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
The FUNancial Crisis!
A proposed new theme park celebrates the OC-based fiscal fantasies that brought the global economy to its knees
Long considered to be the post-card picture of American prosperity, Orange County has now become the post-card picture of something else: the excesses and pitfalls of American greed. The origins of the recent worldwide economic meltdown can be traced to OC’s innovations (subprime mortgages) and ideals (liberty from ethics in business). To celebrate OC’s unique role in fucking up world history, the Disney Corp. and the U.S. Government have unveiled a plan to level the city of Irvine and replace it with the next great Southern California amusement park: NO TOMORROWLAND.
It’s a family-friendly, fun-filled infotainment destination that doubles as a ghastly warning to anyone who wants to work, invest or live between Los Angeles and San Diego: Come here and lose your home! Once it’s built, that is. The funding is contingent on Lennar Corp. developing the entirety of the Great Park as luxury condos, as well as on the passage of 29 interdependent ballot initiatives scheduled for a special election at a date to be determined, but probably this summer. Probably.
* * *
($) Flashing lights and/or spectacular greed
(&) Not suitable for anyone with basic arithmetic skills
(H) Preys on your hopes and dreams
(OC) Only in Orange County
* * *
Don’t worry about what you’re getting into when you sign up for America’s most thrilling ride! The first gentle ups and downs on this aerial carousel are as attractive as the below-market teaser rates on an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage. Then, hold on tight as the ARMinator takes you up, up, up, up . . . up . . . up more . . . Jesus Christ, this is high. . . . The real fun comes as you calculate what’s riskier: sticking with this thing as it skyrockets, or bailing out mid-climb. (H)(&)
The Kool-Aid Fountain
Members of the Orange County Association of Realtors ladle liquid optimism down the gullets of thirsty consumers. Could these real-estate experts have predicted that housing prices would fall? Once you taste the patented punch of THC, saccharine and shredded cash that they all were drinking from 2002 to 2006, you’ll understand why no one wanted to “be a downer, maaan” and burst their collective bubbles by calling a bubble a bubble. (H)(&)
The Teetering Towers
A mysterious something caused two of America’s most notorious OC-based subprime lenders—Ameriquest and New Century Financial—to collapse. Their glittering headquarters have been re-created: Hop in a car shaped just like a cubicle of toxic capitalism, hand out jumbo loans to animatronic applicants whose credit scores barely exceed their shoe size, and brace yourself for the inevitable moment when the bottom drops out. (H)(OC)(&)
Gary Watts’ Fortune-Telling Tent
Mission Viejo-based Realtor Gary Watts was the go-to source for anyone who wanted to justify their impulse to buy-buy-buy real estate in the mid-2000s. He made headlines, packed lecture halls and sold CDs of his wisdom. Now you can see the world as he does. Peer into the crystal ball: Everything you ever wanted—spacious house, debt converted into cotton candy, Lauren Conrad on a plate—will appear to be yours! Pay no attention to the fact that the man behind the curtain, one of Orange County’s most influential prognosticators, defaulted on a home loan earlier this year. ($)(H)(OC)
Enter the state-of-the-art, antigravity dome, and suddenly your weight, like actual OC home values pre-2006, has no meaning! Even the slobbiest lardwad will rise upward over time—until the gravity returns without warning. Whee! (&)
It looks like a house, and it’s flammable like a house, but that’s no house: It’s a vessel to higher places! Jeff Lewis, the OC-born star of Bravo’s Flipping Out, will strap you to the wall of this mock-domicile and send you on a wild ride from low to high, right-side-up to upside-down,and back. If you can withstand the vertigo, whiplash and icky questions of morality, you might have what it takes to become like the infamous Soni family of Santa Ana: Making millions of dollars in a home-flipping racket, and then ending up in court! ($)(H)(OC)
Toxic Cleanup Funtime
When Secretary Timothy Geithner talks about “toxic assets” bringing down the country’s banks, he’s partly referring to the terrible mortgages written by some of OC’s best and brightest. And now that the government’s throwing money at the problem, OC’s best and brightest see those toxic assets as a new way to get rich! Newport Beach investment mega-firm PIMCO has agreed to help out the government’s bank-rescue plan by buying up crappy securities with heavy taxpayer assistance. At No Tomorrowland, you can put on a hazmat suit and join PIMCO president Bill Gross as he sifts through trash heaps, looking for gold. And if you don’t find anything that glitters, worry not: Federal agents are on hand to trade dollars for junk. ($)
* * *
If you think Orange County’s greatest corporate sin is somewhere in the housing market, consider the case of Irvine-based tech firm Broadcom. The hugely profitable microchip company revealed in 2007 that $2.24 billion of its earnings came from book-cookin’. And while CEO Henry Nicholas messed with his company’s bottom line, he was also allegedly doing lines off the nether regions of hookers. When the feds indicted him in 2008, he was in the process of building a sex cave under his Laguna Hills home—lovingly reproduced here for maximum hedonism! This one’s not for the kids. ($)
Mighty Fucked Rink
Strap on your skates and get your family into a flying-V formation: It’s time to take slapshots at Broadcom co-founder/criminal/Anaheim Ducks owner Henry Samueli! He lied to the Securites and Exchange Commission (SEC) about Broadcom’s fudged stock value; as part of his settlement with the government, he has agreed to play Goldberg and take one knucklepuck to the gut for every dollar he tried to swindle. That’s gotta hurt! (&)
Vrooooom! That’s the sound of the American dream gone bankrupt. Daniel Sadek emigrated to America from Lebanon as a child, quit school after the third grade and ended up a Fletcher Jones Motorcars salesman. Then he started up QuickLoan, a subprime-lending company seeded with money he made on Vegas blackjack tables. He accumulated a fleet of sports cars and bankrolled his own awful The Fast and the Furious rip-off, Redline. And now he’s broke, sued and under investigation for issuing dirty loans. You can drive his cars, though! ($)(&)
The St. Egregious
Less than a week after receiving an $85 billion bailout from the U.S. Government in late 2008, AIG employees were wining and dining up a $443,344 tab at Dana Point’s St. Regis Monarch Beach resort. All the best features of the palatial hotel have been imported here. Nude cherub statues, cucumber sandwiches and eager-to-please masseuses provide an opportunity for visitors to take a load off, funded by their own tax dollars. ($)(OC)
* * *
The Mausoleum of Freedom
Orange County is nothing if not principled. To memorialize their dead ideas, the county’s most righteous champions of laissez-faire get-what’s-mine-ism stand as animatronic guardians in the Mausoleum of Freedom. Among the patriots are . . .
Chris Cox, ex-Newport congressman and chairman of the SEC during its period of benign neglect toward Bernie Madoff, risky mortgage securitizaton and predatory lenders.
R.C. Hoiles, the libertarian visionary who founded The Orange County Register and exemplifies OC's ideological core. He once said he preferred whorehouses to public schools.
Charles Keating, the man who caused the great financial crisis before this one: The Savings and Loans debacle of the late 1980s. His Newport-based Lincoln Savings group was the proto-AIG, pushing the economy to near-collapse and triggering massive government bailouts.
Robert Citron, the Orange County treasurer who caused the county to go bankrupt in 1994. He was vilified at the time, but his sin is an Orange County virtue: betting the house—or the municipality—with the same prudence as you would a $10 bill you found on the street.
And while scoping out OC’s champions of liberty, don’t forget to ride . . .
The Invisible Hand
The free market is a rational creature, whose ups and downs can’t always be understood by mere mortals—but should always be feared by them. This roller coaster has been constructed to simulate the turbulent, righteous forces of unregulated capitalism. Caveat emptor to all who ride: Did you honestly expect this thing to come with seat belts? What are you, some kind of socialist? (OC)