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 independent.com. 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 barney@independent.com.

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
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

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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