The Year in Bits: January- June

Illustrations by Bob AulJANUARY

NO NEWS IS, UH, NEWS? The millennium came and went at 12 a.m. on Jan. 1. Near as we can tell, we're still here. So is San Antonio, Texas-based, global telecommunications giant SBC Communications, which felt obliged to press release us on Jan. 2 to say so. "SBC employees monitored the network and supporting systems throughout the New Year's weekend and found no Y2K-related anomalies," the company announced in its three-paragraph non-news briefing. National treasure Harry Shearer raised an interesting Y2K question on his Jan. 2 Le Show radio program on KCRW (89.9 FM). Why hasn't anyone drawn a connection between the billions that were spent on supposedly essential Y2K readiness during '99 and the billions those otherwise profit-barren technology companies raked in during '99?

WE'VE BEEN BOUGHT! The rag you're currently using as: a) a coaster; b) Kleenex; c) a vital journalistic resource that allows you to keep up on what's really going on in Orange County in an acidic, irreverent, immeasurably intelligent way; or, d) none of the above—and we really don't want to know what you're currently using it as. Perv—that rag's been sold. A group of investors bought OC Weekly, it was announced on Jan. 5. Oh, seller Leonard Stern—the pet-products czar who made his bazillions the hard way: one flea at a time—also threw in six other alternative weeklies with goofy names like the Village Voice and LA Weekly and Minneapolis City Pages. Even though those other papers rode on our coattails (you're welcome, guys!), the new company that owns the Great Eight—which includes our newest addition, an alternative in Nashville, Tennessee (shit, howdy!)—will be called Village Voice Media. Why Village Voice? Because 44-year-old Village Voice is the oldest alternative around. Because we'll be CEO'd by David Schneiderman, the Village Voice publisher. And because New York gets everything it wants or it throws a screaming fit. The leading equity partner for the ownership group is New York/San Francisco money management firm Weiss, Peck & Greer, whose name we'd know if we even bothered to pick up the business pages. The price tag for the deal? We've heard $150 million to $200 million bandied about, but no one's telling for sure because it'd make our heads explode, and we'd find it damn hard to crank out more papers to make even more fistfuls of cash for our new owners.

TWIN PEAKS Meat market Twin Palms closes its Newport Center doors at the end of the month, but word was sent our way on Jan. 7 that the restaurant/ club will remain open in Pasadena and Valencia. Here's hoping they'll maintain that delicate balance of silicone, peroxide, exorbitant tabs, forgettable music and Hair Club for Men rejects running up their company credit cards.

ORANGE CRUSHED Orange County got even less orange on Jan. 11 when bulldozers dug up Placentia's last citrus grove. The City Council, which approved a housing development on the land, gave preservationists five months to save the orchard. But Preserve Our Past couldn't get the matter before voters or line up a sponsor to purchase the grove by the deadline. "We feel very hopeless," John Wolcek, the group's co-founder, told the Times Orange County. Let's all tip a vodka and OJ to losing one of the final remaining connections to what the county's named after for something we really need: 16 more houses.

DEL SCORCHOED As a result of the settlement of a trademark-infringement suit brought by TriStar Pictures and Zorro Productions against Del Taco, the Laguna Hills-based fast-food chain will modify its ads with the Zorro-like character, The Orange County Register reported on Jan. 11. To avoid further confusion, we recommend that Del Taco replace its pitchman with a bug-eyed rat dog or a cartoon bandito in a muy gigante sombrero.

COMING CLEAN Recent revelations that the networks inserted anti-drug storylines into television scripts in exchange for government cut-backs on how much precious airtime must be devoted to public-service announcements has forced us to unburden ourselves. For several months, we have been inserting pro-drug language into our pages in exchange for free smack. We feel so dirty. The bad kind of dirty. We promise it won't happen again . . . no matter how bad we need it, man.

FEBRUARY

FREE ART Arthur Carmona, the 18-year-old Costa Mesa High School student wrongfully convicted of robbing an Irvine juice bar, was transferred on Feb. 1 from a northern California youth correctional facility to the state prison in Chino. Those fighting for Carmona's freedom had sought to keep him out of adult prison, but the transfer represented a partial victory: he'll now be closer to his family—and, hopefully, safer, as northern and Southern California prisoners have been known to mix it up in northern adult facilities. Now if only District Attorney Tony Rackauckas—shamed by a string of recent high-profile overturned convictions—would only unmix things up and let the lad out already.

MANSON FAMILY VALUES Leslie Van Houten was arrested in a grisly slaying. No, we didn't just have another LSD flashback to that Tate-La Bianca item we wrote here in '69. This Leslie Van Houten is eight years younger and no relation to the Manson Family member rotting in prison. Shortly after 8 a.m. on Feb. 2, the Newport Beach mother of three drove the couple's faded red 1993 Geo Storm into a neighborhood a half-mile away from their mobile home to allegedly hide the vehicle from her 52-year-old husband, who had recently filed for divorce. Kenneth Jerome Van Houten, still wearing his bedroom slippers, gave chase on bike—amazingly steering with one hand while clutching a Club anti-theft device with the other. Police say the missus, apparently upset, used the car to knock her better half off the bike and then returned to run him over three times. He later died at Hoag Hospital. The Van Houtens are believed to be the only couple in Newport Beach history to fight over custody of a Geo Storm.

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