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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.

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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.

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Comments
3

Burl was 83 and left no relatives.

That is sad.

May 20, 2011

The information I received was somewhat incorrect. Burl left behind two nieces. Sorry for the inaccuracy.

May 20, 2011

‎'Twas ever thus with local social columns. Way back in the day, a rich Mexican-American clan by the name Alessio ruled the roost in both San Diego and Tijuana, where they owned & ran the Caliente racetrack. The restaurant Mr. A's was named for and run by the paterfamilias John Alessio. One time a lavish Alessio family wedding was described in detail in the San Diego Union social column. Immediately following it, another wedding was descibed, in which the same columnist slyly included the phrase: "all was marked by restraint and good taste." This detail did not escape the gaze of the Allesios; and ever thereafter the exact same phrase was somehow included in the description of every subsequent Alessio function. This ceased after La Familia Alessio more or less fell from grace, with some of the dynasty serving prison terms for this & that.

May 20, 2011

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