News-Press Under Microscope

More Marching, Zant Gets Fired, and Cappello Named in

Ellen Selling in Montecito? Talk show host
, who’ll host the 2007 Oscars, is quietly putting on
the market the Montecito home she bought last fall for a reported
$16.5 million, according to my sources. The 1926 Spanish Colonial
Revival home near the Lotusland estate was “butchered” by earlier
owners, say neighbors who had hoped that Ellen would return it to
its former glory. It has four bedrooms and eight bathrooms, plus a
guesthouse, tennis court, and pool. The 5,000-square-foot house has
a 1,300-square-foot master bedroom suite that includes a nursery.
It is guarded by walls and a high gate.

Wendy’s Ex Buying Here: According to rumors
circulating in Montecito, Craig McCaw, former husband of News-Press
owner Wendy McCaw, is buying a home on Park Lane. Price:
Upwards of $25 million, I’m told. It’s described as “a beautiful
Mediterranean home with ocean views.” Craig is reputedly a big
donor to George Bush and McCaw’s wife, Susan Leigh Rasinski McCaw,
is ambassador to Austria. Craig, 56, worth over $2 billion,
according to Forbes, lives in Seattle, so the Montecito residence
is presumably a second home with a better climate.

Rude Shirts: UCSB athletic director
Gary Cunningham
published a letter in the Daily
apologizing for what he called T-shirts with “insulting
and offensive” comments at Saturday night’s game here against Long
Beach State. “I was personally offended” at jibes “on the basis of
race and class stereotypes,” Cunningham wrote. But he didn’t say
what the nasty words were or who’s to blame, other than the state
of college campuses in the year 2007.

Bigger Than Fiesta? “I would say that our local
Film Fest has now surpassed the venerable Old Spanish Days as the
biggest and best party in town,” claims blogger Craig
. (Craig, is nothing sacred anymore?) I’d call it
more like apples and oranges, apple pie and orange ice cream. One
thing about Fiesta: Most of it’s free.

Mining Cuyama: Ventura County residents and the
are lodging criticisms over proposals to locate three
gravel mines in the Cuyama Valley. Traffic, safety, air pollution,
and noise are the main issues. The mines would be in Santa Barbara
County but the traffic will go through Ventura County. Details at

French Kiss-Off: Not only did Mark French, UCSB women’s basketball coach fire
off an e-mail to friends lambasting the News-Press firing
of sports columnist John Zant, but he refused to
be interviewed by the paper about his team. News_Press_Protest.jpg

An NP story in Thursday’s paper (one of the exceedingly
rare mentions of the meltdown in the daily) about the team said
French “refused to comment on the game, citing the firing of former
News-Press beat writer John Zant as the cause.” The
banishment of Zant, a 38-year News-Press columnist and
sports writer, sent shockwaves around town, even among those only
faintly aware of the brouhaha at the paper.

In an email to “Friends of Gaucho Women’s Basketball,” French
called Zant’s firing “a loss for our entire community … He is one
of the most moral and ethical human beings that I have ever known!
… I am very proud to have lived in Santa Barbara/Goleta for many
years. People like John Zant make this a wonderful place to work
and live. I am outraged by this treatment of a true ‘local
.’ I am canceling my subscription to the
News-Press and will do everything I possibly can to
prevent this from happening to other caring, talented people in our

A Loud V-Day: Fired News-Pressers and
supporters will stage another loud protest outside
the paper on De la Guerra Plaza on Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, at
1:30 p.m. On Friday they’ll be at Carrillo and Castillo streets,
7:30-8:30 a.m., with a banner and signs urging the public to cancel
their subscriptions. A major rally is planned on Feb. 21.

Campus Flicks: Cheers to UCSB’s Arts & Lectures for, among other things,
lining up an exotic series of foreign films not likely to see the
light of day on State Street. I’m thinking of the recent Army
of Shadows
, a dark feature about the French Resistance, and
last week’s emotional Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, by the
foremost Chinese director Zhang

On Feb. 24 four features will be shown at the Victoria Hall
Theater for Central Asia Film Day: Beshkempir:
The Adopted Son
, Travellers & Magicians, The
Cave of the Yellow Dog
, and The Story of the Weeping
. Flags of Our Fathers, the World War II film by
will be shown March 1 ($6 to the public, free to
students), and Into Great Silence, 162 minutes of solitude
at the mother house of the Carthusian Order of monks, at Campbell
Hall on March 5.

Sorting for Hunger: The Foodbank of Santa
Barbara County
is urgently seeking volunteers to help sort
canned and packaged food items. Some heavy lifting required. Hours
available: 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. 4554 Hollister
Avenue, Tel: 967-5741 ext. 104.

Back at the Ranch: After mother-henning
’s $150 million, three-year renovation of the San Ysidro
, GM Duncan Graham is leaving, with no
plans other than R&R in Europe. No replacement has been decided
on, I’m told. Duncan’s last day will be February 25. Meanwhile, the
old gang is returning to the newly reopened Plow &
downstairs lounge.

Cappello Named: Millionaire Santa Barbara
attorney Barry Cappello denies any wrongdoing, but the
have filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the
News-Press over his alleged threats.

According to union lawyer Ira Gottlieb, it was illegal for
Cappello to make statements in newspaper articles warning employees
that certain activities, like displaying a banner over the freeway,
deserved punitive action. These are actions protected by federal
law, Gottlieb said.

The question being asked around town is why Cappello, who
doesn’t need the money, is taking such high-profile role on McCaw’s
behalf, for which he is now facing this complaint? The six fired
journalists and supporters staged a loud march in front of his
State Street office Friday. All this puts him at odds with fellow
attorneys who have signed on to support the journalists and who
have felt McCaw’s wrath. Look for at least one more unfair
labor practice complaint
to be filed against the
News-Press by a former newsroom employee.

Barney Brantingham can be reached at 805-965-5205 or He also writes at Thursday print column
The Independent and a Friday Weekend Picks online


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