“Life’s like a play; it’s not the length but the excellence of the acting that matters,” said the Roman philosopher Seneca. Actor Kirk Douglas can claim both a long life and excellence in 90 films. This was highlighted at the recent Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) when Douglas received an award in his name for Excellence in Film. It will be given annually to other deserving actors.

Santa Barbara’s version of Hollywood glamour abounded at the Bacara Resort as celebs and fans descended the outdoor staircase and stepped onto the red carpet while cameras flashed, “Look this way, please. This way!” Walking the carpet with Douglas was his lovely wife, Anne. Tuxedoed and gowned, the guests’ jewels were flashing and wine glasses clinking while everyone mingled on the sunny terrace. Son Peter Douglas and wife, Lisa, joined dad for his special night. Gena Rowlands, who was there to present Kirk his award, told me, “My second movie, Lonely are the Brave, was with Kirk in l962. He said it was one of his favorites. My last movie is French, Paris I Love You, and will be released in the United States in 2007.” Don Crichton, who was a lead dancer on Carol Burnett’s TV show years ago, escorted the comedienne to the gala. Another local attending was actor Christopher Lloyd with Lisa Loiacono. Academy Award-winning director Andy Davis came with wife, Adrianne. Former Mayor of Los Angeles Richard Riordan was there to support Douglas as well.

The guests took their seats in the ballroom, whose walls were lit by a pattern of midnight blue. Beside me were former Mayor Hal Conklin and the publishers of the CASA newspaper, Kerry Methner and Mark Whitehurst, along with songwriter Jeff Barry and wife, Nancy, who is by the way not only pretty, but also talented. She impressed me. “Besides the eleven-year-old twins, I design and make my own ball gowns for competitive dance,” she told me.

After dinner there was a film montage and a message from Michael Douglas, who was wrapping up a movie in Europe and couldn’t be there. President of the SBIFF Board of Directors Jeffrey Barbakow and vice president Kyle Brace spoke. Board member Bob Hatch was remembered in loving memory and thanks was given to his widow, Linda, for her support. Executive director Roger Durling told the audience, “My knees were shaking when I talked to Kirk about the award. He replied, ‘What took you so bleeping long to honor me?’” The Festival has been around 22 years.

Rowlands presented the award to Kirk, who proceeded to joke about his stroke. “After the stroke I talk more than before,” he said. “Now when I speak (because it’s more difficult), they think I’m going to say something important. I appreciate this award very much.”

Smith’s Legacy

Architect George Washington Smith built a wide swath through Montecito and its surroundings during his short 11-year career in the 1920s. In recognition for his contribution to architecture, the Casa del Herrero (one of his designs) Foundation gave an award in Smith’s name to two citizens who have contributed to the preservation of our cultural and historical heritage – David Myrick and Alice Van de Water.

As we walked into the Casa motor court (no cars allowed since one plowed into the tile fountain a few years back), we were handed a glass of champagne. Going through the house into the loggia and back gardens made me think what it was like when the Steedmans lived there from 1925 on with a dozen gardeners, maids, a butler, a chauffeur, a cook and more. Today no one will come if you pull the tapestry rope in each room for service and the grounds are kept beautiful by only two devoted gardeners – Sergio Martinez and Jose Aguilar.

Event co-chair Sue Burrows opened the program amid laughter. “On behalf of Casa Dorinda – I mean Casa del Herrero,” she stumbled, but recovered admirably to introduce Kellam de Forest, son of one of the original landscape architects Lockwood de Forest. Burrows also acknowledged trustee Barbie Henzell, “who initiated the docent program in the mid-nineties, when the foundation was formed. Twenty-five thousand people have taken a docent led tour since then.” Steedman’s grandson and Casa board member, Albert Hinckley, was also here from Virginia.

President of the Foundation Joan Jackson introduced Alice Van de Water, who moved here in 1971 and has since accumulated a long list of credits for serving this community. She also knew architect Lutah Maria Riggs, who had been a partner of George Washington Smith before he died in 1931. Board Member Dan Eidelson remembered when David Myrick pointed an “Uncle Sam” like finger and said, “I want you on the Board!” Myrick, who has written 12 books, had been the catalyst who helped Steedman grandson George Bass initiate the Casa del Herrero Foundation and Myrick literally handpicked the first board. They frequently worked 20 hours a week.

Public Officials giving presentations were Mayor Marty Blum, First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, Assemblyman Pedro Nava, State Senator Tom McClintock (via Sue Burrows) and United States Congresswoman Lois Capps (by her assistant). Co-chair Betsy Coates explained that the award was a copy of two lion finials on the staircase that came from a basilica in Barcelona, Spain. Steedman bought them in 1923. He loved them so much he recreated them for finials in his garden.

The group ended the afternoon in the blue and white garden sipping wine and eating finger sandwiches in the genteel manner of the old estate.

If you would like to step into the past, just call 565-5653 for a tour.

Final Fiesta Words

The Santa Barbara Historical Society’s annual Fiesta Party is one of the season’s first. Though the costumed ladies and gentlemen are usually gathered in the courtyard, this year we met in the galleries and the walkway around the courtyard because of the detoxification work going on by Southern California Edison.

“This site was the Santa Barbara Gas Manufacturing Company back in 1875,” executive director George Anderjack explained. “Judge Charles Fernald was one of the owners. There was no railroad so coal was shipped from Australia, landed on Stearns Wharf and hauled to the plant. The coal was cooked and turned into liquid gas, which fueled, among other things, Santa Barbara’s streetlights. Ironically, the only original streetlight left in town is in front of the Santa Barbara Historical Society and has been converted to electricity. David Bisol (curator) and I think we should change it back to gas.

“By-products went into the ground (much like a gas station) and Southern California Edison has voluntarily been working on this for five years,” Anderjack went on. “Unfortunately, due to City, County and State permit delays, the work won’t be finished by the end of August, but sometime next year… hopefully.”

Party chair Robin Schutte and her committee “made lemonade out of lemons.” Bright orange and yellow cloths covered the small round tables centered with pots of dahlias. Mondial catered the munchies – no need to go home and cook! It was tequila time with margaritas flowing along with the chips and guacamole. The Henderson Brothers added the music to the mix. We all ignored the chair link construction fence.

Keeping the spirit alive in their fiesta finery were El Presidente Roger Perry and wife, Gina, Tom and Eileen Mielko, Don and Susan Fuhrer, Jon and Martha Bull, Richard Croft and Laurel Tower, Richard and Kay Glenn, Robert and Ann Edmonston, Ed and Janet Sands, and Terry Anderson with wife, Barbara.

Viva la Fiesta!