We Are Five!

A Brief History of the Orange County (Calif.) Weekly Tribune and Times-Dispatch

Five years ago, feral pigs wandered the streets of Orange County, feeding upon the corpses of our unburied dead. From the salty shores of the Pacific to the towering summit of Mt. Santiago, oceanic herds of buffalo grazed upon native grasses. Beans were our legal tender. Where we now raise the cloud-swept peaks of steel that are monuments to our own determination and grit—skyscraping edifices we call "skyscrapers"—only the winged creatures flew, gorging themselves on their diet of peculiar insects. Hearty men of commerce had only begun to plow the open space which stood for so long as a silent rebuke to man's impotence and, in those places, they cultivated from the good earth new crops—not tubers or rhubarb, but humble dwellings for our teeming population as well as the doughnut shops wherein simple folk take their daily repast.

And three young Jews, six Catholics (five fallen, one practicing), a couple of Protestants, three atheists and a communist, as well as a few who checked "Other," launched a dream. The Jews brought the money.

On Sept. 15, 1995, at 6:30 in the morning, the first 50 copies of their publication, Orange County (Calif.) Weekly Tribune and Times-Dispatch, entered Orange County by way of BMW motorcar. Speeding along that mighty metallic Mississippi we call the 57 freeway, careering down out of mountains that cast their primordial shadow across the grand metropolis of Fullerton, editor Will Swaim bore with him two bundles of the paper that would bend forever the course of history.

The pneumatic tire? The zeppelin? Spats? It must be said that even these icons of man's authority over nature are as nothing by comparison with this gazette that has appeared 260 times in some 1,000 locations with the regularity of the Sabbath.

Consider the threat posed by Congressman Robert K. Dornan, psychopathia politicus. Other newspaper editors proposed fencing off the entire community of Garden Grove, wherein the pestilence made its dark home, and—further—burning the clothes of the inhabitants and bathing their naked skins in caustic tomato juice. Employing the techniques of modern journalism, Weekly reporter R. Scott Moxley eradicated the plague with swift and repeated inoculations of mere truth—documenting the congressman's predilection for prevarication, violence and animal stupidity. In the Weekly's first 52 weeks, the congressman was cited but three times; in the next eight weeks, more than 30. Is it any wonder that an unknown woman of Latin American descent was able, finally, on Election Day in November 1996 to put the beast down without so much as a sharp stick?

Or consider the odd proposal of county governors to build an aero-port at an abandoned military field called El Toro ("The Bull"). Where were the other newspapers when it became clear that aero-planes would thus noisily invade the quiet sanctity of God's own lofty promontory, thereby interrupting his contemplation of the universe and setting off world-ending ruin? They were standing foursquare with the smokestack manufacturers, contraptioneers and Chamber of Commerce lackeys. It was left to the Weekly's plucky Anthony Pignataro to observe that aero-planes flying off to such locales as Papua, Auckland and the Bight of Benin were not so necessary to your average bootblack as was a remedy to the county's vilest nightmare: auto-mobile congestion on our once-beautiful avenues, thoroughfares and boulevards: "All it takes is for the fan belt of one man's carriage to snap loose of its spindle-crank, and one half of a million of his fellow citizens will be late for their jobs at the moving-picture studios. Oh, the inanity!"

When other newspapers thumped the tub for the paving of pay-per-use "toll roads," the Weekly pointed out that their only motivation could be an exaggerated suspicion of prosperity, the peasant's native anxiety that wealth piling up too quickly might—like a mudslide in a rain-soaked Manila garbage heap—soon inundate us all in filthy, filthy money. There were easier ways to lose billions from the public treasury, the Weekly pointed out; if bankrupting taxpayers were really the goal, why not stack up our billions in great, pyramidal heaps and make of it a burnt offering to our angry God?

These and many other affairs of state the Weekly covered—the ill use of juveniles in our poorhouses; the hobo problem. But not only affairs of state. In the field of the arts, was it not the Weekly that directed its readers away from seven-night-a-week church box socials, sheet-music swaps and domestic ribaldry toward more breathtaking endeavors?

Reporters at the other journals laughed when you asked, "How might I increase my ki energy?" Our own Jim Washburn strapped weights to his manhood, thereby swelling his virility—along with your understanding of this new Oriental contrivance.

When critics elsewhere offered flapdoodle justifications of the commercial arts emerging from Laguna Beach —with their images of luminescent French streets and bonny sea creatures—it was left to our Rebecca Schoenkopf to bring them back to Earth with an ambuscade of four-letter words.

Oh, we were Aunt Sally then. Our competitors called us "brash," "ultracritical" and "saucy"—by which they meant, not kindly, that we were not to be taken seriously. But who's the buffoon now?

The Weekly was not established by titans of American capital merely because they wanted to make history, however; they wanted also to make money. If this distinguished our enterprise from the many that came before it—those started by the smoking, belching, unwashed advocates of Gramsci, Trotsky and that wine-quaffing truffle-muncher Foucault—so, too, did the fact that we actually made a good income. A very good income: we use coins the way most men use grapeshot; we blow our noses on paper currency. So immediately successful was the Weekly that the estimable New York Timescould say back in April 1996, seven months after our very first number, "The tabloid will break even in the fourth quarter, two years ahead of projections." When we started, we were owned by Leonard Stern, the world's foremost producer of birdseed; earlier this year, we were sold to Dutch bankers. These latter have assured us all of a retirement in Amsterdam, where our gardens will be planted with poppies for the production of opiates which might be added to our brewed tea and space cake—lots of space cake.

This is, in short, a very good life.

We could go on in this manner for many pages—and propose to do so herein. But for the moment, allow us to stand atop the Weekly's world headquarters building and cock-a-doodle our victory to the firmament! We are 5! Will Swaim

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