They’re coming! If you think Santa Barbara’s a
tourist town now, wait a couple of years. Hotel industry people
I’ve talked to say that when all the pending resort projects come
on line, Santa Barbara will become a major international Mecca for
high-end travelers. For starters, they predict that after the
prestigious Orient-Express plows millions into El Encanto Hotel and
Spa, with its prime location overlooking the city, it will lure the
elite that follow and trust the O-E brand. El Encanto will close in
September for months of major renovations. The Four Seasons
Biltmore, now that Ty Warner has spent far more than $200 million
to buy and upgrade the 1920s classic, may be positioning itself to
focus on more East Coast old and new money, and Europeans with
plenty of pounds and euros. For some reason locals tend to forget
that Bacara is holding its own out in Goleta despite fears a few
years ago that it would boogie-board into a sea of red ink. Bacara
offers seclusion and privacy to an increasing number of those who
demand it. Ty Warner is still pumping money into renovating the San
Ysidro Ranch, long a hideaway for honeymooners and L.A.
entertainment folks. When the work is done and the restaurant
reopens after being dark for a couple of years, the ranch will
again be a star.

And let’s not forget the poor Miramar, a shambles after Ian
Schrager’s ill-fated attempt to rebuild it after demolishing much
of it. Warner rescued the beloved resort and is quietly working on
rebuilding plans. (So quietly that he’s been hush-hush about what
the results will be.) One thing going for the Miramar is that it’s
on one of the best beaches on the South Coast. Remember too the
Simpson House Inn, dating to 1874 and North America’s only AAA
five-diamond bed-and-breakfast. Add it all up and the word is that
Santa Barbara, already a top vacation spot, is on the verge of
becoming a prime watering hole for the internationally rich and
famous. Along with that, of course, room rates that will knock your
socks off. And lurking somewhere off the radar is Bill Levy’s
time-share project on lower State, awaiting financing and facing a
December drop-dead city deadline.

The Helmsley Mention: Readers are wondering if
one reason the News-Press canned all five of its community
columnists is to get rid of Montecitan Stephen Murdoch. In
Murdock’s August 3 column he quoted someone who thought NP
owner Wendy McCaw reminded him of an unbeloved New York hotel
owner. Wrote Murdoch: “One man I spoke to the other day went so far
as to compare McCaw to Leona Helmsley, who became infamous in the
1980s for inheriting a billion dollars from her husband, being mean
to her employees, and saying, ‘Only the little people pay taxes.’
Helmsley is not a figure that a paper’s publisher (or anyone else)
wants to be compared to. The next few months will show if the
perception of elitism sticks or if a more positive one replaces

Kate’s on L.A. TV: Kate Wentzel, former KEYT
weather woman who departed on short notice, is now being seen
charting isotherms on L.A. stations KCBS 2 and KCAL 9. “They have
dressed her better (at KCAL 9) than (KEYT) ever did,” observed
reader Audrey Martinson. Paul Vercammen, the KEYT news director
dropped a couple of months ago, is telling friends: “I’ve been
doing freelance reporting and producing for KCET and CNN in Los
Angeles.” Paul’s mum about why he left, but word from TV Hill is
that his departure had nothing to do with the FCC’s current inquiry
about whether the station aired one of those corporate videos
pretending to be news.

Anti-Union: Word from De la Guerra Plaza is
that Wendy has dumped her first attack-dog union-busting law firm,
Ogletree Deakins, replacing it with another “union avoidance”
outfit, as the term goes, Kauff, McClain & McGuire. One of
KM&M’s operatives, Laura Putney, is busy in the building.

She’s Off the Front Page: Hildy Johnson is the
main character in the Hecht-Lederer play and movie The Front
, about wacky newspapering in Chicago. (The 1940 remake,
His Girl Friday — with Rosalind Russell gender-bending as
the once-male Hildy — is a delight.) Well, a few years ago, Hildy
Medina joined the News-Press staff as a reporter, then
business writer, but she’ll never make Page One there again. Hildy
has vamoosed off to the Hispanic Business magazine, where
she joins Michael Todd, one of the first to resign during the
current meltdown. Hilda, a crackerjack reporter, is the 14th to
split the newsroom by my count.

For the Coast? Thanks to the Guv, Santa Barbara
County now has two residents as Coastal Commission alternates, both
moderate Republicans and seen by enviros as pro-development. Third
District Supervisor Brooks Firestone has joined ex-Santa Barbara
City Councilmember Dan Secord on the board. Secord is running
against Janet Wolf in the November election for 2nd District
supervisor. The problem persists: A system where politicos pick
politicians for the board.


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