USA Weekend
March 11 - 13, 1988

 Pinchot is no stranger to enchanted weekends
This ABC comic craves the 'mind-boggling quiet' of a Santa Barbara retreat

By Stu Schrieberg

Only three years ago, Bronson Pinchot's weekend plans had obvious limitations.  He was mostly an unemployed actor who lived from bit part to bit part in a dingy one-bedroom Hollywood apartment.

"The best weekend was when this girl and I used the $20 we each had to rent a car and drive up the (California) coast," he recalls.  "We got lost around Santa Barbara and stumbled on this hotel.  We said, 'If we ever could afford it, we'd love to come back as a guest of that place.'"

That place was the El Encanto Hotel and Garden Villas.  And today, Pinchot can well afford any suite now that he's starring as Balki Bartokomous, the Mediterranean immigrant who moves in with his distant American cousin in ABC-TV's top-rated Perfect Strangers.

The El Encanto, which fittingly means "the enchanted," is Pinchot's favorite weekend retreat.  "I don't know what they do to make those gardens grow, but they have lush, subtropical gardens with lily ponds, sloping lawns with old-fashioned lawn swings," he says.

The cost of rooms or suites in the country-French style cottages, which are picturesque white with red roofs, range from $100 to $300 a night.

The El Encanto also boasts a gourmet French restaurant.  Don't ask Pinchot about it.  He opts for room service.  "First, I would never be caught dead in a jacket and tie.  Secondly, I don't eat red meat or any sauces.  It's easier to tell room service to make me a dish of vegetables and a piece of plain grilled chicken than to fight with the waiter for disobeying the menu."

Pinchot, who parlayed a tiny two-scene role as Serge, the gay art gallery assistant in Beverly Hills Cop, into an unforgettable cameo, goes to El Encanto "for perfect, mind-boggling quiet.  In fact, sometimes I leave with a huge headache because I get too much sleep and it throws me off."

At the resort, Pinchot maintains a low profile.  He prefers to "buy about a hundred books on photography and ancient Greece" and read in bed.

"I take turns reading, ordering food, and watching TV, which is something I never do when I'm home.  At night, I'll go to whatever (movie) is playing on State Street."  He sometimes visits the Santa Monica Museum to view its impressive Greco-Roman collection.

He realizes things have changed immensely since he first discovered El Encanto.  "A million times a day, I get a little private giggle," says Pinchot of his new star status.  In fact, he has signed to play his first starring role in a feature film, Second Sight, for release at Christmas 1989.

He hasn't been to El Encanto recently.  "The last time, I went with this terrific girl," he laments.  "We've since broken up, and I don't feel like looking at anything we did together.  But, this (feeling) will pass.  If I stay away from Santa Barbara too long, I go through withdrawal."