A New Village Resident

Actor (and former Calvin Klein model) William Baldwin plays Patrick Darling on cable television’s “Dirty, Sexy Money,” a role some suggest may explain his recent purchase of a Montecito home, bought through Village Properties agent Rebecca Riskin. Baldwin paid a short visit to his new hometown that included attendance at this year’s Montecito Association Village Fourth [of July] Parade & Celebration, including breakfast with his kids (daughter Jamison (8), son Vance (6), and daughter Brooke (3), at the Montecito firehouse on San Ysidro Road. Shortly thereafter, however, Baldwin and family left to spend the summer in Italy. When he returns, he expects to move in at least part-time, as he’ll be shooting the new year’s installments of his cable television series in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, Back at the Valley Club

Mark Collins, President of the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, introduced leftist intellectual columnist, author, and raconteur Christopher Hitchens to 60 or so lucky attendees Saturday afternoon August 2 at the Valley Club in Montecito. Mr. Hitchens had been invited to speak by the Glenn Foundation. I was there thanks to MJ columnist and USC professor Shelly Lowenkopf, who’d been invited by Collins.

Hitchens carried a large glass of red wine to the podium (the rest of us had to wait until he was finished speaking before we could join him in a toast, or a sip), and introduced himself as the “biographer of Thomas Jefferson, upon whose birthday I took my oath [of U.S. citizenship] at his memorial in Washington, D.C. It’s my birthday too.” Hitchens was born in England but became an American citizen a year ago April. He also wrote a biography of Thomas Paine, explaining, “I like to write about the American founding and the American revolution.” He has written “Why Orwell Matters,” the controversial atheist screed “God Is Not Great; How Religion Poisons Everything,” and boasted that he has in his memory, “two hundred forty limericks, forty of them clean.”

“How long did the ‘peace dividend’ [at the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War] really last?” he asked rhetorically. “As complete an ideological victory as had ever been won, anywhere,” he marveled, “and it literally felt quite good, but, how long did it last?”

By dating the birth of “a new era” to the end of Ceausescu’s regime in Romania – the last soviet satellite to fall – “call it New Year’s Day, 1990, the new era lasted one hundred fifteen, one hundred and twenty days,” he opined. An optimist might say a hundred thirty. By July, 1990, Slobodan Milosevic had taken over the formerly socialist Yugoslavia and by August Saddam Hussein had invaded and annexed Kuwait.

“We were back at it all again, but this time in a more asymmetrical dangerous unpredictable way where we couldn’t be certain even that our enemies understood the principles of deterrence or self-preservation, or mutuality at all,” Hitchens proffered.

“If that wasn’t a depressing start to ‘a new era,’ I don’t know what a depressing start would be,” he added, suggesting that, “We were almost better off with the old world and the devil that we knew.”

More quotes from the Hitchens talk:

“We are up against the idea of the one party, one state, one god, one leader, where there can’t be any questions. Theocracy doesn’t allow questions; ‘we already have all the answers. They’re in this book.’ Dissent would be heresy, treason. You only need one book, one holy book.”

He defended George W. Bush’s decision to send troops into Iraq, and runs down the follow-up victories: Colonel Khadaffi’s decision to give up his WMD, leading to the breakup of A.Q. Khan’s international ring of nuclear smuggling whose customers included Syria and North Korea. “Where is all that nuclear material now? It’s all in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where it should be.”

“Had Osama Bin Laden – I hate to say this – not done us the huge favor of attacking New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, blowing the whole plot by alerting us as to what they had really in mind, we’d be much worse off. Now, we know the names of three Al Qaeda operatives that were working in Pakistan’s nuclear facilities. No, [Bin Laden] wanted to be the Wagner of the moment, to create the Grand Opera moment to make himself a real place in history. It sounds profane, but he did us a favor. They won’t get the nukes now.”

“All you have to do is try and run a country out of the Koran, and plagues will occur, the economy will shut down very quickly – interest can’t be charged on loans – literacy is not allowed to half the population; women can’t be nurses, let alone doctors; they can’t even be seen. Whole societies will be disfigured. Disease will run rampant. When it happens, who’s to blame? ‘Well, it can’t be that we tried to create a theocracy. That’s not what’s creating shortages; that’s not what’s making people sick; that’s not what’s making people ignorant and backward. It can’t be that. It must be caused by the Jews, the Americans, and the Crusaders.’ And they’ll export the pent-up violence of their failed state. Or, like Saudi Arabia, pay others to take it out, ‘so they don’t take it out on us’.”

“We can no longer be indifferent to a failed religious state, because it will become a violent rogue state alarmingly quickly.”

“There is something incompatible – incompatible – between the American revolution and any form of tyranny, any form of despotism, any form of aggressive, backward, barbaric, failed-state system.”

“You hear from a lot of people saying, ‘We only wish the world would like us better; that we were more approved, more loved, more liked, that they would be more fond of us.’ What I say is this: I want us to do more to earn the hatred. I want them to fear us, and to respect us.”

“There should be ten McCains in the Senate, but I couldn’t vote for him for president.” Hitchens says he is not bothered by Obama’s relationships with people like unrepentant SDS bombers William Ayers and Bernadette Dohrn, and by “God Damn America” Trinity Church pastor Reverend Wright.

Hitchens called it “a discouraging development” that the first face-to-face exchange between candidates Obama and McCain will be at Rick Warren’s church (“The Purpose Driven Life”), suggesting it would be as if Elmer Gantry was asked to officiate at a presidential debate.

More to Come

“There’s a lot of people in Montecito that appreciate having an intellectual discussion,” says Paul Glenn, founder and CEO of the Glenn Foundation, which organized the talk. He says the ongoing speaker series will tackle “the major issues of our time, both foreign and domestic. They stimulate people’s minds.”

Leonard Justin and Mark Collins are among a small group of people that will select additional speakers for the series. Glenn promises that invited speakers will come, “with minds that will jar people. We’re willing to go anywhere in the world to find minds like these,” he says. He is also considering other, larger venues – like Birnam Wood – for these sessions.

As for who gets on the invitation list? “We want to invite people, Glenn suggests, “who are influential in their own spheres.”

Time To Buy a Land Rover?

Santa Barbara Zoo director Rich Block, for one, can’t say enough good things about the zoo’s workhorse Land Rover, and since car companies in the U.S. are desperate to move inventory, this may be a most opportune time to make a deal for one.

“It was the first vehicle able to get back to the condor sites after last winter’s rains,” Block said during a recent interview. “Jeeps, pickup trucks, SUVs were around, but only the Land Rover could make it through,” he marveled.

Santa Barbara Auto Group, one of the zoo’s Corporate Conservation Honor Roll members (Deckers is another), helped with the purchase of the Land Rover, which is now festooned with condors and the Zoo logo painted on it. Rich says that on field trips, all the other teams look upon the Santa Barbara Zoo vehicle with envy. “Besides,” Block observes, “the Land Rover can fit exactly two condor carriers in the back; none of the other vehicles can do that.”

The 28-acre zoo’s new Blackbird Architects-designed condor compound is due to open late this year or early 2009.

Nikki Had a Baby

Marni Rozet, Executive Director of the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, tells us that Rylie Simone Katz has arrived into the world safely & beautifully at 7 pounds, 5 ounces! Mom Nikki Katz, who founded Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, delivered at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura.

Quotable Locals

“[U.S. Congresswoman] Maxine Waters is not smart enough to be a spell checker in an M & M factory,” quipped “Liberal Fascism” author Jonah Goldberg during a Q & A session after his recent Young Americans Foundation-sponsored talk at the Reagan Ranch Center...Award-winning costume designer and longtime Montecito resident Arlene Larsen (she and her husband, Milt Larsen, recently decamped to the Mesa) made costumes for hit television shows such as “Laugh-In,” “The Sonny & Cher Show,” and “Murder She Wrote.” She revealed during a recent MJ interview that some time ago she had fabric put aside in a shop whose name she wouldn’t mention, “and [designer] Bob Mackie bought it out from under me for Cher’s wedding dress. I never forgave him for that.” ... “The election of Jimmy Carter turned Iran over to the terrorists. The election of Obama could do the same thing for Iraq,” sniffed conservative columnist John Fund during a panel discussion at this year’s Santa Barbara Retreat, held at the Biltmore and organized by Montecito resident Mary Belle Snow... “If you look just at who’s ahead, McCain is leading in 29 states with 281 electoral votes, Obama is leading in 21 states and Washington D.C. with 257 electoral votes. That’s another close election,” noted senior writer for U.S. News & World Report Michael Barone during the same retreat... “I’d just love to turn Ty Warner loose on our freeways,” says Alice van de Water during a free-for-all discussion at the Valley Club after Christopher Hitchens’ talk. “I think [Warner] could really improve it,” Alice opined, “It would be a parkway again.”