Wild Ride

Eating My Way: Right, once again I’ll be eating my way through Fiesta. Starting next Wednesday, I’ll be posting daily comments on They’ll be on Barney’s Fiesta Blog, together with photos by my wife Sue. I can’t be everywhere, so please feel free to pass on your eating tips to me at

Numbers Game: According to what I hear, about 1,100 News-Press subscribers have canceled recently. But owner Wendy McCaw in her op-ed page commentary Tuesday (why cover the news when you can mount a PR campaign instead?) claimed that the paper actually gained a net of 403 subscriptions over the cancellations in July.

She gave no other details, but the New York Times reported that since she bought the paper in 2000, it’s dropped in circulation from 48,000 to about 41,000. If these numbers are right, the NP had nearly a year’s worth of cancellations in a couple of weeks — with no letup. By combining all these numbers, it seems to suggest that the paper added about 1,400 subscribers in one month, despite the years of decline and present meltdown. Until there’s a real news story that sets the record straight, we may never know. Meanwhile, hundreds of remaining subscribers have signed “Save the Santa Barbara News-Press” ( cards telling the paper to cancel their subscriptions if Wendy hasn’t agreed to “restore journalistic integrity,” recognize union efforts, and negotiate a fair contract by September 5. Wendy also said, “The paper is absolutely not for sale,” although many wish she would put it on the market.

Oprah’s Straight Talk: The whispers began when Oprah moved into Montecito that she’s gay and longtime “fiancé” Stedman is just a beard. But now the TV talk-show queen is telling the world that she and gal pal Gayle King are just friends and not gay. “Whatever this friendship is, it’s been a very fun ride,” Oprah said.

PO Closing? I didn’t hear this from anyone at the Goleta postal processing plant, scene of that murder rampage, but I hear that PO biggies are pondering whether to close it. But regional PO spokesman Rich Maher said, “We have no plans” to close the Goleta plant. “It’s performing well and very efficiently.”

Vanity Fair: Much has been written in the daily press about Subject A (News-Press, etc.) but a Vanity Fair magazine take is always different, with a twist. VF loves to explore and expose quirky personalities of the royals and the rich. One of their writers was in town the other day and we’ll see what the glossy pages reveal. (What a story. This whole thing makes the old Santa Barbara soap opera seem dull and contrived, right? No doubt legions of scriptwriters are pounding out TV series treatments and begging for meetings.)

New Day at the Mission: There’ve been dark days at the Santa Barbara Mission during the past year, including the brouhaha over the ousted gay choir director. But now a fresh breeze is blowing over the Queen of the Missions: Young Fr. Daniel Barica, popular as a new hymn when he was ordained there a few years ago, is the new pastor. He preached last week and is due to return full-time during Fiesta.

Jack’s Closed: Here’s why Jack Abston’s Upper Village service station, long treasured for its funky office but Montecito-style top-notch service, closed. Jon McConnell, owner of nearby Village Automotive Repair, said he was in escrow to buy the place, but due to unresolved environmental issues, “I pulled out of escrow” and Jack declared bankruptcy. But Jon says he’s still “very interested” in turning it into an old-fashioned, full-service, 1950s-’60s station during the day (attendants in uniform equipped with window-spray bottles) and an after-hours, card-lock, do-it-yourself station with lower prices.

Cease and Insist: One of Arthur von Wiesenberger’s pals was on TV and without disclosing the relationship slammed the controversy as “overblown.” I wonder if he’d feel that way if he’d gotten a threatening shut-up cease-and-desist order from AVW’s fiancée Wendy M., as I have. (I wonder what they’re afraid I’ll say.)

Who Do You Trust? Now the scammers who try to get our vital $$ info using fake PayPal, banks, even the IRS, have zoomed in right here at River City. Tricksters are sending out emails claiming to be Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, wanting to need “verification” for “security” and wanting you to fill out a form. Don’t do it. Call the bank directly if you need something.

Scooped: It’s always news when a Woody Allen movie hits town. His latest, Scoop, starts Friday at the Riviera (switched from Plaza de Oro). Woody’s new fave, Scarlett Johansson, is a college journalist who visits England and gets involved with magic, mystery, and murder. … The Metro people are excited about putting 3-d into the Arlington, where you can peer at Monster House with those special glasses. Monster director is Robert Zemeckis, a Santa Barbaran.

Barney Brantingham can be reached at The Independent at 965-5205, x230 or at barney@independent.

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