Surprise: A Penthouse on State Street

On the Beat

Living Large: Imagine yourself living in a penthouse high above downtown State Street, with views forever and just an elevator ride down to Santa Barbara’s theaters, shops, and restaurants.

No, the city hasn’t okay’d another “high-rise.” It’s already there in the form of the eight-story, 116-foot-tall Granada building, built in 1923. A few years ago a city staffer approved the creation of residential condos in the top two office floors, as part of owner Rob Rossi’s city-required seismic reinforcement project. The city didn’t need any stinking public hearing.

Barney Brantingham

And as a bonus, with the eighth floor, you also get use of the rooftop. The condos start at $3,750,000. (Mere pocket change for a billionaire.) In fact, Santa Barbara’s ever-active rumor mill speculates that billionaire Craig McCaw -ex-husband of the News-Press‘s Wendy- wants to buy one. My well-informed sources say definitely not.

Gift in Disguise: “I flunked 1st grade,” recalls novelist/TV writer-producer Stephen Cannell. “It’s really hard to flunk 1st grade.”

“Then I flunked 4th grade.” He’d stand up to read in class and was baffled. “I couldn’t make heads or tails of the words. Then I flunked 10th grade. I had no idea why this was happening.”

Only years later did Cannell realize that his problem was severe dyslexia.

After years of failure with the printed word, he turned in a high school poem on Martin Luther King Jr. and was amazed to get a B minus. “I was so proud.” He read it to his family and won praise. His older sister even wanted to “borrow” it for an assignment.

“She gets an A,” Cannell told a luncheon fundraiser at the Doubletree benefiting Santa Barbara’s Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D), “and they published it in the school paper.”

Why the difference? Cannell figures it’s because he was perceived as “a lousy writer” while “my sister didn’t carry that baggage.”

“I went to the University of Oregon on a football scholarship but lost it due to poor grades.” Then a creative writing professor summoned Cannell to his office and told him, “You have a gift from God” as a writer.

“He made me promise that I would never stop being a writer. It was an epiphany for me. It changed my life.” Cannell spent the next six years writing five hours a day, including weekends, with little success. “Finally, I got an agent.” He found he was a good storyteller and could verbally pitch stories to producers. He won a contract with Universal. “I was now at the largest movie studio in the world-as a writer.” And was given a parking spot next to Clint Eastwood’s space.

But an estimated 2 million students around the U.S. are struggling with dyslexia and other reading problems, according to Tim Owens, RFB&D executive director. Only about 250,000 of them are being served by Recording for the Blind & Dyslexia, he said. In Santa Barbara, volunteers read textbooks onto CDs for use nationally. RFB&D is serving 1,600 students locally, but he believes there are 10,000 badly needing help. Money is needed to help them. He’s aiming to reach 2,000 in 2010.

“We need to reach more kids before it’s too late,” he said. “Way too many will drop out of school, get in trouble with the law, or abuse drugs and alcohol. Last year, we conducted a pilot program with six special education students at Canolino Elementary School in Carpinteria,” Owens said. “After six months of using our audio textbooks, five of these six students doubled their rate of comprehension. The sixth student fell just shy of doubling his rate. Pretty amazing.” To donate, check out the wish list on”

Nude News: According to the Southern California Naturalist Association (SCNA) newsletter, a sunbather at Santa Barbara County’s Bates Beach was cited for being nude. “Jim” said he was approached by two officers at the deserted beach and cited. Jim said when he pointed out that he was under his beach towel as he sat on a chair, the officer replied, “Well, you’re nude under that towel.”

To which Jim replied, “Well, you’re nude under your uniform.” Rather than fight the ticket, Jim paid the fine, according to the SCNA.

DallasDollars: Just when you thought you’d finally heard the last of Randall Van Wolfswinkel, who dropped something like $700,000 on the recent city election, here came another of his mailers. He says (gasp!) he’s not through. His DallasBucks helped elect what he considers “new common sense council members” (Frank Hotchkiss and Michael Self). But this doesn’t “mean our work is done,” he wrote. “Stay tuned.”

So Wolfie’s planning to blow even more DallasDollars?

Love’s Labour’s Lost: This is not serious theater. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre’s production at the Granada of the bard’s comedy was alive with pratfalls, bawdy humor, inside jokes, and, of course, love. Thanks to UCSB’s Arts & Lectures for bringing it all here, and to Sarah Miller McCune and Anne and Michael Towbes for their generous support. ($$$).


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