Diary of a mad county

SUNDAY, Sept. 22 Today is the Fall Equinox, one of the two times each year the sun crosses the equator. Legend has it that spectral activities—i.e. weird shit—pick up beginning today. Which explains the freak show on the streets of sleepy Aliso Viejo. At 3:22 p.m., Sheriff's deputies receive a report of a crazy man cursing at people waiting at a bus stop in the 24200 block of Calle de Los Caballeros. About an hour later, an old ladywaddles in and out of fast-moving traffic between Alicia and Moulton parkways, trying to get into cars as they stop at red lights. Witnesses say she nearly gets clipped several times. At 5:55 p.m., a checker-shirted, liquored-up fellow steps into lanes near Los Alisos Boulevard and Woodcreek Drive and flashes motorists. According to Russian mythology, equinoxes are the days that the fight between God of Light Belobog and God of Darkness Chernobog turn around. When day becomes longer, Belobog wins. Days shorten when Chernobog is the victor. Think of Aliso Viejo's loons as Chernobog cheerleaders.

MONDAY, Sept. 23 Lissen up, pilgrim: a filthy rich couple are razing the only Newport Beach home once owned by a bona fide American icon, John Wayne. The Orange County Register reports today that Robert and Beverly Cohen, who own the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, plan to demolish the Duke's single-story, ranch-style waterfront home and replace it with a two-story, 12,437-square-foot mansion. Which means tour-boat captains have lost the high point of their Newport Harbor cruises. After all, announcing, "To my right is the house that was built over the house that was once owned by John Wayne" just doesn't have the same ring to it. Of course, by that point in the tour, passengers are so boozed-up they won't notice.

TUESDAY, Sept. 24 Today, 62-year-old Richard Van Pham returns to his Long Beach home from an apparently harrowing trip that began several months ago when he set off in his 26-foot sailboat bound for Catalina, encountered a storm that broke the mast, was set adrift, floated 2,500 miles off course, and survived on roasted sea birds and rainwater collected in a bucket until being picked up by a U.S. warship 275 miles southwest of Costa Rica. Pham becomes an instant media sensation like that American Idol chicklet. Not to piss on anyone's Good Morning, America parade, but by this waterproof chronometer with built-in compass' calculations, Pham would have set sail in late June. Does anyone recall a storm in late June off our coast? One that was strong enough—in the middle of summer—to break a mast and render an emergency radio inoperable? Wouldn't such a keen, gull-slurping survivalist keep his craft within sight of land? While we doubt, the Los Angeles Times unveils Pham's rap sheet, which includes arrests for violent offenses the seaman alleges to have forgotten due to a bout of amnesia 10 years ago. Don't write this movie-of-the-week's ending just yet.


WEDNESDAY, Sept. 25 Getting peeved with reporters' pointed questions at the Governor's Conference for Women in Long Beach, Governor Gray "Pay for Play" Davis defends his brand of fund-raising, which involves changing positions on issues following the contribution of huge wads of campaign cash. His defense: it ain't illegal. Davis' squishiness has resulted in strong negative ratings from voters, kept his once-dead Republican challenger Bill Simon in the race, and drawn demands for a federal attorney general's office investigation by Republican Secretary of State Bill Jones. You'll recall that Jones' fellow GOP stalwart Dick Ackerman, the Fullerton assemblyman about to lose badly in his race for California attorney general, previously called on that office to probe Davis' fund-raising. Of course, after the kid-glove treatment state AG Bill Lockyer (a Democrat) just gave Orange County's equally squishy District Attorney Tony "Baloney" Rackauckas(a Republican), one wonders why Ackerman bothers.

Pressler: Bringing customer
dissatisfaction to the Gap

THURSDAY, Sept. 26 Paul Pressler, chairman of Disney's theme park and resorts division, is named the new president and CEO of Gap Inc. Disneyphiles so loathed Pressler when he was president of Disneyland that they mounted a campaign to get him promoted. Disney ultimately did just that, but unfortunately for his critics, it was to a position overseeing all Big D theme parks. Some find him a strange choice for a retail chain, but Pressler actually came to Disneyland from the Disney Stores division. Since Disney Stores and the Gap routinely draw the ire of anti-sweatshop activists, Pressler is a perfect fit. Business wags surmise he's leaving Disney after failing to take over the throne of embattled CEO Michael Eisner, who (some of these same wags suggest) is "dealt a blow" by Pressler's departure. That's odd considering that under Pressler, Disneyland hit its lowest point in terms of customer satisfaction, park safety became a national issue due to highly publicized accidents (including the first fatality blamed on a park employee), and the hugely disappointing California Adventure opened. Hell, if business writers check their own clips, they'll discover theme parks is one of Disney's poorest performing divisions, contributing to Eisner's difficulties. Did anyone bother to check the back of Pressler's freshly pressed trousers for loafer marks as he left the Mouse House?

One thing Pressler does get high marks for: he's the first Disney executive to get behind the Anaheim Angels, who today—finally, after four straight losses—clinch their first playoff berth since 1986 thanks to a 10-5 victory over the Texas Rangers. Now they're facing those Damn Yankees. Still, after such an unbelievable season (kicked off with their worst 20-game start ever), no one's going to write them off. Mike Scioscia is a solid contender for manager of the year, and a team that not long ago was on the brink of contraction is actually the subject of a bidding war among billionaires. Curse this!

FRIDAY, Sept. 27 Gray Davisstops counting his campaign loot long enough to sign a bill by Assemblyman Lou Correa(D-Anaheim) that guarantees lifetime benefits to cops, firefighters and their families if any of them suffers an injury, illness or death after the peace officer or firefighter is exposed to biochemicals on the job. Such exposure now joins a host of other maladies—including heart attacks—in the automatic job-related, full-coverage category. Neat. Now Correa should whip up something similar for all those workers at industrial plants or nuclear-generating stations who are stricken with cancer and other diseases but must fight often-losing battles with their corporate owners and insurers for benefits (see Nick Schou's "Anti-Nuclear War," July 27, 2001). Then Correa can move on to all those residents who live near the industrial plants spewing harmful toxins who . . . well, you get the idea.

SATURDAY, Sept. 28 The Times reports that Carlos Peralta of Mexico is among the billionaires bidding for the Angels. Which means with our luck—or the Angels' curse—they'll be relocated south of the border in the dead of night in the Rams' old moving vans. At least the tickets, beer and post-game hookers will be cheaper. Goodbye, Rally Monkey; hello, donkey shows!

SUNDAY, Sept. 29 Proof there may be a god: the St. Louis-by-way-of-Anaheim Ramslose the game and their MVP quarterback, Kurt Warner. They fall to 0-4, which means the fat lady is warming up—and she ain't Georgia Frontiere.


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