[. . .]

SCHOENKOPF: That is such bullshit! In three years he hasn't!

SWAIM: Rebecca, do you mean to tell me you already informed the Swallow's Inn that they won? And then you tried to weasel a drink out of it?

SCHOENKOPF: . . . No.

SWAIM: That seems to be what you just said.

SCHOENKOPF [hurriedly]: The nominees are: the Swallow's Inn in San Juan Capistrano.

[Video shows the brassiere- and bumper-sticker-festooned bar. Some bikers are clogging up the doorway. A fat, bearded band is playing a Merle Haggard song. An ancient couple in matching beaded Western outfits is dancing. A tall drunk brunette is bending over and touching the floor, her ass in a Marine's face. Applause.]

SCHOENKOPF: The Little Knight in Costa Mesa.

[Video shows Tony the bartender, smiling and remembering everyone's name. He is serving spaghetti. The bar is crowded with skate punks and fashion-industry peeps, from barely of age to mid-30s. A guy is cheating at pool. People are watching the John Travolta/Nick Cage masterpieceFace/Off on the TV screens. It is loud. Applause.]

SCHOENKOPF: The Four Seasons Hotel Bar in Newport Beach.

[Video shows the spacious, rattan-decorated bar. Two millionaires from out of town talk to each other on the stools. A sequined blonde stands next to the grand piano, crooning jazz standards. On a couch, a toned 40-year-old woman is making out with an unattractive, puffy, bleached-blond man. The camera swings outside to the cabanas by the pool. Two ill-shod, scruffy people are having champagne on chaise longues, sheltered from the wind. The staff has to be nice to them because for all they know, the loungers are ill-shod, scruffy dot-commers. Applause.]

SCHOENKOPF: The Fling in Santa Ana.

[Video shows a tiny little pompadoured man singing Neil Diamond's "America" on top of his piano bar, while a preprogrammed synthesizer drops out the beats. Scattered around the red, red room are very old drunk people. But pouring through the doors to sit on the cracked vinyl banquettes are early 20s hipsters. The old drunk people are getting displaced. Applause.]

SCHOENKOPF: And the winner is: the Swallow's Inn!

[Silence.]

SCHOENKOPF: Okay, our next category is Best Artist. You know, I've been writing about the Orange County art scene for five years now. Sometimes you guys impress the pants right off me. No, I mean right off me.

[Audience laughs.]

SCHOENKOPF: And sometimes I mock you, but that's just because I love you.

[She looks like she is going to sneeze, but then she bursts out laughing.]

SCHOENKOPF: Oh, I can't lie to you guys! Sometimes you come out with the most tedious twaddle I've ever had the misfortune to behold! And that's another reason to love you. Critics have a lot more fun raping and pillaging than they do making nice. It's just a fact of life. But I would like to point out that there are a lot of kick-ass places to show in this sweet li'l town of ours. Props to Giardina Fine Art, Misfit No. 9, Diane Nelson, FACT, Ron Breeden, Max Presneill—hell, all of Santora—and the Laguna Art Museum. Unfortunately, we don't have a category for Best Gallery. But know that you are all doing good work, and we see all and appreciate all. Well, okay, most of you. Can you imagine being an art critic in, like, Fresno? Jesus Christ on a bike! Okay. The nominees for Best Artist are . . . Jorg Dubin. Jorg won last year, so we probably won't give it to him again this year. But the Laguna Beach painter is a self-taught Figurative master. He paints primarily in fish-belly green, giving his subjects that salmonella/Goya look, and he gloomily covers topics like the grading of Laguna Canyon and Waco, Texas.

[Camera pans to Dubin in the audience. The 40-ish redhead is resplendent in a fez, sunglasses and velvet smoking jacket bearing a button reading, "The King's Order of the El Mysah." He is so cool.]

SCHOENKOPF: Damn, you're cool, Jorg! Our next nominee is Ellen Rose. Ellen's paintings are so juicy and sexy and full of joy—whether she's painting gangly, freckled boys at a post-nuclear beach or fat, sensual circus ladies in a lot of blue eye shadow—well, they just make you want to eat a peach, you know? Or a whole pizza.

[Camera spots Rose in the audience; she is a woman of a certain age, with Sally Jessy glasses and a Cher-like headdress. She waves and flutters her eyelashes.]

SCHOENKOPF: Our next nominee is Laurie Hassold. The Costa Mesa sculptor uses material like dead birds, which she collects (and pets!), and yet her works aren't offensive like Damien Hirst's—they're just creepy. Laurie can be pretty creepy, too, but if you don't like it, she'll just kick your ass and be done with it.

[The camera finds the 6-foot blonde in the audience. As usual, her leather miniskirt barely covers her naughty bits. She flips off the camera, then smiles.]

SCHOENKOPF: Our last nominee is Sandow Birk. The Figurative Classicist Postmodernist Appropriator is all the rage right now, because everybody just loooooves his exhibit about Northern and Southern California going to war, which was pretty damn funny and great, to be honest. He was on the cover of the New Times a few weeks ago, and the next week he had a review in the LA Weekly. You wanna know how often the LA papers come down to OC to cover shit? The president could be assassinated at the Nixon Library, and they'd probably just do the interviews by phone.

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