Roth, Beth Ann & Andy Wilson, Sue Aman, and Rita & Joe Carpenter. Mary and her family are former residents of Lenox Place, so she too qualifies as a west-ender.
Basset Hounds figure prominently in A Midsummer Night's Dream (Act 4, Scene 1, excerpt below). Laura Carpenter Balding and Lei Ruckle (not shown), both Masters of Basset Hounds, led a parade of hounds from Three Creek Bassets and party guests to a nearby field for a rabbit hunt.
My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind,
So flewed, so sanded, and their heads are hung
With ears that sweep away the morning dew...
The hunt ended as peacefully as it began, as there was nary a rabbit to be found in those bucolic fields. (For future reference, might I suggest our front yard, where there are already three generations of the voracious Leporidae in residence?).
Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' Artistic & Executive Director Rich Dildine, above, is directing A Midsummer Night's Dream, which opens June 1. Dildine describes the play in contemporary terms as a "soap opera with several stories intertwined."
Guests were treated to a scene from the 2016 production featuring actors Paul Cereghino (Theseus) and Jacqueline Thompson (Hippolyta).
Nancy Anderson, an Olivier-nominated actress who plays Titania, performed one of the original songs written for the production by NY actor-musician Peter Mark Kendall. The score was composed by St. Louis-based Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra.
Finally here are a few snapshots of the Gothic Revival house on the grounds of the property, above & below.
The charming guest house, above.
Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' production of A Midsummer Night's Dream runs from June 1 through June 26 at 8:00 p.m. every night except Tuesday, in Shakespeare Glen, Forest Park. This is the 16th season of free Shakespeare in the Park!
From the SFSTL website: "Inspired by R. Crosby Kemper, III, the idea of a free Shakespeare festival began in 1997. In 2001 Chairman of the Board Marvin Moskowitz, first Managing Director Lana Pepper, and a visionary Board of community leaders produced the first annual free Shakespeare festival in Forest Park. Since the initial two-week run that attracted 33,000 audience members, the Festival has grown into a year-round institution producing over 250 public performances annually for nearly 100,000 patrons and students."
Volunteers are needed, for info look here.
Last week the website Gardenista posted a feature titled DIY Wedding Garland. To recreate the look, search no further than the CWE's Bowood Farms Garden & Home, which carries the Studio Carta ribbon shown in Gardenista's photographs. At Bowood, you'll find an assortment of loose weave cotton & metallic ribbon ($1 to $1.25 a yard, $58 for 54-yards), above, designed by Boston-based Angela Liguori and made in Italy.
Recently a friend mentioned that she told Katherine McPheeters, chief buyer (see 2010 post here) of Bowood Farms, that she loves her choice of merchandise so much she could swoop everything up in the shop and take it home.
More praise was heaped on the neighborhood's garden & home shop yesterday when Alive Magazine mentioned Bowood Farms on its "How to Vacation in Our Hometown" post. I think this suggestion is absolutely spot-on, don't you?
Bowood Farms Garden & Home, 4605 Olive Street, (314) 454-6868.
CWE-based watercolorist Muriel Eulich will be exhibiting her glorious paintings today, Friday, May 20, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Amy Johnson's KayOss Designs, 387 N. Euclid. Muriel is the third artist Amy has invited to participate in a one-night gallery opening this May.
When you see Muriel's art alongside Amy's KayOss Designs you'll wonder if both artists purposely coordinated colors in advance. That's been the case with each of the other two artists who have exhibited. Both Barb Flunker and Janice Schoultz Mudd's paintings also seemed to have been magically cut from the same artistic cloth.