Orange Countys Least Powerful People The First-Ever Weaklies!

Art by Bob AulThis week's meditation is on power—or, more to the point, the lack of it—which a couple of the Weekly's "higher-ups" obviously consider an appropriate theme for a just-before-Labor Day issue, though the connection strikes most of the rest of us as a bit of a stretch. Whatever. We just work here, you know? Not that we couldn't have said something, but you've got to pick your battles, and when this one came up, nobody did anything but glance around a bit and then start nodding. But put us in charge, and this least-powerful thing probably wouldn't have amounted to much more than a good laugh at the planning meeting. The kicker is that we end up having to write this introduction. Hey, same as it ever was!

There are a lot of people in our boat—we talked to lots of them for this issue—and that doesn't necessarily give us a sinking feeling. Powerlessness has been factored into the power structure, a structure largely built and maintained by people who don't have much of it. When you remember that, people like us can deserve as much admiration as scorn. Besides, true power is supposed to derive from the humble acceptance of our own powerlessness, so as soon as we all get that "humbleness" part down, we figure to be sitting pretty.

Meanwhile, however, we can't help noticing how often the seat of power is filled by a fat, lazy, obnoxious ass—and how often we either elect them, pay their salaries or somehow come to assume that they actually know or do any more than us. We take a look at lots of these people, too, and discover that the trappings of power are often exactly that: traps. Some of the supposedly most powerful people in OC are so smitten by power that they're afraid to use it. Sometimes, that makes us feel a little better. Not on payday, though.

Tommy Lasorda
Vice President, Los Angeles Dodgers

Now 71, Lasorda achieved his place in the Dodgers display case, not so much because of his oh-so-marginal skills as a player, scout, manager and general manager, but through his sheer force of bluster and his stunning absence of shame. His ongoing evangelical purpose is to spread the message of his own significance. That's not as easy as it used to be. Lasorda's days and nights are mostly spent shuffling around his Fullerton home in a bathrobe or shuttling along the rubber-chicken banquet circuit, recycling the same old jokes and stories into his after-dinner speaking gigs. But it's true that Lasorda's prayers are still heard by the Big Dodger in the Sky—mainly because it's a higher power of his own creation. The bottom line is that Lasorda pays homage to whomever is signing his paycheck: after extolling the O'Malley family for nearly five decades, he shifted allegiance to the Fox without skipping a calculating heartbeat. "Hey, I don't see anything different with the tradition," he said last year, scolding fans who were worried that the money and loyalty they'd invested in the Dodger empire was going to be squandered by Rupert Murdoch. "I'm happy with the direction this organization is taking. I think Fox is getting a bad rap." As long as Lasorda is talking like that, the Dodgers are content to let him yap. They learned the danger of giving him any real power last year; their public-relations gesture of appointing him general manager during a season that was going down the drain backfired when Lasorda made a flurry of trades that stripped the Dodgers of their few remaining hot prospects. But even Lasorda's gum flapping sometimes goes too far, such as a few weeks ago, when the club had to scramble to repair the damage after he blasted the sorry performance of the Dodgers players while making veiled suggestions that things were better when he was managing. Mostly, everybody just laughed it off, which is how it goes when the guy playing Santa starts believing the clothes make the man. Besides, responding to Lasorda's tired hijinks with a ho-ho-ho is neither laughing at him nor with him—it's just reciting his job description.

Carl Karcher
Founder, Carl's Jr.

Right-wingers love to knock ice-cream screamers Ben & Jerry's because founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are Lefties who plow significant dough into philanthropic projects favored by the Left: crazy stuff like clean water, education and parks; maintaining a narrow pay gap between top executives and line workers; and speaking out on a range of issues, from tree hugging to war stopping. In management parlance, that's "inattention to core enterprise," and it's supposed to lead companies ineluctably down the poop chute. It hasn't. The Vermont-based ice-cream firm thrives—in stark contrast to struggling Anaheim-based Carl's Jr., the fast-food chain that markets charbroiled burgers by appealing to the boor in all of us. We'd like to blame company founder Carl Karcher —his own inattention to core enterprise includes funding right-wing religious and political causes—but, in fairness, we can't. Karcher has no power. The company he launched from a weenie wagon in LA is now run by a board of suits that all but sidelined the affable flag waver. The man who attends Mass almost daily now finds himself the figurehead of a company that sells burgers as the preferred grub of sadistic prison guards, people who engage in casual sex and other archetypal lowlifes. Its EAT MEAT bumper sticker practically comes with instructions for editing it down to EAT ME. You might expect Karcher to object, but he cannot. He's less than Colonel Sanders; he's like an animatronic Bob's Big Boy—if Bob wore stars-and-stripes lapel pins and hated fags. By the early '90s, Karcher teetered on the edge of personal bankruptcy. Things improved briefly, but last year, he put up his Carl's Jr. stock as collateral on a risky Wall Street venture—and lost. His own stock went into free fall—with flames and thick, acrid smoke leaping from its engines—from $40 per share last summer to about $9 per share last week. Don't cry for him yet: according to the LA Times, the value of Karcher's holdings in Carl's Jr. has plummeted from about $136 million to about $13.5 million. But from there, it's just possible to see the octogenarian standing beside a cart, pushing helados in downtown LA, where it all began.

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