GOOD NEWS: “Hollywood’s Craziest Couple,” as Vanity Fair dubs Evi and Randy Quaid, will definitely, positively not be appointed to the Santa Barbara City Council vacancy — but may show up some day to face those pesky criminal charges. For now, though, they’re seeking asylum in Canada, fearing danger from “Hollywood Star Whackers.”

Barney Brantingham

Meanwhile, TV host Ernie Salomon is urging the council to name a Latino, pointing out that the city’s Latino population is 35 percent or more but has no City Council representation. The lack of Eastside and Westside neighborhood representation could be solved by reversion to the old ward system — election by district. It may take a lawsuit to make this happen. In the meantime, don’t rule out ex-mayor Sheila Lodge getting the nod.

McQUEEN OR NOT McQUEEN? Was “Fred McQueen,” who came to Santa Barbara for a 2008 screening of the film Best Wishes for Tomorrow, really the illegitimate son of actor Steve McQueen, as he claimed?

Or just Fred Spiker, riding on another man’s reputation?

Fred made the claim to me following the World War II courtroom drama’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival premiere. Fred played the prosecutor. Fred also made the claim to the cast, some of whom had doubts.

But no doubt about it, Fred was a dead ringer for the late actor. So when I began reading the deeply researched new biography of Steve McQueen, I was surprised to find no mention of Fred. So I emailed Marshall Terrill, author of Steve McQueen: The Life and Legend of a Hollywood Icon. He doubted Fred’s story.

“I have serious doubts about the legitimacy of Fred Spiker’s claims that he is the illegitimate son of Steve McQueen since he has never been vetted by an American journalist, offered up a birth certificate, or volunteered to take a DNA test. Furthermore, he first made the claim in 2003, almost a quarter-century after McQueen’s death. If Spiker is Steve McQueen’s son, I say the burden is upon him to show us proof.”

I emailed Fred’s agent and promptly heard from Fred Spiker. “I quit using the name,” he told me, and was leaving acting. “There was no proof, and I decided it just wasn’t worth it. This is stupid. I am me, and this is my face.” The name and his so-familiar face actually hurt him in some cases, he said. When he went for TV commercial jobs, directors turned him down because his face would distract attention from the product.

EL ENCANTO IN 2012: The classic hotel looking down on the town from the Riviera is due to reopen in 2012, according to owner Orient-Express (O-E). Raymond Blanc, a new O-E veep who has helped train 25 Michelin-rated chefs, is designing the El Encanto restaurant, O-E officials in England say.

PETRINI’S IN GOLETA: The Bohnett family plans to return to its once-upon-a-time Goleta turf, opening a second Petrini’s. On Thanksgiving Day, I chanced upon the large Bohnett family’s breakfast in Stevens Park, where Joe Bohnett told me of his plans to open a Petrini’s family Italian eatery on Calle Real around the first of the year. Joe, who owns the San Roque Petrini’s, says he’s returning to the spot Petrini’s occupied many moons ago. Granddad Floyd Bohnett was a Santa Barbara mayor.

WACKY MYSTERY: The current Ensemble Theatre production is ridiculously outlandish and a throwback to penny dreadful Victorian thrillers. It’s a marvelous mix of hit-run acting, salted with a heavy sprinkling of literary allusions and movie mentions. (Listen carefully.) Director Jenny Sullivan has done a bang-up job staging the mirthful mania that is The Mystery of Irma Vep. (Watch for the wolf.)

KONA JAVA OR …? Blue Booth, back from his Hawai‘i coffee grounds with pounds of genuine Kona beans, points out that “Kona blend” or “Hawaiian blend” coffee can be 90 percent beans from anywhere else, and only 10 percent from the island. Blue pours the real stuff at his Vices & Spices, State and Ontare.

WRITE ON: Barnaby Conrad, Santa Barbara writer, painter, and raconteur, has his 37th book on the shelves: The Second Life of John Wilkes Booth. It’s a what-if novel based on the oft-advanced theory that Booth was not killed after he assassinated President Lincoln but escaped to a second life in the Wild West. Conrad says he cooked up the plot in 1947 with Sinclair Lewis while serving as private secretary to the Nobel Prize-winning novelist.

RODNEY’S: Celebrating its 10-year anniversary, Rodney’s Steakhouse at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree says it’ll give anyone ordering an entrée a free dessert or glass of Fess Parker wine — if you mention “I’m rediscovering Rodney’s.” Through Thursday, December 30.

IT WAS KRESS: Mary Lou Days, area historian and former City Hall planner, reminded me that “The dime store on State Street along with Woolworth’s and Newberry’s was Kress, not Kresge,” as I mistakenly wrote in a recent column about the 1960s downtown scene. “The dime stores were very important retail shops back then.”


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