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MISCELLANY (Continued from page 33)

Suzi Schomer, Montecito Bank & Trust; Nancy Golden, Opera Santa Barbara; Lisa Rivas, Teacher’s Fund; and Dacia Harwood of Santa Barbara Historical Museum(photo by Clint Weisman)

Janet Garufis, president and CEO and Michael Towbes, owner and chairman present the Community Dividends check (photo by Clint Weisman)

Community Dividends awards lunch at the Coral Casino by handing out checks to 203 nonprofits, a record number. Over the past decade, the 41-yearold financial institution, which now has more than $1.3 billion in assets, has handed out a hefty $14 million to needy causes. This year, there were 351 applicants for help, including organizations with missions that serve the arts, youth, education, social welfare, and medical and health service sectors. “We fervently believe in the power of corporate philanthropy and sincerely hope community dividends will inspire other businesses and business leaders to act – not simply because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s good business,” says Mike, who launched the bank in 1975 from trailers parked on Coast Village Road. Among those checking out the luncheon largesse were Janet Garufis, John Blankenship, Lynn Brittner, Roger Durling, Greg Gorga, Ellen Goodstein, George Leis, Tom Reed, Bob Montgomery, Arthur Swalley, Jennifer Smith Hale, Craig Springer, Carrie Towbes, Ron Gallo, Peter Jordano, Mitchel Sloan, and David Selberg. Hungry Like the Wolf Peter and the Wolf, Sergei Prokofiev’s charming 45-minute 1936 orchestral children’s story, doesn’t diminish with the years. The enchanting show at the Granada, staged as a family performance for 1 – 8 December 2016

the first time by the Santa Barbara Symphony with various instruments, including the clarinet, flute, bassoon, oboe, strings, and French horn, representing the many roles, was an undoubted hit with all the hundreds of youngsters attending. Michael Katz, a professional storyteller based in our Eden by the Beach, showed wonderful vocal range in the pivotal role of narrator. The perfect show for a rainy afternoon. Heavy Medal Montecito comedienne Ellen DeGeneres may have hosted the Oscars and have America’s most popular TV talk show, but nearly didn’t make it into the White House last week to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama. Having flown from L.A. to Washington, D.C., to pick up the highest civilian honor the U.S. can bestow along with the likes of Robert De Niro, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Hanks, Ellen, 58, found herself sitting on a nearby bench waiting for security clearance because she’d forgotten her government ID, a photo of which she posted on Twitter. But the tears flowed once the president bestowed the medal and she had to be comforted by an understanding DeNiro. Likely Story Christopher Story, the 91-year-old founder of the West Coast Chamber Orchestra, may have been conduct-

Richard Mineards having cocktails with Castro in Havana

ing for half a century, but the Mozart by Candlelight concert at the First United Methodist Church was the first time he’d taken charge of the Austrian composer’s popular work Divertimento for Strings. “I hope you’ll be kind,” he chided the audience. Artistic director Michael Shasberger, a music professor at Westmont College, took charge for the rest of the Mozart fest, including symphony No. 33 in B Major. The concert concluded with two piano concertos, numbers 23 and 21, with Frank Basile at the keyboard. As usual, Tamsen Beseke, who has worked with the likes of Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Zubin Mehta and Joshua Bell, made a perfect concertmaster. Farewell, Fidel On a personal note, I mark the death of former Cuban president Fidel Castro at the age of 90. Castro, who supposedly survived 600 assassination attempts since coming to power on the Caribbean island in 1959, joined us for cocktails in Havana’s Marina Hemingway in the early ‘90s when I was a guest on the 153-foot schooner, Aiglon, owned by an old friend, Prince Johannes von Thurn und Taxis, Germany’s richest citizen. El Commandante, as locals called him, invited us to dinner at the Revolution Palace, next to the Granma Memorial, an enormous glass case displaying the boat he and more than 80 cohorts used to return to Cuba from Mexico when the Batista government was toppled. The icing on the proverbial cake came when Castro invited us to stay

Xenophobia doesn’t benefit anybody unless you’re playing high-stakes Scrabble. – Dennis Miller

on his private island, Cayo Piedra, where we were whisked by darkgreen Mercedes limousines to a small top secret naval base where he kept his private cruiser, the 120-foot Aquarama, complete with machine gun posts on either side of the cockpit. Escorted by high-powered gunboats, we rattled at high speed to the island, which was actually two islets connected by a small bridge. Transport was two cut-off VW Beetle cars – CUBA 1 and CUBA 2 – and the main residence came complete with a screening room, wine cellar, a floating New York bar, an outdoor rock swimming pool, and luxurious accommodations, including a master bedroom Russian president Nikita Khrushchev had slept in. After three days of cosseted Communist hospitality, we returned to Havana and the Aiglon set sail for Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from where I flew back to Manhattan with unique memories to treasure of my capers with Castro. Sightings: Film director Quentin Tarantino noshing at Olio Pizzeria... Oprah Winfrey power walking past Gazebo Flowers on East Valley Road with four female friends...Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi masticating at Via Vai Pip! Pip! Readers with tips, sightings and amusing items for Richard’s column should email him at richardmin eards@verizon,net or send invitations or other correspondence to the Journal. To reach Priscilla, email her at pris cilla@santabarbaraseen.com or call 969-3301 •MJ MONTECITO JOURNAL

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