Oprah’s Biography

After three long years and 850 interviews, internationally acclaimed author Kitty Kelley is ready to publish her unauthorized tome on Montecito’s most famous resident, TV talk show empress Oprah Winfrey.

“It has been an interesting journey,” says the Washington-based investigative scribe, whose revelatory bios have consistently been No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list. “It will reveal Oprah as she has never been seen before.”

Kitty, whose books have covered Jackie Kennedy, the Bush dynasty, the British Royal Family, Nancy Reagan and Frank Sinatra, says her latest project is “no great exposé.”

“This is going to be a good positive take. Oprah has fascinated me for many years; as a woman, she has wielded an unprecedented amount of influence over American culture and psyche. There has been no other person in the 20th century whose convictions and values have impacted the American public in such a significant way.

“She has built an empire around her personality and has been one of America’s most admired businesswomen and philanthropists. Oprah’s story is one of hope, promise and realization of the American dream. She is the quintessential success story. The next elevation is sainthood!”

The highly anticipated 544-page book “Oprah: A Biography” is being released by New York publishing giant, Crown, on April 13, with the first printing in excess of 500,000 copies. The tome will be released in the U.S. and Canada simultaneously in hardcover, audio, and electronic formats.

Publisher Tina Constable gushes: “It is the first comprehensive biography of one of the most influential, powerful, and admired public figures of our time, by the most widely read biographer of our era...This is a closely observed, detailed and well-rounded portrait of her. Readers will come away with a greater appreciation of who Oprah really is beyond her public persona.”

And they are not worried about any backlash from Oprah herself.

David Drake, the book’s publicist, says: “I spoke to the people at Harpo, Oprah’s production company, and they were gracious to me. Oprah even said, a few years ago, something along the lines of ‘I’m not encouraging it, I’m not discouraging it. This is America!’ “

Kitty, who I’ve known for many years and guested with on myriad talk shows, including Larry King and Geraldo Rivera, did considerable research in our rarefied enclave.

“But it wasn’t my first time in Montecito,” she tells me. “I first visited more than twenty years ago when I was doing research for ‘His Way,’ my million-selling book on Sinatra. I fell in love with the area. It is a most charming place. I may even buy a home there.”

If her new book sells like her other tomes, which have also included biographies of Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Onassis, she shouldn’t have any problems, I safely predict.

Oprah, in the meantime, is keeping mum.

“She hasn’t participated or read Kitty Kelley’s book, so she’s unable to comment,” says her spokeswoman, Lisa Halliday...

From TV Doc to Artist

Actress Jane Seymour, who has parlayed her TV and big screen roles into a virtual empire of home decorating, jewelry design and painting, is having her first ever exhibition in Montecito.

The British actress, who’ll be 59 next month, is having a month-long show at the recently opened Maiani Gallery on Coast Village Road, opening with a VIP reception February 19.

Jane, who has worked with watercolors, pastels, oils and even bronze sculptures over the past 18 years, will have an eclectic mix of her work on show, says gallery executive Patrik “Piano” Maiani.

“She is an extraordinarily creative person and we are delighted to launch her work here; it is very colorful!”

Much of her work is done at her studio in Malibu, but she also paints while filming, as well as traveling.

Jane, who I last met at an Amnesty International Oscars bash at Robert De Niro’s popular West Hollywood eatery, Ago, some years back, is probably best known for her role in the long running TV series “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.”

She has her own gallery in Los Angeles and has also painted posters for a number of Olympic events, including Beijing in 2008 and next month’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Currently, Maiani Gallery is featuring work from French artist Jacques D’Auteuil, and has promised to donate the entire price of $4,250 of one of his sculptures “Yoman” to the American Red Cross to benefit the Haitian relief effort once it is sold...

Local Celeb Gossip

Billy Baldwin moved to Montecito from New York with his wife, Chynna Phillips, and their three children, Jamison, 9, Vance, 8, and Brooke, 5, to take on a role in the L.A. based TV series “Dirty Sexy Money” two years ago.

But then the show, in which he played the political scion of a wealthy family with Donald Sutherland as its patriarch, got cancelled by ABC, leaving Billy – whose brother is NBC “30 Rock” actor Alec Baldwin, who co-stars with Meryl Streep in the Santa Barbara shot film “It’s Complicated” – unsure of his next direction.

Now I hear Billy, who’ll be 47 next month, has landed a role in the CW hit series “Gossip Girl,” playing Blake Lively’s troublesome father for its third season.

The only problem would appear to be that the show is shot in studios in Brooklyn, NY, so a lot of shuttling back and forth between the East and Left coasts is in Billy’s future.

Alec, who is co-hosting the 82nd annual Oscars in March with his “It’s Complicated” co-star, erstwhile Montecito resident Steve Martin, Billy and I all had the same New York agent, the late J. Michael Bloom, when we were starting our on-screen careers.

While Billy is joining a new series, another Montecito denizen, Rob Lowe, 45, is moving on, leaving another ABC show “Brothers & Sisters” after four seasons.

Rob started with the drama as a recurring character in 2006 and then became a regular, playing a senator with an on-air romantic interest in co-star Calista Flockhart.

But the network wants to keep Rob on board, I gather.

ABC’s entertainment president, Steve McPherson, says: “We feel he should be anchoring his own franchise.”

Stay tuned...

Busy Lady

At the age of 76, Montecito opera legend Marilyn Horne is busier than ever.

Marilyn, who has been a member of the Music Academy of the West faculty for 15 years, has dominated her field for more than four decades and the Marilyn Horne Foundation – which helps fund recitals – is celebrating its 16th anniversary.

Each January, the foundation celebrates classical song with a four-day festival of six events at New York’s legendary Carnegie Hall and this year’s finale “Dames at C,” featuring sopranos Keri Alkema, Elaine Alvarez, Amanda Majeski and Jennifer Zetlan, with guest artist, Kristin Chenoweth, was a sell-out.

“I have a particular closeness to Carnegie Hall, having been personally associated for nearly 50 years,” says Marilyn, who has performed in more than 1,300 recitals and made more than 100 recordings. “My first performance there was in 1961, when I was 27.

“The foundation has done enormously well and we’ve definitely put the spotlight on the art of recital.”

Marilyn, who next visits our Eden by the Beach in April, starts her 13th year of master classes at the academy this summer.

Music to everyone’s ears...

Quick Clean up

What a difference 24 hours make!

Fashion entrepreneur Nina Terzian, along with Priscilla Presley, hosted a dinner party for eight at her Miramar beach home for Santa Barbara couple, Eric and Karen Woosley, who had won the intimate soiree with a winning bid of $10,000 at the Dream Foundation’s annual gala at the Bacara in November.

“They were so generous, so I felt I had to pull out all the stops with a Moroccan theme and food,” says Nina. “I was the ‘slave’ for the evening and the Tent Merchant decorated the house appropriately.”

But having made all that effort, Nina then decided to throw a larger costumed belly-dancing bash the following night that included Thomas Rollerson, founder of the Dream Foundation, in a most fetching fez, along with guests and parking jockeys.

But the next morning it was a very different scene as winter storms from the Pacific battered the coastline and Nina cleared out the bottom floor of her home and boarded up the windows.

“I was just a little too close to the water for comfort!” she laughed.

Save the Date

In other matters Moroccan, a hefty “save the date” card lands with a gentle thud on my plush doormat for Santa Barbara Polo Club sponsor Cat Pollon’s birthday bash in Marrakech next year.

If it’s anything like her week-long party on the exclusive Caribbean island of Mustique, a favorite of Prince William, Mick Jagger and fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, three years ago, it should be quite a swellegant bash.

Of course, I will be covering it from the first cocktail to the last couscous...

Sunny Soiree

Luckily for international pianist Peter Clark and his wife, Dallas, after six days of heavy rain the sun shone for their “Sunset on the Beach” bash at their home on Butterfly Beach, just a tiara’s toss from the oh-so tony Biltmore.

On entering, the many guests, including former screen stars Jane Russell and Stuart Whitman, Kate Packer, former Olympic swimmer John Hendricks and philanthropist Gene Sinser and his wife, Patty DeDominic, were asked to give an on-camera interview on their hosts before joining the gathered throng on the heaving terrace.

Peter, a popular jazz player, who often accompanies former actress Jane on international singing engagements, performed on guitar, including an amusing special composition based on the 1983 Police hit “Every Breath You Take” from the “Synchronicity” album with Sting’s lyrics re-written in honor of his wife.

A delightful evening...

Toastmaster Soldiers

With a name like Toastmaster Soldiers, how could I miss the organization’s official debut event at Pierre Lafond on State Street?

In September, Santa Barbara High School graduate Billi Jo Starr founded the local branch of the 86-year-old organization that has 11,700 clubs in 92 countries and helps troubled individuals, aged between 15 and 18, become better public speakers and, in turn, better leaders and communicators.

“Locally this is primarily a club formed from graduates at Los Prietos Boys Camp, a juvenile detention facility, after they have come of age and graduated the camp,” says Billi Jo. “They meet every week, both inside and outside of camp, to learn public speaking, listening, and non-violent leadership.

“They have given presentations to different youth groups and schools around Santa Barbara County and must raise money to continue their community work.”

A number of youngsters shared their heartfelt stories with the riveted crowd.

“It’s very self perpetuating,” says Billi Jo. “It’s a positive community club that is led by the youth it serves.”

Santa Barbara Symphony

Canadian pianist Alain Lefevre gave a quite spectacular performance when he teamed with the Santa Barbara Symphony at the Granada.

Lefevre, playing piano concerto No. 4 by Andre Mathieu, dubbed “The Canadian Mozart” and written when he was only 16, heated up the keyboard of the resident Steinway with frenzied fingerwork that absolutely mesmerized the audience.

Mathieu was one of the most gifted, but troubled, musicians of his generation, dying at the tragically early age of 39. In his honor, the official theme music of the 1976 Montreal Olympics was arranged from excerpts of his works.

After repeated encores, Lefevre, who came across Mathieu’s piano concerto five years ago when, after a concert in Montreal, he was handed some old records from a former sweetheart of the composer, played a short composition of his own, “Promenade Italienne.”

The concert concluded with Franck’s 1888 Symphony in D minor, composed just two years before his death.

Santa Barbara Poet Laureate David Starkey, who directs the creative writing program at SB City College, read a poem of the same title before the recital...

New Works

Santa Barbara Dance Alliance’s “New Works” show at the Center Stage Theater was a wonderful mix of choreography from the classic to the most contemporary.

In November, a panel of judges, all longtime professional dancers and choreographers, reviewed 21 original works and selected the final program of ten pieces that thoroughly entertained the packed audience.

Elizabeth Schwyzer’s solo “Don’t Bring Me Cut Roses,” with choreography by Robin Bisio, was particularly intense, while “Prelude for Time Feelers” with Erin Martinez and Kaita Lepore was particularly creative.

“Didgeridoo and Mobiles of Flight,” with its decidedly Oz theme and choreography by Robert Salas, was wonderfully, shall I say, ab-original....

Sightings: Mega producer Ivan Reitman getting high fives and slaps on the back for his son Jason’s Golden Globes screenwriting win for “Up In The Air” at Tre Lune...”Boston Legal” actor William Daniels checking out the menu at Ca Dario...Michael Keaton chowing down at Blue Agave...Christopher Lloyd outside Here’s The Scoop on Coast Village Road...

Pip! Pip! for now.

Readers with tips, sightings and amusing items for Richard’s column should e-mail him at richardmineards@verizon.net or send invitations and other correspondence to the Journal