By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Photo by Myles RobinsonSWAIM: And now I'd like to present two gentlemen who will be giving out our awards for conspicious achievement in politics. Ladies and gentlemen give it up for investigative attack dogs and noted ballroom dancers R. Scott Moxley and Anthony Pignataro!
R. SCOTT MOXLEY: It's our honor to present the award for Best Public Official.
ANTHONY PIGNATARO: Yeah, when it comes to politicians and public service, Orange County has a remarkable tradition.
MOXLEY: Internationally remarkable, Anthony. For example, James Utt, a congressman from Tustin, said in the 1960s that he was "truly frightened" that blacks—he called them "barefoot Africans"—were allowed to serve in the United Nations.
PIGNATARO: And who could forget Congressman Bill Dannemeyer, who once stood on the floor of Congress and graphically described sex acts between men?
MOXLEY: It was quite informative. Did you know that two guys and a tube of K-Y jelly can . . .
PIGNATARO: Um, let's move on. There was Richard Nixon, who proved that in America, even burglars can become president.
MOXLEY: Representative John Schmitz said Orange County would never surrender its traditional family values to "Jews, queers and commies."
PIGNATARO: Didn't Schmitz father two children out of wedlock?
MOXLEY: Yup. And his adult daughter was convicted of repeatedly molesting a 13-year-old boy.
MOXLEY: But as shocking as it may seem to the outside world, there are actually decent, honest public officials working in Orange County today.
PIGNATARO: You mean like Ted Moreno, Bill Morrow and John Lewis?
MOXLEY: Nope. The first nominee for Best Public Official is Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer.
PIGNATARO: Because he was the only person in government who had the balls to tell Mittermeier to go to hell?
MOXLEY: Uh, right. But he's a damn Republican.
PIGNATARO: Yeah, but Scott, they're all Republicans! Even the Democrats in Orange County are Republicans!
MOXLEY: Almost true, Anthony. Consider our next nominee, Laguna Beach City Councilwoman Toni Iseman.
PIGNATARO: Fair enough. After all, she's the only consistently sane voice on that right-wing council.
MOXLEY: That's right. She was the only council member who voted against millions of dollars in public subsidies for the private developer of Treasure Island.
PIGNATARO: That's good, but I doubt she can compete against our next nominee: someone Bob Dornan will surely appreciate, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.
MOXLEY: Oh, geez. What did she do?
PIGNATARO: How the hell would I know? You put her on the list.
MOXLEY: Oh, right.
[Long, painful pause. PIGNATARO glances at watch.]
MOXLEY: Didn't she help the working poor of her district with payroll-tax relief?
MOXLEY: Didn't she push for a commemorative postage stamp honoring the 100th anniversary of American submarine forces?
PIGNATARO: What if she did?
MOXLEY: She renamed a Santa Ana post office the "Hector G. Godinez Post Office."
PIGNATARO: So? Even Dornan got Congress to declare an official "Disneyland Day."
MOXLEY: But she has also proposed a congressional resolution that encouraged Americans to celebrate Latin music.
PIGNATARO [doing a flamenco]: Bidi bidi bom bom.
MOXLEY: I don't think you take her seriously.
PIGNATARO: You think?
MOXLEY: Okay, she had the courage to tell Al Gore and the other hypocritical Democrats to drop dead when they acted sanctimoniously about her plans for a fund-raiser at the Playboy Mansion.
PIGNATARO: Now you're talking.
MOXLEY: You like her for that, too?
PIGNATARO: Nah, I just like the Playboy Mansion.
MOXLEY: Riiiight. Our last nominee is ultraconservative Assemblyman Scott Baugh.
PIGNATARO [spits out water he was drinking]: What the . . . Scott "Slime" Baugh? Didn't he just vote to ban media access to prisoners—a move that puts him in lock step with Governor Gray Davis and deposed Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic?
MOXLEY: Yeah, but Baugh voted for it merely to keep prison shower activities private.
PIGNATARO: Kinky. But what good has he done?
MOXLEY [sheepishly]: Well . . . he's leaving Sacramento on term limits.
PIGNATARO: That's good enough for me. And the winner is?
MOXLEY: I can't believe I'm saying this, but . . . it's Loretta Sanchez!
Announcer: Congresswoman Sanchez is on a Hot Lady Legislators of the Beltway photo shoot and could not be with us tonight.
PIGNATARO: Whoa, whoa, whoa! I.saw Sanchez as she walked into the hall at the beginning of the show.
Announcer: I just read what they hand me.
PIGNATARO: In fact, I can see Congresswoman Sanchez from here.
Announcer: Hey, Mencken, you want to cut me a break? I've got a cousin I'm trying to get over here from the Lesser Antilles. . . . Accepting for the Congresswoman is OC Weekly staff writer Nick Schou.
Nick Schou: Uh, thanks.
[Applause. Roses thrown onstage.]
PIGNATARO: God, I thought he'd never shut up. Anyway, our next award is for the county's Best Media Personality. This is one of our favorite awards, as there are so many deserving journalists . . .
PIGNATARO: . . . and so much intelligent reporting. . . .
[MOXLEY coughs louder.]
PIGNATARO: Do you need a glass of water?
MOXLEY: No, no. Fine.
PIGNATARO: Cough drop?
MOXLEY: Just go on.
PIGNATARO: Remember that Daily Pilot story about preschool kids dying "at the hands" of a Cadillac?
[MOXLEY bursts into laughter, collapses onto stage.]
PIGNATARO: Riiiiiiiiight. Anyway, our first nominee is Dana Parsons, columnist for the Los Angeles Times, Orange County edition.
MOXLEY [recovering]: Oh, yes. The guy is persistent. He got Arthur Carmona—the Costa Mesa kid who never committed a crime in his life but who was arrested, tried and convicted of robbery on absolutely no evidence—freed from prison.
PIGNATARO: This is true. Parsons went through the entire case file and then wrote column after column, re-interviewing witnesses and jurors, until he finally showed that Rackauckas railroaded Carmona simply because he was some Hispanic kid walking down the street at the wrong time.
MOXLEY: Absolutely. Our next nominee is Paul Higgins, the sports host on Cox Cable. The guy is knowledgeable and just shows incredible enthusiasm no matter what he's covering, whether it's high school water polo, women's community college basketball or small college wrestling.
PIGNATARO: And that brings us to our next nominee, Orange County Register business columnist Jonathan Lanser.
MOXLEY: Another excellent choice. Lanser is remarkable because he's exactly the kind of business columnist you wouldn't expect to find at The Orange County Register.He's not a rah-rah booster rewriting press releases—instead, he's willing to take on big business and does so in an entertaining, insightful manner.
PIGNATARO: And our final nominee is Leslie Leyton, OCN news anchor.
MOXLEY: I'm still amazed Leyton is on that network, if I can even use the word "network" to describe OCN. Here she is, this wonderful, clearly intelligent reporter asking good questions of guests and not letting guys like the DA or the supervisors get away with murder and she has to sit on the same set as Roger Corman.
PIGNATARO: Uh, I think you mean Roger Cooper.
MOXLEY: What did I say?
PIGNATARO: You said Roger Corman. Roger Cooper is the reporter. Roger Corman is the B-movie director famous for making those cheap movies with lots of topless women.
MOXLEY: What do you mean, "famous"?
PIGNATARO: Famous, as in everyone knows who he is.
MOXLEY: I've never heard of the guy. How do you know who he is?
PIGNATARO: What the hell difference does it make?
MOXLEY: Now, wait a second . . .
PIGNATARO: And the winner is . . . Dana Parsons!
[Applause as Parsons comes onstage and takes award.]
MOXLEY: Welcome, Dana—glad you could make it. Congratulations, and now I guess you'll want to wow us with your articulate observations and biting wit. So take it away, Dana!
DANA PARSONS: Uh, thanks.
[Parsons leaves stage amid wild applause.]
PIGNATARO: The man is a frickin' poet.
MOXLEY: Okay, and that brings us to our final award for this segment, the Best Waste of the County's Money.
PIGNATARO: This is an award near and dear to our hearts. As we all know, the county is run by Republicans—Republicans who talk about limited government, self-reliance, and tax-and-spend liberals but who can't resist subsidizing some of the screwiest development proposals ever.
MOXLEY: The first nominee is one we've all grown to appreciate at the Weekly: the toll roads.
MOXLEY: Yes, we've all seen the mighty toll roads—big asphalt highways to the county's land of make-believe. Toll-road officials tell us that bonds privately finance all the roads, yet the county has already had to dump millions of dollars of the taxpayers' money into the roads to keep the bonds afloat.
PIGNATARO: There's the Foothill and its cousin the Foothill South, which, when completed, will rip apart San Onofre State Park. A state park, people! What happened—did we lose a war?
MOXLEY: On top of that, there's the Eastern Toll Road that heads out toward Riverside, which cut through remote canyons so ancient that construction crews dug up prehistoric mammoth skeletons.
PIGNATARO: And who could forget the first of the county's toll roads, the great San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor? Even toll-road officials' worst-case projections for revenue collection were woefully optimistic compared with the miserable take this road has provided.
MOXLEY: Our next entry is something we like to call the John Wayne Airport Taxicab Contract. For reasons the county likes to keep to itself, only one cab company gets to stop at John Wayne. For the past three years, that company has been A Taxi. It was all set to get the contract for the next three years, too—after all, it handed in the best bid.
PIGNATARO: But then in March—whoosh! County officials yanked the contract away from A Taxi and gave it to some little company called American Taxi that was already hemorrhaging money, even though it was only four months old. The county's reason: A Taxi had bad insurance.
MOXLEY: Bad insurance?! The company had the contract for three years, and suddenly the county realizes their insurance is no good?
PIGNATARO: Hey, don't you think if there was something funny going on, the LA Times and The Orange County Register would have reported it?
MOXLEY and PIGNATARO: Bwahahahahahahahahahahahaha!
MOXLEY: Ohhhh, mercy! Anyway, we recently found out that county officials gave the contract to American without even knowing that company's insurance status. And don't forget that a guy named Lyle Overby, perhaps the slickest—if not the best!—lobbyist in Orange County, runs American Taxi.
PIGNATARO: Doesn't sound good to us . . . especially considering that had the county gone with A Taxi, it would have taken in half a million bucks more than it gets with American.
MOXLEY: I wish I was rich enough to blow half a million bucks.
PIGNATARO: Speaking of blowing, our third nominee is, well, something of a celebrity around here. In fact, this nominee has pretty much kept me working for, what's it been . . . three years now? Of course, I'm speaking of the county's proposed El Toro International Airport.
MOXLEY: How could we do justice to the biggest land-use project in the history of Orange County? It's got four big runways, all of which point in the wrong direction and have to be rebuilt—but the county insists nothing's wrong. The airport is surrounded by hills that make landing and taking off tricky, but county officials see no difficulties.
PIGNATARO: Instead of working to solve these problems, the county produced a lot of pretty drawings and glowing studies. Judging by the results of the big Measure F ballot measure in March, pretty much everyone out there agrees it's all bullshit.
MOXLEY: Which brings us to our last nominee, the Fletcher Flood Control Basin, located deep in the proud, proud city of Orange.
PIGNATARO: This is something of a dark-horse entry, considering that most people in the county probably don't even know it exists. But it's there —or rather, it's not there anymore! You see, Fletcher is a flood-control basin that, for one reason or another, the county decided to fill with dirt. That makes it not a basin! That was about five years ago—before the county realized that filling the basin put the surrounding residential neighborhood in danger of seasonal flooding.
MOXLEY: Aren't the wonders of science and engineering just incredible? And it only took the county five years! Anyway, digging out the basin will cost about $1 million.
PIGNATARO: Those are the nominees, all of which are deserving of special attention. But the winner is . . .
[PIGNATARO tears at an immense envelope. MOXLEY leans in over PIGNATARO's shoulder.]
PIGNATARO: . . . the El Toro Airport!
[Camera pans the audience. They rise as one, slapping their hands together in a raucous demonstration of support, as if to say this is, indeed, the most obvious waste of the taxpayers' money.]
PIGNATARO: We know it wins these awards all the time, but hey! These guys throw away something like $10 million a year! And they haven't begun to build it!
MOXLEY: By our count, that adds up to $40 million so far. If that isn't a winner, I don't know what is.
SWAIM [from off-camera]: We go now to REBECCA Schoenkopf on location. [A large screen rises from behind the stage. MOXLEY and PIGNATARO look surprised.] REBECCA, can you tell us where you are and what you're doing?
REBECCA: Well, Will, I'm not sure. Steve said something about the El Toro Airport? He said to go give it an award for Best Waste of County Money.
SWAIM: Yes, REBECCA?
REBECCA: Well, there's no one here, Will. The cameraman and I have been driving around and around. It's all locked up.
SWAIM: So, once again, you can't quite do the job you've been assigned?
REBECCA: But, Will, it's all locked up! There's no one here! And it's scary and dark!
SWAIM: You're just going to have to find someone to accept the award.
[REBECCA consults with Jack the cameraman.]
REBECCA: Will, we think there might be some Marines at Captain Creem up the road. What if we find some there and give the award to them?
SWAIM: Marines at Captain Creem are not the same thing as Marines at El Toro.
REBECCA: YOU KNOW, YOU HAVE HAD ME RUNNING MY ASS OFF WITH BARELY EVEN ENOUGH TIME TO EAT, AND YOU'RE NOT EVEN PAYING FOR MY PARKING, AND YOU ARE BEING REALLY MEAN!
SWAIM: Just find a way to give out the damn award, REBECCA.
REBECCA: Fine! We'll award the award to the ground! Give me the goddamn trophy, Jack! GIVE IT TO ME! El Toro Airport, may I congratulate you on your stunning win for Biggest Waste of Taxpayers' Money? Congratulations!
[REBECCA places the trophy by the fence.]
REBECCA: NOW GET IN THE CAR, JACK! Let's go up to Captain Creem and get a drink.
JACK: Becca, we have to get back to the hall.
REBECCA: Don't I owe you $20? Look, I'll pay you back in singles. You can take your time spending it. NOW GET IN THE CAR!
[Black screen. The large screen descends.]
PIGNATARO [clearing throat]: Since the airport couldn't be here tonight, accepting for it is Marlon Osmond.
MARLON OSMOND: Thank you, thank you. You're all too kind. You know, whenever I'm in Branson, Andy—that's Andy Williams—always makes a point of asking me about the El Toro Airport. In fact, it was just last week that we were taking a Turkish bath over at Charles Nelson Reilly's place, and we talked about nothing but El Toro. . . . And then that Charo showed up! "Hoochie-coochie!" she kept saying in that chicken-scratch way of hers. Oh, I hear she can go all night. . . .
MOXLEY [shoving Osmond offstage]: Ohhh, mercy!
[SWAIM reappears onstage.]
SWAIM: Thank you, Scott and Anthony. Folks, you'll be seeing the two of them later when we do our all-ice-skating tribute to Eugene V. Debs. But now . . . you know, ladies and gentlemen, Orange County was built on two major truths: 1) people hate LA, and 2) people will go to a theme park no matter how lame it is. As to the latter, we asked Greg Stacy to recollect one such day at one such particularly lame park. Greg?
[The large screen rises again. The audience applaudes as the words "Best Thing Not There Anymore: A film by Greg Stacy" appears.]