Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
2559 Puesta del Sol Rd., 682-4711
People and Places Most Definitely Popular and Pleasing
2559 Puesta del Sol Rd., 682-4711
It’s the museum’s 90th birthday come January, and, as far as anyone can remember, the first year it has won this category. This is the museum with the rattlesnake box, the planetarium, and the Ray Strong mural dioramas. It has Chumash art and even a gallery of newer work that celebrates the natural world. Director Karl Hutterer believes the award is most gratifying because it proves the museum serves a wide spectrum of the people who are part of Santa Barbara’s natural history. And if you haven’t been there yet, you have a great pleasure to look forward to.
Finalist Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Place to Shoot Pool; Juke Box
18 E. Ortega St., 568-0702
It’s safe to say that Dargan’s opening in 1997 helped spawn the movement away from conventional bars and clubs and back toward neighborhood haunts — public houses, like in Ireland and other Old World spots. Though Elsie’s, The Press Room, The James Joyce, and The Mercury Lounge in Goleta are not specifically connected, they are all providing a homier libation destination including couches, though the ashtrays are outside. The juke music at Dargan’s may lean toward Celtic champions like Van Morrison and the Pogues, but it feels like what we’d put on when friends are over. And Dargan’s pool room is just big and friendly and reasonably priced. It’s not like your game room at home; really, it’s a lot nicer.
Finalists Place to Shoot Pool: Q’s Sushi A Go Go; Juke Box: The Press Room
Place to Hear Latin Music
734 State St., 962-9688
Within the world of Latin music there are innumerable subsets. Bred from rather varied homelands, from Caribbean ports like Cuba and Cancun, to Central American sites like Guatemala and San Salvador, to our more familiar neighbor to the south — the massively diverse country of Mexico — Ruby’s honors these distinctions by providing often live music to induce paroxysms of salsa, merengue, bandas, and we’re sure musical styles evolving and arriving as you read this. Popular, friendly, and lively nearly all the time, Ruby’s rocks para toda la gente.
Finalist El Paseo Restaurant
S.B. TV News Personality
In the dictionary, “ubiquitous” has a picture of Mr. Palminteri next to it, who appears in news stories and entertainment features, on the radio, at charitable events, and, as you probably know, on T-shirts sported at indie rock concerts in Los Angeles, where Palminteri’s fan club is only slightly tongue-in-cheek. But the man himself has a sense of humor, including the self-deprecating mode, better than any television figure we know — most of whom tend to be a little, oh, I don’t know, maybe a touch narcissistic. Palminteri’s many forays into public causes, however, burnish his famousness with a glow of community involvement.
Finalist Debbie Davison
Just 40 years ago, certain homeowner deeds near Birnam Wood Country Club stipulated that owners could not sell to blacks. If you had suggested then that an African-American woman would own the most beautiful of estates bordering San Ysidro Road and Creek, people there might’ve laughed. But not only does Oprah Winfrey have an enormous estate here, she comes out and visits us sometimes too: You can spot her in Montecito restaurants and down at the Milpas Trader Joe’s. She has funded S.B. charities, made official appearances, and, in the larger world, encouraged people to read Faulkner and Austen. This is the kind of celebrity we like, both her and the enormous-but-not-yet-completed progress she represents, and we hope she’s happy here. Long may she stay.
Finalist John Cleese
Children’s Theater Group
Shana Lynch-Arthurs and Steven Lovelace have been resolutely making theater — big productions — with our kids practically behind our backs at the Goleta Valley Junior High auditorium. Last year it was Peter Pan. “It was a dynamite show,” said Lovelace, and lots of reviewers agreed. And this year? “Oh, there’s so much to plan; we haven’t even figured out what we’re going to do this school year.” But the shows can’t be too covertly conducted, because the readers knew enough to vote. Lovelace and Lynch-Arthurs and all the kids are thrilled.
Finalist Box Tales Theatre Company
S.B. Radio Personality
It’s been a big year for KTYD’s The Early Show. First, there was a big Roger Durling-penned profile of Matt in this paper followed by a flurry of pro/con letters. Then there was The Incident, with McAllister talking to his listeners about the radio honchos warning him to play more music. McAllister told us he was then suspended, not for refusing to play more music but for talking about it to his audience. Rumors say the offers came in from other stations immediately, and the big bosses relented. McAllister said it was old-fashioned compromise. “We talked and now we agree,” he said. Happy to be back? “Of course, and I’m grateful to everyone who voted, too.”
525 State St., 882-1182
Alcohol and feats of human endurance just seem to go together — ask anyone. Going out with friends to a public imbibatorium equipped with giant screens and throngs willing to scream to the agonies and ecstasies is a feat of human endurance, too. Madison’s has it down, screams and groans included, presiding over downtown for more than a decade and offering specials and happy hours. As if a playoff game and cold suds weren’t happiness enough.
Finalist Santa Barbara Brewing Co. and Restaurant
416 State St., 963-9680
It’s huge inside with tropical exotica, many square feet of bar surface, pumping music, and a staff committed to friendliness as a life avocation. College night, usually Thursday in this town, tempts the kids from Westmont (well, not many), City College (it’s their turf), Brooks (crazy party people), Antioch (just kidding), and UCSB (the Mongol Horde, arriving responsibly on Bill’s Bus) to take part in socialization rituals and the great drink specials extended to them with deep respect. There’s even a big fish tank, if you get bored.
Finalist Wildcat Lounge
It happens every July — S.B. partygoers don black ties and blue jeans and dance themselves silly for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Maybe it sounds like a thin concept, but last year alone it raised more than $150,000 for the battle against the insidious disease. Last year the Santa Ynez Chumash board was a signature sponsor and Eddie Money played for the happy donors. “We’re truly thrilled to win this,” said Lisa Sierra, regional coordinator for the MDA society. “And we thank you all so much.”
Finalist Taste of the Town
S.B. Newspaper Columnist
For years now this has been a close contest between Nick Welsh and Barney Brantingham. Now that Barney’s our writer (maybe you’ve heard: There’s been a little kerfuffle at the News-Press, where B.B. wrote for more than 40 years), we’re even happier to award the palme d’Independent to him. For his part, he’s what you might call jocosely modest. “I really think this award belongs to Nick Welsh,” he said. “But what can I say? I want to thank my family members for stuffing the ballot box.”
Finalist Nick Welsh
S.B. Radio Station
This is the one the kids love, and it’s not even the newcomer anymore with almost two decades under its belt, dedicated to pumping out “modern rock.” Modestly housed over a thrift store on Carrillo Street and fiercely nondependent on big-chain radio, KJEE is part of the soundscape of the village that raises our rockin’ youth.
Finalist KTYD 99.9 FM
Nightclub; Place to Hear Jazz
1221 State St., 962-7776
What’s most exciting about SOhO’s emergence as the club in a city that used to crawl with them is its insistence on not sticking to a formula. SOhO’s people have been bringing in huge stars from the vaunted past like Donovan, giving time to homegrown artists like the high school and college jazz bands, but also taking enormous risks on indie rock with bands like TV on the Radio when few others in town have the guts to think young and old at the same time. Besides, it has great food, fine drinks, beaming barkeeps, and a convenient, comfortable location. No wonder the place pleases our readers.
Finalists Nightclub: Wildcat Lounge; Place to Hear Jazz: The James Joyce
322 State St., 965-6066
Artistic Director Rodney Gustafson’s company was heavily on tour when we called: Valhalla, Boston, Albany, and St. Augustine were part of the itinerary. But foreign entanglements aside, this award derives from what the people of Santa Barbara think, and the only professional corps in town consistently wins this award in a place that, thanks to SummerDance and Arts & Lectures, sees a lot of great Terpsichore. For more than a decade now, Carmen, the Art Deco Nutcracker, and the Van Gogh piece — well, they keep raising the barre.
Finalist Fusion Dance Company
914 Santa Barbara St., 962‑8606
There have been big changes at the Ensemble annually for the last four years. And now, there is a new executive artistic director named Jonathan Fox, who hails from the Two River Theatre in New Jersey. Fox is proud to have his new company win awards, but is also proud to be part of a town that has lots of theater. “When there are a lot of theaters it just ups the attendance overall. I don’t think it’s like competition. In theater, the more the merrier,” he said. Fox had no control over last year, but it pleased him: “It just confirms what I thought when I first heard about Ensemble.”
Finalist Santa Barbara City College Theatre Group
1900 State St., Ste. G, 898‑9626
“Our mission is to be here for the whole community,” said S.B. Symphony Executive Director John Robinson, “so it means a lot to receive this award from Santa Barbarans.” Robinson’s looking forward to even more popularity for his big band this year, too. A pops series, a special commission of The Island of the Blue Dolphins, and a guitar festival round off what Robinson believes will be even more pleasure for the music lovers who love the S.B. Symphony.
Finalist Music Academy of the West
Art Gallery (Not Museum)
7 E. Anapamu St., 730-1460; 1266 Coast Village Rd., Montecito, 969-5112
“How cool is that,” exclaimed the illustrious and widely popular Frank Goss, who took a little art bookstore and built it into a thriving gallery empire — one here and one on the end of Coast Village Road. “I think my secret is that I only work with artists I want to work with, artists like Hank Pitcher and Nicole Strasburg. I’m not democratic in that sense. My biggest hope and fear is that the next Georgia O’Keefe is going to be out in my parking lot one day gathering up stuff to show me. I only hope I have my stuff together enough that day to recognize her.”
Finalist Contemporary Arts Forum
Santa Barbara Author
With only eight alphabet letters to go, Kinsey Millhone, the doyenne of female sleuths, stays A-plus in our readers’ minds. Voted almost every year as the best author in town, writer Sue Grafton, who splits her time between here and Kentucky, spells major sales even without any backup from Hollywood. (A former script-doctor, she won’t let the movies make Kinsey a celluloid star.) Is it her integrity, her light-hearted approach to hardboiled fiction, or just the gobs of local color that endears her to our readers? T is for Totally, dudes; it’s likely all of the above.
Finalist T.C. Boyle
Place to Hear Rock Music
1122 N. Milpas St., 962-7411
Most people who grew up here during the last four decades have an indelible rock ’n’ roll memory imprinted at the Bowl. The canyon has a sea view by day and nights full of stars: maybe for you it was Bob Marley in the 1970s, Elvis Costello, the Talking Heads, or The Clash. Moving forward it was 10,000 Maniacs, k.d. lang, Beastie Boys, Porno for Pyros, Blur, Los Lobos, and our own Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. But chief among these nights and afternoons of bliss we remember stars who shook the horizons: Ray Charles, lots of Santana, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, REM, Bob Dylan, Ringo and His Friends, and Radiohead. There’s no reason to believe it can’t keep getting better and our readers smarter each time they vote for the Bowl.
Finalist SOhO Restaurant & Music Club
Oak Park’s season of multicultural merriment offers Jewish, Asian, French, and, of course, the perennial winner — Greek it is. Apart from the delicious food, it’s hard to say what it is that compels the readers to pick the Hellenic hoedown as the finest, but maybe it’s the man with the table in his mouth. Or maybe it’s that wine that tastes like pine resin or, and this is another guess, the fact that this ancient culture invented democracy. So if it’s not the ouzo or the baklava or the hasapikos, maybe it’s just our way of paying back the folks who gave us consensus government and a lot of fun philosophy to horse around with for all these years.
Finalist Old Spanish Days Fiesta
S.B. Club DJ
A good deejay, like a good editor, should be at least a little invisible. We want to hear the music and not concentrate on the technopopsynthesizophile working in that little booth with all the turntables and dials. But Matt Moore has managed to disappear on us a little too completely. Phone calls to phonebook listings, messages left, private investigations, and extended dance-crazy research yielded us no Matt to hang this prize upon. So if you’re reading this DJ Moore, just know the town loves your groove even though we’re not quite sure where to find it right now.
Finalist Gavin Roy