Ian Pike noon, Dec. 8
San Diego's Social Swami Burl Stiff Dies
I have been an avid Burl Stiff watcher since I first set foot in San Diego twelve years ago. That has been true even though my only cinematic connection with him was at a couple of screenings during my stint as MoPA's film curator.
Now word has arrived that the former U/T columnist and sultan of the San Diego social scene has tasted his last cocktail shrimp. To paraphrase a line from Citizen Kane, today death came as it must to all beautiful people, to Burl Stiff.
His final missive for the country club set ran on April 4, 2010. That day, the headline should have read: “Copley Era Ends as Burl Stiff Retires.” As with all great columnists, when you deny them their livelihood, you deny them their life. Burl spent his remaining months comfortably cared for at the White Sands of La Jolla.
I must confess to finding his columns a source of great fascination and amusement, especially his mesmerizing transitional phrases. Among his favorites were "also in attendance" and "others there were," always followed by a laundry list of well-connected names that almost outnumbered those found in the closing credit crawl of a Star Wars sequel.
As former U/T publisher David Copley's publicist-on-call, Burl was frequently relied upon to report his master's every self-aggrandizing move. In the middle of employee layoffs, Burl stood strong on the front lines of the French Riviera covering party boy Copley's lavish excesses.
Having devoted so much time to pouring over Burl's every turn of phrase, I must confess some affection for his old-school approach to covering the well-to-do. Perhaps there is even a tinge of envy. After all, the man was paid handsomely to dine on the cuff in exchange for spelling the names right and figuring out who wore what.
Burl was 83 and left no relatives. Tonight's soiree at the Pearly Gates Hilton will be strictly black tie. "The heavenly crowd consists of..."
Don Bauder has more to say here.