Hats Off to Hattie!
The Lobero Theatre Associates have a winning event every year when they present the Hats Off luncheon in the Loggia Ballroom at the Santa Barbara Biltmore. The members rummage through their closets for those little worn items, a dress hat, dust them off and then tip them to the honored keynote speaker. This year that was author and historian Hattie Beresford, who also writes for the Montecito Journal paper and magazine – The Way It Was. Today she was to tell us stories about the Lobero Theatre.
The luncheon began with a meet and greet and a chance to buy raffle tickets. One of the precious items was a pair of pearl and diamond earrings from Silverhorn later won by long time member Hope Kelly. Hope always has one of the best hats because she’s like Dr. Seuss’s Bartholomew Cubbins and the 500 hats. She inherited one hundred from her late mother.
We sat down to tables with clusters of roses in “paint cans” in the center. Quite beautiful. The welcome came from president Annie Williams followed by emcee Catherine Remak. She reminded us, “The Lobero is the longest continuously running Theatre in California.” Another bit of news was that the Association has raised over $1 million to add to the Lobero coffers since it was established in 1972. They have bought a Steinway piano among many other improvements. The next is to raise money for the courtyard to cover it with a sail “roof” during the warm months instead of the hot Moorish tent. Architect Jeff Shelton has donated his time and talent to the project. Joan Crossland told us about Hattie’s latest book, The Way It Was – Santa Barbara Comesof Age.
The first thing Hattie did was take her hat off. Jose Lobero came here from Italy and had a saloon at first. But he dreamed of an opera house and it came true. Amazingly his theatre held about 1,200 people while the population of Santa Barbara at the time in the 1870s was only 3,000. The area where the opera house was located was right by China Town. Some of the ladies objected to walking through it, but others didn’t seem to mind the scent of opium that wafted from the shops.
One of the entertainments was the sextet of dancing Floradoras. They were all a “tall” statuesque 5 ft. 4 in. and weighed 130 pounds. One of the coups the Lobero had was giving the play Beggar on Horseback while it was still playing on Broadway. That’s unheard of and still is today.
As the theatre deteriorated, it was now after World War I and the city wanted something to bring people to town. In the 1920s they decided to build a new theatre and commissioned George Washington Smith and Lutah Maria Riggs as architects. When it was finished in 1924, a Fiesta was planned to celebrate and draw tourists. It is almost the 100th anniversary of the Lobero and of Fiesta, which still draws thousands of folks from out of town to boost the economy.
For Lobero Associates information, call 805.679.6013. Meantime we’ll pack our hats away for another year.