Mayor, Medals & Wedding Bells

Congratulations are in order for Chris Tamas, athletic son of Montecito’s first and only elected mayor George Tamas (explanation later) and his wife, Mardee. Chris is engaged to marry U.S. Olympic (Beijing ’08) silver medalist Jennifer Joines in August.

Chris and his fiancée graduated from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, where both played volleyball. After graduation, they continued with the sport, including stints with the USA National Team and playing professional volleyball in Europe and Asia.

“We both trained for USA in the same location – Colorado Springs – in the summer of 2005 before the men's team moved to Anaheim and then we didn't see each other for three years because we do play full seasons overseas, which typically last for seven to eight months,” Chris explains via e-mail. “Jen has played in Puerto Rico, Italy, Japan, and is currently in Russia,” he continues. “I have played in Holland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Cyprus, and I'm currently in Finland.”

Jennifer reached her ultimate goal by making the 2008 U.S. Olympic team for Women's Indoor Volleyball. Chris traveled to Beijing with Jennifer’s family to watch her and the team play and take home the silver medal. The two were engaged shortly after at her parents’ lake house in Clearlake, California (Jennifer was born in Milpitas). As to their future: “We plan on playing volleyball as long as we can and are planning on playing in the same country after this season,” Chris says.

Butterflies Are Free

Every winter, as recently as twenty years ago and for many years before that, Monarch butterflies by the millions – or at least by the hundreds of thousands – descended upon Butterfly Lane, Middle Road, and many other Montecito areas where eucalyptus groves were allowed to thrive. They don’t visit so regularly any more and not in nearly the numbers they once had. That observation piqued the curiosity of Polly Caldwell Bookwalter, who wrote and illustrated “Butterfly Beach,” a not-only-for-children “children’s” book published in 2008 about the gentle, fragile creatures.

Since publication of “Butterfly Beach,” Polly has offered to visit schools and classrooms to discuss the beauty – and the fate – of Monarch butterflies. Laguna Blanca K-6 Library Teacher Meredith Brace recently took up Ms Bookwalter’s offer and invited the author to visit with students from kindergarten through second grade. Polly read from her book and also showed students how she created the illustrations; “Butterfly Beach” concludes that individuals working responsibly can help preserve the present, and possibly even entice the return of the Monarchs to Butterfly Lane and Butterfly Beach.

Ms Bookwalter, who spends part of every year in France and speaks French fluently, is currently involved in translating her book into French. Students, teachers, and administrators are encouraged to contact her at: if they’d like a visit from the engaging author & illustrator.

A Song for St. Barbara

Santa Barbara-bred soprano Jamie Chamberlin exhibited an extraordinary versatility on Saturday night, February 7, as she entertained a crowd of some 200 at Santa Barbara Greek Orthodox Church on San Antonio Creek Road. She sang in Italian (opera), French (“La Vie En Rose” and two other Gallic standards with a genuine nasal delivery), and English. Her passionate delivery of Stephen Sondheim’s “Send In The Clowns” was, for many, the highlight of her one-hour-plus performance, although a tearful rendition of Jacques Brel’s “Ne Me Quitte Pas” (“Don’t Leave Me”) received nearly as loud of an applause.

“That’s kind of my calling card,” Jamie says during a short conversation inside the church’s meeting hall where the second half of the concert took place (the first half – mostly religious music – was performed in the church itself). “I’m known for my abilities as a singing actress,” she continues. “I’ve always considered myself an actress who sings, and I just use my voice to manipulate the emotions of the songs. I’ve got a lot of experience singing opera, and had experience singing musical theater before I came into opera, so I kind of melded it into my personal style.”

But, that doesn’t explain that nearly flawless French accent...

“I studied it!” the ebullient actress-singer reveals. Ms Chamberlin has a master’s degree in music from UCLA and studied classical voice. Before that, she attended San Marcos High School, and performed with Santa Barbara Youth Theater, Civic Light Opera, and Access Theater.

The event was underwritten by Montecito residents James and Rose Marie Towle, who’d donated $50,000 to the church’s Mission Tanzania quest that seeks to raise a total of $250,000 to build a chapel, clinic, small guesthouse, dig some community wells, and fund a local school.

Jamie performed gratis; her mom, Artis, made the popular and quickly devoured baklava (for 150) and Cafe del Sol owners Jack and Emily Sears donated the Champagne that the $50-per-person attendees enjoyed during intermission and afterwards. Jamie’s fiancé, rock musician Louis Velliotes, recorded the live concert and says he may be able to make copies of it available at the church. Jack Sears is Jamie’s uncle; Emily is not only Jamie’s godmother but also babysat Rose Marie Towle! All are members of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Do we live in a small town, or what?

Surreal Bounce Back

Robert Eringer, author of “Surreal Bounce,” a book detailing his and artist Thomas Van Stein’s six-year odyssey, writes to clarify that his and Van Stein’s search was for “creativity & madness” and “the fine line that divides these concepts.” Not, as I had flippantly written, a search for the connection between “darkness and insanity,” or “madness and darkness.”

Eringer also points out that the scheduled March 30th event at Piatti isn’t merely a book signing: “The main event, he says, “is an exhibition of Van Stein's paintings – over seventy works he painted during the course of our trips to Iceland, Provence, Tuscany, Catalonia, Switzerland, Belgium, Monaco, London – and also Marfa, Texas and Sedona, Arizona.” Robert also points out that “about one-third of these paintings will be available for sale.”

Proceeds are earmarked for The Arts Fund and if you’d like to learn more, please call 805-965-7321 for details.