Follow the Bouncing Car

Orange County: the proud home of Gloria Matta Tuchman (bilingual education's Wicked Witch of the West), Barbara Coe ("Welcome to California: The Illegal Immigrant State" poster child), Lowrider magazine . . .

Huh? Has someone pulled his lowered Chevy to the levee, but the levee went dry?

Actually, like most everything else around here, it was business that drove Lowrider to Fullerton in January from its longtime home in Pomona. Magazine publisher McMullen Argus Publishing was already there when it bought Lowrider, the Hispanic and decidedly anti-conservative magazine built around the lowrider lifestyle. The mag was then promptly relocated across the street from the corporate HQ.

For McMullen Argus, the purchase was about market domination. "We deal a lot in automotive publications," said executive vice president Craig Knickerson. "We needed to round out the operation, and Lowrider was the fit we needed."

Ironically, Lowrider, which was born in East LA 22 years ago, is only now beginning to take off in Orange County, according to publisher Ricardo Gonzalez. "I've never seen much in the way of a lowrider culture here in Orange County," he said. "It's not until recently, when a lot of Hispanics moved from LA to here, that we've started to have a connection to cities like Santa Ana, La Habra and Fullerton."

The lowrider lifestyle dates back some 35 years to heavily Hispanic communities in East LA and Fresno. A lowrider—for those of you driving Oldsmobile Intrigues and Volkswagon Passats or who haven't heard the War song—refers to cars whose interiors and exteriors have been cherried out and whose chassis have been dropped to within a few inches of the asphalt.

Lowrider magazine began as a small tabloid circulated among friends. Gonzalez credits one thing for helping it rise out of the barrio and into a slick glossy that now keeps pace with such major auto magazines: eye-popping color photos of scantily clad women.

But it was gangbanging—not T&A—that was riding shotgun with Lowrider when Gonzalez first came aboard in the marketing department a decade ago. "A lot of that had to do with stereotypes," he said. "Being from East LA, I grew up with the lowrider lifestyle. I went before the former publishers and said: 'Wait a minute—I grew up there. And there isn't a goddamn gang member that, for one, could afford a lowrider, have the patience to build a lowrider, or, in most cases, have a job.' We really strive to make sure that Lowrider is perceived in a positive light."

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