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Ty Warner's enormous compound up the street from his Biltmore hotel.

Ty Warner's enormous compound up the street from his Biltmore hotel.


The Shrimp’s on the Barbie, But the Fat’s in the Fire


OK, Aussies, Hogan’s Here: Darkness had just settled on a warm Fourth of July a couple of years ago, and there was Paul (“Crocodile Dundee”) Hogan standing next to me.

Hogan had slipped onto the Santa Barbara Riviera porch just before the fireworks started on the beach far below. We shook hands but he clearly wanted no attention from the dozen or so locals who’d gathered for burgers and beer. I figured that it was just the usual desire by celebrities to stay out of the limelight. But now I’ve learned that maybe something else was involved. Hogan, 68, has been in a major beef with Australian tax people. They’re investigating Hogan, although he denies he’s dodged taxes. The shrimp may be on the barbie but the fat’s in the fire. On this Fourth, 2008, Hogan issued a challenge to Down Under tax officials from his Santa Barbara mansion: “Come and get me, you miserable bastards.”

On the Beat

Actually, it’s Hogan’s money they want down in the Land of Oz. The actor who did so much for Australian tourism says he’s planning to return to shoot a film there in September and jokes that “I’ll be arrested the minute I land on the shore, of course, but I have a gun, so be warned.” What’s really infuriated him is that the Australian Tax Office has enlisted the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to try to put the snatch on Hogan’s banking records.

He’s fighting that, contending that the ATO’s “long-distance fishing expedition” is using the IRS to seek records that it would not be able to obtain lawfully in Australia.

Just how much the Aussies claim Hogan owes isn’t known, but he claims he’s paid more than enough tax, over $100 million by his reckoning. He’s mad enough to wrestle crocs.

Still, the Aussies don’t fool around. Music entrepreneur Glenn Wheatley was released on home detention in May after almost a year in jail for tax fraud.

Not So Smart: “Please, please, please, do not associate Ty Warner‘s ownership of the Smart Car as any form of environmental cred,” warns Steve McMahon. “That giant hunk of ego overlooking the cemetery is one of the worst offenders I know of in terms of waste.” For those who haven’t strolled by the billionaire Beanie Baby king’s enormous compound up the street from his Biltmore hotel, take a gander sometime. It’s been abuilding for years with more to go. Also being repaired after a recent fire. More palm trees than the Sahara. Then again the Kona Village Resort over on the Big Island is partly owned by Ty, who says it was green before green was trendy, doing such things as recycling, using sandy paths instead of cement walks, and generally practising kuleana - responsibility.

Viva Flamenco!: Even though flamenco has been banned at Old Spanish Days’ opening event at the Mission, La Fiesta Pequena, July 30, Linda Vega vows that her students will be there but performing folk dances instead. Local filmmakers are making a documentary about the Linda Vega Dance Studio to show what goes into the studio’s preparations for Fiesta. I’m told that it’s a look inside the world of flamenco in Santa Barbara, its history, and how Vega has influenced the thriving world of flamenco here. Her studio’s flamenco program “Romeria de Verano,” July 20 at the Marjorie Luke Theater, will raise funds to hire musicians to play for the dancers during Fiesta. At last report it’s nearly sold out.

Cutting Back: Backers of the campaign to lower building height limits in downtown Santa Barbara apparently have enough signatures to place their initiative on the November ballot. Save El Pueblo Viejo says it’s gathered 7,478 signatures, while 6,480 are required, or 15 percent of registered voters. They’ll keep gathering names, however, to assure a safe margin. The measure’s backed by the present mayor, Marty Blum, and her two predecessors, Harriet Miller and Sheila Lodge.

Shelly’s Farewell: Shelly Leachman, when she joined the News-Press, was a bright young reporter, the kind you’re glad to see coming into the business. At an age when I was just fumbling with the keys, she proved she could handle any assignment, even being sent off to New Mexico to report the background of the demented woman who did the Goleta postal facility killings a few years ago.

But then came the News-Press meltdown and Shelly departed for the L.A. area Daily Breeze. But that didn’t prove a breeze and now Shelly has written a “Dear Journalism” letter, kind of a Dear John. “I’m leaving you,” she wrote. “Today. Please don’t be upset. It’s for the best. I think you really have some issues you need to work through before you can expect anyone to commit to you long term.” Not that she didn’t love her work at the Breeze. “We enjoyed a wonderfully sarcastic, warm and talented group of colleagues, who rallied together when big news broke; gasped together over the rampant idiocy among comment-posters to our Web site; laughed together over the inevitable and ever-priceless ‘I hate you’ messages from outraged readers (many of whom I suspect don’t actually read); and amassed an impressive collection of Janice Hahn holiday cards.

(Honestly, I’m still trying to forgive you for that whole Wendy McCaw thing. I know it wasn’t your fault, per se, and that she, much like Glenn Close to Michael Douglas in Fatal Attraction, just won’t leave you no matter how hard you push, but wow, I wish you would kick her to the curb already. Jeez, Journalism, how many proverbial bunnies have to be boiled before you find a way to get rid of her? When you do figure it out, you might wanna swoop up that Sam Zell guy and send him packing too. He seems a little nuts. Just sayin.)”

Zell, of course, is the guy who bought the L.A. Times and is fast dismantling a great paper. The worst part of Shelly’s split from her once-beloved Journalism is that she’s going into advertising, a fine profession but not for anyone who’s gotten a taste of what it feels like to report a tough story, fight the editors and copy desk, and see her byline on Page One.

Shelly, mark my words. You’ll be back and fall back in love, the famous second time around. In the meantime, good luck.

Barney Brantingham can be reached at barney@independent.com or (805) 965-5205. He writes online columns and a print column on Thursdays.

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