Orange Countys 31 Scariest People

B.D.L. Weide is a "retired English teacher" and "regular contributor" to The Orange County Register's "Faces of Freedom" feature. Strike one: her millinery instincts are a frightening tick below those of Queen Elizabeth II; did she get a free bowl of soup with that hat? Strike two: retired English teacher? Show me an English teacher who ever stopped whining about the connection between split infinitives and the Apocalypse. Strike three: in her intellectual world, we once lived among fairy people in a shady glen, were governed by a gentle princess called Prunella and slept beneath giant mushrooms. Then Kennedy beat Nixon. Today, Weide writes, "evil gangs terrorize weaker people, killing, robbing and raping without a shred of conscience or remorse. Life is cruel, chaotic and senseless." A well-read retired English teacher would reflect on the ancient world's remarkable catalog of backstabbing, slaughter and genocide and conclude that we live in pretty good—if not great—times. But not Weide: better to worry (with Dickens' Scrooge) that "we've slipped into a pattern of accepting incremental socialism, each year . . . wrenching more taxes from productive people to fund the unproductive." The unproductive: let that echo like a funeral toll in your ears this Halloween—or just keep reading the Reg. MITIGATING FACTOR: She isretired.

12. JACKIE PANZIK

One of the many mysterious arms of the Church of Scientology, the Citizen's Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) takes out ads in the Pennysaver, rents a room on the bottom floor of Garden Grove Medical Center, and periodically breaks loose with a slide presentation extolling the evils of the corrupt and conspiratorial psychiatry industry. It's a well-rehearsed show, complete with violent and disturbing slides and complicated overhead transparencies direct from L. Ron Hubbard's Los Angeles office. According to Jackie Panzik, organizer of the OC chapter, the show offers abundant evidence that psychiatrists everywhere are playing backgammon with our brains—almost always with perilous results. But that ain't the scary part. What makes Panzik scary is the fact that after shocking the audience into slack-jawedness, she and her group slyly offer what they believe is an escape from our destined shrink-induced stupor: Scientology. She doesn't do so explicitly, mind you, but deftly, in a style that can only be described as L. Ronian. All books and brochures on display at the meeting are published by the church's own publishing house, Bridge Publications Inc. And there are always a few strangely well-informed attendees seated among first timers to share shock and outrage and then help them make sense of the group's ideas. But to anyone finding themselves at a CCHR meeting, we say: be afraid. Be very afraid. The Church of Scientology really doesn't want you to surrender your mind to psychiatrists. They want it for themselves. MITIGATING FACTOR: Scientology is a church, and who could ever be afraid of a church?

13. GINNY GROUNDWATER

You see Ginny Groundwater there, flashing that toothy grin while hugging two cherubic youngsters, and think: "Ginny Groundwater must be really, really nice." That's what the Orange County Water District, which created the mascot in their "marketing department" (read: top-secret underground lab), wants you to think. "Ginny represents a drop of groundwater that fell in the San Bernardino Mountains, followed a stream to the Santa Ana River, then percolated into Orange County's groundwater basin to be pumped out by the district to help tell the story of water conservation and groundwater protection." What do they take us for? Idiots? Hey, we've seen your pumps, and there is no way in hell they could handle a 5-foot-10, 200-pound drop of groundwater. And look at how solid she is, obviously carrying bacteria-laden sediment from human waste and dairy-cow piss and chemicals that seep into underground basins. And now she has a grip on our future as tight as her grip on the kids in this photo (the girl seems ready to squeal, "Ow, you're hurting me!"). MITIGATING FACTOR: Douse her with a twist of lime, and she'll go down just fine!

14. CARL ARMBRUST

On Jan. 7, Carl Armbrust spent his last day as Orange County's octogenarian deputy DA doing what he likes best—watching a jury convict his latest unlucky defendant. Armbrust's final victim: Orange County Patient/ Doctor/Nurse Support Group founder Marvin Chavez, who was sentenced to several years in state prison for selling marijuana to undercover cops posing as sick patients carrying cleverly forged doctor's letters permitting them to smoke the drug under Proposition 215, California's 1996 medical-marijuana law. Armbrust also successfully prosecuted another co-op founder, former San Bernardino County Sheriff's Deputy David Herrick, using the same device—undercover cops with very official-looking doctor's notes. It was reminiscent of Up in Smoke's Sergeant Stedenko dressed up in a Hari Krishna outfit to bust Cheech and Chong, only not funny and a lot less justifiable. MITIGATING FACTORS: An appeals court recently overturned the Herrick conviction based on prosecutorial misconduct by Armbrust.

15. JOHN TAYLOR

As executive director of the Richard M. Nixon Library and Birthplace, John Taylor rubs the Tarn-X over Nixon's oh-so-blemished bust. When the National Archives released 54 minutes of old Nixon audiotapes in March, Taylor published his own version of the transcripts that differed sharply from those produced by Washington Post reporters. In one key exchange between Nixon and chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, the two talked of how to keep Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt from telling investigators about all the shady things he had done for the White House. Taylor's sanitized version makes it sound as if Nixon and Haldeman were discussing why they shouldn't silence Hunt. But when the Archives released more tapes last month (which included such shining Nixon moments as "I want to look at any sensitive areas where Jews are involved. . . . Generally, you can't trust the bastards"), Taylor skipped the transcription game and merely summarized the former president's words. MITIGATING FACTOR: Could've spent his life trying to rehabilitate Hitler instead.

16. LAURA SCHLESSINGER
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