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.

CROWDED CELL Jim Bakker—who should get a free pass to heaven if for no other reason than having bedded both Tammy Faye Bakker and Jessica Hahn in the same lifetime—warns that though times are good in America, you'd best hurry up and accept Christ. "The Lord spoke to my heart that religious people will blow their brains out when this stock market crashes," warned Bakker in a Feb. 7 interview at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Anaheim. It seems odd that the messiah would use such salty language as "blow their brains out"—until you learn of the special bond forged between Bakker and the Big Guy in the Big House. "When I went to prison, I couldn't take a car or house with me, but Jesus Christ went there with me," Bakker explained. Christ, I mean, Jeez, I mean, damn: first nails through your wrists, then five years in a cell with Jim Bakker.

TICKLE ME, ELMO A couple of hours after El Modena High School's Gay-Straight Alliance held its first meeting on Feb. 9, students clashed with fundie protesters across the street from the Orange campus. However, it wasn't much of a melee, eyewitnesses told us and only us because the Jesus freaks "fought like girls." Known as the America Forever Foundation, the gay-baiters' literature refers to gays as "anti-species" and says, "The simple suggestion of homosexuality and lesbianism should be criminal when exposed to children." Guess that puts the kibosh on future Nutcracker performances. For their part, students have had it up to freakin' here with all the attention, anti-gay graffiti and their new school nickname, replacing their beloved "Elmo" with "Homodena." They're also sick of the doctored OC Weekly adult ad that has spread around campus faster than media cockroaches. Under a picture of two men draped in each other's arms—hard, bulging, deliciously sweaty arms that get us all . . . uh, sorry—someone has scribbled: "Come on, Elmo, don't be shy! You're either gay or you're bi!" Sounds like those stuck-up cheerleaders to us. The hate group that started this whole mess—Orange Unified's board of trustees, which banned the Gay-Straight Alliance from campus in December, only to have a federal court later reverse that ruling—continued its take-away-all-our-marbles-and-go-home-if-we-don't-get-our-way fit by banning all nonacademic campus clubs on Feb. 10. Students walked out in protest the next day. Why bother? Just form a Gay-Straight-Science-Geek-Spanish-and-Chess Alliance.

IT'S OFFICIAL! In 1997, the Weekly's R. Scott Moxley revealed that top bureaucrats at Orange County's Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) had secretly tried to prevent their elected-official bosses from ever publicly revealing the ugly truth about toll-road finances. No thanks to Orange County's two daily newspapers, we now know why. At a Feb. 10 hearing, TCA management reluctantly admitted that the 3-year-old San Joaquin Hills toll road will never meet even minimum revenue or ridership projections needed to pay for billions of dollars in high-priced Wall Street bonds. To stave off immediate financial collapse, the agency created a "Stabilization Fund" that will divert $40 million from long-term savings to pay massive upcoming bond debts. The TCA also discussed raising what are already among the highest tolls in the nation. Only after county officials publicly stated what had been obvious for more than three years did the Times Orange County and The Orange County Register bother to write the story.

DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION As you're inching through the Orange Crush, making that 10-mile, two-hour drive home, ever wonder what those crazy cats in the cars next to you are doing? Plenty, according to the Response Insurance National Driving Habits Survey, which discovered that 76 percent of all drivers do something other than pay attention to the road. The survey released on Feb. 15 found that 32 percent of drivers read and write behind the wheel, 29 percent talk on the phone, 17 percent comb their hair, 16 percent fight with another passenger, 10 percent apply makeup, 3 percent put in eye drops or contact lenses, and 1 percent read the Weekly while talking to their mama on the phone and yelling at a passenger to hold the mirror steady so they can part their hair, slap on their lipstick and plop in their contacts. Okay, we made up the last one. But we didn't make this up: 20 percent admit to being so busy inside their cars that they wind up steering with their thighs. Rejoice in your roomy interiors and thunder thighs, America!

JUVENILE JUSTICE Orange County Superior Court Judge James M. Watson, who tries civil cases, has officially demanded that litigants and witnesses who are HIV-positive publicly disclose their illness before they enter his courtroom, the Weekly revealed on Feb. 18. "[N]otify the bailiff if any witness or party has an infectious disease such as hepatitis, AIDS, etc.," Watson wrote in his "Ground Rules" for trials. One local attorney—who practices before Watson and who spoke on condition of anonymity—called the rule "puzzling and bizarre even for Orange County." Watson—a Huntington Beach Republican who spent 20 years as a Los Angeles deputy district attorney and was first appointed to the bench by Governor George Deukmejian in 1990—told the Weekly, "It's really about comfort and safety in my courtroom. As far as if this is a political message I'm sending in my courtroom, nothing could be further from the truth." But the policy troubled Myron Dean Quon, a Los Angeles attorney with Lambda Legal Defense Fund, a gay civil-rights group. "This is a huge problem. The government cannot force disclosure of HIV status; that is a requirement of a California statute. There are also major privacy concerns here. I just don't get what the judge is thinking. How is that information relevant to a judge in civil cases? It's fascinating."

MARK OF THE BEAST When Robert "B-1 Buttcheeks" Dornan decided in 1999 not to run for the South Orange County and North San Diego County congressional seat being vacated by the retiring Ron Packard, Dornan's 40-year-old son Mark got married, moved to San Juan Capistrano from Los Angeles and announced his candidacy. On Feb. 21, Mark and nine of his Republican primary opponents in the 48th District race gathered to debate at Mission Viejo's Saddleback Church. Beneath an oversized Christian-hip billboard that read, "Hangtime with God," the younger Dornan enthusiastically slammed the proposed El Toro International Airport, toll roads, Bill Clinton, communist China, immorality, the National Endowment of the Arts and the Department of Education. You could have closed your eyes, listened to that familiar raspy voice, and almost believed that Bob Dornan had taken the stage. God, we miss him.

ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, HE'D RATHER BE IN ANAHEIM Pelican Theatre owner Bill Gammoh on Feb. 22 was sentenced to 24 days in jail and a $6,000 fine for repeatedly allowing lap dances in his La Habra club despite a city ordinance that prohibits nude dancers from getting within six feet of patrons. (This presumably applies even to patrons with six-foot laps.) Gammoh is now a May hearing away from a judge's final ruling on whether to kill Pelican. The same day Gammoh was led away in cuffs to join medical-marijuana providers, young teens tried as adults, Third Strikers rotting for swiping Tic Tacs and whoever else gets locked up these days, Anaheim officials dropped a 2-year-old case against seven nude dancers from the Sahara Theater. The city had won convictions in Superior Court against the lapping ladies for violating the city's no-touchy ordinance and for "prostitution," which need not include exchanges of sex or bodily fluids under state law. Which tells you something about the state of sex in Anaheim. But an appellate court ruled that Anaheim's lapless law was too hardcore and that the jury should have been given the option of considering lap dancing a form of artistic expression—just like the Lambada, another forbidden dance of love.

WE'LL HAVE A GAY OLD TIME On Feb. 22, a feisty Reverend Lou Sheldon of the Anaheim-based Traditional Values Coalition debated former local Democratic Party chairman Jim Toledano on the merits of Proposition 22, the limits-on-marriage initiative also known as the Knight Initiative. Dressed in his standard uniform—conservative gray suit, white button-down shirt and red power tie—the reverend spent the hour offering the overflow crowd at Costa Mesa-based Whittier Law School breathtaking non sequiturs. Sheldon launched his Prop. 22 defense by announcing that "marriage is necessary for life, for those of us who are blessed enough to engage in it." He then quickly turned to talk about George Washington's farewell address and colonial-era morality and ethics. Before it was over, the reverend had referenced Jesus Christ, orgasms, Abraham and the Torah, "cooties," giraffes and elephants, a "little Methodist Church in Michigan," promiscuity, predators, princesses, Time magazine, Jim Crow laws, artificial insemination, "attraction juices," monkeys, Mars, molestation, AIDS, archaeology, the "N word," Virginia, "icky" girls, "God's plan," science, gay-owned credit cards, dysfunctional families, intercourse, playing with a black janitor's son—and, of course, "the beast." Exactly how would state recognition of same-sex unions destroy marriage, the family, heterosexuals, children and the country? Sheldon couldn't answer.

LAW AND ODOR Judge John M. Watson on Feb. 23 shitcanned his controversial rule that his bailiff be notified if any witness or party entering his OC Superior courtroom "has an infectious disease such as hepatitis, AIDS, etc." More surprising than Watson's reversal was the manner in which the Deukmejian appointee's stand on his rule changed depending upon whom he talked with. In R. Scott Moxley's Feb. 18 Weekly piece—which, ahem, broke the story—Watson defended his rule as essential to "comfort and safety in my courtroom." That story included shocked reactions from local attorneys and gay civil-rights activists—as did The Orange County Register's Feb. 19 follow-up, in which Watson reportedly expressed second thoughts about his rule. By the time the legalese Los Angeles Daily Journal got to the matter on Feb. 24, Watson was quoted as saying he had spiked his HIV-status directive, that he should have done so long ago, and that he'd forgotten all about his order until "someone" had recently brought it to his attention. Wonder who that was?

MARCH

QUIET RIOT It's doubtful that Republican presidential candidate John McCain expected a 150-pound roadblock when his "Straight-Talk Express" arrived for a March 1 campaign rally at Little Saigon's Asian Garden Mall. But that's what happened—at least figuratively. Bao Nguyen and about 15 other UC Irvine students rejected the McCain campaign's emotional pleas to disband and instead—with a surprised national press corps observing—protested the U.S. senator's long history of repeated use of the anti-Asian racial slur "gook." The peaceful protestors suddenly found themselves surrounded and under physical attack—by older Vietnamese-Americans—as uninterested Westminster police officers looked on. Nguyen—though visibly shaken, his face splattered with spit— asked for calm. "Dear people, we love our country like you do. We hate communism like you do," he said in perfect Vietnamese. "But we don't agree with the word 'gook.' It's wrong. It's hurtful. People need to be educated about that." More than 40 minutes after the shoving began and with reporters swooping in for interviews, tensions finally broke.

WRESTLING TRYOUTS Thirty masked freedom fighters on March 9 broke up a highly controversial and suspicious gathering on Orange Unified School District grounds: a board of trustees meeting. In December, you'll recall, the board banned the Gay-Straight Alliance from meeting at El Modena High School as part of the trustees' ongoing campaign to wipe out anything that stands in the way of district campuses evolving into Bob Jones University feeder schools—except they don't use the word "evolving" because they don't believe in evolution. Anyway, some wide-eyed freak was just going off on the alliance when 30 masked supporters of the can't-we-all-just-get-along club rushed her and tried to silence her. Administrators dove into the melee; one emerged with a deep scratch on his wrist, while another was bitten in the arm. Protesters, dressed in black with bandannas or ski masks covering their mugs, fled before anyone could be arrested—or hired to randomly roam campuses as a district death squad.

NO-FUN ZONE The overwhelming Measure F victory apparently shattered the county seat of government at 10 Civic Center Plaza on March 10. "It's a ghost town here," an insider told us. Normally bustling hallways were eerily quiet. The parking lot, which during business hours is filled with cars belonging to employees of the second-floor El Toro International Airport planning office, was half-empty. The pro-airport supervisors' election-night insistence that airport planning would continue unabated despite the near-knockout blow delivered by passage of the Safe and Healthy Communities Act obviously didn't set in with many of their underlings. "It's not fun here at all," one source told us. Even once-jovial county executive officer Jan Mittermeier, who has rammed the El Toro plans through as if her life depended on it, was said to be pacing the halls like a Night of the Living Dead extra. Do you suppose it has something to do with the airport superboosters' election-night scapegoating of Mittermeier for their stunning defeat?

GYPSIES, TRAMPS AND BIGOTS The Reverend Fred Phelps brought his vulgar traveling theater to the steps of Laguna Beach City Hall on March 20. The 70-year-old, cowboy-hat-topped pastor of the Topeka, Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church has been on a nine-year crusade to convince the world that, as he succinctly —and frequently—puts it, "God hates fags." A series of events brought Phelps and his fag haters to OC: they claim Laguna Beach Police Chief James Spreine will "burn"—in hell, presumably—for his new policy of documenting complaints of violence-laced hate speech; that the ultraconservative Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove is not sufficiently anti-gay; and that the recent creation of the Gay-Straight Alliance club at El Modena High School in Orange is "insensitive" to God's law. Fred Phelps Jr. cracked a contented smile and leisurely scanned the view. "Laguna Beach is a beautiful city, isn't it? It's really incredible. It'd be a great place to live, I'd imagine," said the self-described civil-rights attorney as he held a sign: "Fags Die, God Laughs."

LOVE THAT BOB! Weekly writer Victor D. Infante sent word on March 28 that actor Bruce Davison had just taken part in an Internet chat to promote his role in the upcoming summer movie X-Men. Davison plays U.S. Senator Robert Kelley in the live-action adaptation of the popular X-Men comic books. When asked what politicians he based his bigoted, hatemongering character on, Davison dodged answering directly, although he did say, "There's Robert Dornan's flamboyance going on." Flamboyance. So that's what you call it.

OH, HOW THE MOSSIMO HAVE FALLEN Irvine-based Mossimo Inc. announced on March 28 that its hip fashions will be sold in Target discount stores. Retail experts quoted in the Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register—so it must be true!—characterized the deal as a move of desperation by a company that has repeatedly taken financial body blows over the past three years. Designer Mossimo Giannulli once wanted his name mentioned in the same breath as Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani and Donna Karan and talked of the "Moss lifestyle." In 1998, after a turnaround strategy was developed to distribute clothes mainly through department stores such as Macy's and Bloomingdale's, Giannulli told the Reg, "I could have opened the floodgates by selling to [mass retailers like Target]—something that I'd now regret—but I didn't. I've always been determined to protect the integrity of the brand." That brand will now be draped over red shopping carts filled with Scotts Turf Builder lawn fertilizer, 24 packs of Quilted Northern toilet tissue and supersize bags of Nacho Cheesier Doritos.

CUPBOARD'S BARE JAMBOREE Disneyland's decades-old facial-hair ban lasted until March 29, when the company allowed "neatly trimmed" (and fully grown) mustaches. Beards are still verboten, and the hair on one's head must still be cropped over the ears and off the collar. Disney officials called the 'stache allowance further evolution of its 43-year-old "appearance code." Others rightly agree it's a calculated move to do what would seem to be impossible anywhere other than the Magic Kingdom: simultaneously increase the labor pool while keeping wages down. Orange County's unemployment rate hovers at a mere 2.3 percent—half the statewide rate —at a time when Disneyland must hire scores of workers for the busy summer season and 5,000 new positions at Disney's second Anaheim theme park, California Adventure, which is scheduled to open in early 2001. Warm bodies are also needed for the Downtown Disney shopping/entertainment mall and the Disney Grand Californian Hotel. While it's ridiculous to think it's going to have much effect on recruiting the park's traditional core group: college-age types who aren't likely to be taken in by the Disney Experience shit—mustache or no mustache—when they can get a job at Starbucks for the same money and not have to shave their goatees, graft their tattoos, or remove the barbells from their tongues, all of which are still prohibited under the appearance code. Disney is really looking at another set of workers when it relaxes its grooming standards for low-paying jobs: male, Latino, first-generation immigrants.

APRIL

BAD DEEDS GO UNPUNISHED A county report issued April 6 shows that one-third of the county's 27,000 acres of parkland lack any legal protections against development and that fully half of the entire park system—more than 13,000 acres—is collateral for the county's bankruptcy recovery bonds. Despite the revelation, Parks Commission staff refused to recommend that commissioners move quickly to restrict all deeds to all the county's parks. Their report explained that such a course of action "would tend to diminish both value and flexibility." In addition, "by voluntarily establishing deed restrictions, they may hinder the ability to accommodate future legitimate park-related or non-park-related needs," such as roads, bridges or "telecommunication facilities." Because the last place you'd want to be without your cell phone is an away-from-it-all wilderness park.

THE NEW HUGH Facing a $5 million shortfall in next year's budget, the Irvine Unified School District wanted Irvine voters to pass a 16-year, $95 annual tax on each piece of property in the city on April 11. But voters awoke the next morning to news that the proposed tax had lost by a mere 800 votes. Yet, nothing was more remarkable than the identity of tax's most ardent proponent:Hugh Hewitt. A radio and TV talking head, a developer's attorney, and a Chapman University law professor, the conservative, family-values Republican is a vocal opponent of taxation. But in word and deed, the new Hewitt proved to be a bleeding-heart liberal—if only in his own back yard. Consider what the old Hewitt argued in the Timesin November 1992: "Most parents are dismayed by a school system that cannot seem to improve matter how much it is studied or how much money is thrown at it." That is, most parents and most school systems except Hugh Hewitt and the public schools that teach his kids.

IT'S BETTER TO GIVE The Irvine Co., the Donald Bren Foundation and the Irvine Public Schools Foundation on April 13 announced a "surprise" decision to rescue Irvine's public schools. No word of a possible bailout had been uttered before voters went to the polls days earlier for Measure A, a defeated proposal to boost taxes $95-per-year for 16 years. But less than 48 hours after the second Irvine parcel-tax proposal in five months failed to win the necessary two-thirds approval of the voters, Donald Bren and Irvine Co. executive Gary Hunt stepped in just in the nick of time to prevent the executioner's ax from falling on at least 120 Irvine teachers scheduled for dismissal. Suddenly, the "huge," "insurmountable" budgetary shortfall of some $5 million—the shortfall that moved hundreds of people to spend countless hours campaigning for Measure A, which led thousands of citizens to vote for Measure A and which we were told could not be remedied by any means but a tax hike—was filled with the mere promise of $3.9 million. The gift proved that opponents of Measure A were right: the private sector—with its strong financial interest in attracting new businesses to the Irvine Spectrum and maintaining the value (that is, price) of new homes in Irvine—came to the rescue in the short term.

CAMP DICK If you register your kid by April 19, you get a $10 early sign-up discount for the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace's summer day camp. However, we must take the library to task for its incomplete camp announcement. For instance, it says children ages 8 to 12 get to take part in a scavenger hunt inside the library, but it fails to mention they'll be searching for the 18 minutes of missing Watergate tape. Ben Franklin, Betsy Ross and Abraham Lincoln are noted as sharing historic tales with the kids, but there's not one word about Bebe Rebozo the Clown. And though you learn that campers get to create a time capsule, nothing is said about filling it with John Dean and a roll of Nixon's presidential bathroom toilet tissue—made out of the actual U.S. Constitution. By the time the little bastards leave, they'll think Uncle Dick was the swellest! Call now—operators are standing by!

THE GREAT AMERICAN SMOKEOUT We picked up an important parenting tip we'd like to pass along. If a teenager in your household took a black marker and scrawled "420" on his forehead on April 20, he was not necessarily marking Adolf Hitler's 111th birthday or the one-year anniversary of the deadly 1999 attack by teenage gunmen on students and teachers at Columbine High School in Colorado. Since the late '80s, pot smokers around the country have used "420" to celebrate cannabis. In fact, if Junior was missing around 4:20 p.m. that day —before coming home and polishing off the SnackWells —he probably wasn't hanging out with the skinheads on Huntington Beach's Main Street or plotting with the chess club to mow down homeroom. He was likely just holed up with friends burning a fatty. Whew, what a relief!

A SECOND CHANCE On April 21, Marvin Chavez—the founder of the Orange County Patient-Doctor-Nurse Support Group and OC Weekly's 1998 Man of the Year—walked out the doors of Vacaville State Prison in northern California more than four years ahead of schedule. A week earlier, Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas J. Borris, the man who in January 1999 sentenced Chavez to prison for selling marijuana, ordered Chavez released on bail pending his upcoming appeal. His release after 15 months behind bars arrived almost six months after the California Court of Appeals overturned the May 1998 conviction of fellow cannabis co-op founder David Lee Herrick. Herrick's conviction came at the hands of now-retired DA prosecutor Carl Armbrust, who spent his last day as a lawman seeing Chavez sentenced. In the Herrick case, the appeals court found that Armbrust willfully misled the jury about Herrick's ability to introduce evidence at trial. Borris' decision to release Chavez pending the outcome of his appeal revolves around the same allegations of misconduct by Armbrust. This may signal the end of Orange County's no-holds-barred war on medical-marijuana activists.

COLD-BLOODED Fullerton attorney Linda K. Ross on April 22 filed a libel lawsuit against a yellow-pages directory company that allegedly listed her under "Reptiles." Ross, who is seeking $100,000 in damages, reportedly claims the error in at least one GTE Directories Sales Corp. book has held her up to ridicule from newspapers, The Tonight Show's Jay Leno, and pranksters prone to making "hissing sounds" when she walks by. Linda, why are you being so thin- (and scaly-) skinned about this? At least you weren't listed under "Sharks."

DEAD MAN HAWKING Phillip Guyett Jr., who formerly headed the willed bodies program at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, pleaded guilty to embezzlement on April 26 in connection with the theft of a donated cadaver. In October 1999, Guyett was accused of selling a donated university stiff to Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa for $1,100 and pocketing the money. That surely propels Guyett past Christopher S. Brown on the Creep-O-Meter. Brown, the ex-director of the UC Irvine medical school's willed bodies program, was only investigated for selling seven spines.

MAY

SILICONE VALLEY Congresswoman and Democratic National Committee co-chairwoman Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) will throw a bash at the Playboy Mansion to coincide with August's Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, according to an "Inside the Beltway" nugget in the May 3 Washington Times. Sanchez, who will forever be Orange County's Miss November for taking the congressional seat from Robert "B-1 Belch" Dornan in 1996, will host the spread with her friend, Playboy heiress Christie Hefner. Clockwork can't help but wonder if this is a friendship of convenience, considering that one of Dornan's crusades during his 18 years in the House was trying to ban the sale of Playboy magazines at military bases. Meanwhile, the thought of this Playboy blowout conjures up a sight we can't shake no matter how many shots of sour mash we inhale: Bubba and Ted Kennedy, blubber pouring out of their too-tight Speedos, blindly groping anything that moves in the whirlpool.

STRAWBERRY FIELD NOT FOREVER With eight months to go before the scheduled opening of California Adventure, city officials disclosed on May 16 that the Walt Disney Co. is getting serious about building a third Anaheim theme park in a strawberry farm just a mouse-eared balloon's flight from Disneyland. "The fact that they're talking to city staff is significant," Anaheim Mayor Tom Daly told the Register. "I think the subject is warm now, and it's starting to heat up." Days earlier, Disney announced California Adventure—which will include a re-created beach carnival, Hollywood back lot and "natural resources" (we're guessing that means smog, silicone deposits, manicured lawn clippings, etc.) —will open Feb. 8, 2001. In case the Mouseketeers have yet to have imagineered a theme for the third park, might we suggest California Misadventure, which would mimic such Golden State disasters as earthquakes, prison riots and anything spat out of the mouth of Huntington Beach-based immigrant-hater Barbara Coe. And a one and a two: It's a white world after all/ It's a white world after all . . .

THE DICK CLUB About 200 members of Richard Nixon's tight-knit circle celebrated their 25th-annual private dinner together on May 17, according to Moonies handi-wipe the Washington Times. The location of the Richard Nixon Alumni Group gathering was not disclosed, although some press was reportedly invited (exsqueeze me? Where was our invite?). We're told the main speaker was former Senate majority leader Robert Dole, who likely culled material from his snot- and-tears-soaked eulogy at Dick's 1994 funeral rather than this famous quip, which he made when presidents Jimmy Carter, Jerry Ford and Nixon stood by one another at a White House event: "There they are: see no evil, hear no evil and . . . evil."

TAKE MY TOLL ROAD—PLEASE! Orange County Transportation Authority members agreed on May 22 that state lawmakers should buy the county's toll roads—which generate more controversy than traffic—and make them freeways. However, the state apparently has more pressing transportation needs than bailing out OC's horribly failed toll roads. Perhaps we could sweeten the deal by throwing in other regional disasters like El Toro International Airport. Or the Santa Ana River. Or TBN headquarters. Or the Santa Ana Zoo. Or Dana Point beaches. Or . . .

STUCK IN THE MITTERMEIER WITH YOU Who do you suppose lusts more after County Executive Officer Jan Mittermeier: The headline writers at The Orange County Register or their counterparts at the Times Orange County edition? You've got to wonder what kind of nasty thoughts conjured up this headline in the May 23 Reg: "Supervisors Act to Strip CEO of El Toro Powers." With the Reggie having successfully turned the most powerful woman in county government into a dancer at Captain Creem's, the Times came back two days later with "Mittermeier Gets It From Both Sides."

JUNE

REEL BIG FISH Rick Reiff's "The Insider" column in the June 5 Orange County Business Journal broke the news about the Newport Beach-based Edwards Theaters chain seeking a major investor amid overbuilding woes and the need for more cash to complete its apparently too-ambitious expansion. We've got an infallible business strategy we'd like to run by Edwards should they lure a prospective deep-pocketed partner. Stick the mark in one of your countless dark dank-a-plexes to see a filmed version of your proposal on the postage-stamp-sized screen. But start by subjecting the sucker to a continuous loop of cards showing lame movie trivia and ads for window-tinting companies. Next, run an amazing short film on the intricacies of filmmaking that comes courtesy of the Los Angeles Times. While he's trying to figure out why it is he's never read such an amazing story on the intricacies of filmmaking in the Los Angeles Times, blast his ears out with obnoxious movie trailers that are so loud (in DIGITAL DTS SOUND!?#!!) that the walls shake. By then he'll want to bolt so bad he'll sign whatever you want without even seeing the actual proposal—which will play simultaneously in every Edwards theater in Orange County.

PET HELL TO PAY Bob Emmers' Weekly exposé on the county's fucked-up animal control shelter ("Pet Hell," May 14, 1999) was arguably the most responded-to article in our nearly five-year history. But you may recall in a subsequent story ("Changing the Cat Box," June 4, 1999) that Emmers' coverage "disappointed" animal control board member Judy Matsen. At a board meeting two weeks after "Pet Hell" was published, Matsen said she wasn't familiar with the Weekly until researching it on the Internet and discovering to her horror that we "were talking about commies and fags." "Pet Hell" went on to win the investigative-journalism award from the Orange County Press Club earlier this year. Greater validation came on June 5, when the county grand jury issued a report that essentially said animal control in Orange County is a mess. The staff lacks leadership, is overworked and has a poor attitude. Customer service sucks. The veterinary and kennel staffs hate each other. The vet staff repeatedly neglects policies on the timely treatment of ill or injured animals and the premature euthanization of potentially adoptable pets. And the list goes on. The grand jury indicated stories like the Weekly's prompted the investigation. Instead of obsessing over commies and fags, Matsen should have done some more browsing to discover the horrors going on under her nose.

'WE'RE BEING STONEWALLED' According to a June 14 report by the Orange County grand jury, political inertia—what the jury calls a "who-cares" attitude among Huntington Beach officials—makes an immediate solution to the Ascon-Nesi hazardous-waste dump unlikely. More than a decade after it ceased operations, Ascon-Nesi is still highly toxic and, in the words of the grand jury, "so easily breachable that there are trails emanating from the holes in the fences." The damning six-page report claimed that during the jury's months of investigation into the dumpsite, both city and county officials essentially refused to take any action to protect the public from Ascon-Nesi. According to the report, "meetings with city officials in Huntington Beach have left the grand jury with feelings of frustration summed up by the reaction: 'We're being stonewalled.' The city of Huntington Beach does not assume the degree of responsibility for monitoring the Nesi/Ascon [sic] site that seems prudent to the grand jury. The community and county should mount a more rigorous push to resolve and eliminate the dirty, dangerous dump. . . . One would think that local pride and community service would have provided better results. But instead, the prevailing reaction received by the grand jury has been the old 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.'"

COUGH-KA-ESQUE The California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) issued a report on June 21 that says the air has been so dirty here the past three years that OC is considered a "Smog Spot"—one of 13 metropolitan areas in California that do not meet the federal standard for healthy air. "For children, the elderly and the more than 96,000 people in Orange County with asthma, this is a severe health threat," reports CALPIRG's Amber Proaps. There's just one problem: it's bullshit. We actually went past the press summary and opened up "Smog Watch 2000." We discovered that Orange County was lumped in with Los Angeles and Riverside counties to create one of those 13 Smog Spots. If you look solely at OC data, not only have there been few days exceeding federal standards during the past three years, but the air has also actually gotten cleaner here each year compared with the previous one. But latching us onto our much smoggier neighbors certainly did get our attention.

HERE COME DA JUDGES The state Commission on Judicial Performance admonished Orange County Superior Court Judges Susanne Shaw and Gary P. Ryan on June 26 and 27, respectively. Shaw was dinged for singing in her courtroom, discussing punishment with prosecutors without defense attorneys present, letting a defendant know what they do to "skinny white boys" in jail, and other inappropriate behavior. Ryan was arrested by Newport Beach police after an accident in September 1999 in which his blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit. Neither will be removed or even suspended from their $100K-plus jobs on the bench; an admonishment is the lowest grade of public discipline meted out by the panel. This is most troubling when it comes to Ryan, who paid no fines or court costs and spent not one day in jail after spending five hours drinking beer, wine and vodka at Yankee Tavern in Newport Beach before getting behind the wheel of his Jeep Cherokee and plowing into the back of a Ford Expedition. The same judicial panel had received complaints of Ryan snoozing on the bench in '97 and '99. Something stinks in OC, and it ain't La Palma.

SURF AND TURD Is it just us, or did it seem weird that an advertisement for the release of Jawsand Jaws II on DVD was plastered all over trash cans along the strand in Huntington Beach? The movie was all about city officials trying to silence warnings about a killer shark so as not to spook tourists. So wouldn't the image of a marauding great white on receptacles along the shoreline reinforce fears of going in the water? Speaking of reinforcing fears of going in the water, two teens died of unknown causes on June 27 a few miles apart near the surf in Newport and Huntington beaches. "This is a little too Jawsesque for me," someone named Callopy wrote the Weekly's Commie Girl. Callopy wondered whether the culprit might be "some ghastly turd floating around and targeting our county's youth?" No. Though they smell the same, that would be the state Commission on Judicial Performance.

BUH-BYE! The county Board of Supervisors on June 27 fired county executive officer Jan Mittermeier, then cut her a $170,000 severance check on her way out the door —which sources tell us did not hit her on the ass. We suspect the 25-year county employee will land in the private sector, where shadowy, inflexible, autocratic management styles are all the rage these days. In other departures, controversial trustee Steven J. Frogue resigned from the South Orange County Community College District board effective June 30. Frogue sparked still-smoldering bitterness when he tried to hold a John F. Kennedy assassination seminar in 1997 that featured two speakers who wrote for an anti-Semitic newspaper and theorized that Israeli intelligence offed JFK. His stepping down fills us with perverse sadness. We looked forward to hearing "Springtime for Hitler" blaring over South County loudspeakers this coming election season. Auf wieder sehen, Steve.

CONTINUED...
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