News-Press Under Microscope

More Marching, Zant Gets Fired, and Cappello Named in Complaint

Ellen Selling in Montecito? Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who’ll host the 2007 Oscars, is quietly putting on the market the Montecito home she bought last fall for a reported $16.5 million, according to my sources. The 1926 Spanish Colonial Revival home near the Lotusland estate was “butchered” by earlier owners, say neighbors who had hoped that Ellen would return it to its former glory. It has four bedrooms and eight bathrooms, plus a guesthouse, tennis court, and pool. The 5,000-square-foot house has a 1,300-square-foot master bedroom suite that includes a nursery. It is guarded by walls and a high gate.

Wendy’s Ex Buying Here: According to rumors circulating in Montecito, Craig McCaw, former husband of News-Press owner Wendy McCaw, is buying a home on Park Lane. Price: Upwards of $25 million, I’m told. It’s described as “a beautiful Mediterranean home with ocean views.” Craig is reputedly a big donor to George Bush and McCaw’s wife, Susan Leigh Rasinski McCaw, is ambassador to Austria. Craig, 56, worth over $2 billion, according to Forbes, lives in Seattle, so the Montecito residence is presumably a second home with a better climate.

Rude Shirts: UCSB athletic director Gary Cunningham published a letter in the Daily Nexus apologizing for what he called T-shirts with “insulting and offensive” comments at Saturday night’s game here against Long Beach State. “I was personally offended” at jibes “on the basis of race and class stereotypes,” Cunningham wrote. But he didn’t say what the nasty words were or who’s to blame, other than the state of college campuses in the year 2007.

Bigger Than Fiesta? “I would say that our local Film Fest has now surpassed the venerable Old Spanish Days as the biggest and best party in town,” claims blogger Craig Smith. (Craig, is nothing sacred anymore?) I’d call it more like apples and oranges, apple pie and orange ice cream. One thing about Fiesta: Most of it’s free.

Mining Cuyama: Ventura County residents and the Sierra Club are lodging criticisms over proposals to locate three gravel mines in the Cuyama Valley. Traffic, safety, air pollution, and noise are the main issues. The mines would be in Santa Barbara County but the traffic will go through Ventura County. Details at

French Kiss-Off: Not only did Mark French, UCSB women’s basketball coach fire off an e-mail to friends lambasting the News-Press firing of sports columnist John Zant, but he refused to be interviewed by the paper about his team. News_Press_Protest.jpg

An NP story in Thursday’s paper (one of the exceedingly rare mentions of the meltdown in the daily) about the team said French “refused to comment on the game, citing the firing of former News-Press beat writer John Zant as the cause.” The banishment of Zant, a 38-year News-Press columnist and sports writer, sent shockwaves around town, even among those only faintly aware of the brouhaha at the paper.

In an email to “Friends of Gaucho Women’s Basketball,” French called Zant’s firing “a loss for our entire community … He is one of the most moral and ethical human beings that I have ever known! … I am very proud to have lived in Santa Barbara/Goleta for many years. People like John Zant make this a wonderful place to work and live. I am outraged by this treatment of a true ‘local hero.’ I am canceling my subscription to the News-Press and will do everything I possibly can to prevent this from happening to other caring, talented people in our community.”

A Loud V-Day: Fired News-Pressers and supporters will stage another loud protest outside the paper on De la Guerra Plaza on Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, at 1:30 p.m. On Friday they’ll be at Carrillo and Castillo streets, 7:30-8:30 a.m., with a banner and signs urging the public to cancel their subscriptions. A major rally is planned on Feb. 21.

Campus Flicks: Cheers to UCSB’s Arts & Lectures for, among other things, lining up an exotic series of foreign films not likely to see the light of day on State Street. I’m thinking of the recent Army of Shadows, a dark feature about the French Resistance, and last week’s emotional Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, by the foremost Chinese director Zhang Yimou.

On Feb. 24 four features will be shown at the Victoria Hall Theater for Central Asia Film Day: Beshkempir: The Adopted Son, Travellers & Magicians, The Cave of the Yellow Dog, and The Story of the Weeping Camel. Flags of Our Fathers, the World War II film by Clint Eastwood will be shown March 1 ($6 to the public, free to students), and Into Great Silence, 162 minutes of solitude at the mother house of the Carthusian Order of monks, at Campbell Hall on March 5.

Sorting for Hunger: The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is urgently seeking volunteers to help sort canned and packaged food items. Some heavy lifting required. Hours available: 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. 4554 Hollister Avenue, Tel: 967-5741 ext. 104.

Back at the Ranch: After mother-henning Ty Warner’s $150 million, three-year renovation of the San Ysidro Ranch, GM Duncan Graham is leaving, with no plans other than R&R in Europe. No replacement has been decided on, I’m told. Duncan’s last day will be February 25. Meanwhile, the old gang is returning to the newly reopened Plow & Angel downstairs lounge.

Cappello Named: Millionaire Santa Barbara attorney Barry Cappello denies any wrongdoing, but the Teamsters have filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the News-Press over his alleged threats.

According to union lawyer Ira Gottlieb, it was illegal for Cappello to make statements in newspaper articles warning employees that certain activities, like displaying a banner over the freeway, deserved punitive action. These are actions protected by federal law, Gottlieb said.

The question being asked around town is why Cappello, who doesn’t need the money, is taking such high-profile role on McCaw’s behalf, for which he is now facing this complaint? The six fired journalists and supporters staged a loud march in front of his State Street office Friday. All this puts him at odds with fellow attorneys who have signed on to support the journalists and who have felt McCaw’s wrath. Look for at least one more unfair labor practice complaint to be filed against the News-Press by a former newsroom employee.

Barney Brantingham can be reached at 805-965-5205 or He also writes at Thursday print column in The Independent and a Friday Weekend Picks online column.

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