Gustavo Arellano is editor of OC Weekly and author of the ¡Ask a Mexican! column. He once applied for a job at the Orange County Register—best non-hire ever.
This saw OC Weekly when we debuted in 1995: the master-planned communities, the suburban land rolling westward wave by dense wave from the foothills, seemingly boring then, teeming with conservatives and MILFs about the Balboa Bay Club and the beaches whose water in time would become poo-filled—the wild men, too, the activists and the Costa Mesa 500, who had to be a little wild also to endure and survive and so mark the wilderness with the proofs of their tough survival: defeating Bob Dornan, Memphis Cafe, SanTana and Little Saigon. Orange County: the dark and vapid ground.
Sorry, William Faulkner: I just had to imitate the intro to your legendary 1955 Sports Illustrated essay about the Kentucky Derby because it perfectly encapsulates the essence of this paper: bombastic. Swaggering. Always swinging for the fences and connecting, whether by Ruthian slam or Bad News Bears hilarity. Arcane. Historical. And simply brilliant.
This is OC Weekly, the paper Orange County has loved to hate to love for 20 years. I don't write that to whine or complain, but rather to be proud: From its inception to today, it has been a publication the county has never stopped reading, waiting every week (and, in this Internet age, every minute) to see what politician we ruined, what saint we helped, what trend we discovered, what douchebag to despise—in short, to learn more about this crazy, horrible, beautiful land of ours.
Simply put: The Weekly is one of OC's crowning achievements, simultaneously documenting and creating social and cultural movements that changed the county forever and for the better. Almost all of the stories of consequence in Orange County over the past two decades—No Doubt, Kelly Thomas, immigration, hate groups, Haidl Three, Mike Carona, Arrested Development, Burger Records, all of them—appeared in our pages first or had their definitive coverage here. We've been the best sledgehammer against the old OC, the nasty OC of retrograde Republicans, neo-Nazis, Don Bren and Mission Viejo. We've been the biggest cheerleader for this area's pariahs: the undocumented, the wrongfully jailed, the holes-in-the-wall, the unappreciated artists and the hidden treasures. We did what the nation—and even locals—thought impossible: bring an alt-weekly to Orange County and not only make it succeed, but also make it essential.
And to celebrate this momentous anniversary, we're going with another Faulkner maxim—that of the past having not even past. Not only will you find in this issue a massive oral history of the Weekly (for which theater critic Joel Beers interviewed more than 80 Weeklings, past and present), not only will you see covers that haven't existed online until now, but we've also brought back all of our most popular columnists for one more hurrah.
You'll read an essay by founding editor Will Swaim, admitting the Weekly was his (and our) way of bringing legitimacy to the county. Commie Girl—yes, Commie Girl!—returns to fill us in on her life in Montana running a national political website and being a new mommy. Steve Lowery takes a break from the snark of his Diary of a Mad County to stress the importance of niceness to the paper's philosophy—hard to believe when we're trolling Angels fans and metalheads, but absolutely true. Matt Coker digs into his Clockwork Orange archives to unearth his 20 favorite blurbs. You'll find Savage Love in our back pages, with a special note of congrats from Dan Savage himself. Even Rose Apodaca—our first popular columnist, with her La Vie en Rose—is back. But, sorry, fans of Lost In OC: Jim Washburn declined to write anything for us, citing a book project. Fun!
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
And, hey, let's end this intro with one more Faulkner quote, from his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1950. In it, the novelist talked about writing in what then seemed like the end times. The Cold War was raging; we were fighting in Korea. The world was just years removed from the horrors of Hiroshima. Today, we stand on our precipice of doom: the drought, ISIS, economic inequality, a feckless DA. Even more ominously for us, the Weekly has spent this year on the auction block, wondering what our future holds.
No time to fret, though: There's a county to cover. And I take solace knowing that all of us, from the founders to today's gang of misfits, have done OC good, which leads me to Faulkner's Nobel conclusion: "The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail."
OC Weekly: the beautiful and infernal rag. Enjoy the issue, cabrones!