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Best Celebrity Orange County 2008 - Rick Warren

Following the death of actor John Wayne, OC's biggest celebrities have tended to be political nut cases such as Fullerton Congressman William Edwin Dannemeyer, who once graphically described sex acts during an anti-gay tirade in the House of Representatives. For a time, our big celebrity was the Crystal Cathedral's Robert H. Schuller. But his image unraveled after a puzzling tiff with a male airline steward and revelations of a personal association with an unabashed neo-Nazi. Next came MTV's Laguna Beach star Lauren Conrad, who proved to the nation that Legally Blonde was hardly fictional. Our latest celebrity is the folksy Rick Warren, best-selling author and 54-year-old pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest. If OC religious history is steeped in right-wing bigotry, Warren's writing a chapter that's more cosmopolitan, less fire-and-brimstone. He's bucked other televangelists by advocating heightened, compassionate assistance to HIV/AIDS patients and befriending—heaven forfend—some Democratic politicians. Except for Don Bren, reclusive gazillionaire owner of the Irvine Co., who else in OC could call a meeting and have both Barack Obama and John McCain show up?

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