It could have had the Norton Simon Museum. It still might get the Leo Fender Museum. Fullerton may be smack-dab in the center of conservative North Orange County, but it has a progressive independent newspaper (Fullerton Observer), a real-life barrio, and enough potheads in town to . . . to . . . what?
Hillcrest Park. Located east of Harbor Boulevard and just north of Union, this park is well-known for its overgrown shrubbery and same-sex antics. Be careful: cops are everywhere. Our friend Mike swears he went jogging through the park late at night and encountered at least five naked men. (Note to Mike: What are you doing jogging in Hillcrest at night?) The Fullerton Museum Center. It's on the small side, but it has a wide range of exhibits, from Mad Magazine and mandalas to bebop and hi-fi photography. The current exhibit is "Inventing Paradise: The Hawaiian Image and Popular Culture," which runs through Dec. 31. General admission is a mere $4. 301 N. Pomona Ave., (714) 738-6545.
Vanguard Theatre Ensemble. The Vanguard is in the vanguard of the county's storefront theaters. This season—its 10th—it offered everything from Arthur Miller to Steve Martin. Twice per season, it produces plays on the much bigger stage at the Brea Curtis Theatre. 699-A S. State College Blvd., (714) 526-8007.Stages. Stages produces more work than any other one-stage theater in the county. Recently reorganized and renovated, complete with a gallery space where local artists can hang their paintings and such. 400 E. Commonwealth Ave., (714) 525-4484.Fullerton Civic Light Opera. A professional company in its 29th year of live musical performances. Currently offering Frank Wildhorn's bloody, sexed-up musical Jekyll and Hyde through Oct. 28. Plummer Auditorium, 201 E. Chapman Ave., (714) 879-1732.
Steamers. Quite possibly the best jazz club in Orange County; without a doubt the best in North County. They play straight-ahead jazz at Steamers, none of that New Agey, Wavey, Kenny G crap. You're close to the musicians, who, while not Wynton Marsalis, are solid local and national players. Good up-and-comers play here, too. 138 W. Commonwealth Ave., (714) 871-8800.Stubrik's Steakhouse. This place offers a range of blues and roots-rock most nights of the week. Wednesday is Irish night, which features a solid rotation of Irish-influenced musical acts. 118 E. Commonwealth Ave., (714) 871-1290.
The Back Alley Bar and Grill. Offers a mix of local bands ranging from rock and punk to reggae and jazz. Sometimes bigger acts settle down for surprise shows. Ever hear of Lit? They played an unannounced show here a few weeks ago. 116 1⁄2 W. Wilshire Ave., (714) 526-3032.
The Hub Caf. This is the most tightly packed coffeehouse in Fullerton, and most nights of the week, someone is doing something on its intimate outdoor stage. We've got a soft spot for King Kukulele, the Tom-Lehrer-meets-Don-Ho dude who plays every other Wednesday night. The owners of the Hub also own the cool 1980s-style arcade next door and are applying the finishing touches to a martini lounge that is expected to open across Harbor Boulevard in a couple of months. 124 E. Commonwealth Ave., (714) 871-2233.
FULLERTON NEEDS IMPROVEMENT
The Fox Fullerton Theatre. The building is still here, but no one—not the city, which says it wants to keep the architectural integrity intact; not the owner, who wants to bulldoze it; not the townsfolk, who clamor to get something, anything, done—has any idea when, where or how this building will ever be refurbished and reopened. Today it's a stately, if sad, reminder of what used to be: a grand movie house to which early Hollywood stars repaired for a night away from the really big lights. What ultimately happens is anybody's guess, but it will never again be the movie palace built in an Italian Renaissance style, circa 1925. In its last days, we got drunk on tequila while watching Platoon and saw a guy get jacked during Angel Heart. 510 N. Harbor Blvd.Sheep. And then there are the sheep, about 20 full-size replicas posing as artistic statements, cluttering the street corners, patios and windows of downtown Fullerton. It's got something to do with something called Bastanchury Days, a festival saluting old-time Fullerton. Somehow, somebody decided that sheep represent Fullerton—like fish represent New Orleans and cows represent Chicago and Yorkshire terriers represent Newport Beach. Maybe it seemed like a good idea after the fourth martini, but these things are hideous. The sooner they're sent to the fiberglass slaughterhouse, the better.
Self-Realization Fellowship. Meditation times, yoga-posturing classes, spiritual counseling, spiritualizing grief group, Bhagavad-Gita study groups, picnics in Hillcrest Park—oh, sounds like just what we need. Every Saturday in June from 7 to 10 p.m. is a meditation time, which begins with recharging exercises from 7 to 7:20 p.m. 142 E. Chapman Ave., (714) 525-1291.
Fullerton Observer. Founded in the 1970s by a group of slow-growth activists, the Fullerton Observer has since been a progressive voice in county journalism. When founder Ralph Kennedy passed two years ago, the future of his paper looked limited. But led by his daughter, Sharon Kennedy, the Observer, a free paper distributed every two weeks, has remained true to its founder's intentions. The paper is currently waging a valiant crusade to get to the truth behind ground contamination near some of Fullerton's industrial corporations. Few people in government—or the mainstream media—seem overly concerned about the issue, but if kids start dying of cancer, you won't be able to blame the Observer.
Taqueria De Anda. The best and, perhaps thankfully, only place to feast on cow tongue and brain around the clock in Fullerton. Tacos are cheap and greasy and good. Burritos aren't bad either. Try the horchata, and you can almost forgive yourself the next morning when you walk out to your car and discover chopped onions festooning your seats and the smell of seared flesh and cilantro filling your nostrils. 308 W. Valencia Dr., (714) 871-4211.El Camino Real Mexican Food. The lines can be incredibly long if you show up at the wrong time of the day, but that just means anyone who is anybody knows this is the best place to get authentic Mexican grub west of Placentia, south of La Habra and north of Santa Ana. Our favorites are the chicken tacos, but our pal, Slim, swears by the beef tongue and the guts. 303 N. Euclid Ave., (714) 447-3962.The Olde Ship British Pub and Restaurant. Looks, smells and tastes like an English pub. The fish and chips are great, the beer selection is vast, and the local British nationals who hang out there like to get really, really pissed. Drunk, that is. 709 N. Harbor Blvd., (714) 871-7447. The Cellar. Lots of people love to talk about how this French restaurant is one of the best restaurants in the county. It's certainly got the great ambiance and the wine list. We took our girlfriend there once for a Valentine's Day dinner, blew $200 bucks, and got dumped a week later. Fuck the Cellar. 305 N. Harbor Blvd., (714) 525-5682.
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