Read all about Mary Dorra’s history and more in “Two Lives on Four Continents.”
Read all about Mary Dorra’s history and more in Two Lives on Four Continents. Credit: Erin Graffy / Noozhawk photo

Local writer Mary Dorra was featured recently at the Santa Barbara Yacht Club Monday Speakers forum, attracting tables of fans and friends.

Talk of the Town with Erin Graffy logo

The author of several books of both fiction and fact, Dorra has managed to live a most interesting life in fabulous places with fascinating personalities.

Her latest book is a double memoir, Two Lives on Four Continents, and recounts both her late husband’s life as well as her own multifaceted career … Italy, Egypt, France, New York, etc.

Fun note: when Vogue editor Diana Vreeland spotted Dorra’s unique green sparkly necklace from Italy (another life story), she recognized her oeuvre and sought to have her aboard.

Young Dorra — perhaps too naively or unschooled — queried the celebrated editor and couture maven: “Do you take fashion seriously?”

To which Vreeland responded (I love this!), “Yes … it’s another way of recording history.”

More Than Just a Pretty Name

Well, we can brag all we want about our mountains, our harbor, our architecture, and weather, but at the end of the day, it is Oxnard that just ranked by WalletHub as the 28th Happiest City in America.

So there’s that … in case anyone wants to move to a much cheaper rent district.

Jazz Society Scores with Singer James Arnold

James Arnold at home with a mic, with local favorite Hank Allen on bass.
James Arnold at home with a mic, with local favorite Hank Allen on bass. Credit: Robert Hoffman photo

Over at the Santa Barbara Jazz Society — man-oh-man, do they serve delicious talent at their monthly concerts held at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club. And we had a full helping of jazz singer James Arnold.

Arnold is a big man with a big voice, big talent, great sense of humor, and a personality that simply fills up and gently commands the room.

The singers and musicians who perform for the Jazz Society come from throughout the state and country, but Arnold lives down the road in Ventura, and we beg for him to come up every other year.

Arnold has the uncanny ability to take a song that often seems, to me, like a big meh, such as “What’s It All About Alfie” … and then just make it his own.

He will just sing and sing and explore every musical nuance until you’d imagine that the song was originally written just for him.

SOhO was jammed with the usual jazz aficionados, including Yvnonne and Dave Bazinet, Natalie Wilson, Kimberly Ford, Jan Smith, Jodi de Marcos, Melody Collins.

Click here for more information about upcoming concerts and membership in the Santa Barbara Jazz Society.

Ponying Up for a Party

The polo ponies were out to rest while the thoroughbreds came in — along with a herd of people to horse around at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club for a Kentucky Derby party.

The event, hosted by Rick Oshay and Teresa Kuskey Nowak — came complete with La Bohème dancers and a shipload of sisters in chapeaus.

A grand event! What a crowd: Michael BishopTiffany Story, Will Pritchett, Clare Tendai Carey, Greg Gorga, Robert Adams, and fascinating ladies in fascinators Kacey Roberts, Louise Bluhm de John, Deborah Cristobal, Shannon Stark and Cecilia Speroni, as well as the hatless heads of Oshay, John Palminteri and Joe Lambert.

The band BFD featured classic rock ’n’ roll harmonies from Robert Montanes, John Finseth and David Hekhouse.

People filled out betting forms and then when the video screen turned on, it was showing a horse race — but a different race. Half the crowd did not even realize their horse was not in the race (because it was the wrong race) and the other half could not remember which horse they guessed on. No worries! We were happy drinking, dining, dancing and dialoguing.

And now for some of those hats!

From left, our hostess Teresa Kuskey Nowak, with Jaye Taylor and Elana Cantrell, all get it right — in black and white.
From left, our hostess Teresa Kuskey Nowak, with Jaye Taylor and Elana Cantrell, all get it right — in black and white. Credit: Erin Graffy / Noozhawk photo
Pretty in pink … and green: Karen Lehman (La Bohème dancer), Stancie Monahan and — coming all the way from Solvang! — Karen Waite.
Pretty in pink … and green: Karen Lehman (La Bohème dancer), Stancie Monahan and — coming all the way from Solvang! — Karen Waite. Credit: Erin Graffy / Noozhawk photo
Orange you glad Jo Lynn and Cassie Brungarth wore these hats?
Orange you glad Jo Lynn and Cassie Brungarth wore these hats? Credit: Erin Graffy / Noozhawk photo
Three maids mingling about in marvelous millinery: Judy Charbonneau, Angel Sugleris and Tami Carlson.
Three maids mingling about in marvelous millinery: Judy Charbonneau, Angel Sugleris and Tami Carlson. Credit: Erin Graffy / Noozhawk photo

Tall Order for NBA

OK, so we may not be (supposedly) quite as happy as Oxnard (harrumph!), but we are pleased that the NBA is checking out players and holding Comps here on the South Coast, so there’s THAT to be said for us.

Sight to be seen: 7-foot-1 Chet Holmgren having to duck to get through the door.

Santa Barbara Artist Linda Mutti Earns Acclaim

“Dawn’s Early Light” by Linda Ramsdell Mutti.
“Dawn’s Early Light” by Linda Ramsdell Mutti.

Santa Barbara has a tremendous collection of artists, and such a variety of accomplished artists.

They follow the long tradition of notable artists who lived here, going back to Santa Barbara’s Alexander Harmer (Southern California’s first great painter of the 19th century).

SO we are proud to announce local pastel artist Linda Ramsdell Mutti, a member of the Pastel Society of the West Coast, was accepted into the International Association of Pastel Societies’ 10th Master Circle Division show, which finished in April.

“Stillness of the Evening” by Linda Ramsdell Mutti.
“Stillness of the Evening” by Linda Ramsdell Mutti.

In Santa Barbara, Mutti finds a plethora of scenic opportunities to draw from (unintentional pun, but a good one!) — for the subject of her works.

Then, Mutti was recently one of eight pastels juried into the American Impressionist Society’s annual small works exhibit (out of 1,615 entries!).

The show, featuring her “Stillness of the Evening,” is finishing up this month at The District Gallery & Framery in Knoxville, Tennessee!

“Sierra Light” by Linda Ramsdell Mutti.
“Sierra Light” by Linda Ramsdell Mutti.

(I do love this one)

But wait — there’s more! Next up, Mutti just learned her “Sierra Light” was accepted into this year’s American Impressionist Society National Show (Aug. 3 to Sept. 2 at Somerville Manning Gallery in Greenville, Delaware).

Jungle Book Pounces, Preys and Pirouettes

From left, Yours Truly with Kaito Yamamoto — the Baryshnikov of Japan — with his fiancée/fellow dancer Nerea Barrondo and patron Hiroko Benko presenting flowers to the ballet stars.
From left, Yours Truly with Kaito Yamamoto — the Baryshnikov of Japan — with his fiancée/fellow dancer Nerea Barrondo and patron Hiroko Benko presenting flowers to the ballet stars. Credit: James Paul Garcia photo

The packed Lobero Theatre drew many dance enthusiasts, such as Musette and Michelle Profant, Michael Gutin, Susan Manchak, Gwynn Boss, Odette Finn and Renee Hamaty to enjoy Rudyard Kipling’s classic Jungle Book — as a delightful ballet presented by State Street Ballet.

Executive and artistic director and choreographer Rodney Gustafson has an eye for talented international performers, who hail from four continents.

Even the score was by a European — Czech composer Milan Svoboda — and featured an intriguingly eclectic collection of music comprised of jazz, classical and even ballads numbers about the story set in India.

On stage there were SO many dancing gems, t0 name a few standouts: dancer Elizaveta Domracheva astonishing as the python, Balloo the bear with personality-plus by Tanner Blee, the fantastic black cougar by Arianna Hartanov, Marika Kobayashi was precision personified depicting the lead peacock, and Amara Galloway as the porcupine (how did she manage to pirouette with her paws held up like that?)

The jungle boy, Mowgli, was magnificently performed and danced by Kaito Yamamoto. (You need to check Mr. Yamamoto out on YouTube and on his own channel).

Yamamoto is the Mikhail Baryshnikov of Japan — his spectacular leaps and dizzying signature “Turbo-Turn” (triple pirouette followed by quadruple pencil turns in double-time) make him a thrill to watch.

And he was beautifully complemented by the exquisite Nerea Barrondo as the Village Girl. (I believe when Barrondo was only 15, she became the first dancer from Spain to be accepted into the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.)

(Flash news scoop! I am pleased to announce that Barrondo and Yamamoto will now be performing a permanent pas de deux: they just became engaged!)

And another heads up — mark your calendars for Oct.  21-22 when Barrondo will dance the title role in State Street Ballet’s Giselle at The Granada Theatre.)

Erin Graffy

Erin Graffy

Author Erin Graffy writes the Talk of the Town column for Noozhawk. The opinions expressed are her own.