LEVI GILBERT | Art Meets Action

Levi Gilbert interview from 805 Living Magazine, October 2019.

Falling down stairs, crashing motorcycles, and taking death-defying leaps off the sides of cliffs are all in a day’s work for Levi Gilbert, a 2017 Santa Barbara High School graduate who got his first Hollywood stunt job as soon as he turned 18 and was legally allowed to perform. This might seem like a crazy career choice to some, but stunt performing is in Gilbert’s blood. His grandfather Mickey Gilbert’s career dates back to the 1969 classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and his father, Lance Gilbert, was Mel Gibson’s personal stuntman.

“I got started doing stunt work with the guidance of my dad,” says the 20-year-old Gilbert, who has already appeared in TV series such as 9-1-1, 13 Reasons Why, Ballers, Daybreak, Silicon Valley, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as the upcoming Ford v Ferrari film, which is generating Oscar buzz. “He has always helped me by giving me every opportunity to learn something new and expand my skill sets.

“Directors know exactly what they want from the stunt performers, but it’s up to you to make it happen safely,” says the youngest of the Gilbert family stunt artists. “The most dangerous stunts I have done so far in my career would probably be stair falls.” He starred as a young naval lieutenant who fell to a dramatic death in an NCIS: New Orleans episode this year.

“Difficulty and danger often go hand in hand,” he says. “But for me the hardest stunt isn’t a stunt at all—it’s acting—which is something I am working on and trying to understand the art of.”

Leslie Dinaberg

805 Living Magazine, October 2019.

Click here to read this story as it appeared in 805 Living magazine, October 2019. 805 Living Oct 2019 The 805’s Got Talent

Local Lowdown: Rock N Roll Tequila

Courtesy Rock N Roll Tequila.

Courtesy Rock N Roll Tequila.

The handcrafted glass guitar bottles are eye-catching, but it’s the crisp distinct taste of Rock N Roll’s three premium tequilas that will really knock your socks off.

The company was founded by Santa Barbara local Andy Herbst, an entrepreneur, surfer and soccer player, who came to the U.S. in the 1960s from South Africa and went to Santa Barbara High School and Santa Barbara City College, where he says he majored in surfing. After a successful career as a music promoter, Herbst traveled to the highlands of Mexico, where he was introduced to the smoothest, purest blue agave and soon turned his passion for tequila into creating his own label. His partners in the venture, which launched in 2017, include businessman Scott Woolley and NFL great Dan Marino, who played quarter­back for the Miami Dolphins and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“After tasting Rock N Roll Tequila, I knew it was a quality spirit, and I wanted to be a member of the team,” says Marino. “It is great to be associated with a high-quality prod­uct at a reasonable price, and it doesn’t hurt to have an iconic name like Rock N Roll!”

Amped Mojito with Cristalino, courtesy Rock N Roll Tequila.

Amped Mojito with Cristalino, courtesy Rock N Roll Tequila.

Crafted by Master Distiller Jose Aceves, a third-generation tequila producer, Rock N Roll’s 100% pure blue agave comes from deep in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico. The bottles, which feature a unique patented top known as the “roadie,” provide the consumer a complimentary two shots of Platinum Te­quila that come in three varieties:

Platinum: Hand crafted, triple distilled, made with 100% pure highlands blue agave, giving it a delicious, smooth taste.

Mango: Double distilled with 100% pure highlands blue agave and the highest-quality natural mango flavor, giving it sweet citrus notes and a super smooth finish.

Cristalino: This Añejo Tequila is barrel-aged for two–three years and filtered to perfection, making it cleaner and healthier. Cristalino is also made with 100% pure highlands blue agave, featuring classic notes of French oak and vanilla.

At press time, Rock N Roll Tequila is served in Santa Barbara at Viva Modern Mexican (1114 State St., 805/965-4770), Foxtail Kitchen & Bar (14 E. Cota St., 805/845-6226) and O’Malley’s (523 State St., 805/564-8904) and sold at Santa Barbara Liquor and Crafts (501 Anacapa St., 805/966-6716), as well as additional venues throughout the Central Coast.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, visit rocknrolltequila.com.

Rock N Roll Recipes:


Leslie Dinaberg

This story was originally published in the spring 2018 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

Celebrate Family Holiday Movie Weekend at the Granada Theatre

Granada Holiday Movie Weekend

Enjoy the magic of the holidays at The Granada Theatre’s Family Holiday Movie Weekend on Saturday, December 13 and Sunday, December 14!  In addition to screening holiday movie favorites with the only 4K cinema projection system in the region, Santa Claus will make a special visit to The Granada Theatre to greet children, and there will be special seasonal musical performances by local school and musical groups including Montecito Union Elementary, La Colina Junior High, San Marcos High School, Santa Barbara High School and local public elementary school students from the Incredible Children’s Art Network (iCAN) program.

Here’s the schedule:

Saturday, December 13

11 a.m. Music by Montecito Union Elementary

Movies: Merry Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda

noon to 1:30 p.m.   Meet Santa Claus!

3 p.m. Music by San Marcos High School Madcappella Choir

Movie: White Christmas

7 p.m. Music by La Colina Junior High Outburst Choir

Movie: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Sunday, December 14

11 a.m. to noon Meet Santa Claus!

noon Music by Incredible Children’s Art Network (iCAN) group Pacific Choir

Movie: Miracle On 34th Street

5 p.m. Music by Santa Barbara High School Madrigals Choir

Movie: Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas

General Admission tickets are just $5 and include open seating. Reserved seating in the Loge is available for $10 per ticket. Click here to purchase tickets for each music and movie performance, or by calling The Granada Theatre’s Box Office at 805/899-2222.  The Granada is located at 1214 State St.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on December 10, 2014.

Free Screening of “Dislecksia: The Movie” and Q & A with Filmmaker Harvey Hubbell

DIS-400x600_R3Dyslexia affects 1 in 5 individuals, and Harvey Hubbell (who has dyslexia) is spreading the word across the nation that dyslexia is a difference, not a disability. The award-winning independent filmmaker screens his well-reviewed film, Dislecksia: The Movie at a special appearance at Santa Barbara High School on Friday, January 17 at 7 p.m. (700 E. Anapamu St.).

The event is FREE to the public and is the only Central Coast showing scheduled during Hubbell’s West Coast tour. A Q & A session will follow the film.

The film explores the issue of learning differences that are widely misunderstood, and the reason for much difficulty in school; due to increasing research and technological advances, these differences can be handled in a positive way  when there’s greater awareness and understanding.

The event is sponsored by the Santa Barbara School District, the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, The Kirby Jones Family Foundation and The Dyslexia Project. Spanish interpretation will be available.

For more information email TheDyslexiaProject@gmail.com.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on January 13, 2014.

New Greeting Cards Support Santa Barbara High VADA Students

Santa Barbara Dolphins by Tessa Dewell

Santa Barbara Dolphins by Tessa Dewell

The Visual and Arts Design Academy (VADA) students at Santa Barbara High School are actively participating in raising funds for their Academy by launching a new line of greeting cards to show off their talents and raise money at the same time.

This effort includes Holiday cards, Santa Barbara Landmark cards and Thank you cards.  The artwork for each card is designed by a student and, thanks to Boone Printing, 100% of sales will go directly to the VADA program.

VADA is a school-within-a-school where art is infused into everyday learning, which gives the students a strong, rounded and practical skill set for life after high school.  For many students, VADA is the difference between going to college or not, says Friends of VADA board president Dina Barton.

To purchase these beautiful cards or to make a donation, please go to VADAsbhs.org or email friendsofvada@gmail.com.

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on November 30, 2103.

La Cumbre principal goes recruiting

La Cumbre Junior High, courtesy SBUnified.

Touting a closer-knit junior high community, one school aims to turn tide of enrollment

The vibe is different at La Cumbre Junior High these days. While the enrollment numbers are still down, new principal Jo Ann Caines’ dynamic energy seems to be resonating, at least with the people who know the native Santa Barbaran.

Students at Adams School (where she was principal until a few months ago), once a symbol for white flight, are now flocking to La Cumbre.

While only about 450 of the approximately 600 eligible students will attend La Cumbre in the fall, “the composition of our student body is going to be drastically different,” said Caines, “with more of the middle-income and middle- and high-achieving students that didn’t come here before.

“We’ve turned a huge corner thanks to Adams School,” she said, with all but 11 of the more than 100 sixth-graders planning to attend La Cumbre. “So while we’ll be very similar in size, we’ll be hugely different.”

This fall, Caines and assistant principal Jorge Fulco will concentrate on Monroe and Washington schools. Caines has even recruited an Adams fourth-grade parent, Katie Parker, to help her with the outreach.

“Jorge and I have been on the road since Feb. 1 doing outreach,” Caines said. “We gave more tours here … than they have in the prior five years combined.”

Of course, pitching the school is one thing, but telling a compelling story is another — and Caines certainly has one with her reorganization plan.

It might seem to be by design that, when Santa Barbara Community Academy upper-grade students move to La Cumbre’s campus in the fall, the junior high will begin to implement a core knowledge learning community that builds on the same concepts the academy has used successfully. But Caines said she did her research on the core knowledge curriculum (a sequenced, coherent program that uses a grade-by-grade core of common learning) prior to the school board’s decision to move the academy there.

Caines also has a Gifted and Talented Education (GATE)/pre-advanced placement learning community planned, a liberal arts/college preparatory group, and an intensive English development/newcomers community similar to the successful program she implemented at Adams.

Caines emphasized that the communities — which will be separated geographically to make it easier on students — are not tracks.

“Students can participate in any one that they choose or they qualify for,” she said.

Each student will also have a homeroom class where she hopes the smallness of the school will work to its advantage.

“Teachers will not only know their students but the students in that community,” she said.

The staff is coming on board after what Caines characterized as lots of “not easy” discussions.

“Change is hard,” she said. “They’ve been through four principals in two years, so it’s hard to say, ‘Is this really a change or is it going to be different next month kind of thing?’ So what I said to teachers is if it’s not a match for you then you should put in for a transfer because part of what I’m doing is building a new team, and more than anything I want people to be here because they want to be here.”

Three teachers have put in for transfers, but Caines said others are anxious to come to the school because of the new programs.

“Let’s be real. If you asked 100 adults about junior high, 97 of them will say they hated junior high,” she said. “It’s all about friends … Even though we’ll do outreach to the parents, … we’re going to put a lot of energy into the kids, because kids really do decide …They want to go where their friends are.”

Blurred boundaries

Transfers are one of the hot topics of discussion where school needs are concerned. When students transfer in from other districts, the district gets additional money, but intra-district transfers don’t change the funding and campuses like La Colina Junior High (which had only 591 students in 1993-94 and was up to 1,027 students in 2004-05) are getting overcrowded while campuses like La Cumbre Junior High (which had 1,030 students in 1993-94 and now has 433 students) have empty rooms..

Here’s a snapshot look at where secondary students are going (all figures are from the 2004-05 school year):

Junior High

Goleta Valley Junior High School

Incoming: +21 students from other districts; +48 students from within the district (total +69)

Outgoing: -1 student to other districts; -79 students to another school in the district (total -80)

La Colina Junior High School

Incoming: +29 students from other districts; +250 students from within the district (total +279)

Outgoing: -0 students to other districts; -50 students to another school in the district (total –50)

La Cumbre Junior High School

Incoming: +14 students from other districts; +41 students from within the district (total +55)

Outgoing: -2 students to other districts; -257 students to another school in the district (total –259)

Santa Barbara Junior High School

Incoming: +43 students from other districts; +154 students from within the district (total +197)

Outgoing: -2 students to other districts; -107 students to another school in the district (total –109)

High School

Dos Pueblos High School

Incoming: +74 students from other districts; +218 students from within the district (total +292)

Outgoing: -0 students to other districts; -101 students to another school in the district (total –101)

San Marcos High School

Incoming: +61 students from other districts; +325 students from within the district (total +386)

Outgoing: -7 students to other districts; -382 students to another school in the district (total –389)

Santa Barbara High School

Incoming: +151 students from other districts; +268 students from within the district (total +319)

Outgoing: -7 students to other districts; -328 students to another school in the district (total –335)

— Source: PAT SALEY

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on June 2, 2005.

J.R. Richards, former Santa Barbara High Principal

Santa Barbara High School’s colors were green, gold and black this week, as the Dons mourned the death of former principal J.R. Richards, who died unexpectedly on Saturday. He was 63 years old.

Affectionately known around town as “J.R.,” Richards was the only graduate of Santa Barbara High to serve as the school’s principal. He was a mathematics teacher in the Santa Barbara High School District for 25 years, becoming assistant principal at Santa Barbara High School in 1993 and serving as principal from 1995 until the summer of 2003.

“He was the most connected person I think I’ve ever met. Everybody he ever dealt with walked away feeling like he totally cares about him. He established a loyalty in people that came from his own loyalty to them. He made you feel like you were really worth something,” said Peter van Duinwyk, a colleague for 30 years, who retired from Santa Barbara High with Richards in 2003. “He got kids — and teachers — to put out that extra five percent that made all the difference in the world. …Whether on the playing field or state test taking, it’s all related.”

“He had a great sense of humor and was a good teacher,” said Santa Barbara High Teacher Bruce Lofthus, who also taught with Richards at Dos Pueblos High School. He was one of the people responsible for getting me back into teaching. “Just one of those very enthusiastic people. You knew that he was interested in young people and it showed,” said Lofthus, noting that Richards also taught math to his two daughters. “They thought he was great.”

“It is hard for me to think about Santa Barbara High School without thinking about J.R. and his dedication to the staff, students, and school community,” said Superintendent Deborah Flores.

“The more said about him, the better,” said van Duinwyk. “He’s such a community jewel, we want to talk about him as much as possible so that others can follow. … As an administrator, I’d go up and ask him questions. His answer always was, ‘if its good for kids, lets start there.’ And it wasn’t necessarily the thing that everybody approved of. That was his standard.”

Richards’ high standards have lived on at Santa Barbara High. “He instilled so much in the kids and the staff,” said Patty Diaz, his longtime secretary. “The staff knows to put the kids first.”

“He had a lot of stuff done to him that was not equitable, not fair. But he never had a bad word to say about anyone. It was a pure joy to have him around for the additional year that we got him. And that he was able to go out on his own terms,” said Diaz.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on February 24, 2005.