Imagining Linda McCartney ?- Red-faced residents rethink their McCartney connections as it?s revealed she spent the last days of her life in Tucson

Reports of Linda McCartney’s death were greatly exaggerated. At least they were in Santa Barbara.

The news that McCartney had passed away at the family’s ranch in Tucson, Ariz. — and not while vacationing in Santa Barbara, Calif., as originally announced — took many by surprise, particularly Santa Barbarans. (McCartney’s publicist Geoff Baker admitted releasing the misinformation to give the family private grieving time.) In the days after Linda’s death, it seemed as if nearly everyone in town had been quoted by the media as having recently seen the duo. One woman interviewed during the height of the self-delusion said she knew a man who had ”entertained the McCartneys at his home and set up horseback excursions.” The Santa Barbara News-Press even ran a front-page story quoting an unnamed source saying Linda ”loved Santa Barbara. She came here to die.”

Now, in light of Baker’s admission, many red-faced residents are rethinking their McCartney connections. The woman who knew the man who knew the couple says only, ”I don’t know anything; I really don’t.” Dana Mazzetti, a self-professed McCartney ”family friend” who organized a candlelight vigil that attracted 400 people and was covered by international press, admits that in her five years in Santa Barbara, she’d never seen the McCartneys. Mazzetti says she ”can’t explain” what came over everyone. ”I would connect it to the feeling I had in the ’60s, when there was Beatlemania,” says Mazzetti. ”It was a strange phenomenon, and I got sucked into it. [We] all wanted to be part of it.”

John Lankford, editorial page editor of the News-Press, believes that because of the ubiquitous celebrity presence in the town, ”there is an elemental fantasy to living in Santa Barbara,” which might explain the McCartney sightings. However, adds Lankford, ”it makes you wonder — maybe this is really Area 51 and we don’t know it.”