Writing Well, Eating Better

Among the seventy(!) or so people that attended the book signing on Thursday, February 1 at Tecolote Bookshop for author Kendall Conrad celebrating the release of her new book “Eat Well Feel Well” were Holly Palance, Gina Tolleson and her husband, Christian Wiesenthal, along with their two children Luca and Tiago, Daphne Ireland, Kendall’s parents Barnaby and Mary Conrad, Corinna and Larry Dale Gordon, designer Luis Estevez, Christen Brown, Suzan Pelfrey, “hounddog’ film producer Jen Gatien, David Florimbi, his wife, Nancy Simon, and their daughter Sofia Florimbi.

During a short conversation between signings and greetings, Ms Conrad explained that “Eat Well Feel Well” contains 150 recipes that feature ingredients consistent with her recommended regime. “I didn’t invent the diet,” she says, “I learned it, but I don’t want anyone to feel deprived or that they can’t enjoy good food. It’s all about eating well and not feeling deprived.”

The main tenets are to avoid sugar, starch, grain, soy, and processed foods and to replace them with honey, 24-hour-fermented yogurt (“Cooking for twenty-four hours removes all the lactose; no commercially sold yogurt does that, so one needs to make it oneself”), eggs, meat, fish, vegetables, and fruits.

The diet, she says, cured her daughter of a painful digestive disorder. “So, it’s a healing digestive diet,” she avers, “for people that have diverticulitis, colitis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).” Kendall says this diet can cure and heal “and take you off medication and out of pain.”

The diet has worked for at least one of those in attendance at Tecolote. Jewelry designer Corinna Gordon said her husband had a condition called peripheral neuropathy that severely limited the amount of time he could stand on his feet. “Changing his diet from acidic to alkaline has made a devastating difference,” she said, adding that, “He was uncomfortable standing for more than an hour; now he’s out playing tennis.”

Book signings like this, particularly at Tecolote, are often an excellent venue for picking up items of gossip, rumor, and innuendo. During a brief discussion with “hounddog” producer Jen Gatien, for example, I learned she’s “been coming to the [Santa Barbara] Film Festival for years,” and remembers thinking to herself that she wanted “more than anything” to be in this festival. “I came aboard this project,” she said, “and went to Sundance with it and the only other festival we’re doing is the Santa Barbara one.” Hounddog, starring Dakota Fanning as a 12-year-old rape victim, unspooled at the Lobero during the festival on February 2 and at the Metro 4 the following day.

Q. Is there is a Montecito connection?

A. “Indeed there is,” Ms Gatien replied. “I read the script in Montecito; it was sent to me by a friend, and upon reading it, it was so lyrical and poetic that I knew Santa Barbara was the perfect place to seek financing for it.” Santa Barbara resident Rebecca Cleary turned out to be the financial backer.

Reports are that the film is something of a downer?

“It isn’t. In fact,” Jen stressed, “the film is one of hope. Dakota Fanning’s spirit moves on and leaves the chaos behind and rediscovers her own voice. It’s a heavy film with a lot of layers,” she continued, “but it’s a beautiful story. Ultimately,” Jen concluded, “the film is more about the triumph of the human spirit and how one can take traumatic events and turn them into sources of strength and survival.”

Jewels for Young Artists

“For the first time, we’ve brought eight young opera singers to Santa Barbara – in addition to the cast of all our operas – and they are going to be here in residency for about seven weeks of the upcoming opera season,” reported an ebullient Steven Sharpe, Opera Santa Barbara General Manager, during a combination opera night and jewelry fashion show at Saks Fifth Avenue on Monday evening February 5.

The young singers – chosen by Opera Santa Barbara Young Artists Program Director Scott Jussila, who traveled to Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles to listen to some 200 singers before naming the eight candidates – are receiving special masterclasses and rehearsals and get to work with James Marvel on stage movement and other refinements. After the operas are opened and rehearsals have ended, they’ll work with Martin Katz – a private coach – for a week.

Two of those students – tenor Heath Harris and Soprano Sarah Viola – appeared at Saks to entertain the small group of about sixty Opera Santa Barbara supporters. Along with the two singers, a group of thirteen women dubbed the “Divas” – Dolly Granatelli, Carolina Montgomery, Jill Padillo, Judy Smith, Meg Di Napoli, Kay Schofield, Pat Anderson, Beverly Latimer, Susan Amberly, Jo Berkus, Wendy Laub, Ginni Drier, and Helen Buckley, modeled jewelry (just in time for Valentine’s Day!) available at Saks.

Prices ranged from as little as $960 to as much as $49,000 for earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and other bangles made by designers like Fred Leighton, Santa Barbara-based Corinna Gordon (who was in the audience), and Roberto Coin.

Each “Diva,” dressed in a flattering black outfit and adorned with various articles of jewelry, modeled expressively along an impromptu catwalk, accompanied by humorous descriptive chatter from emcee Sharpe.

At the end of the fashion show, every Diva was given an envelope with a key; only one of which would open a jewelry box set aside at Saks; inside is “a piece of jewelry and two tickets to the opera,” and each woman was invited to return to Saks sometime before Valentine’s Day to try her luck.

Sarah Jane Lind is a major donor, and it is her donation that allowed the inaugural launch of the Opera Santa Barbara program. The Young Artists Program will sponsor a masterclass with the young singers featuring pianist Martin Katz on Tuesday, March 6 from 11 am to 12:30 pm. Call 805-898-3890 if you’d like to attend.

Suicide Alley Sweetheart

Syndicated radio talk show host Tammy Bruce is on the air six days a week: Monday through Friday from 9 am to noon and Saturdays from 4 pm to 7 pm (7 pm to 10 pm on KABC in Los Angeles); her show is also on the Internet. Her daily three-hour talkfest pits her against the two biggest names on the air: Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly, and consequently the 9 am to noon spot is known in radio circles as “suicide alley.” Nevertheless, her show has prospered.

Tammy bills herself as “an openly gay, pro-choice, gun-owning, pro-death-penalty voted-for-President-Bush authentic feminist” and a “lifelong Democrat.” Tammy, author of “The New Thought Police,” “The New American Revolution,” and “The Death of Right and Wrong,” is a former president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Organization of Women (NOW). She is also a compelling and opinionated speaker whose non-stop staccato style (“I’m on the air six days a week. I’m Irish, and I’m talking and I can’t shut up”) makes for both entertaining and thoughtful listening. Her upcoming talk at Four Seasons Biltmore on Tuesday, February 13, beginning at 4 pm is expected to cover a range of topics, including the release of the paperback version of her book, “The New American Revolution.”

During a leisurely telephone conversation on Tuesday morning, February 6, Ms Bruce propounded her views on the following subjects:

On the Fairness Doctrine, which required opposing points of view on radio. The doctrine was rescinded by Ronald Reagan but is now being re-introduced in Congress by Democrats: “The idea of demanding ‘equal time’ implies that all ideas are equal and all opinions are equal, and that’s not the case. Talk Radio is the dissenting point of view and allows Americans to hear a point of view they don’t hear in any other medium.”

On Government: “Government and politicians are monsters who have only their interests in mind, and not just in this nation but in any nation where there is an elite that believe they know what is best. The voice of the people will always be the primary threat, and in America there are only two places where that voice is manifested: talk radio and the Internet. Our lives as Americans are the most extraordinary on earth specifically because we don’t have a government that is in complete control of our lives.

On Hillary Clinton: Hillary wants to have a time certain to end the war in Iraq, as though it were a television show. She thinks that war should end based upon what is convenient for her. I see her as an example of what we should not become. Both Clintons speak to our basest selves when it comes to issues of commitment and responsibility. These are people who are disgusted by the free market. She is disgusted by profit and by people making money and that’s in part because that also keeps the individual free. We can trust [Montecito Journal] readership – regardless of the letter after their name – a heck of a lot more than we can trust people like Bill or Hillary Clinton. We are able to reflect on what happened when those two people were in office and they gave us September 11.

On the 2008 Presidential Race: I have voted for every winning president: Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush. My sense is that whoever I end up liking is going to be the person who is generally appealable. I’m a Democrat; I’m pro-choice. Clearly, I’m classically conservative, and I’m not so much different from the average American.

On Presidential Candidates: I would love to see [former UN ambassador] John Bolton run. He is probably the best example of an American rooted in the same kind of Reaganesque communication, straight talk, and authentic conservative values, without being overtly religious. He has a genuine commitment to who we are and what makes us great. I would like to see a Joe Lieberman-John Bolton ticket. That’s a fantasy. If I had to vote today, I would go with Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo. They represent an authentic American point of view; they get it about Homeland Security; they’re moderate on most other issues. I find Newt Gingrich interesting, but I’m still waiting to see who might emerge.

On the November 7 Election: The reason November 7 went the way it did is because when Republicans and conservatives are disappointed, they stay home; that’s what gives Democrats an edge. It’s not that Americans are willing to vote Democratic. Whatever politician understands the new American revolution – that [the recent election] was not an embracement of Democratic policies; it was a firing of Republicans because they had abandoned the Reagan ideal – that’s the person that will win. It’s not going to be Giuliani and it’s not McCain; it’s not Romney, who is more of a poll watcher than Bill Clinton.

Check, Mate

“We’re in the financing stage,” Peter Clark tells me as we sip macchiatos at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Coast Village Road. “And,” he continues, “that’s the ‘F’ word in the movie business.”

You may be seeing Peter, his film stars, and camera crews wandering aimlessly over and around Coast Village Road and the upper village over the next couple of months, but don’t let that fool you; it’s just a prelude to a fully directed – and financed - $2 ½-million film Peter has written, called “Checkmate.”

A few years ago, Clark had an idea for a musical called “Santa Barbara, The Musical,” about all the “fun and games” that go on behind the scenes in the fundraising arena. “I was intrigued by certain factions trying to get an entertainment center here. Instead of combining together and using all the money in one place, you had somebody over here with the ballet, somebody over there with the opera; you’ve got all this money being diffused by different groups instead of combining together and having one entertainment center. I watched this go down over the past fifteen years and thought, ‘Well, this would be kind of an entertaining concept,’ so I’ve taken the musical and turned it into a movie. It’s a farce, a comedic farce. It’s a comedy. It’s got a little sex, a little intrigue, a little blackmail – a lot of blackmail – an accidental murder… all the good things that everybody seems to like in movies.”

Peter says he wrote the screenplay over the course of three months. “Once I got going, I’m a speed reader; I’m a speed writer.” Although he’d never written a screenplay, an acquaintance, Bobb Hopkins, had made movies (“The American Hobo,” “3 Below,” “Rail Kings,” and others, and asked Peter to write the music for his new movie “Down In Jamaica,” currently “being financed.” That led to a discussion over “Checkmate,” which Bobb agreed to direct.

The movie has mostly been cast and includes BK Kennelly, Bobb Hopkins, Lazslo Poljar, ‘50s scream queens Elaine DuPont and Sally Todd, and Montecito-based model and instructor at La Playa Pilates and Wellness Center Kristen Meadows.

Peter expects to call upon his friendship with high-profile Montecito residents for cameo roles and hopes to have the film ready for next year’s SBIFF.

Elaine DuPont played Sandy, Ricky Nelson’s TV girlfriend on “The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet” for eight and a half years, from the mid-‘fifties to the mid-‘sixties. Her late husband was “Crash” Corrigan, a Western star who’d made films with John Wayne, among others. They owned a movie ranch in Simi Valley called Corriganville, where a slew of movies were made, including “How The West Was Won” and “Ben Hur.” Elaine appeared in two movies with Elvis Presley: “Loving You,” and “Jailhouse Rock.”

Former Playboy Playmate of the Month Sally Todd was under contract with 20th Century Fox where she performed in “Playhouse 90” one-hour productions, but did mostly comedy. She was a regular on TV’s “Dobie Gillis,” where she was Dobie’s “bad” girlfriend (opposite “good” girlfriend Tuesday Weld). Other TV credits include The Red Skelton Show, Jack Benny Show, Bob Cummings Show, and the original Jack Carson Show on CBS. Sally’s movie career includes stints with Jane Russell in “French Line” and “The Revolt of Mamie Stover,” and a small role in “The Best Things In Life Are Free.” She too appeared with Elvis, in “G.I. Blues.”

When the studios dropped all the contract players, Sally began appearing in “monster movies.” “I was the queen of monster movies,” she jokes, revealing that she worked for Roger Corman at American International Pictures (AIP). “We were all doing our own stunts, riding bad horses, falling off, killing ourselves,” she says shaking her head in wonderment. Some of her Corman films include “The Saga of the Viking Women” and “Frankenstein’s Daughter” alongside Sandra Knight (Jack Nicholson’s first wife) and John Ashley, and “The Unearthly” with John Carradine.