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Montecito residents and morning commuters had a kooky start to their week July 7 after a man threatened to blow up his Virginia Road home along Highway 101 near the southbound onramp at Olive Mill Road.
The neighborhood was evacuated for several hours and the freeway was closed briefly, but there were no injuries in the incident.
Santa Barbara County sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said the excitement began at 3:15 a.m. when a resident of the 1300 block of Virginia Road called 9-1-1 to say he had several acetylene tanks, firearms and ammunition, and threatened to set off an explosion.
Authorities negotiated with the man for nearly five hours, and he surrendered just before 8:30 a.m. — shortly after smoke and flames were seen coming from the house. Montecito firefighters quickly doused the blaze, Hoover said.
The man — identified as David Tallman, 66 — was taken into custody, and Hoover said he was transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for a medical evaluation. He faces charges of criminal threats and resisting arrest, she added.
A Sheriff's Department robot was deployed to check the interior of the home, Hoover said, and a search warrant was obtained.
“Investigators searched Tallman’s home and found two small acetylene tanks and one oxygen tank which he allegedly used to make jewelry,” she said. “They did not find any firearms or ammunition.”
Nearly 140 homes were alerted via reverse-notification calls at about 4:20 a.m., and residents were evacuated to nearby All Saints By-the-Sea Episcopal Church on Eucalyptus Lane.
Twenty minutes later, Sheri Benninghoven and another All Saints parishioner opened up the church’s Parish Hall for evacuees.
“It was quite a morning,” Benninghoven told our Tom Bolton. “Two of us went down and opened the doors, put the coffee on, and found cookies, crackers and dog bowls.”
Santa Barbara County firefighters were called to the construction site at Storke Road and Whittier Drive about 3:30 a.m. They were greeted by 60- to 70-foot flames and actually five separate fires burning at the framed-out student housing complex, three construction trailers and an abandoned building next door at the former Ocean Meadows Golf Course.
It took firefighters about an hour to extinguish the fires. There were no injuries.
The most shared story of the week was our Gina Potthoff’s feature on laid-back restaurant impresario John Bennett.
Bennett bought the out-of-business restaurant at 1201 State St. and West Anapamu Street and is leading its transformation into Benchmark Eatery, which will soon be serving burgers, flatbread pizzas, vegetarian options and other “new American” comfort food.
Already in the Bennett family are the popular Brophy Brothers and On the Alley at the Santa Barbara marina. In the last year, the Bennetts have added the Cliff Room on the Mesa, Arch Rock downtown and Farmer Boy Restaurant in San Roque.
Bennett credits the restaurants’ success to the family atmosphere — inside the company and and out among diners.
“It’s the people,” he said. “It’s a collaborative effort. You need community. You need help with almost everything. This business isn’t about food, it’s about love.”
High-end antique collectors can be a secretive lot so it’s not terribly surprising that representatives of Theriault’s, an international doll auction company, sometimes encounter eccentricities among the clientele. For the longest time, they didn’t know the half of it.
One of the company’s biggest and most loyal customers turned out to be Huguette Clark, the late Santa Barbara heiress who spent more than $1 million with Theriault’s alone, meticulously building a fascinating collection of dolls over a period of 30 years.
According to Stuart Holbrook, the company president, Clark made all of her transactions anonymously through her attorneys.
“It was intriguing,” he told our Giana Magnoli in a Noozhawk exclusive. “For a number of years we had no idea who she was — she was only known as the client.
“I would send her books, interesting tidbits about the doll world and she would send her gratitude. I had this 30-year relationship with a person I never really knew.”
Clark, who died in 2011 at age 104, willed a large portion of her estate to charity, including a new arts foundation to care for her oceanfront Bellosguardo estate in Santa Barbara. Her extensive doll collection, valued at $1.7 million, is part of the deal.
Holbrook said Clark mostly purchased French dolls from the 19th century, although she did buy some Japanese dolls and even some unique Barbie dolls.
“We learned through her buying, there were very specific emotional catches to her purchases, things she really identified with,” he said. “It was remarkable that a woman of such immense wealth could have anything in the world she wanted yet she was not just going after every major expensive piece, but for items that fit some idea of her collection.
“They had some emotional draw to her or balanced out what she already had.”
Fireworks capped off a fun-filled Fourth of July as locals celebrated Independence Day. The day dawned in Montecito with pancakes and a parade, followed by another parade in Santa Barbara, barbecue and classic cars at Goleta’s Rancho La Patera & Stow House, and, finally, fireworks shows at Girsh Park in Goleta and along the Santa Barbara waterfront.
As is often the case on this star-spangled holiday, pictures tell the story best. Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery of the day’s festivities.
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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.