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
Though anyone involved in the business of Orange County news knows Bren is the root word of much of what is written about Orange County, we also regularly experience talking about Bren in such terms to regular folk who, invariably, chime in at some point with, "Uh, um, who's Donald Bren?"
Yet Bren, and by extension his company, seems under the impression that the world eagerly awaits his every move. Perhaps he and his people believe that the present fascination with everything Orange County—a fascination The O.C.helped create—includes a fascination with him.
When a region like Orange County becomes a national obsession, invariably the interest is limited to one particularly group. When Dallas hogged the spotlight, people seemed drawn to its wildcatters and their big-haired wives/mistresses. When Miami took its turn, folks gawked at its jet set trashplants such as Madonna and Versace. The allure of Orange County is clearly its youth, its very young youth, generally 21-and-under, presented not only in shows such as The O.C. and Laguna Beach: The Real O.C., but in the youthful energy of its fashion designers—Paul Frank's monkey—and its bands. As much as the country likes to listen to the music and wear the clothes made by people from Orange County, they seem just as captivated at looking at beautiful young people from Orange County listening to the music and wearing the clothes; far more captivated by the Orange County Bren helped to create than they are with Bren the creator.
Bren and his lieutenants' prickliness over the Times piece suggests they don't get it. At the end of the Times' ill-fated story, Pasco and Gottlieb use a quote from former Register reporter Patrick J. Kiger who suggested that Bren's people could have been "clever" about the whole Nichol matter if they had gone to the producers of The O.C. and suggested an episode "where Bren does a cameo as Nichol's rival."
Indeed that would have allowed Bren to cast himself as Nichol's polar opposite (though the two could have compared notes about what it's like to marry younger women: Nichol married a woman his daughter's age; Bren, in 1998 at the age of 66, married former child actress Brigitte Muller, then 32). It may have been a clever move, but one so inside that it's assured virtually all of TheO.C.'s viewing audience would have been completely oblivious to its significance or humor.
And Donald Bren is nothing if not a man who appreciates a good joke. Why, just last year, he gave UC Irvine a bunch of money to endow a school. The university enthusiastically accepted the money and, to much fanfare, announced that the school had been given a new name: The Bren School of Information.