Editing: Santa Barbara Magazine

Santa Barbara, California, 1995-2000

I liked working for the Santa Barbara Independent, which gave me a fresh start in Santa Barbara after everything ran down on the east coast. My career as a newspaper editor revived, to my surprise, after a pause of 26 years. It came naturally to me, and I was good at it. But it was not a real job; I was still at the same level as I had been when I was that much younger; the pay was half what I needed.

After a couple of years, Dan Denton, the owner and editor of Santa Barbara Magazine, took me to lunch and sounded me out about being its editor. I was ready. At first I found myself in the position (and office) of Dan’s former young assistant, but I insisted on being named Editor (like Dan at the Voice) and gradually took over. I was not very confident, but Dan knew what he was doing. Dan, also a Yalie, owned Sarasota Magazine as well. He had bought Santa Barbara Magazine five years earlier and been editing it himself, looking for an editor the whole time, he told me. At first we were also producing Pasadena Magazine but after a few issues that fell away.

I stayed at Santa Barbara Magazine for five years. The job suited me very well. Dan gradually pulled away until I was doing all the editorial work. But putting out a quarterly magazine was a lot easier than a weekly paper: I had weeks of being quite at liberty, then a month or two of crunch as we put the issue to press. Dan had the issues organized by seasonal themes, which I liked: not just lifestyle but also history, environment, and art. The history of Santa Barbara is short and manageable, and I enjoyed learning about it. My partner Carol Storke is a Santa Barbara native (ninth generation!) so I was in touch with roots and connected with the old-timers, which I enjoyed. I put a modern dancer on the cover one time, and modern architecture, and celebrated beauty in some unexpected ways, but also affirmed the connection of the present to a particular past and the continuity of place. It was a handsome little magazine: we put out many very good issues.

In early 2000 Dan sold the magazine to Bob Smith, a television station owner, who turned it over to his daughter Jennifer. I was fond of Bob’s wife Anne, who had been president of the Lobero Theatre board, but Bob and Jennifer were something else. She saw the magazine as a cross between Town and Country and Elle and immediately forced me to put in a page of weddings. I bowed out quickly, and Holly Palance took over, with a cadre of assistants. Since then Jennifer has succeeded spectacularly. The magazine is vastly enlarged, packed full of high-end ads. I always thought it had the potential to be a national magazine. There is nothing to read, though. It is all about luxury and appearances, the new Santa Barbara, not for me.