An Open Letter to Real Housewife Vicki Gunvalson About Her New, Dirty-Cop Boyfriend
Lodge, at right, with his best buddy, Democrat Jordan Brandman
Photo by Gabriel San Blogman
I gotta start off by saying I've never been a fan. Throughout your decade-long run on The Real Housewives of Orange County, you have continually come off as the mother hen from hell, relishing your role as the longest-lasting cast member to throw all sorts of shade on whatever new girl joins the show. You simply refuse to listen to others, as evidenced by last season's disaster that was you standing by your now-ex, Brooks Ayers, despite your daughter and friends telling you he wasn't what he seemed to be. And you hectoring that naked sushi model during Tamra and Eddie's party for their workout video, telling the poor girl to "put some clothes on and go to college" and that the model's mother "would not be proud of" her? Stick to fighting with Meghan Edmonds.
Nevertheless, I write to you as a mission of mercy. I must admit that I haven't been watching The Real Housewives of Orange County this season, namely because Southern Charm is so much better (do you think T-Rav and Landon did it? Sure seems like it!). But I recently learned about your love life after seeing you on the June 20th episode of Watch What Happens Live, and not in a pleasant way: As Andy brought up your "new, mysterious boyfriend Steve," a picture from my past flashed on the television that made me choke on my chile relleno burrito. Your new guy is none other than Anaheim city council candidate Steve Chavez Lodge, one of the worst political choices this year—and in this era of Trump, I don't say that lightly.
Girl: Run. Lodge is nothing but bad news, and everything wrong with the current election cycle—and I don't think you know anything about him. After seeing Watch What Happens Live, I Googled the two of your names together, and found glowing story after glowing story in the tabloids about how Lodge is a former paratrooper and retired police officer and consults for a public affairs group and how he's dreamy. I saw Instagram posts of you beaming with Lodge. But none of these stories had the background I'm about to tell you, the background the Weekly helped expose four years ago, the last time Lodge ran for Anaheim council—and the last time he should've shown his shit-eating grin in public life.
First, let's start with his name. Throughout most of his professional career, Steve went by the last name Lodge. That's how he was referred to in the various media stories about his career as a Santa Ana cop (more on that in a bit), and that's the only last name on the URL for his Facebook account—the 21st century's best window into someone's soul. Yet in 2012, Lodge decided to run for city council using his birth surname, Chavez. While he has every right to do so, the timing was the epitome of cynical: Anaheim was making international news at the time for a lawsuit that sought to create voting districts in an effort to get more Latino councilmembers, and everyone saw Lodge's newfound love for his Latino surname as the desperate Hispandering that it was. He's continuing that effort this year, having moved from ritzy Anaheim Hills to District 1 in West Anaheim. To put it in terms you can understand, Vicki, it's like moving from Coto de Caza to Lake Forest.
Lodge is a favored candidate of the cabal run by former mayor Curt Pringle that wants to make Anaheim into a vassal state of Disneyland, but I'm sure that doesn't bother you. Maybe this will: Lodge was a dirty cop. In 1993, SanTana (what you'd know as "Santa Ana" although you probably don't dare venture north of Javier's at the Irvine Spectrum)bar owner Elba Freeman sued the SanTana Police Department in federal court because she alleged that officers harassed her, her bar, and her patrons after Freeman filed a complaint against an officer. The cop in question? Lodge. Freeman said that in 1985, Lodge "pushed her and used foul language during a routine bar check," according to a Los Angeles Times account, which also noted Lodge "served a four-hour suspension for the incident."
Freeman ended up losing her case, along with an appeal to the U.S. Ninth District Court of Appeals. Lodge wasn't as lucky, however, with a case involving a jaywalking Iranian immigrant that made national headlines. In 1990, Hossein Farahani sued Lodge in U.S. federal court alleging police brutality. Farahani had jaywalked across Fourth Street in SanTana, much to Lodge's irritation. He turned on the siren; Farahani ran and tried to hide behind a wall. Lodge went after him; afterwards, Farahani was left with a ruptured disc and a baton wound that required eight stitches, a wound that Lodge's defense said just somehow got there and that his client had nothing to do with.
The federal jury didn't agree with Lodge, rewarding Farahani a whopping $612,000 settlement. "People laugh when I say for jaywalking they beat me up," Farahani told reporters after the verdict. "It's not funny. Everybody can be beaten by them. They are dangerous." Lodge and his attorney vowed to win on appeal, but that didn't happen—instead, they settled with Farahani for $292,000 and dropped the case.
That's not all your beau has done. Two other lawsuits were filed against Lodge in the 1990s alleging brutality (both were dismissed). And in 2003, Jimmy Plazola filed a million-dollar lawsuit in federal court alleging Lodge had him wrongfully imprisoned for over a year in a murder case. "Envisioning himself as a latter-day Eliot Ness," the complaint read, "Lodge was bent on re-opening 'cold cases' by arbitrarily charging Hispanic individuals as suspects, using every means within his power, including illegal means to extract bogus 'confessions,' manufacture evidence, and display a reckless disregard for proper investigation of exculpatory leads—all in an effort to obtain convictions, to make a name for himself as a triumphant investigator and solver of unsolved murder cases." Plazola's case went nowhere, and you probably don't care about the life of a working-class Mexican from SanTana who says of your Steve, "If he's able to ruin people like [Lodge did to Plazola], what's he going to do to people while in office?" But you should care—as Meghan would say—because, justice.
One thing I have admired about you, Vicki, is that you're a self-made woman due to your savvy in the insurance industry, so I'm sure you can appreciate it when I say that there's no premium that makes Lodge worthy of your hoo-ha. But since you don't listen to reason, let me try your daughter, Briana. Briana: I'm glad you're back in Orange County instead of the hellhole that is Oklahoma. You once treated my wife in the emergency room of a local hospital, and we saw then how humble, hard-working and good you are. You more than anyone know the horrible dating choices your mom commits, and Vicki says you are a fan of Lodge. Take it from me: He doesn't deserve your mom.
Back to Vicki: So can I get a good insurance rate from you for this letter? Lemme know, and screw Brooks!
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss OC Weekly's biggest stories. Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts