An excerpt from the upcoming book by Armando Nieto, Mary Conrad, and Matt Pallamary:
In 2001, the 29th Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference found a new home at Westmont College in the hills behind Santa Barbara. The Miramar era was over, and the Westmont Campus was a dramatic change from the beachfront blue-roofed Miramar Hotel. With no ocean near the campus, Barnaby said, “There’s no beach to tempt the people away from their typewriters.” Duly noted. “They shouldn’t be on the beach; they should be writing!” he added laughing, in an interview with Santa Barbara News-Press reporter Ann Shields.
Tuesday night veteran newsman Sander Vanocur moderated a “Behind the Headlines” panel of journalists, including Ann Louise Bardach (Troubled Waters, Cuba, and others), Lou Canon (President Reagan — The Role of a Lifetime,) and Martha Smilgis (Time Magazine, People Magazine, and others).
In typical Barnaby style, he introduced Vanocur by saying “There has been altogether too much frivolity around this place,” so he read a piece by Dave Barry about the founding of America, with the hope of instilling some gravitas before hearing from the distinguished panel.
“Hundreds of years ago, America was different,” Barny read. “The only inhabitants were Indians who formed tribes and gave rivers hard to spell names. Meanwhile, in Italy, Christopher Columbus spent hours gazing out to sea and thinking, ‘someday I will be the cause of a holiday observed by millions of government workers.’ Columbus assembled a group of mariners and set out across the storm-tossed Atlantic in three tiny ships, the Ninja, the Piña Colada and the Heidi Ho.
“After numerous storm-tossed weeks they came to an island where Columbus had this conversation with the local chief.
“Columbus: You guys are Indians, right?
“Chief: Ramanona, jaway, which means, ‘No, we came over from Asia 20,000 years ago by the land mass bridge.’
“Columbus: Listen, we’ve spent weeks looking for India in these three storm-tossed ships and we have canons pointed at your wigwams, and we say that you’re Indians.
“Chief: Banama kawowi saki, which means ‘Welcome to India.’
“By the 17th Century the English had started a colony on an estuary and called it Jamestown. Their leader was John Smith, under whose direction Jamestown engaged in numerous activities primarily related to starving, then just when the colonists were about to give up, they discovered a vast untapped market for a product that consumers would set on fire and they’d inhale, gradually turning their lungs into malignant lumps of carbon.
“Meanwhile, the Puritans landed at Plymouth Rock. The new world was harsh and desolate and they would have starved, if not for a friendly native named Squanto. A year went by and the Puritans held their first Thanksgiving. They invited Squanto for turkey. ‘Next time,’ he advised, ‘try cooking it,’ then they watched the Lions/Bears game. Ultimately the Puritans built New England, part of it which can still be seen.
“Next came the revolution, the single most important historical event to occur in America with the exception of Super Bowl IV. Amid this climate the first Continental Congress met in Philadelphia. Its members realizing their actions could determine the fate of the new world, voted to give themselves a raise. The Continental Congress also knew that they would need an army and they knew just the man to lead it. A man who was respected and admired, a man who had experience, and the leadership needed to organize men and lead them into battle. That man, of course, was Dwight D. Eisenhower.”
“None of this stuff,” Barny added, “has anything to do with Sander Vanocur, a man who you all recognize from television news. I give you Sander Vanocur.”