Wild About Wildlife

By Richard Mineards   |   February 14, 2019
Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network gull release (photo by Isaac Hernandez)

Montecito animal activist Gretchen Lieff and Beanie Baby billionaire Ty Warner‘s luxury beachside club, the Coral Casino, hosted a boffo bash for the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, which last year helped 3,297 animals in distress.

Roland Bryan, Ariana Katovich, Gretchen Leiff, Kevin Spear, Beno Budgor,

The event, Love Our Wildlife, was a “friend raiser” to also help garner funds for the 31-year-old organization’s busiest time of the year between March and September, known as “baby season,” when young animals are rescued and helped to survive.

Last year 2,400 newcomers of 170 different species were saved in this way.

Before the event, two Western gulls, which had gotten entangled with fishing lines, were released on nearby Butterfly Beach after three weeks of rehabilitation.

Among the 100 supporters were club manager Kevin Speer, Roger and Sarah Chrisman, Tom Mielko, Miles Hartfeld, Penny Bianchi, Judi Weisbart, Carole Ridding, Susan St. John, Anne Towbes, and Barbara Woods.

Elaine Ibarra, Carol Marsch, Dennis Phelps, Susan St. John, and Martin Mielko at the Coral Casino (photo by Priscilla)
Scott and Christine Smigel, Kat and Peter Halper, Roland Bryan, Susan and Palmer Jackson, Gretchen Leiff, and Kevin Spear (photo by Priscilla)

Captivated by The Arabian Caper 

It is billed as an international tale of intrigue and deception, but a delightful new book titled The Arabian Caper by an old friend from New York days, Peter Dunev, former stockbroker to one of the world’s most powerful men, Sheikh Zaki Yamani, Saudi Arabian oil minister from 1962 to 1986, and a leading figure in OPEC – Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries – also inadvertently involves me.

In the early ‘80s I was an editor on the Intelligencer column of New York Magazine and met an English woman, Della Vanderlip, who lived with her family in the rarefied commuter enclave of Darien, Connecticut. It was through her I eventually met Yamani’s peripatetic son, Hani, who had been a student at Wharton, and Peter, who now leads a bohemian existence in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, after a jet set lifestyle working for the now 88-year-old Saudi tycoon.

I would frequently dine with Della at Manhattan’s better restaurants, including Le Cirque, La Côte Basque and La Grenouille, and she would regale me about her adventures with the senior Yamani, best known for his role in the 1973 embargo when he spurred OPEC to quadruple the price of crude oil.

She would also send regular “care packages” of luxurious chocolate truffles from the Du Rhône Chocolatier, situated on Geneva’s version of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

But, according to Peter’s book, Della’s lifestyle was all part of a daring scam perpetrated on one of the most influential and powerful families of Saudi Arabia.

It is a fascinating tale worthy of John Le Carre, with Della, who purported to be a doctor, eventually dying of ovarian cancer at her home in London’s Chelsea, taking many secrets of the rich and famous, including the fabulously wealthy Sultan of Brunei, with her.

The book is available on Amazon.

Successful Stand-In

Health problems caused scheduled violinist Rachel Barton Pine to cancel her appearance with the 38-year-old San Francisco-based Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, under conductor Nicholas McGegan, in its debut at the Granada, part of the Community Arts Music Association international series.

Instead Alana Youssefian, a Juilliard honoree, made an excellent last minute replacement playing Beethoven’s Concerto in D Major with considerable depth.

The sold-out concert, with the talented musicians playing authentic early instruments, launched with Mozart’s familiar Overture to the Marriage of Figaro, wrapping with Schubert’s Symphony No. 6 in C Major, which the Austrian composer did not get to hear played in public, dying at the age of 31 in November, 1828, the month before it was performed by a professional orchestra at his memorial.

A delightful evening…

Who You Gonna Call?

Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman has put a two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath 1,904 sq ft property, set on 13.75 acres, the last remaining parcel of the 70-acre El Mirador estate, up for sale for $15 million.

The original two-story Mediterranean-style gate house, built in 1918, also includes an approximately three-acre building site “suited for a grand custom-designed estate,” according to the sale particulars provided by my man with the martini…

All Hands on Deck 

Montreal’s 7 Fingers contemporary arts collective gave a highly entertaining 90-minute show with amazing acrobatics and life-affirming theatricality at the Granada, part of the popular UCSB Arts & Lectures program.

The show Reversible was highly creative, full of innovation and extremely well performed as the performers jumped in and out of scenic windows and doors, with two showing dazzling see-saw abilities, while others impressed juggling dexterously with hoops and balls.

The 7 Fingers deserved a big hand!

Just 48 hours later it was time for Kodo, the internationally-acclaimed taiko performing arts ensemble to shine with its Evolution show, featuring Japanese barrel drums vigorously showcasing 11 classic and contemporary works.

A rousing whirl of energy that was hugely entertaining…

Death Gets New Life

Arthur Miller’s classic Pulitzer Prize-winning play Death of a Salesman, which debuted on Broadway 70 years ago, has been given a sparkling makeover in the revival by the Ensemble Theatre Company at the New Vic.

The production from founding director Joe Hanreddy is set in Brooklyn, New York, in 1949 with Willy Loman, wonderfully played by Henry Woronicz, dealing with his family and career travails.

Using a new score by Barry Funderburg and a great supporting cast, including ETC veteran Michael Bernard, Gigi Bermingham as his wife, Trevor Peterson and Alex Nee as his sons, John Connolly, Sergei Robles and Paul Michael Sandberg, this show hits all the right notes.

It runs through February 24…


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