Up for a Tony

Carpinteria-based actor Brian Bedford will be more nervous than most on Sunday when he attends the 65th annual Tony awards ceremony at the cavernous Beacon Theatre in New York.

For Brian, 76, has been nominated for his seventh Antoinette Perry Award – founded in 1947 to award achievement on the Broadway stage – for his critically acclaimed role as the formidable Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s classic 116-year-old play “The Importance of Being Earnest,” which opened at the American Airlines Theater in Manhattan in January.

Brian, who splits his time between his home in our Eden by the Beach and his Canadian manse in Stratford, Ontario, first picked up the award for best actor in 1971 for “The School for Wives,” a comedy by the 17th-century French playwright Moliere.

“It’s all very exciting, as you can imagine,” says English-born Brian, of the CBS-televised ceremony at the 2,894-seat former movie palace, which will feature a positive torrent of celebrity names, including Vanessa Redgrave, Angela Lansbury, Joel Grey, Daniel Radcliffe, Alec Baldwin and Catherine Zeta-Jones, among many others.

“It’s brilliant that we got nominated for Best Revival as well, because I’m very, very proud of this production.

“It’s very much a company effort, so it’s a great feather in the cap of the whole company. I thought we might get nominated because we got reviews that we could have written ourselves!”

And how did he celebrate the occasion?

“I had a cup of tea,” laughs Brian. “Did you think I’d open a bottle of champagne and then go to the Four Seasons for lunch? Ah, the glamour of a Broadway actor. You know, when you’re doing eight shows a week, that’s really all you can do.”

Described by the august New York Times as “perhaps the finest English-language interpreter of classical comedy of his generation,” he has the perfect background for his Wildean show, having studied at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in the ‘50s in the same class as Peter O’Toole, Albert Finney and the late Alan Bates. He also directed and starred in the production in Canada two years ago.

“My life has started in very, very different ways, again and again,” says Brian, who was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1997.

The accomplished thespian will be facing some stiff competition at the Tonys, including Oscar winner Al Pacino for his role in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.”

If Brian should walk off with American theater’s top award, it is to be hoped he’ll celebrate with something more than a cup of tea...

Royal Rumors

Could Prince William and his wife, Kate, be Santa Barbara bound next month?

Details of the tony twosome's three-day visit to California have just been published on a CBS-TV website, including a visit to the local polo club – and just as hastily withdrawn.

“We cannot comment on anything on the itinerary in the USA,” says Nick Lathram, spokesman for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Clarence House, Prince Charles's London home.

CBS refused to discuss the schedule, which reportedly also includes a trip to Los Angeles’ skid row and a reception at the Hancock Park home of British consul-general, Dame Barbara Hay.

But a New York spokesman admitted: “There may have been a protocol breach.”

An official at the Carpinteria club, which is throwing a $4,000 a head lunch in aid of charities supported by princes William and Harry, on Saturday, July 9, had no comment.

Stay tuned...

Luxurious Life

It seems Santa Barbara songstress, Katy Perry, is somewhat of a diva at heart.

The 26-year-old rocker, currently on her “California Dreams” world tour, has quite a list of demands for her comforts while traveling, according to a concert rider published recently.

One whole sheet of the 45-page rider is dedicated to whoever is driving her through the various cities around the world.

The chauffeur is only allowed to speak when spoken to and is not permitted to start a conversation with the star, who is married to British comedian Russell Brand. He is also told not to stare at Perry through the rear view mirror.

Also on Perry’s ‘don’t do’ list is under any circumstances have carnations in her dressing room, which has to be decorated in pink and cream, and comfortably accommodate six to ten visitors.

The only alcohol requested is two bottles of Santa Margarita Pinot Grigio, while the organic fruits and vegetables she eats have to be “properly sanitized.”

While staying overnight in cities, Perry reportedly insists on being booked into the presidential suite of a five-star hotel – and also needs five junior suites and 45 single rooms.

Life has obviously changed considerably since her days as a student at Dos Pueblos High School...

Letters to the Landfill

Montecito interior designer, Penelope Bianchi, forever to be known as TV talk show titan Oprah Winfrey’s next door neighbor, has just been featured in London’s Daily Mail.

One interesting revelation, supposedly whispered by the local mailman, is that letters to Oprah, who wrapped up her 25-year-old show last month, are heavily culled.

Only ones with a secret code make it to her, while the rest are thrown away.

Penny tells Los Angeles-based writer Hugo Daniel: “The postman told me there was so much mail sent to her if that if it doesn’t have the secret code on, then it gets thrown away because there’s literally so much!”

Oh dear...

More Books

Santa Barbara author Lee Wardlaw is obviously giving paws for thought with her latest tome.

The longtime Montecito resident, who after a seven-year no-book stretch, launched her new children’s book “Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku” in March, tells me her New York publishers, Henry Holt, are having a second print run after the first 20,000 flew off the shelves.

Lee, who has written more than two-dozen award-winning books for children and young adults, says her affinity with felines goes way back.

“A child’s first spoken word is usual ‘Da-Da’ or ‘Ma-Ma.’ But mine was ‘Pissy,’ a one-year-old’s fusion of ‘Kitty’ and ‘Pussy Cat,’” explains Lee.

“While I was growing up here, my family adopted numerous stray cats over the years. So when Beaujolais, our beloved Snowshoe Siamese, died of cancer, we visited a local shelter to interview kittens. It was an experience right out of ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears.’

“This one is too shy... This one too bite-y. Ew!, that one is sleeping in his litter box. Hold on, wait... This one is just right!... And so we began our life together and my idea for a new book.”

And why Haiku, a form of Japanese poetry?

“it seemed fitting,” says Lee. “Cats embody Haiku. They live in the moment. Their beauty is compact, simple, vivid. They speak volumes in only a few words. If cats could talk, I’m pretty sure it would be in the poetry of Haiku.”...

On the Mend

Author and syndicated cartoonist Ashleigh Brilliant, who was struck by a car in January, breaking his leg in six places and causing considerable abdominal injury, is on the road to recovery.

Ashleigh, 77, a member of the high IQ society, Mensa, and creator of the witty newspaper feature “Pot-Shots” since 1975, is now back at home with his wife, Dorothy, after a lengthy hospital stay.

“Although the injury required an emergency operation and the removal of two inches of my colon, that surprisingly healed very fast, I am okay,” he tells me.

“What has been, and continues to be a major problem, is a left leg with multiple fractures, where the broken bones had to be screwed together on to a metal framework which is now permanently part of me. Here the healing has been much slower.

“Though no longer bandaged, as it was for months, the leg still looks and feels far from normal. But gradually I can perform an increasing number of normal activities, such as taking walks – sometimes even without a stick, though it is still a struggle – and even riding my bicycle again, although slight slopes now seem remarkably challenging.

“But the orthopedist is apparently satisfied with my progress since, after seeing me recently, he announced our next appointment would be in another three months. Meanwhile I am getting out-patient therapy at a local rehabilitation hospital, including aquatic exercises.”

Ashleigh, adds: “One consolation of this condition, especially at my time of life when there is a general expectation of decline, is the knowledge that I am bucking the trend. Regardless of the statistics, I for one am actually getting better and stronger!.”...

Stetsons and Stilettos

The late TV actor and hotelier Fess Parker was honored at the American Cancer Society of Santa Barbara’s “Stetsons and Stilettos: Hope on the Range” gala at the Carriage and Western Art Museum.

In front of 140 guests, who helped raise more than $75,000 for the group, which serves 6,500 annually, his daughter, Ashley Parker Snider, was presented with an oil portrait of her father painted by local artist Claudia Lash.

The second annual cowboy themed bash featured Rock and Roll Hall of Fame songwriter and producer Jeff Barry conducting the live auction, which including a guitar signed by the members of Bon Jovi and a week in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, while the silent auction sold off a Thomas Kinkade painting.

Honorees included the Santa Barbara Hematology Oncology Medical Group with lead physicians, Dr. Frederic C. Kass, Dr. Thomas Woliver and Dr. Daniel Greenwald.

“While corporate sponsorship is down because of the economy, we’ve noticed that individual donors are giving more, making up for the shortfall,” says Ailene Sankur, who co-chaired the event with Anastasia Wong.

The perfect balance...

UCSB Chamber Choir

When it comes to choral music, St. Anthony’s Chapel couldn’t be a more perfect venue, with its soaring ceiling and wonderful acoustics.

It’s a regular locale for the Quire of Voyces and the other day was put to magnificent use by the UCSB Chamber Choir, under conductor Michel Marc Gervais.

The 12-part program, featuring 20th century sounds, was split into two sections, reflecting the choir’s forthcoming two-week trip to France later this month, where they will perform at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris – the first American ensemble invited there in 850 years – and the University of Tours, as well as a number of other venues.

Gervais, who founded the choir school at Notre Dame and has been with UCSB for 15 years, directed sacred work from a number of composers, including Soderman, Poulenc, MacIntyre and, notably, Barber, whose 1967 work “Agnus Dei, Op. 11” has become an instantly recognizable classic.

The second half featured secular American choral music by Paulus, Fine, and Finney.

The French are going to be in for a real treat...

Sightings: Billy Baldwin stocking up on Java jolts at Pierre Lafond... Author T.C. Boyle enjoying the sunny terrace dining at Cafe Del Sol... Dennis Miller perusing the menu at Olio e Limone