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Crimes of the Press

Barney Dishes on the News Press and Heads to the Theater

On the Beat

Mental Case?: Here’s a shocker; newly elected Sheriff Bill Brown says the county jail has, in effect, become the county’s largest mental institution. Of the 1,000 inmates, nearly 20 percent were taking psychiatric drugs when he visited, and others had mental problems. Instead of a new jail, maybe we need a psychiatric facility with jailor-shrinks. It’s also interesting that Brown was able to squeeze $950,000 out of the much-maligned Sheriff’s Council to refurbish an emergency wilderness rescue chopper. One wonders that there’s anything left in the SC coffers, after being drained by all those questionable attorney’s fees.

Honey, I Shrunk the Ads: Last Sunday’s News-Press smear of Roberts has led to renewed calls for advertisers to withhold their money that is supporting this sort of thing. In fact, look for City of Santa Barbara ads to disappear from the paper as soon as the contracts expire.

Crimes of the Heart: The drive out to Circle Bar B Ranch on Refugio Road was delightful, the tri-tip barbecue hearty, and the dinner theater play bittersweet, but with plenty of laughs. Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart is a Pulitzer Prize-winner about three sisters in rural Mississippi-one of whom has shot her rotten lawyer husband in the gut. (He survives.) Life has passed the second sister by at 30, but what about that guy in Memphis? Not much has passed the third sister, who arrives home with her singing career in the pits, but with plenty of lust for life-in more ways than one. I don’t know where Santa Barbara County gets so many fine actresses, but four of them were on stage Friday night: Dalina Michaels-who was a hoot as the cousin-Anne Burridge, Heather Heyerdahl, and Melissa Rose Ziemer. The guys, namely James Cotton and Sean William Harrigan, were just right. Jennifer Shepard directed with a light, zany touch. I heard that at least one production somewhere did a rendition of Crimes that was strictly serious, which I can’t understand. Shows will continue through May 20 at the Circle Bar B Ranch Theatre. Horeseback riding and overnight accommodations are also available.

To See or Not to See: Speaking of plays, Hamlet-that doomed prince of Denmark-will stride the Rubicon stage in Ventura starting this Saturday. The Bard’s trivial little sketch only offers “love, madness, passion, betrayal, revenge, murder, and mayhem,” the Rubicon people promise. Bodies galore and at least one ghost. Joseph Fuqua plays Hamlet. More info. is available at the Rubicon Theatre’s website, or by calling (805) 667-2900.

Buy a Paper, Get a Gift: An 85-year-old neighbor reports hearing from the News-Press that if she subscribes for a year, she’ll get a sports duffle bag-complete with water bottle. For signing up for 26 weeks, she’d get an eight-piece box of truffles. Only 13 weeks? A deck of playing cards emblazoned with the News-Press logo. But if she cancels at any time before the subscription runs out, the cost of the gift will be deducted from the remaining subscription. She’s passing on the deal.

She’s Green: Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld, The New Adventures of Old Christine) owns a beach house here that she’s transformed into “an environmental state-of-the-art showcase,” according to Vanity Fair’s current Green Issue. She’s joined the board of Heal the Bay, which focuses on cleaning up Santa Monica Bay, and has helped raise millions for the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Waterkeeper Alliance, and Trust for Public Land. Her character in New Adventures drives a hybrid and so does she.

Good-Bye, Claudia: For decades, Claudia Madsen was a leading voice against development she thought would damage Santa Barbara’s beauty and quality of life. Only weeks before her death at 85 last week, she wrote me about the “monstrosities” being built on Chapala Street. And she was right, as usual. Claudia, a former United Press reporter in San Francisco, was a sweet woman who campaigned at City Hall with a smile on her face. A celebration of her life will be held at the Cabrillo Arts Center on May 26 at 3 p.m. Donations in her memory can be sent to the Citizens Planning Association, 916 Anacapa St., 93101.

Heartening Award: The timing was perfect. Just as former News-Press editor Jerry Roberts was being sleazed by the paper he quit over ethical issues, he-and eight others who resigned last year-received Payne Awards for Ethical Journalism. According to the University of Oregon, which announced the Payne Awards: “The nine former staff members of the Santa Barbara News-Press to receive the Individual Award include Jerry Roberts, former executive editor; George Foulsham, former managing editor; Don Murphy, former deputy managing editor; Gerry Spratt, former sports editor; Michael Todd, former business editor; Jane Hulse, former city editor; Colin Powers, former presentation editor; Scott Hadly, former reporter; and former columnist Barney Brantingham, who worked at the newspaper for 46 years.” The judges applauded the journalists’ “difficult decision to act upon their beliefs about what excellence and ethics in journalism mean-even if it meant losing or giving up their jobs.” The awards ceremony will be held May 10 at the university campus in Eugene.

Barney Brantingham can be reached at barney@independent.com or 805-965-5205. He is a staff member of the Santa Barbara Independent and writes online columns on Tuesdays and Fridays and a print column on Thursdays.

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