By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
Rex Hudler, AngELs TV ANNOUNCER
Rex Hudler would be blathering on and on—somewhere, anywhere—even if the Angels weren’t paying him to do it in their TV broadcast booth. But they are. For going on eight years, Hudler has been providing the color commentary for Angels telecasts—basically, filling every possible moment of summer’s sweet game with a breathless hodgepodge of suspect analysis and shameless asskissery, relentlessly steering all of it toward another opportunity to remind everybody that he was once a major-league ballplayer too.
It’s a dream job for a forgettable player like Hudler, who played for 18 teams during a 21-year pro career and never came close to fulfilling the potential the New York Yankees saw when they blew their top draft choice on him in 1978. The gig saves him from camping out at sports bars, blowing hard about the game on the big screen, dropping heavier and heavier hints about who he almost used to be. Instead, Hudler is on the big screen. Of course, that’s a nightmare for the rest of us, who can’t escape him simply by moving from the bar to a table.
Still, even as Hudler’s scenery-chewing style grinds on your last nerve, the fact that he’s got such a plum assignment in one of the world’s great media markets remains fascinating. Absolutely nothing about him—neither his talent as a player, nor his grasp of strategy or appreciation of nuance, not even the ability to speak in coherent sentences—seems to qualify him for this job.
So how does he do it? The answer may lie in the nickname Hudler loves people to call him—the Wonderdog. This canine alias works on a number of levels, referencing his pet-hero first name, emphasizing his bounding enthusiasm and implying a noble modesty. But most important, it reveals that, like all dogs, Hudler’s always got his nose up somebody’s ass—a characteristic Hudler confirms any time he says anything about anybody associated with the Angels, from owner Arte Moreno to the manager and players to the guy who scrapes the mud out of the players’ cleats.
Ironically, Hudler’s brown-nosing may be his most legitimate baseball skill. An underperforming first-round draft pick doesn’t draw 10 years of minor-league paychecks from the New York Yankees by saying what he really thinks. A journeyman doesn’t bounce around the majors—almost always the worst player on whatever team he is on—by telling people the truth.
Rex Hudler was a survivor in a cutthroat profession, and if you listen closely as he blathers on and on during those Angels telecasts, he is transmitting a valuable lesson in this era of uncertain employment: suck up! (Dave Wielenga)
Donald Bren, OVERLORD
When discussing terrific jobs in Orange County, we’d be remiss not to examine the career of Irvine Co. chairman Donald Bren. Now, we have a history of giving Bren the occasional good-natured Friars Club-style ribbing—about his children out of wedlock, his nebulous financial dealings, his being the source of inspiration for The O.C.’s bad-guy developer Caleb Nichol, his influence over powerful conservative politicians. His name appears in this paper almost as often as Gustavo Arellano’s. But who are we fooling? It’s obvious we’re just jealous. You see, while it may seem that working for a free weekly newspaper in Orange County would be a powerful, financially lucrative occupation, the truth is most of our editorial staff have to live together in a derelict Vanagon parked off the 55—which I believe Bren technically owns as well. You’d be jealous too.
Despite whatever petty personal reasons we may have for kicking Bren around, we can all agree that he’s got a pretty fantastic job. As chairman of the board of the Irvine Co., Bren has amassed power and fortune the likes of which you—assuming you did not have this paper delivered to you in a golden chariot driven by a team of oiled slave-boys—will never see. His wealth has enabled him to make extensive educational, cultural and environmental donations that have resulted in some buildings being named after him, which you can bet makes the “About Me” section of his MySpace page a little more impressive than yours. Best of all, Bren has so much money he doesn’t need to pay the same percentage of his income to child support as the rest of us schmoes. As reported by R. Scott Moxley in our May 3 issue, California state law dictates that Bren, as an “extraordinarily high-income earner,” can refuse court-ordered requests for specific financial information on the grounds that the amount of child support he’d end up having to pay would go well beyond the standard “diapers-and-college-fund” range and potentially enable his offspring to purchase the Vatican.
The Aug. 13 edition of the Los Angeles Times’ West magazine named Bren the most powerful person in Southern California, which by extension pretty much makes him the most powerful person in the world. If Bren was so inclined, he could quit working tomorrow, board a platinum rocket ship to heaven, and spend the rest of his days paying the Blessed Virgin to give him shoulder rubs. And all this comes as a result of using Orange County’s resources in ways that would have given Ayn Rand an orgasm. That’s a job! Now, please, Mr. Bren, if you could see your way clear to turning my water back on, I’d really appreciate it. (Tom Child)
Jeff Van Es, Aerial Police Officer
The burglar riding a bicycle at 2 a.m. in Costa Mesa’s 17th Street commercial area was an idiot. He nervously checked for potential witnesses on the ground but ignored the helicopter circling overhead. Using a log, he smashed a store window and attempted to pedal away with stolen property. Dumbfounded arresting officers asked him if he’d heard the helicopter. Sure, the burglar replied. “But I thought they couldn’t see me in the dark.”
That arrest is credited to Jeff Van Es, a 13-year aerial police officer for the Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana police departments. (In 1996, Newport Beach and Costa Mesa formed a joint powers authority called ABLE—Airborne Law Enforcement; Santa Ana helps defray the costs in exchange for daily patrols.) Like the other six ABLE pilots, Van Es doesn’t need daylight to see a suspect. He’s got powerful binoculars, a zoom-lens digital camera, night vision goggles and an infrared detection system that can spot a kitten hiding under a bush from an altitude of 1,000 feet.
Except for the time an irate drug dealer fired five or six shots from a rifle at his helicopter, you’ll never find anybody with a better office. Van Es spends about five hours of each day or night shift in the Eagle (the name for all three of the police birds), but it’s not plush. It’s fast. The helicopter can race from Newport Beach surf to the eastern stretches of Santa Ana in less than four minutes.
And then there’s the spectacular views that generate interesting tidbits: migrating whales come much closer to the beach than you’d guess; large, underground stadium-style cinemas are the latest craze in Newport Coast home constructions; and traffic accidents occasionally happen in odd, inexplicable cluster patterns.
But the real joy for Van Es, who spent almost four years as a Santa Ana street cop, is the police work. In 1994, he and colleague John Susman helped find the infamous white Bronco with a fleeing O.J. Simpson. Eventually, two Orange County police helicopters conducting the Simpson air pursuit were joined by 19 news helicopters and three news airplanes. “It was scary,” he recalled. “We were surrounded. It’s amazing nobody crashed.”
Though there are two pilots on each shift, one of them acts as the observer operating the surveillance equipment. On a recent August shift, Van Es served as the observer for veteran pilot K.C. Gleason. The pair work well together. Indeed, they know each other so well they sometimes communicate merely with hand signals. Gleason, whose grandfather played Doc on the 1960s television series Gunsmoke, is a gifted pilot known to add comic relief to their work, while Van Es demonstrates uncanny visual skills.
During a single 90-minute period, Van Es spotted a robbery/shooting suspect in a car, provided detailed intelligence for undercover officers preparing a narcotics raid, located a stolen Land Rover in Little Saigon, frustrated drug dealers in a Santa Ana combat zone, and helped capture a convicted felon who fled a fatal truck accident near Mile Square Park.
Says the 39-year-old married father of two children, “I’d wanted to be a police helicopter pilot since the fourth grade, and now I have the best job in the world.” (R. Scott Moxley)
Day Laborer in Laguna Canyon
It’s not easy being a day laborer these days, as racist city officials shut down jornalerosites (hola, Allan Mansoor!) or pass laws to kick the Mexicans out from city limits (that’s you, Hazelton, Pennsylvania!). But the 40 or so Latino men who wait patiently each chilly morning at the Laguna Beach Day Worker Center live the good vida. Sure, the pay is lousy, but no other day laborer site in Orange County can boast such a gorgeous view (snuggled between two Laguna canyons), ample shade, consistent sea breeze and free meals provided by city churches and good folks. Sí, the day laborers must endure the picket signs and video cameras of Minutemen and Nazis, but the workers find moral support from Chicano activists who match the anti-immigrant protesters shriek-for-shriek. And even after Caltrans ordered Laguna Beach to close down the day laborer center earlier this year when Minuteman Project member Eileen Garcia discovered Caltrans and not the city owned the land upon which it operated, the jornalerosremained charmed. City officials quickly stepped in and not only negotiated a one-year lease to keep the Day Worker Center open, but also offered to buy the property so that Lagunans can continue to find cheap, tax-free labor. Quite the life for a bunch of illegals, no? (Gustavo Arellano)
TORIE FULLER, AERIAL ACROBAT, PIRATE’S DINNER ADVENTURE
Anyone who’s ever been at the “odd jobs” stage in his or her professional life knows how much odd jobs can—and often do—suck. And we’re not just talking Gap-manager suck here—try waitressing suck. Starbucks-barista suck. Nordstrom-women’s-shoe-department suck.
Which is why it’s always good to regularly brush up on your circus skills—you know, as a résumé enhancer, something that might come in handy one day, something to help spring you out of minimum-wage hell.
Seriously. Just ask 23-year-old Torie Fuller, currently an understudy aerial acrobat at Pirate’s Dinner Adventure—think Medieval Times, but mixed with Cirque du Soleil and a pirate ship—in Buena Park. “I was doing a little bit of everything—waitressing, mostly,” Torie says, remembering her odd-job dark days. “I hated all of my jobs.”
That was a little over nine months ago. Everything changed when a friend phoned after seeing a casting notice for Pirate’s on the evening news. “He knew about my background,” she explains, “and called me up and said, ‘Dude, you’re going to be a pirate!’”
Torie’s “background,” it turns out, involves growing up in Yucaipa, where the local YMCA had a “little youth circus,” a program to teach kids anything from juggling to more advanced single trapeze tricks. Every summer, the kids would travel and perform their routines, and Torie stuck with it until she was 16. Seven years, a few tryouts, and a month and a half of training later, she’s back at it. “As soon I got onstage,” she recalls, “I felt like I was back home.”
As for the show itself? Torie admits it can seem a bit hokey to some people: “I’m out on the stage, and then the pirates throw me in the brig,” she says. “Then I’ll go out and do something spectacular and run back.” Her character, the Golden Gypsy, is a “mysterious mute,” Torie laughs, since the act involves non-microphone-friendly routines like aerial tissues (think again of Cirque du Soleil—they’re the silks that performers wrap and unwrap themselves in) and a hand-to-hand cradle routine with one of the pirates (“He hangs upside down, I hang on to his hands”) and a bunch of other tough-to-describe stuff (including something called “neck spins”). Still, hokey or not, aerial acrobatics trumps double shifts and bad tips any day. And it’s a good workout.
In the future, Torie says, she’d like to put her circus skills to even better use—as a stuntwoman in Hollywood, ideally. But for now, she’s just happy to be back onstage.
And the best part? The cast from Pirate’s and the knights from Medieval Times? They totally hang out. (Ellen Griley)
Pirate’s Dinner Adventure, 7600 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, (714) 690-1497. Call for show times. $33.95-$49.95, tax not included. Reservations must be made at least 72 hours in advance.
KEY KOOL, OWNER, UP ABOVE RECORDS
Visionary Key Kool—co-founder of hip-hop group the Visionaries, as well as a regular visionary—put out the first release on his Up Above Records just about 10 years ago, and sharp business sense and a roster of artists like Jurassic 5, Pete Rock, Ozomatli, the late Jay Dilla and lots of the best hometowners have been pretty good to him ever since. He started in Carson, and now he goes to work in his own office above a Hooters in Long Beach—the first and best sign of success!—and when he needs a break from cranking his hip-hop records through the system, he heads for the most backwoods beach Hawaii can hide and turns the radio off.
OC WEEKLY:What high school experience best prepared you to run your own record label?
Key Kool: I’d have to say dissecting a cat. It’s not something you would expect to do and sometimes it’s not the most fun, but you have to get through it. And as you go through it, you start taking an interest in it, and then it becomes a morbid fascination—like, “Why am I doing this?” And once it’s complete, you feel like you accomplished something, and you did some things you never thought you would do, and at the end of the day, you feel like you learned something. It’s pretty gratifying.
What’s the Up Above work week like? Do you get to play video games on that console in the lobby?
Honestly, I think we’ve only done that once.
The day you got it?
The day we got the game the Visionaries had a song in, and we wanted to hear it. After that, we never used it. It’s not like 9-to-5—sometimes there’s a mixdown session that goes from 8 at night to 8 in the morning. During the two weeks we were trying to get the Visionaries album done, we were seriously going to bed at 5 or 6 a.m., sleeping a couple hours, then getting up and making some calls to deal with the whole office situation.
What’s your favorite thing about your employees?
The enthusiasm. These kids are true fans. Their commitment and enthusiasm makes me wanna work even harder. They’ll be grinding all day in 110-degree weather in San Bernardino and they’re real positive, and I’m like, “Wow.” Because I’m melting.
Do you ever send them downstairs to Hooters for a late-night wing run?
Actually, the Hooters always hooks us up—we make such a racket all day and a couple of the managers are real cool. They’re Long Beach heads—they know some people involved in the groups. We had a jam session one day, and they sent up a bunch of wings. And they validate our parking. I never thought we’d have a relationship like that. But now we call it Up Above Hooters.
What do you do when you need a vacation?
I like going to Hawaii. But not like Honolulu. Gotta go to an area where there’s no radio, you know? Because everywhere I go I’d feel like, “I better go to the radio station and see what’s up.”
So you take your vacations in a media blackout.
What would you do if you weren’t doing this?
I was thinking about being a lawyer. I interned at a law office and I was like, “Nah.” They were slaving away on basically the litigation-type thing. I don’t know if I could be that passionate. The only thing I feel that way about is music. I come from a family of teachers, and that seems to be my natural inclination.
The Up Above professor emeritus at Cal State Long Beach?
Or teaching drums to kindergartners. (Chris Ziegler)
VISIT UP ABOVE AT WWW.UPABOVE.COM, OR UP ABOVE THE HOOTERS IN LONG BEACH.
Hugh Hewitt, Dick
In journalism, rewriting the same story earns you a browbeating from your editor, but look what that strategy earned Hugh Hewitt. For the past decade, the Irvine resident repeated his Categorical Imperative—the Los Angeles Timesis leftist—expanding it over the years to include the New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle and pretty much every daily paper in America except the Moonie-owned Washington Times and the Anschutz-financed Examiner tabloids—and saw his career explode. First came the slot on KCET-TV Channel 28’s Life and Times during the 1990s. Then followed the Hugh Hewitt Show on KRLA-AM 870, syndicated to more than 70 radio stations across the country. Recent profiles in the New Yorker and Newsweek. A guest appearance on The Colbert Report. Adoration from thousands of conservative bloggers. Book deals. Speaking engagements. A professorship at Chapman University. And, as of this year, the role of editor for Townhall.com, the Right’s Associated Press. Pretty good for a man who started as a ghostwriter for Richard Nixon, worked in the Reagan White House, then made national headlines as executive director of Nixon’s Library and Birthplace after he proposed banning Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward from the premises (even the Dick thought that was excessive and overruled his zealous underling). Hewitt doesn’t really even need to work anymore: all he needs to do is post a couple of comments on his widely read hughhewitt.com site, whine about the MSM (mainstream media to us normal folks) on his show, or interview a couple of Los Angeles Timespunching bags—that’s you, Joel Stein and Jonathan Chait—and a thousand blogs parrot their master’s voice, frequently linking to the very media Hewitt so maligns but depends on for his career like a remora depends on a shark. (Gustavo Arellano)
GRANT JOHNSON, SERVICE MANAGER, LAMBORGHINI ORANGE COUNTY
“You’re fine on this curve,” Lamborghini Orange County service manager Grant Johnson says as we fly down Edinger in a black 2005 Lamborghini Gallardo, not a car in front of us, me in third gear nearing the ton. “It can handle it.” He should know; this is his job, and he does it well. Not a hair moves in his dry pompadour as I futz around with a $300,000 car I don’t own. (“Do you have life insurance?” general manager Vik Keuylian asked me as we left the building. I’m not sure if he thinks we might crash—or if he’ll take care of me if we do.)
This is what his day feels like: it feels fast, even though I’m just sitting around. The exhaust note behind me is an unearthly howl, and I’m only loafing: halfway to redline on the tachometer, halfway through the transmission, which is shifted through paddle levers that sprout from the steering column just like on a Formula One car. Johnson, who took us sideways through a turn just moments ago—the hard downshifts kicking us in the tuchis, the massive Brembos on each corner just starting to lock—must be unruffled, but I don’t know. I’m not looking at him; I’m doing what you have to do in situations like these. I’m watching the road, which, like the gasoline in this beast, is disappearing at an alarming rate.
Like all Lamborghinis, this is not a car you drive to get somewhere. You drive it because you’ve arrived—somewhere—and now you wanna leave, real fast. Sometimes, as Flannery O’Connor once put it, “where you are isn’t any good unless you can get away from it.” You can do that, but quick, in anything Lamborghini makes, and everyone I meet at this dealership has the happy, floaty air of someone on an adrenalin rush: someone who, like me, has either just driven one of these Italian exotics or is about to.
“I own everybody’s Lamborghini,” Johnson brags as we ooze down the dealership driveway in the Gallardo—the first all-new Lambo the company has dropped since being bought by Audi in ’98. “We just got back from a driving trip up north. We went up Highway 1, doing maybe 100 miles a day on those twisty roads. Passing people, we were doing 100 miles an hour in some of those turns.” Jealous?
He’s had this job for nine years; like everyone here, he’s been hooked on exotics in general/Lamborghinis in particular since around the time the Countach—its road-going missile of the 1980s—came out.
“It’s a job,” Johnson says wanly as we get ready to blast down Edinger, stopping only for the railroad tracks, then reconsiders his position: getting a tan in the driver’s seat of one of the fastest cars in the world. “It’s one of those jobs,” he says, “where you get up every morning and you want to come to work.”
In a Lamborghini. (Theo Douglas)
Derrick Watkins, Gang Expert
On May 20, 2003, Derrick Watkins attended a triple-header classic-rock marathon at LA’s Staples Center featuring REO Speedwagon, Journey and Styx. After the show, Watkins carpooled back home to Orange County with several pals. As their SUV raced down the 91 freeway through Compton, Watkins got trigger-happy: he took out his police-issue handgun, aimed it out the window and started firing. Watkins was never charged with a crime.
Perhaps that’s because he was a Santa Ana gang unit officer and the only witnesses to the crime were his fellow passengers, who included two gang-unit prosecutors who worked alongside Watkins in an office at the Santa Ana Police Department. Ironically, the prosecutors had recently teamed up in an effort to send Gustavo Orejel, a young Santa Ana resident, to prison for life for the same thing Watkins did—allegedly shooting a gun in the air. The gun charges against Orejel were dropped, but he was later convicted of drug possession and sentenced to two years in jail.
After the Weekly exposed Watkins’ trigger-happy tendencies, perhaps because of his notoriety, Watkins left the Santa Ana police force. Don’t feel bad for the guy, though, because now he’s a man of letters and a traveling lecturer to boot. In May, Watkins published Gang Investigations: A Street Cop’s Guide.
The book is a how-to manual for police agencies who wish to create and run “successful anti-gang divisions” and offers “vital resources” including sample field interview cards as well as gang recognition and definition cards. Watkins is also hawking the book on numerous law-enforcement websites, including the California Gang Investigators Association. “Long before international terrorists threatened our borders, local gang members terrorized community streets,” the website states. “Today, street gangs continue to destroy neighborhoods and keep citizens held hostage in their homes.”
According to his author’s profile, Watkins “has conducted training for the California Department of Justice, the State Attorney General, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, and numerous local, state, and federal agencies across California and in several neighboring states” and “currently works as a private law enforcement consultant regarding the methods and attributes of criminal street gangs across the country.” As if that isn’t enough accomplishment for a man who celebrates his love for classic rock by popping caps on the freeway, rumor also has it that he’s applying for jobs teaching his crime-fighting skills at local community colleges in Orange County. Here’s to tenure. (Nick Schou)
Food stamp recipient
Poverty isn’t just a job or maybe the lack of a job—it’s an adventure! And a disease too! It’s all things to all people—particularly poor people, who have to be poor all the time, and who spend just as many days as non-poors waking up early and commuting to offices they hate where instead of paychecks they get food stamps, which come on an ATM-style card now, and going to case meetings and walking through metal detectors and carrying around paperwork and basically putting in a good part-time hourly tally into hovering somewhere between homeless and solvent. Your tax dollars ARE work!
OC Weekly:When did you first know you wanted to be poor?
Poor Person: After wasting so many hours a week at a job when I could be drinking, I knew that social services would pave the way to my liver with gold . . . schlager. Everyone told me that being poor wasn’t for me. They seemed to think I would be better doing something with my life.
What time do you have to get up and go start being poor?
Weekly meetings with my case worker are usually around 9 a.m. Same time as Rockford Files is on, so I’m usually late. Otherwise I tend to sleep until 10.
Do you get along well with the other poor people?
Very well. I always pride myself on knowing what it’s like to walk a mile in another’s shoes with a hole in the sole.
What’s the dress code like?
Being poor never takes a casual day. You can’t hop a freight in shorts and flip-flops! A great thing about being poor is no one expects much from you, and when you do the smallest thing they are super-proud. “You mailed that letter all by yourself? Good for you!” Back to dress code, though. You can definitely overdress. It’s a tough sell going to the food stamp office in your Sunday best. Nobody is buying that. Even the county officers don’t wear suits.
Do they think you are a rich person getting stamps for kicks?
Oh yeah, scams abound at stamp heaven.
What scams have you personally been accused of?
The frills of this interview blow. I haven’t even gotten a single bottle of Mad Dog.
Is it even legal for me to give a poor person a gift?
I refuse to answer that question on the grounds it may incriminate me. But it depends on the level of the gift receiver. At the bottom, anything is okay. But us borderline poors—a gift can send our stamp allotment plummeting.
The big IBM machine in the sky is always watching. They don’t want anyone that is doing fine on money to get stamps. That takes away from the needy. And they are right. Making $75 a week under the table is too much.
What is the most rewarding part of being poor?
Well, I must say it’s nice to have a county officer call me rich for having $4.73 in the bank. And it’s always wonderful to walk into a grocery store in my finest suit and be most outgoing to the cashier, only to present payment with stamps and get frowned on. That is wonderful. I know it’s because they’re jealous that they aren’t poor like me. (Chris Ziegler)