Crabgrass. Leased Lexuses. Mid-priced wine. Turgid brie. Gas-powered leaf-blowers shattering the morning silence. Un-neutered dogs mating in the streets. When you add it all up, it has some Montecitans wondering what’s gone wrong with their affluent foothill community.
How could Montecito have slipped so badly from affluent and exclusive to comfortable and tolerant of token minorities? Was it houses painted in clashing earth tones? Who are these people making only six figures? Was it football on the tennis club’s flat screen? Did the half-finished Biltmore with untrimmed shrubbery set a tone of permissiveness? Did good Gouda go bad? Are homeowners associations to blame for lowered standards? When did Yanni become “just as good” as Kenny G? How come people jog when there are exercise vans? Did a few shoddy feng shui alignments throw everything off? Is it still possible to raise a child here with three nannies? What does Oprah think?
James Whitmont, a longtime resident with a modest house “in the mid-eight-figure range,” doesn’t know what’s happened to his town, but he’s determined to fix it.
“We have got to get rid of all the vowels. There’s too many people with too many vowels in their last names,” said Mr. Whitmont. “It’s not that we’re not tolerant. The guy who does my yard has at least six in his name, but a community has to have standards. If we don’t draw the line, what’s next? Domestic cars?”
Local concern boiled over when things reached a flash point last week at a block party where boxed wine was served. The incident, during which the limbo was performed, was captured on film by a worried neighbor. On the tape, at least one reveler can be heard to shout, “How low can you go?”
Indeed, many residents wonder, how low can you go?
Montecito is losing its luster, some homeowners say. Long an enclave for celebrities seeking the simple life in dozen-acre mansions, the town has lately experienced difficulty in attracting the upper echelons of fame. As proof, they point to Brad Pitt’s and Jennifer Aniston’s decision to live in El Capitan. Will Montecito’s only famous residents be aging members of Monty Python and premium-cable comedians?
Prominent members of the Montecito community say only a crackdown can save their town for privilege.
“It’s time to get tough,” says wealthy dowager Judy Geristochracy. “In the past we’ve been lenient, too lenient. Only a strong law-and-order stance can save us. It’s time for the Fashion Police.”
The Fashion Police, dormant since the nouveau riche days of the 1920s, are empowered to punish crimes against taste. Any Montecitans caught wearing tennis shoes off a tennis court will be fined $5,000. Citizens wearing polo shirts without alligator emblems could spend up to a week in the stocks. Plaid will be considered a capital offense.
“It’s only humane,” Mademoiselle Geristochracy says. “If we allow plaid, we’re just a foxtrot away from Palm Springs and anarchy.”