Scores of people have worked at OC Weekly during the past two decades, and while a few have stayed, the majority have moved on to other journalism-related jobs or left for the much-better-paying (if soul-killing) realms of public relations and marketing. A few have left the communications industry altogether and are today raising children or otherwise making a living. But they all remain Weeklings, in body and spirit.
Sadly, some are only with us in spirit. Here, we give shoutouts to five former Weeklings who were taken far too young, but whose memory lives on.
VU NGUYEN was an intern from 1999 to 2001. His essay "Why I Hate Ho Chi Minh" is used in Asian-American college courses nationwide. R. Scott Moxley: The great thing about Vu was he was very young and raw, but he had that great skill that all good news guys have to have, this curiosity and willingness to dig right in from the outset. I remember his eagerness. You see some people come in and are very tentative, don't want to be too bold or whatever. But he wasn't that way. He had an innate reporter's sense to him. And it was crushing when he passed away. Will Swaim: I think he was still an undergrad when he was working with us. He was a really ambitious and aggressive guy in the best sense of the word. Gustavo Arellano: He was only here a short time, but he made his mark. You stay at a paper for years, but no one remembers what stories you did. On the other hand, you can write just a couple and people still talk about them years later. Vu's "Why I Hate Ho Chi Minh" is one of them. It was amazing.
BUDDY SEIGAL was a contributor and music editor from 1999 to 2006. His musical claim to fame was playing in the legendary band the Beat Farmers, led by Country Dick Montana. Steve Lowery: He was awesome and straightforward and had the sweetest way of threatening you. He would just kind of look at you, stare you down. He was that kind of guy who you knew had seen a lot more than you've even seen. And as much as you might pose as if you were a rock star, he really was. So he wasn't impressed. Dave Wielenga: That dude knew music from the inside, and [there were] many ways he would let you see what it was like being a musician, on-the-road and behind-the-scenes stuff. And it was like when you watch those shows about comedians: They're funny onstage, but when you see behind the scenes, it's kind of grungy and a little distasteful. And Buddy gave you an inside view of that. Sometimes you'd think, "Man, I'm glad I didn't have to be in a band with that dude." But it was also such a valuable perspective. He was a growly guy with a heart of gold, and he was so glad when I started because I was older than most of the rest of the staff. Rebecca Schoenkopf: He was big and stout, and he was gruff, and he always had this sort of mean look on his face. But he was really nice to everybody, even the idiot kids.
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MIKE MENZA was the Weekly's first circulation director. Michael Sigman: He was the longstanding circulation director for LA Weekly, and his task was to go down there and hire people who knew the streets of OC and supervise them from a distance. And he really did an amazing job. It's an obviously big area, so to try to cover it with 60,000 to 70,000 papers is really a risk. Swaim: He was a genius at figuring out these important questions, such as where you put a rack, how do you know people will pick it up, who is picking it up. He and Sigman were amazing at figuring that stuff out.
MARK KOCHEL came to the Weekly from the Sacramento News and Review to head ad sales. His two years at the paper saw record-breaking profits. Arellano: The paper was at its fattest under Mark. He was a guy who knew how to make sales. Heather Swaim: I loved Mark, and I think he was good for the paper. He liked to have fun.
ANDREW YOUSSEF was a photojournalist diagnosed with colon cancer in 2011. He blogged regularly about his battle with the disease on the Weekly's Heard Mentality blog with a column titled Last Shot. That battle ended Nov. 30, 2013. Rolling Stone mentioned his passing, which was one month after his favorite band, Nine Inch Nails, gave a shoutout to him onstage before their encore of "In This Twilight," during a show in Las Vegas that he was too ill to attend. Music editor Nate Jackson wrote an eloquent cover story on Youssef in October 2013.
Nate Jackson [from the article]: Whether you discovered Youssef through his column, sweated it out with him on the front lines of Coachella, or are seeing his face for the first time on the cover of this newspaper, there's no doubt he has shown people what that kind of strength is all about. He reminds us that Superman is often the guy you least expect—the guy who spends his life in the trenches. Though not long for this world, he's prepared to leave it exactly the way he should—at peace, hurtling towards the clouds, a mortal looking down on the world through the lens of a god, flying high.