When Oprah Met Obama

Preparing for the Big Bash; Plus, a Visual Tour of What's Happening This Week in Montecito

Oprah Winfrey's lawn, where Barack Obama will party down at a fundraiser.
J'Amy Brown

Burned out by the Zaca Fire and distracted by drowning in the light blue line conflict, this week Montage zipped through Montecito with a camera to snap photos of what’s making news.

STORY OF O-O (A.K.A. OPRAH AND OBAMA): First off, we drove by Oprah Winfrey’s mansion where, less than 10 days before the O-O party, things seem quiet. We hear it is a star-studded, sell-out event, attracting 1,400 supporters, with another 800 clamoring to get on the wait list. Scheduled for Saturday, September 8, 3-7 p.m., Obama’s well-wishers have been advised to dress fashionably functional – gossamer-garden-garb with flat shoes, mandatory for strolling with any grace at all across Oprah’s backyard meadows.

A few Montecito patrons have already raised an eyebrow at cattle call check-in, required for most guests. To get to the party, even the leisurely ladies and lads of Montecito will have to drive their Rolls eight miles away to the Earl Warren Showgrounds. There, they will park and be bussed back to Montecito, after going through security search that will remove all cameras, of course.

Oprah Winfrey's gate, where Montecito's elite will pass through next weekend.
J'Amy Brown

And, if this sounds like a lot of work, your tax dollars will also be putting in some elbow grease. Look for Secret Service, private security, and the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department to be involved. And, of course, the California Highway Patrol will be on call to keep Montecito’s rural two-lane thoroughfares near Oprah’s open and uncluttered from the nuisances of paparazzi and rubberneckers alike.

After the event, when the throngs have been prodded back to Earl Warren, Oprah has invited 200 special guests to stay at her house for a post party diner – sifting out, to an even finer degree, Montecito’s true grit.

A number of Montecito stars, fearing the O-O klieg lights are a bit too bright, are taking their power to a more intimate Obama event on the same day at 12:30 p.m. at Nancy Koppleman’s Montecito digs. For the same $2,300 contribution requested by Oprah, Nancy promised to limit her event to 100 guests and offer real face time and photos with the Illinois Senator. One Montecito resident, who accepted Koppelman’s invitation, sniffed, “Nancy’s event will be for those who love politics, but aren’t too crazy about celebrities.” There are a few spaces left at the Koppleman’s experience if it’s Obama, not Oprah, that bring the “Oh!” out in you!

“SANTA BARBARA UNCENSORED” NO MORE: “That’s a wrap,” were the final words uttered on the set “Santa Barbara Uncensored,” a campy public access show produced by and starring three Montecito teens: Mike Schmitt, Teddy Steinkellner, and Josh Longstreth, and their parents. (They’re pictured here with Hap Freund, Channel 17’s executive director.)

The final taping of "Santa Barbara Uncensored."
J'Amy Brown

The team’s three-year run ended last Tuesday, cancellation forced by the fact that Schmitt and Steinkellner are off to college. Longstreth plans to continue the show solo, but might book as a co-host his sister, Mandy, who spotted Jessica Simpson in town on Monday and engaged her in some local chat.

BIG WIN DOWN UNDER: Montecito Planning Commissioner Claire Gottsdanker’s son Josh called home this week to tell his mom he just won the New Zealand National Lottery!

The New Zealand lottery winners.

Claire says her son offered to buy his mom dinner in Hawaii with part of his $265,000 winnings. Josh, pictured here with his wife Charlotte and children Milee and Ruby, was born in Montecito and attended Cold Spring School and Santa Barbara High.

MERRAG MEETING: Pink-shirted Don Miller, an aspiring MERRAG trainee, is surrounded by MERRAG members John Ackerman and Troy Harris, and Michael Shea, from the Red Cross.

Don Miller training with MERRAG's John Ackerman and Troy Harris, and Michael Shea, of the Red Cross.
J'Amy Brown

One benefit of Zaca Fire may be to encourage people, like Don, to become civil defense volunteers for MERRAG, which stands for Montecito Emergency Response & Recovery Action Group. The next training meeting is September 6, 3:15 p.m., at 595 San Ysidro Road. The training will be emergency traffic control, which could come in handy if you are near the O-O bash.

FIRE THANKS: On Sunday, Montecito Fire District personnel found a carved thank you sign planted on their front lawn. It was a gift made by Montecito resident Richard Wilke and signed by several other residents – but it reflects the sentiments of the entire community!

A big "thank-you" to Montecito Fire.

In other post-fire news, radio station AM 1370, rented by MFD to disburse information during the Zaca Fire, has now been discontinued. The establishment of a permanent radio station is under review.


The new track.
J'Amy Brown

*A new track and field will greet students returning to Montecito Union School for the first day of school on Wednesday, August 29 at 8:30 a.m.

The new bridge.
J'Amy Brown

*A permanent pedestrian bridge between Montecito Union School and the YMCA got final touches on Tuesday. Supervisor Salud Carbajal initiated the pedestrian project three years ago to create safe passage route along this narrow, but much used, portion of Santa Rosa Lane. A formal ribbon cutting is scheduled for September 13 at noon.

The hillsides of Montecito.
J'Amy Brown

*The Montecito Planning Commission will hold a briefing on the purpose and intent of resource management zone districts at their monthly meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, August 29, 9:30 a.m. The intent of the discussion is to gain clarity as to the intent and the purpose of Montecito’s hillside development regulations, an area receiving attention in recent years.

The Music Academy in the midst of remodeling.
J'Amy Brown

*Only days after the end of the 2007 Music Academy Summer Season, demolition started on the Music Academy’s Abravanel Hall as part of phase one of the academy’s rehabilitation project. The construction is expected to extend until mid-June 2008 and the Rack and the Treasure House, the Academy’s popular resale shops, are expected to remain closed during most of this period.

A sign at the Coral Casino.
J'Amy Brown

*After a Sunday dress rehearsal-type opening for employees-only, the Coral Casino postponed the expected Tuesday opening. Having publicized several opening dates, the club is now not saying anything firm, but they cautiously whispered to Montage it might actually open to members on Friday, August 31 for the Labor Day weekend.

*After 20 years in the same location, Letter Perfect has moved from its longtime Coast Village Road storefront to just off-street and down the street. Leslie Ryan, the store’s owner, said increased rents force the move, but she remains enthusiastic about her new location and continuing her longtime Montecito business.

The moving notice from Letter Perfect on Coast Village Road.
J'Amy Brown

“I have really gotten to know people through their stationary – their birth announcements, wedding announcements, and even sympathy acknowledgments,” said Ryan. “I have no intention of giving those friendship up and I look forward to continuing to be of service to this community.”


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