April-June

APRIL A worker changing bulbs on the Big A next to Anaheim Stadium (we'll never call it Edison International Field) received a minor electrical shock before the April 1 opening-day game between the Angels and the New York Yankees. The Sasco Electric employee was treated at UCI Medical Center and released. The 230-foot first letter of the alphabet, which towers over the stadium's parking lot, had been fitted with light bulbs and Edison International's logo. We figure it's only a matter of time before Disney sells Edison the right to take a chain saw to the Big A and remake it into the Big E. . . . Brynn Garret Downey of Laguna Beach testified in federal court in Los Angeles on April 7 against seven people who reportedly provided him with marijuana, which he sold to make black-market buys of such Nazi artifacts as propaganda chief Hermann Goering's wedding sword and Luftwaffe coat. According to the U.S. attorney's office, which hammered out a deal with Downey in May 1997, he gave the government hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Nazi gear in exchange for pleading guilty to drug-conspiracy and tax-evasion charges. . . . The Fullerton City Council on April 7 decided to rename a stretch of Baker Street Gang turf any flower name other than the one the police chief recommended: Pansy Circle. Chief Pat McKinley thought by tagging "pansy" onto the 2300 block of West Baker Avenue, macho gangbangers would vamoose. But council members, noting the delicate pansy's, uh, queer connotations, felt that might offend. They came up with another flowery name-Iris Circle-which was ultimately confirmed on April 21. Our suggestion: Civic Leaders Ditch Responsibility for Getting to the Root of the Gang Problem and Instead Waste Their Time on Futile Name Change Circle. . . . A report issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on April 7 didn't go so far as to pin the record-shattering El Niño weather phenomenon on global warming, but it did state that the wet-and-warm winter of 1998 provided "a taste of what might be expected" if the worldwide temperature rise continues as predicted. For OC, that taste involved twisters, flooding, mudslides, record rainfall, destructive waves and mucho property damage. The report called the December 1997 to February 1998 weather patterns "exceptionally unusual"-that's more than just "unusual." . . . After the Rainforest Cafe announced it was selling 500 rare Beanie Babies, nearly 200 people camped overnight in front of South Coast Plaza to get their mitts on them when the restaurant opened on April 8. However, when the campers went to pay the Rainforest the $12 previously charged for each palm-sized beanbag doll, they were told the price was now $75. The crowd went apeshit. Cops were called in to quell a near riot. The next day, a couple who owned a collectibles shop in Santa Ana had to be taken to a hospital emergency room for head injuries suffered after two bandits clubbed them with an iron barbell and made off with $6,000 worth of-you guessed it-rare Beanie Babies. . . . Millionaire Newport Beach socialite Tina Schafnitz, who got popped for allegedly selling an ounce of cocaine to an undercover cop in Tustin, pleaded not guilty on April 13 to two felony counts of possessing and selling a controlled substance and one felony count of possessing a controlled substance with a firearm. . . . The Irvine Water District won clearance on April 17 to pump up to 5 million gallons of treated sewage daily into San Diego Creek, which feeds into Upper Newport Bay, the largest open-water estuary in Southern California. Defend the Bay, which believes the dumping will promote algae growth in the 752-acre bay, vowed to appeal. "We're talking about taking treated sewage out of the toilets of Irvine and putting it into our bay," Bob Caustin, the environmental group's director, reportedly said. Irvine Ranch officials countered that their plan would improve the fragile ecosystem by lowering nitrogen levels. . . . A county Animal Control officer-backed up by sheriff's deputies-shot and killed a nearly 7-foot-long mountain lion on April 22 in a Villa Park neighborhood. The cougar was believed to be sick from hunger when it lunged out of a bush and was shot in the rear and leg by deputies before the Animal Control officer fired the fatal blow to the cat's chest. City officials, who could not recall a mountain lion ever being spotted within city borders, blamed rampant development to the east-including another freakin' toll road-for more wildlife settling into residential areas.

MAY The California Coalition for Immigration Reform on May 5 put an official-looking billboard on the California-Arizona state line at Interstate 10 that read: "Welcome to California. The Illegal Immigrant State. Don't Let This Happen to Your State. Call Toll Free (877) NO ILLEGALS." The coalition was headed by Huntington Beach's Barbara Coe, who co-authored Proposition 187, the 1994 initiative that would have barred undocumented residents from receiving social services; it was later ruled unconstitutional. . . . Irvine Co. chairman, richest OC rich white guy and Governor "Lil' Petey" Wilson's pal Donald L. Bren tied the knot on May 9 with a 32-year-old LA-based entertainment lawyer in a small, private Beverly Hills ceremony. It was 66-year-old Bren's third trip down the aisle and bride Brigitte Muller's first. Next to "who's the chick?" the most burning question on everyone's mind-okay, perhaps just our's-was "Did Donald get her to sign a pre-nup?" Here's the official reply from ever-informative Irvine Co. answer man Larry Thomas: "I'm not tellin'" (or words to that effect). Bren, whose worth Forbes pegged at $2.5 buh-buh-billion in 1997, was once called "The Donald of the West Coast." But inherited filthy richness, vast real-estate holdings and a proclivity (presumably former) for having bevies of beauties hanging from his Armani suits are about all Bren has in common with the other "The Donald," Donald Trump. Bren's as painfully reclusive as Trump is painfully obtrusive. But we still refer to Muller as "The Marla of the West Coast." . . . Jeen "Gina" Han, who gained national attention after she and two teen accomplices tried to abduct and kill her twin sister in Irvine in 1997, attempted suicide in jail on May 11 by swallowing several over-the-counter pain pills. Han was hospitalized under guard at Western Medical Center in Anaheim. She somehow got a bunch of Tylenol or sleeping pills, according to sheriff's investigators, who noted the 24-year-old had let it be known she wanted to take her own life. She was inside serving 26 years to life in prison for conspiring to kill her identical twin, Sunny Han. Let's see: Jeen couldn't kill herself or her sister; obviously, this girl's got some serious task-completion problems. . . . The Anaheim Union High School District Board of Trustees voted on May 14 to remove Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved from the proposed English curriculum. The book, which tells the story of a slave who kills her daughter rather than have the child live in slavery, was recommended for inclusion by an English teacher and later approved by a district instructional-materials committee. A review panel formed after an unnamed community member complained about the novel also gave the green light. But the school board removed the book anyway, marking the first time the district has banned a book. They must be so proud. . . . Standing before a massive United Farm Workers flag in the Bren Events Center on May 18, Dolores Huerta-mentor and voice for Chicano students at UC Irvine-urged about 500 students and supporters to oppose Proposition 227, the bye-bye to bilingual education initiative. The measure, in Huerta's words, "amenza a los maestros con demandas legales si usan el idioma que los niños entienden para ayudarlos a aprender ingles." We can't speak a lick of Spanish (thanks, California public schools), but we were told by someone who had a bilingual education that Huerta said Prop. 227 "threatens the teachers with legal demands if they use the language that the children understand in helping them to learn English." . . . General William P. Lyon, a high roller in Orange County's conservative Lincoln Club and one of the most powerful developers in Southern California, on May 20 filed suit against the Transportation Corridor Agencies and the Aliso Viejo firm Nakae & Associates for $250,000. Lyon alleged that the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA)-which had Nakae under contract to clear brush for toll-road expansion-was negligent in starting a wildfire that destroyed the wooded part of his 132-acre, Tara-like estate overlooking Coto de Caza Golf and Racquet Club. A spark from Nakae's tractor mower apparently started a half-acre blaze, which spread quickly amid high winds. Lyon, of course, has made millions after ripping out indigenous scrub and trees for his housing developments-many along the San Joaquin Hills toll road. But his attorney became incensed when the OC Weekly pointed out this irony. "Would it be strange if I burned down your house and wouldn't pay for it and you decided to sue?" asked Jim Stone. Lyon's home was unscathed in the fire. . . . The owner and an employee of Lucky John's bar in Westminster filed suit on May 28 against the city and its police chief, saying smoking citations they were issued earlier in the month violated their civil rights. John Johnson reportedly claimed his four bars were exempt from the state's nonsmoking law because he had five or fewer consenting employees, and the watering holes were closed to minors. But the California Health Department's legal arm ruled that the small-business exemption does not apply to bars and taverns. That didn't deter Johnson, whose lawsuit was backed by Americans for Individual Rights, which represented about 80 bars. . . . Democratic voters in the 41st Congressional District represented by Jay Kim (R-Diamond Bar) received a letter on May 29 from Representative George Brown (D-Colton), which lauded Kim for his hard work in Congress. One problem: Brown said he never wrote the letter for Kim's re-election campaign. (Kim was the House member under house arrest in the Washington, D.C., area for criminal campaign violations in his 1994 race.) The letter-on Brown's letterhead-concluded with "warmest regards," what appeared to be the longtime Democratic congressman's signature, and the disclaimer "Paid for and authorized by Jay Kim for Congress." The mailer was obviously aimed at crossover voters in California's first blanket primary on June 2. When the letter started popping up in mailboxes, Brown got irate calls from fellow Democrats, including Kim's Democratic challenger, whom Brown endorsed. Brown believed the quotes in the mailer were excerpted from a letter he wrote several months before to a federal judge before Kim's sentencing. The letter was meant to please Republicans in Brown's 42nd District, which bordered Kim's, Brown said. See what happens when you go trying to please Republicans?

JUNE Protesters picketed a shareholders' meeting at Unocal's Brea offices on June 1 over the oil company's dealings with a fundamentalist Islamic militia that forbids women from working or attending college. Members of Feminist Majority Foundation and other groups said Unocal was part of a consortium seeking to build an oil pipeline through Afghanistan that would generate billions in revenue for the militia, the Taliban. Unocal confirmed talking with the Taliban to keep them informed of plans to build a pipeline someday but denied being in negotiations with the militia and vowed not to do business with any government that is not officially recognized by the U.S. Then why, the protesters wondered, had the oil company contracted with the University of Nebraska to train workers in Afghanistan for pipeline construction? . . . The largest securities firm in the U.S. agreed on June 2 to pay Orange County $400 million to settle a lawsuit stemming from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. The county had sued Merrill Lynch & Co. for $2 billion, accusing it of steering then-county Treasurer Robert Citron into risky investments that resulted in a loss of $1.64 billion and the bankruptcy declaration on Dec. 6, 1994. Merrill Lynch, which dished out $30 million to the county last year to end a criminal investigation, denied any wrongdoing, saying in effect it just wanted to end the mess already. . . . The June 2 primary election was not kind to some longtime OC officeholders trying to stay in office (41st District Congressman Jay Kim, who lost the Republican nomination to Gary Miller) and move up to higher office (District Attorney Mike "Mad Dog" Capizzi, who lost the GOP bid for state attorney general to Dave Stirling). But Robert Dornan hammered Republican Party gal Lisa Hughes to set up a rematch with Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove). Meanwhile, OC GOP boss Tom Fuentes had a wet-dream night as two candidates his party backed for nonpartisan office won: Mike Carona for sheriff and Anthony Rackauckas for district attorney. Power-elite hand puppet Supervisor Jim Silva failed to gather enough votes to win his seat outright, so he had to face former Huntington Beach City Councilman Dave Sullivan in a November runoff. But anti-airport Supervisor Tom Wilson handily defeated Newport Beach City Councilman and meanest OC man John Hedges. And while all three county Board of Education incumbents beat back challenges from religious nuts to keep their seats, it was vaya con dios to bilingual education in California. . . . The current and previous owners of the Pacific Amphitheatre settled a lawsuit on June 8 that could result in the previously mothballed Costa Mesa concert bowl cranking out shows again in the summer of '99. Jurors had reached a decision in the case that the Orange County Fair Board, which owns the 18,500-seat venue, brought against the Nederlander Organization, but the litigants settled before the verdict could be announced. A spokesperson for the board, which had sought damages totaling the $12.5 million it paid for the amphitheater in 1993, said the fair would get a lump-sum payment of-cha-ching!-$16 million! The board claimed in its suit that Nederlander inserted such a restrictive sound covenant in the original sale agreement that the facility was useless for concerts. It was further alleged the provision was included so the Pacific Amphitheatre couldn't compete with the Arrowhead Pond, where Nederlander books events. Nederlander, which maintained it did nothing wrong, sold the venue to the fair-whose land the arena was erected on in the early '80s-to end years of litigation brought by nearby residents who continually complained about concert noise. . . . The cities of Garden Grove and Westminster, both cities' police departments and police chiefs, and assorted officers were named in a lawsuit filed on June 9 that charged gang-suppression officers decided to take a Vietnamese immigrant to jail on the toss of a coin. Attorneys claimed 27-year-old Garden Grove resident Hoang Phuong Tranh Tran was falsely arrested and imprisoned after his car was stopped on June 19, 1997. A 17-year-old girl who was in the car at the time said an officer gave her a nickel and asked her to flip it. Depending on whether it landed on heads or tails, Tran-the girl's future brother-in-law-would be freed or taken to jail. "Oh, you lose!" the officer exclaimed, according to the suit. "He's gotta go to jail!" Tran remained behind bars for five days before being released on bail. The case against him was later dismissed because officers had arrested him on a warrant for a different man with a similar name and birthdate. . . . A proposal by controversial Buena Park pastor Wiley Drake to order Prez Bill Clinton's church in Little Rock, Arkansas, to discipline Bubba if he refused to rescind an executive order barring discrimination against gay federal employees was narrowly rejected at the Southern Baptist Convention and Possum Roast on June 11. "I believe that we need to take a strong stand because one of our Southern Baptist churches has the president of the United States going around the country saying he's a Southern Baptist," Drake reportedly said. Imagine: a Southern Baptist president of the United States running around telling people he's a Southern Baptist. What's next? The Pope letting it drop he's Roman Catholic? Drake did manage to get 48 percent of the conventioneers to shut off the Hee-Haw reruns in their dee-luxe Salt Lake City motor inns and go and vote for the proposal. To appease the Drake bloc, which last year ushered in the Southern Baptist boycott against the Walt Disney Co., the convention adopted a watered-down resolution condemning all gaydom and asking Congress to nullify Clinton's order. Perhaps in foul moods because they couldn't bring their moonshine jugs into a dry state like Utah, conventioneers also passed resolutions opposing women in combat and public funding of arts projects they say attack biblical Christianity. And earlier in the convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination amended its official statement of belief to read: "A wife is to submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband, even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ." . . . About 100 members of the OC-based Coalition for Immigration Reform rallied in Blythe on June 27 to decry the removal of a billboard they had paid for that announced to those crossing the border from Arizona, "Welcome to California, the Illegal Immigrant State." Martin Media, the firm that leased the sign to the coalition, took it down and refunded the group's money after Mario Obledo, whom Clinton in January awarded the Medal of Freedom-the highest honor given to a civilian-for his lifetime of activism, threatened to remove it. Obledo suffers from diabetes and a bad back, but the 66-year-old told Martin Media he'd burn the sign if it was not removed. But carrying signs that read "What part of 'illegal' don't you understand?" coalition members vowed to see their message fly again. "Not only will this billboard be re-erected in California, but in other states as well," Huntington Beach resident/coalition leader Barbara Coe reportedly said. She urged "patriotic Americans" to protect the U.S.'s borders. "We will no longer be victims of illegal-alien law breakers who take our jobs and millions of our tax dollars for benefits, which are denied to citizens and even war veterans. And in return, many times, their contributions are disease and drugs to our people." Members of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), who said they were there to take a stand against a "racist sign" and thank Latino activists whose pressure spiked the billboard, also staged a demonstration nearby. Then they stole all the coalition members' jobs and benefits, gave them diseases and drugs, and went home.

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