Honors For Andy

The David Horowitz Freedom Center along with primary motivator and backer Mary Belle Snow kicked off the first annual Santa Barbara Retreat by honoring Andy Granatelli on Friday night, March 30, at a sit-down dinner at Four Seasons Biltmore.

Conservative activist David Horowitz first met Andy through a small political event held at Mary Belle Snow’s house, at the end of which Andy jumped up after realizing that Horowitz had neglected to ask for donations to help his cause. In less than five minutes, as people were queuing up to retrieve their cars from the valets, Andy raised some $10,000. That impressed Horowitz enough so that Granatelli was chosen as Freedom Center’s first Santa Barbara retreat honoree.

An honor guard of U.S. Sea Cadets ceremoniously brought out the U.S. Flag, Matt James sang a patriotic medley and after being introduced by Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, Andy rolled out a short video presentation on his life and then gave a short speech thanking Mary Belle and David for the honor.

Looking out over the heads of the packed Loggia Ballroom, Andy noted, “This is the biggest crowd this room has ever had,” and maybe it was; there certainly wasn’t room for another table, and one had already been set up outside.

“I won’t forget all the wonderful people who showed up here tonight,” he quipped, “and I won’t forget the [s.o.b.’s] who didn’t show up either,” he said, causing great peals of rolling laughter that bounced back up to the podium to infect Andy, who uncharacteristically could not continue speaking; he was laughing too hard.

He stopped long enough to say, “Don’t forget Dolly; we’ve been married for fifty years and six months… (beat) and, the first six months were beautiful,” upon which he broke down again, as did the audience.

Near the end of his speech and after he had collected himself, Andy revealed that because he never finished high school, he’s had to “memorize” the English language. “I don’t know what a noun, or pronoun, or adjective is,” he confessed. “I really don’t. So, I have to memorize every sentence and get it right,” he added, concluding that perhaps that was what had helped make him so successful. “But, if I screw up tonight,” he concluded, “it’s because I’ve already had three tequilas… (beat) okay, four.”

It was that kind of crowd and that kind of night.

Then, a “surprise guest” jumped up out of the audience to present Andy with his award that read, “To Andy Granatelli: Sports Legend, Entrepreneur, Fighter of the Good Fight, and Force of Nature.”

The surprise guest then, perhaps because it is the Easter season, compared Andy Granatelli, who is Italian, to Jesus: “Jesus was Italian,” the surprise guest suggested, and offered as evidence the observation that: “he didn’t leave home until he was thirty; he always hung out with the same twelve guys, and his mother believed he was God.”

The speaker concluded by noting that, “Behind all great Americans there is a great American story. Andy’s love affair with automobiles can be summarized in two words: faster and better. His love affair with America can be summarized in seven: It’s the best country in the world.”

U.S. Senator John Kyl spoke briefly and introduced the evening’s speaker, former CIA Director James Woolsey, who offered his own hilarious observations on his role as CIA Director before delving into his own serious but optimistic solutions to the current energy stranglehold the Middle East has on the West.

The rest of the weekend’s agenda included big names like former Clinton White House Advisor Dick Morris, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, former House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Joel Surnow, creator and Executive Producer of TV’s “24”, Cyrus Nowrasteh, “The Path To 9/11” writer-producer, Nonie Darwish, author of “Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad For America, Israel, and the War on Terror,” and other luminaries, mostly from the conservative spectrum. Seminars dealt with heavy topics like censorship on campus, radical Islam, the Iraq war, media responsibility during war and how Hollywood treats the terrorist threat .

Organizers say there will definitely be a Second Annual Santa Barbara Retreat, scheduled for this time of year, next year. Go to www.horowitzfreedomcenter.org for more info.