The Biltmore Bash

Biggest Fest Party Ever?

For once, the traffic in Montecito wasn’t during the afternoon rush or comprised of Venturenos and Angelenos trying to make it home after a Santa Barbara workday or vacation. Nope, last night, the cars lining up onto 101 were jammed because the Olive Mill off-ramp served as the pearly gates to the film fest’s post-Will Smith-as-Modern Master-event bash at the Biltmore.

Photos by J’Amy Brown

Film fest parties are famous for their glitz and fun factors, and every year, the Modern Master party tends to be the most blown-out affair. Last year, George Clooney rocked the underground walls of the not-yet-completed Granada Garage. Before that, Leonardo DiCaprio put the Bacara truly on the star map. And the year before that, Roger Durling‘s first as fest director, director Peter Jackson was celebrated at a swanky Montecito estate, with iced vodka luges and circus freaks throwing fire in the air on the fringes of the partyscape.

Which is to say, every year, it gets harder and harder to top. Lucky for the fest this year, the Biltmore was planning to have it’s coming out party after tons of remodeling the same night, so the ritzyness was largely provided by the Four Seasons resort itself. The Biltmore party began around 8:30 p.m., just around the time Leonard Maltin began asking questions of a cheery, positive, and playful Will Smith. (Among other revelations delivered by Smith, he noted that his role in Six Degrees of Separation was likely the cause of his first divorce, that he shied away from Ali for some time fearing that he’d go down as the man who screwed up the boxer’s legacy, and he was surprised that anyone who starred in Wild Wild West would be considered a Master.)

Word on the street was that the Governator was in attendance for the Biltmore opening — which was celebrating the complete Ty Warner-led remodel — but once the crowds from the film fest began arriving around 10:30 p.m., Arnold was nowhere to be found. Perhaps he had already slipped into the VIP room, where security was super tight, unless you have the coveted silver wristbands. (Press were denied with a special vigor and vigilance.)

For most of the numerous partygoers, once they braved the red carpet and valet maze, the Biltmore opened up into quite the funspot. Rumors has it that the party cost a whopping $280K. On to the left side past the lobby, where lunch is usually served, a nice bar, warm lighting, and exquisitely crafted appetizers and desserts kept many people happy. This was certainly where the initial bash was held, for it called to mind the Old World extravagance guaranteed by a Biltmore stay (or even dining experience, for that matter).

But to the right of the lobby was where the party was really going down. The high ceilinged room (try like 40 feet or so) took on the appearance of a big city nightclub, with purple, blue, and pink lights adding to the ambience. Scantily clad go-go dancers rocked a half dozen silken cages as a deejay spun dance tracks to appease multiple generations. The bar was in the rear, serving free Imperia vodka and other concoctions and nearly atop the dancefloor, which made for some curious jostling to get your booze.

Famous faces were around: Christopher Lloyd, Tim Matheson, Ron Livingston (of Office Space fame), Chris Gardner (the inspiration for Will Smith’s Pursuit of Happyness character), and then tons of faces you recognized but were unsure of why. Local movers and shakers were out in force, moving their booties to the music and shaking their drinks when they got too low. Outside on the patio, the younger folks puffed away at their smokes, discussing cultural matters over American Spirits and Parliaments, vodka red bulls and greyhounds.

By 1:30 a.m., however, the bars were all closed, and folks were being encouraged to vamoose. It was quite the extravaganza of partying, and if you missed it, then you certainly missed something big. How will they top it next year?

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