Mo McFadden
Paul Wellman

I grew up outside Philly, lived in D.C., New York City, on rock ’n’ roll tours for two years in a 44′ semi, and landed in L.A. Survive? Yeah, I know how to do that, been doing it all my life. But quiet, little Santa Barbara was the toughest town I ever had to break into.

I moved here from Los Angeles on December 22, 1989, with my 2-year-old son, Eli, and my cocker spaniel Tails. The rest of my family had moved to Santa Barbara while I was in L.A., and now I was heading north to be near them.

Around where the Northbound 101 turns into what I call “my Zen drive” just past Ventura and the Pacific stretches out on one side while the hills embrace on the other, I remember I took a deep breath and hoped I wasn’t making a mistake. Would I be able to “make it” in Santa Barbara? Let’s review: single parent, very little savings, all my belongings in storage, moving back in with Mom to a small town with fewer work options. Could I survive? I liked big-city living, but becoming a parent had changed my priorities.

Having a child rely on me for survival was a whole new experience. He looked up to me (and for someone who’s, 4’10”, that’s big). Having my family around for my son was very important. The ex-husband was heading in the opposite direction, so it would be my show raising the kid. But I wasn’t prepared for just how deep a parent’s love goes. I did whatever I needed to do to earn money. I waitressed at Montecito’s Valley Club, worked tons of catering, and was the first house manager when Center Stage opened. Still, I wasn’t doing what I do best. I wanted to stay here and make a difference, but I couldn’t make anchor. I knew what I had to offer could help the arts organizations, so I volunteered my work for a few select places, hoping people would get to know my talents. No bites, almost ready to move out — it was three long years later when Nancy Lynn at the Lobero Theatre hired me to help on the theater’s seismic renovation capital campaign. She had been reading my stories in an upstart weekly and liked my writing.

The Lobero work brought other theater companies to my door to handle their press campaigns. Somewhere in the middle of all this, I realized I had created my own business — surprised the hell out of me. Looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The diversity of people and groups I’ve worked with over the years could never have been achieved any other way. Over the years, my client base expanded to include nonprofits doing events. It’s all show biz when you think about it.

Nature has been a huge factor for me to stay here. Once a week, I volunteer with the S.B. Audubon Society’s program Eyes in the Sky. Nature helps me to wind down and maintain a balance. For me, landing here was lucky. Living here is tough but beyond gorgeous. I persevere because in the end, yes, it is all worth it.


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