Celebrity Authors Luncheon

By Lynda Millner   |   May 3, 2018
From the Rona Barrett Foundation are Anna Widling, Rona Barrett, and Tony Morris at the CALM cocktail party

The CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation) Auxiliary invited everyone to celebrate the 32nd annual Authors Luncheon at the Double Tree Resort by Hilton, formerly The Fess Parker. I was at the first one and all the rest, but it has grown even stronger through the years with about 500 ladies and gents attending.

Master of ceremonies was the popular Andrew Firestone, who introduced the celebrity authors and their interviewers, beginning with Dianne Dixon interviewing local writer Simon Tolkien. His grandfather, J.R.R. Tolkien, was the famous author of The Hobbit and others. Simon was an attorney in his first life and didn’t begin to write until age 40. His latest book, No Man’s Land, honors his grandfather and tells some of his real-life experiences.

Tom Weitzel talked with Lisa See, who writes about all things Chinese. You would never know by looking at her that she had a Chinese dad. Her mother was Caucasian. As she joked, “I have about 400 Chinese cousins in Los Angeles, so I grew up hearing Chinese and observing their customs.” When she writes a book, she goes everywhere and eats everything her characters do. She has had some hard trips, one even by oxen. One area she visited in China was so remote, they only got electricity 10 years ago. The first thing the ladies did was buy washing machines. Lisa’s latest is titled The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane.

Guest interviewer, actress, and dancer Ruta Lee had the audience in stitches with her humor. She is a best friend of Rona Barrett, the third interviewee who has written Gray Matters. Rona blazed the trail for entertainment journalism, making Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons seem out of date back in the 1950s. In Rona’s later life, her father got Alzheimer’s and she was his caregiver. This was the beginning of her work for seniors 65 and older who needed a place to go to be cared for. After many years, she has built the Golden Village in Santa Ynez Valley. She told us, “When it opened, I had 900 applications and only 60 rooms.” Her work and building plans are on going.

CALM luncheon co-chairs Carolyn Gillio and Becky Cohn at the cocktail party
Janet Garufis, Eileen O’Brien, Marcia Wolfe, author Simon Tolkien, and Becky Cohn at the CALM cocktail party the night before the luncheon

Sunni Thomas was awarded the Claire Miles Award for outstanding service in the CALM Auxiliary, which consists of 50 women. She chaired the Sunshine Fund for 18 years. When a CALM therapist needs something special for a child or family member, they go to the Sunshine Fund. It might be a prom dress, or a pair of tennis shoes for a sport, or a bed. The late Claire Miles, founder of CALM, was a nurse and a wife of a Santa Barbara physician. After seeing the need of abused children, she put a hotline in her own home. Now, more than 1,500 children receive services yearly and another 6,000 receive education, outreach, and prevention in our County.

The guest authors who had their books in the pop-up luncheon “store” were: Danya Belkin, Melissa Broughton, Dr. Guy Clark, Kent Ferguson, Steven Gilbar, Walter Thompkins (republished for the Goleta Valley Historical Society), Betsy J. Green, Gail Kearns, Lindsey Moran, Denise Woolery, Lida Sideris, Elizabeth Stewart, Ph.D.,and Howard and Judy Wang. The night before the event the auxiliary had a cocktail party at the Lobero tented courtyard, where the guest authors were introduced and had a few minutes to tell about their book.

As CALM likes to say, “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a book.” And everyone did to help children. If you would like to know more, call CEO Alana Walczak at (805) 965-2376.

Liza Presser Belkin with her daughter, Danya Belkin, who authored a children’s book and is one of the guest authors at the CALM luncheon bookstore
Sunni Thomas receiving the Clair Miles Award at the CALM event
Author Lisa See with husband Richard Kendale, whose parents Herb and Elain, live in Montecito

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