and raconteur Barnaby Conrad is the founding director of the Santa
Barbara Writers' Conference and the author of more than 27 books including
Tahiti, La Fiesta Brava, Gates of Fear, San Francisco, Dangerfield, How
to Fight a Bull, Famous Last Words, Hemingway's Spain, Learning to Write
Fiction from the Masters and The World of Herb Caen.
The native San Franciscan is also a former vice consul to Spain, amateur
bullfighter, art teacher, and onetime secretary to novelist Sinclair Lewis.
He studied art at the Academie Julien in Paris and named his former North
Beach night spot after his successful 1952 novel, Matador. His 1994 memoir
Name Dropping: Tales from My Barbary Coast Saloon
is, as the title suggests, a collection of gossip and stories from El
Matador, which was located at 492 Broadway
and known by regulars as "the Mat." From the book: "The night Ava Gardner
first came into El Matador
she was sober and gorgeous. But two hours later she had snatched
a bullfighter's hat off the wall and was doing a torrid, if lurching, flamenco
solo on the bar, her skirt hiked up around her waist, while her anonymous
escort looked pained and the customers applauded." Gardner's inelegant turn
notwithstanding, The Mat set a standard for elegant socializing in North
Beach the likes of which has not been seen since the 1950s. Conrad, who
founded the Santa Barbara Writers' Conference in 1972, is also the artist
of a portrait of Bing Crosby that graces the receiving room of the
Crosby mansion in Hillsborough.