IT’S PARTY TIME!

Leave it to Andy and Dolly Granatelli to end 2006 by throwing the best party of the year. Some 230 of Andy and Dolly’s friends descended upon the Biltmore’s Loggia Room for brunch on Sunday December 17. The Granatelli Christmas Brunch was originally slotted for the smaller El Mar room, but the event outgrew its original location and was moved to the larger venue. This was not a fundraiser; no money was raised and no non-profit benefited. At least, not directly. “I haven’t asked for any money for quite a while, but I’m getting itchy,” Andy, whose arm-twisting for charitable causes is legendary, joked near the end of a short speech he gave from a podium set up in front of the fireplace on the west wall of the room.

A quick survey revealed the length and depth of Granatelli’s network of friends and acquaintances, and though there is no room to list all those present, among the celebrated were Kevin Costner, Anne Francis, Dennis Miller, Peter Noone, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Dennis Franz, Ivan Reitman, Barry DeVorzon, and Tab Hunter. Kirk and Anne Douglas were scheduled to attend but came down with strep throat, requiring the earlier assistance of Dr. Mesipam, who left his son’s karate class to treat the Douglases’ dual ailments. Kirk just celebrated his 90th birthday.

Media were invited, and among those were MJ publisher emeritus James Buckley, his son Tim Buckley, KEYT’s John Palminteri, Martha Bull, Debby Davison, and Paula Lopez, the News-Press’s Lorraine Wilson, and Santa Maria Times’s Helen Thomas. Suffice to say, Montecito and Santa Barbara county were well represented by Pat and John Klink, Frank and Karen Caufield, Leslie Ridley-Tree, Jimmy and Sarah Argyropoulis, Irma and Morrie Jurkowitz, Lee Luria, Carolina and Parker Montgomery, Nina Terzian, Tom Wathen, Brooks and Kate Firestone, Tom and Mary Belle Snow, Toni Simon, Ray Winn, Peter Kavoian, Eric Spivey, Betty Stephens, Kate Packer, Mike and Jennie Petlow, Ralph and Melissa Iannelli, Barry and Jo Berkus, and, well, plenty of others including, according to Andy, “twenty of the best doctors in town.”

“Dolly and I are eternally grateful for the love and respect that you all give us. We want you to know that you have touched our hearts one way or another,” Andy said to the gathered crowd in explanation of why they were all invited. Before brunch was officially underway, tenor Matt James entertained with a medley of big-band-era songs along with a polished and passionate delivery of Puccini’s aria, “Nessun Dorma,” from Turandot, a favorite of Andy’s.

Everyone – the famous and the not so famous – wore nametags. I asked Andy about that. “At a party like this,” he explained, “everybody should wear a nametag. We all forget people’s names,” he insisted, adding that it helped guests address each other. He noted that the first name was printed large, not the last. Every group or family received a gift on the way out and the line was long as guests waited to pay their respects to il patrone, Andy Granatelli.

We spoke via telephone the day after, and both he and Dolly were floating on the success of their Christmas Brunch. “People are still calling me to tell me how great the party was, and how good the food was,” he said, giving much of the credit to the Four Seasons Biltmore that, Andy said, went out of its way to make sure everything was just right. “The ambience, the food, and the decorations were perfection; it was great, it really was,” he concluded.

There was no disagreement from any quarter on that score.

Last Minute Gift Alert

“A Wine Miscellany,” by Graham Harding bills itself as “A jaunt through the whimsical world of wine,” and it really is just that. Before giving the book more than a cursory glance, we thought it was simply another of those terrible compilations that frequently come out this time of year to take advantage of exuberant (and desperate) shoppers. But, upon inspection, we discovered that this small compendium of wine trivia is informative and fun to read; more importantly, as a gift it is neat and attractive (abundantly illustrated with public-domain sketches from the 19th century), and at $16.95, “A Wine Miscellany” is cheaper than a decent bottle of wine, longer lasting, and will be appreciated by wine tourists and wine snobs alike.

A Tee Time Practice Center gift certificate is an option for the golfer in your family. Tee Time (566-9948) is just off the Bailard exit in Carpinteria and features a chipping green, sand bunkers, flags at varying distances, all-grass tees, and a superior putting green. Tee Time’s policy is based upon time spent practicing, not the number of balls one hits, so a Tee Time gift certificate is good for a pre-paid number of hours and would be a welcome gift for anyone that plays a lot of golf but doesn’t belong to a particular club (where practice facilities are usually available free of charge).

How about a gift certificate to a Montecito eatery under that Christmas tree? The newly refurbished Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch (969-4100), for example, would be a treat, and $200 should cover everything (for two). Other ideas include Cava (969-8500), China Pavilion (565-9380), Four Seasons Biltmore Bella Vista (565-8237), Lucky’s (565-7540), Tre Lune (969-2646), and any other village favorite.

TESS For Girls Inc.

It’s not too late to buy TESS (Teen Everyday Skincare System) products at Sephora in Paseo Nuevo and thereby donate some of the proceeds to Girls Inc. Twenty percent of any profits from TESS sales at Sephora throughout the entire month of December will be donated to Girls Inc. Additionally, TESS will send you a free tube of TESS “Perfect Pout” Strawberry Moisturizing Lip Gloss, if you send them a receipt from your TESS product purchase made during this month at Sephora (17 West Canon Perdido; 564-8770). TESS was created by Montecito mom Susan Shand, some of her “baby boomer friends,” and Susan’s 15-year-old daughter, Ryan.

Kudos Are In Order

Montecito resident Bill Loomis, former CEO of investment banking firm Lazard LLC, was named as one of only eight “Outstanding Directors” of 2006 by The Outstanding Directors Exchange. He received his award and recognition in New York City over the weekend of November 30/December 1. The ODX Outstanding Directors annual awards program honors independent directors of public companies who have been recognized by their peers for making a courageous or valuable contribution to the companies on whose boards they serve. Loomis is being honored for championing an unwelcome, but ultimately successful, strategy for a turnaround at Terra Industries. Loomis’s efforts not only helped save the company, but from year-end 1999 to 2004, Terra’s stock appreciated more than 500%. “What [Bill] put in place during all this period,” says current Terra Chairman Hank Slack, “was a cornerstone to the company’s financial recovery.” Bill and his wife, Kristin, live near the Upper Village.