EXTRA!: The Dish Is Shattered!

Montecito resident and well-known gossip columnist,
Martha Smilgis, confirms she has departed the
News-Press, leaving her column, “The Dish,” in fragments
and shards behind her. By some accounts, The Dish was the best read
column in the News-Press, and many a robe-clad Montecito
fan has been seen slipping outside early on Tuesday mornings (or
Monday’s recently) so they could have The Dish for breakfast.


When reached for comment about her split, Smilgis said, “The
regime or current ‘Powers that Be’ felt the column was too
political. They indicated that they wanted more gossip.” Smilgis
said she had always viewed the column as more of a “Talk of the
Town,” a la The New Yorker. “I tried to capture the
zeitgeist of the week, and what caught my eye. I did write about
politics over they years, but they were usually clever little
asides, if I do say so. I’ve covered many politicians, from our
local characters to national figures, who came looking for money. I
think the Democrats, the S.B. Women’s’ Political Committee, and the
Republicans, the Lincoln Club, would say I was fair to their

But fair or not, Smilgis said she knew The Dish was doomed a
week ago when News-Press co-publisher Arthur von
informed her the column needed a more gossipy
tone. “I really don’t want to write about people’s divorces,” she
told me, flipping her trademark blonde mane to the side. “I created
the column and I knew what I wanted it to be about.”

In 2003, when Smilgis was brought into the News-Press
by then-editor Jerry Roberts to create a tattler,
Montecitans were skeptical about Martha’s direction. “I’m not sure
what she’s trying to do,” sniffed one matron upon first read.
However, three weeks later, that same dowager was hosting a Birnam
Wood County Club luncheon honoring Martha, hoping for even a tiny
bon mot in The Dish. Within months of starting, The Dish became the
top aspiration rung on the social climbers ladder!

The column’s wild success was partially due to Jerry’s mandate
for prominent placement, but the real sell was Smilgis’ tight,
amusing writing style. She combined saucy syntax with tattling
tickle, instinctively knowing which secrets to tell and which to
keep (and she’s kept plenty!). Her weekly mix of proper legal
appellations and aptly coined nicknames (I am dubbed “Montecito’s
T-Rex”) was just what was needed to make readers wake up smiling
and reading!. Her smooth reporting style came readily as she has
amassed a notable career in the world of journalism.

A UC Berkeley alum, Martha worked in New York for both CBS and
CNN. She spent 17 years at TIME magazine and three years
at People magazine, where she ended up as L.A. bureau
chief. She went on to be one of the executive producers of
Extra! and penned “The Outraged Investor,” a financial
column for the San Francisco Chronicle. A well-known
freelance correspondent and journalist, Martha has been a
contributor to Santa Barbara Magazine and is the author of
a book, Fame’s Peril. She is currently working on a
mystery novel about murder mixed up with unearned inheritance and
she says even though The Dish is gone, her plate is full. She’s
already gotten column offers but wants to taking some time off for
R&R, including weight training, running on Montecito’s beaches,
reading novels, and traveling. However, she says as much as she
will enjoy the pause, she’ll miss interacting with her readers.

“I’ve had great fun with the party animals of this town, from
the wild twentysomethings to the nimble 90-year-olds, to the film
buffs and the church-goers. I have covered our local celebs and the
national celebs who have come here to roost in our glorious little
hamlet. I tried to shed some light into the corners of our little
town and give some credit to all the creative and dependable folks
who make up our citizenry,” she reflected.

We suggest that while The Dish may be broken, Martha’s talent
and perceptiveness will not go to waste. We look forward to seeing
what future mosaic our colleague creates from The Dish


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