Stories That Made a Difference

And some we regret

After the Weekly's coverage—and that of Los Angeles Times columnist Dana Parsons—put pressure on prosecutors, they vacated the charges against Carmona. He had already spent more than two years behind bars. Before they did so, he had to promise not to sue. Adding insult to Carmona's injury, DA Tony Rackauckas provided a bizarre but perfectly appropriate ending to a Kafkaesque trial, implying that Carmona had gotten off easy. Speaking directly to Carmona, he said, "Arthur, it's a rare event that a convicted defendant gets this kind of break. You are getting a second chance. Don't let yourself or your supporters down. When you get out, find a job, improve your skills, [and] have a good and productive life—do not commit any crimes!"

THE WILLOWZ
"Get Everywhere: The Willowz's positively possibly true tales" by Chris Ziegler, Nov. 7, 2003

Photo by Matt Otto
Like the title says, Ziegler made no claims for the veracity of the stories the Willowz told about themselves: "The following stories about the Willowz could not be verified at press time: The Willowz did all but one show of their first national tour with a fiftysomething transsexual named Kat Kitty as their chauffeur. The Willowz had reps from Island and Atlantic or whatever majors at their first show, rounded up by the producer of the Donnas, who heard the demo they recorded in a Whittier garage and dragged the whole West Coast industry out to gnash and drool at them. The Willowz are 19, 19 and 17. And the Willowz are the most hated band in Anaheim." The phrase "the most hated band in Anaheim," originally sourced from a classmate who didn't get along with Richie in high school (though it was still true among the two or three other Anaheim bands), made it (presumably) into the Willowz' press kit and metastasized from there via reporters too lazy to construct a conceptual framework of their own to glossies like Rolling Stone and (via one of OCW's own freelancers!) alt.-papers like LA Alternative Press, Los Angeles Citybeat and Time Out Chicago. This is how myths are made: Chris Ziegler's brain types something funny about you.

ASCON-NESI HAZARDOUS WASTE DUMP
"How Not to Run a Toxic Waste Dump," by Nick Schou, Aug. 1, 1997

Used to be that Huntington Beach's most toxic chunk of real estate—several oil lagoons and an open pit containing more than 250,000 cubic yards of cancer-causing sludge—looked like it might stay there forever. This story included up-close photographs of the toxic pools, which tended to suggest that despite the dumpsite's incredibly dangerous contents, it was child's play to penetrate its perimeter. Indeed, the only things preventing neighborhood kids from reaching their oily doom were a few decrepit signs reading, "Hazardous Waste—No Trespassing," and a chainlink fence with numerous gaps. Obvious signs of intruders lay everywhere: rusting children's bicycles, cigarette butts, beer bottles, lawn chairs and discarded mattresses. It was as if some derelict had turned the place into a condo project.

Days after the story appeared, the fences were mended and freshly painted warning signs were hung. Efforts to remove the waste began again in earnest. The story also won a 2000 commendation from the Orange County grand jury, which investigated failed cleanup efforts at the site. So now it's, what, eight years later, and the waste is still there—but is supposed to be removed before next winter's rains send thousands of gallons of toxic goo flooding into nearby homes.

BLACK FLAG
"No More!" by Chris Ziegler, Sept. 19, 2003

Photo by James Bunoan
"During 'Jealous Again,' singer Dez Cadena had obviously had enough, plucking a beer cup off the PA and firing it into the audience. He'd been spit on—by girls, too!—and yelled at and fucked with all night, but now he was getting mean. He grabbed a mic stand—very slowly and deliberately—and sort of half-assedly raked a stage-diver. Seconds later, a bolt of ice and booze hit the side of his head. You could see every bad memory flood back, every argument he'd had with himself about whether this cat-benefit reunion thing was a good idea suddenly explode into his bloodstream. He dropped his shit and pushed his way offstage, settling in at the bar so angrily that not even the eight-foot skins went near him, and when the CD player started a new song, Greg Ginn stopped it, waved the drummer to a halt and started packing up. That was it. The end. Go home. Everyone looked confused, which was weird because this was exactly like every Black Flag show we'd ever heard about. It's good to see that, after all these years, they still got it." That single review reminded countless readers of just why they grew up.

BERNARD RAPPAPORT
"The Kids (Still) Aren't Alright" by Anthony Pignataro, Feb. 28, 1997
Even before he became head of the county's Children and Youth Services (CYS), Bernard Rappaport had a penchant for controversy. As a court-appointed juvenile psychiatrist, he once justified the molestation of a 4-year-old girl by a teenager. The girl, Rappaport noted, had acted "coquettish." After being promoted, he ignored complaints concerning at least one psychiatrist who gave patients at the Orangewood Children's Home potentially dangerous drug combinations; illegal office drinking parties at one CYS clinic; a supervising psychiatrist who was allegedly making dangerous misdiagnoses; and an Orange County grand jury that described him as "unaccountable." The net effect? Not much. Rappaport remained chief of the county's juvenile psychiatrists for years after reporter Anthony Pignataro exposed the sordid details of his tenure. He died in 2001 but lives on in the Weekly's annual Orange County's Scariest People Bob Dornan Hall of Fame.

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