If you look hard enough, you can spot any number of celebrities in the Hudson Valley who have homes — full-time or weekend — in the area.
You never had to look hard to find Ric Ocasek.
Unmistakable with his shock of jet black hair and his tall, thin frame, the lead singer of The Cars was a fixture in and around Millbrook, where he and his wife, supermodel Paulina Porizkova, and their two sons kept a home.
Ocasek, 75, died Sunday night at their E. 19th St. townhouse in New York City.
Ocasek and Porizkova had been married for 28 years before separating in 2017, but remained friendly. During their marriage, and their almost 20 years living in a 5.5 acre, 6,022 square foot, six-bedroom home just off Route 82 in Millbrook, the couple were not only two of most visible celebrities in the Hudson Valley but two of the most likeable.
“I met Ric and Paulina years ago in Millbrook. We were dining next to each other,” said Millbrook native Birdi Davis. “I was with my father, who was an amazing conversationalist, and they immediately took a liking to my dad. I told Paulina that her mother, who was a nurse, delivered my baby at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Ric, after exchanging addresses and numbers, subsequently came to visit our home in Millbrook. He was a very sweet man.”
Not only was Ocasek a Rock And Roll Hall of Famer, he was an accomplished artist who had several showings at New York City galleries.
But the Valley was always home.
He could be spotted at various restaurants. The Stewart’s convenient store in the village of Millbrook. The Poughkeepsie Galleria. Adam’s Fairacre Farms in the Town of Poughkeepsie. George Cole Auctions in Red Hook. And, of course, his beloved Dutchess County Fair, where Ocasek made a near-annual pilgrimage with the entire family.
These are just a few of the places where the singer was known to visit, and the reaction from fans was always the same.
“Down to earth.”
Millbrook resident Alicia Tait worked at a farm adjacent to the Ocaseks’ home. Her dog, a Corgi, “absolutely loved him and his wife.
“Every day I would have to leave work, drive over to the Ocaseks’ driveway, and my dog — who I had for nine years — would bark at me from their porch as if I were the intruder,” Tait said.
One day, Tait drove over as usual and noticed the dog wasn’t on the porch as usual. Nervous, she knocked on the door to see if anybody had seen the pooch and Ric Ocasek himself answered.
He told her not to worry.
“Oh, Charlie’s inside on the couch with Paulina; hold on, I’ll get him for you,” Ocasek said to Tait. “He really was a lovely man, always kind when I saw him.”
Deanna Portaro Wohlford, another Millbrook resident, actually worked for Ocasek and Porizkova.
“I’m so sad to hear of his passing. He really was a wonderful man,” she said.
Wohlford noted that Ocasek was shy, but was always accommodating to fans who wanted to talk music and their remembrances of “Drive,” “Just What I Needed,” “Let The Good Times Roll,” or any number of the 13 Top 40 hits The Cars produced.
“He was very quiet, but always good about talking to people who recognized him in town,” Wohlford said. “Sometimes after chatting with him people would come up to me and ask ‘Is that Ric Ocasek? I’m a big fan!’ I’d tell them to go up to him and say hello, he’s super nice.”