Please bear with us. We’re still getting used to these heels as we sashay to Urge Overkill’s version of “Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon.” Hey, call us traditionalists, but that first dance is a big deal! As this paper (yes, now metaphorically crowned as a 15-year-old Latina, at least for a week) twirls into the second half of its second decade, we’d like to take a moment to thank all of the guests at this fiesta: The schemers, dreamers, scumbags, visionaries and lunatics who have made telling this county’s tale such a wild ride. There are too many of them to count, so we’ve grouped them into 15 archetypes—recurring themes of the kinds of characters who populate the other Orange County, the one you’ll only read about right here.
1 | CROOKED POLITICIANS
It’s not so much that Orange County breeds crooked politicians, although it does in certain cities—such as Huntington Beach, where our exclusive reporting set the stage for the arrests and convictions of two mayors, Pam Houchen and Dave Garofalo. The county is much better at producing sleazy, holier-than-thou elected hypocrites. From the initial days of the paper, there was Garden Grove’s Robert K. Dornan, who was narrowly defeated by Loretta Sanchez two weeks after our national-award-winning exposé, all the way to Yorba Linda’s Mike Duvall, the Christian conservative assemblyman who resigned last year immediately after we broke news about his unintended confession to sexual exploits with a power-company lobbyist. In the years between those two characters, there was also Sheriff Brad Gates, who—despite an average annual public salary of less than $80,000 during the two decades he served as the county’s top cop—somehow managed to accumulate personal assets worth millions of dollars. One politician who has avoided indictment is Irvine Democratic boss Larry Agran, even though we produced evidence the pompous councilman has fragrantly violated California campaign-finance laws to remain in power and, thus, in control of billions in public funds.
2 | INNOCENT INMATES
The one thing more rewarding than sending corrupt public officials to prison is getting innocent people out, though the consequences of doing so aren’t always what one would hope for. Take the case of DeWayne McKinney, an African-American convicted in a 1980 robbery/murder at a Burger King in Orange. After he spent two decades behind bars, the Weekly and other papers began highlighting the weak case against him, and McKinney won his freedom. With cash from his legal settlement, he moved to Hawaii, where he perished in a 2008 moped accident. A similar fate took the life of Arthur Carmona, who was convicted in 1998 of a robbery he didn’t commit and spent two years in prison before being released, in part thanks to coverage by the Los Angeles Times’ Dana Parsons and the Weekly’s Bob Emmers. Carmona died two years ago in a hit-and-run accident. More lucky was Joshua “Big J-Mo” Moore, who was sentenced to 10 years behind bars for a Fullerton robbery before Nick Schou wrote several stories highlighting his case and the DA’s office finally found evidence it had all along that proved he didn’t commit the crime and let him out of prison eight years early. Not to be outdone, R. Scott Moxley has over the years profiled bogus charges against innocent people, including Shantae Molina, who was charged with shooting her own baby in a tragic accident, but found innocent by a jury of her peers, and James Ochoa, who spent 16 months behind bars for a robbery he didn’t commit before he was set free, in the wake of a series of articles exposing the twisted tactics of Buena Park cops who essentially framed him for the crime.
3 | DIRTY COPS
Dirty cops hate the Weekly because we’ve thoroughly chronicled their misdeeds. Following dozens of our critical reports, the greedy top Orange County Sheriff’s Department command structure—Sheriff Mike Carona as well as assistant sheriffs George Jaramillo and Don Haidl—was arrested by the FBI and convicted on various corruption-related charges. Not all the dirtbags had a chance to rise to the top before they were exposed. Mark Wersching, a Huntington Beach cop, shot and killed an unarmed man, stole fireworks, crashed his car on the beach while drunk, and participated in numerous beer-soaked fights with civilians. California Highway Patrol (CHP) lieutenant Stephen Robert Deck attempted to screw a 12-year-old Laguna Beach girl who was actually an undercover police decoy—and cried like a little girl himself when arrested. We’re not sure how many speeding tickets CHP officer Joshua Blackburn doled out, but we know he stole more than $1 million worth of cocaine from an evidence locker. Irvine cop David Alex Park tailed a female motorist out of his jurisdiction one night, pulled her over and ejaculated on her rather than giving a ticket. Omar Patel of the Garden Grove P.D. called the gang unit to harass a Latino family after starting a fistfight with a man he assumed was a gangster but who was actually an off-duty prison guard. Anaheim’s Bradley Stewart Wagner liked to kidnap illegal immigrants and violently rape them in the back of his patrol car, believing they would remain silent. In response to a minor fender-bender, Westminster’s Charles Shinn III shot a Vietnamese-American in the shoulder, causing the panicked man to flee a brief distance before Shinn claims he “accidentally” crushed the man to death against a tree with his patrol car.
4 | PEDOPHILE PRIESTS
About 235 years ago, Franciscan priests founded Mission San Juan Capistrano and quickly subjugated the region’s native populations. The Catholic hierarchy in Orange County hasn’t stopped raping and spinning that rape in its favor since, culminating with a decades-long sex-abuse scandal, about which details continue to emerge. While other newspapers covered the bigger stories in the arc, only the Weekly has obsessively chronicled every misstep in the crisis by Diocese of Orange Bishop Tod D. Brown. We were the paper that first reported on Brown hiring a $500,000 PR agency to spin its pedophile-priest cover-ups and broke that Brown himself had a molestation allegation lodged against him that he never disclosed, despite promising an era of transparency. We’ve dug through archives to discover Brown’s pedophile-protecting while serving in the Diocese of Boise, as well as internal memos by his flunkies on how to withhold information from the media. We even wrote a real-estate guide to the luxurious homes Brown puts up his priests in. Meanwhile, the Orange diocese continues to shut down schools in Latino parishes and moves forward on an expensive-ass new cathedral. Heckuva job, Brownie!
5 | CRAZY FUCKERS
If unending self-absorption is the essence of insanity, then we should have institutionalized Broadcom CEO and multibillionaire Henry Nicholas when reporter Dave Wielenga met with him in 2004. Nicholas—he asked to be called “Nick”—spoke and spoke and spoke until Wielenga’s eyes glazed over, at which point, Wielenga wrote, “the glaze dried into a crust that baked my eyeballs into jelly-filled cookies.” Of course, back then, we didn’t know that the “addition” to Nicholas’s home would soon be known as the “alleged sex dungeon.” The federal allegations of insider trading, an insatiable hunger for hookers and a penchant for hot-boxing his airplanes with pot smoke would come later—and then be dismissed. However, if, as they say, insanity is the repetition of one behavior with the expectation of different results, we’ve dealt with a few additional certified whackos over the years. Such as Orly Taitz, the dentist who thinks President Barack Obama is actually a foreigner and who persists—despite dismissals, fines and ridicule—in filing conspiracy-theory-driven lawsuits against him. Or Marie Kolanski, the militantly anti-government leader of the grandmotherly knitting co-op known as the Piecemakers, who has repeatedly harassed, threatened and defied county pencil-pushers, once even landing herself in jail. Or Steve Rocco, the ketchup-snatching Andy Kaufman devotee and ex-Orange Unified School District board member. He has won one election, has lost a bunch more, and was convicted of stealing a ketchup bottle, but he’ll never truly go away—and we can’t say we’d want him to, though the Partnership certainly does.
6 | HILARIOUS HATERS
Orange County has hosted some of the nastiest, craziest racists in the United States since its incorporation—one of the legislators who helped pass the bill that spun off OC from Los Angeles County was Henry W. Head, who not only was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, but also served directly under Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest during the Civil War. His is just one of the many tales we’ve broken on our local bigots. Whether it was skinhead gangs such as PEN1 and the Nazi Lowrider Gang, anti-Semites such as the Chicano website La Voz de Aztlán and the Institute for Historical Review, anti-immigrant crazies such as the Minuteman Project and the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, self-hating Mexicans and even Armenian genocide deniers, the Weekly has loved them all, thrown more than a few in jail, and—in perhaps our proudest racialist moment—chilled the local white-power music scene for years with Rich Kane’s 2001 “Springboard for Hitler,” which revealed how mainstream rock club the Shack began hosting neo-Nazi concerts. The Shack is now a Mexican nightclub, which proves that God not only has a sense of humor, but also endorses the Reconquista.
7 | UNSUNG HEROES
Just because you live here doesn’t mean you have to be an asshole. Over the years, we’ve celebrated some truly outstanding individuals who have helped remind the world there’s a kinder, gentler side to Orange County politics. One of our favorite people, of course, is Tim Carpenter, who helped organize the nuclear-freeze movement here before going on to help found the Orange County Interfaith Peace Ministry and the local chapter of Families Against Three Strikes. We’ve admired the work of environmentalists such as anti-toll-road crusader Tom Rogers (a Republican, no less) and Joey Racano (who never met a wetland—or a crow—he didn’t love) and showered praise on homeless advocates Dwight Smith (of OC’s Catholic Worker) and Randy Beckx (of Santa Ana’s finest). More recent shout-outs have gone to Joelle Casteix, who helped expose pedophile priests, and Dr. Michael Fitzgibbons, who risked his job—and nearly his freedom—to fight private-sector corruption that could have closed the doors on some of Orange County’s busiest hospitals.
8 | FREAKIN’ GENIUSES
“If it wasn’t for OC, your scene wouldn’t be alive.” That’s what the Adolescents sneered correctly about punk, but, of course, those snotty geniuses could have been sneering about a lot more. Without OC, you wouldn’t have the brilliant, bizarre latter days of sci-fi iconoclast author Philip K. Dick, who holed up in Fullerton and Santa Ana in the 1970s and, as Chris Ziegler exhaustively detailed in 2005, saw God. You wouldn’t have Sandow Birk wracking up critical acclaim for his paintings while shocking and awing and depicting Muhammad as an angry cab driver for his interpretation of Dante’s Inferno. After all, suburbia isn’t a bad place from which to launch plans of world cultural domination. Irvine gave us Zack De La Rocha’s civilization-razing Rage Against the Machine, who, Hobey Echlin wrote in 2007, resemble God because if they “didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent them.” Westminster fostered the globe-trotting ambition of Vietnamese music studio Thuy Nga, producers of the iconic variety-show spectacle Paris By Night. And Costa Mesa culinary auteur Wing Lam may have produced Orange County’s greatest export of all. Per Matt Coker in 2000: “Fuck me, Wahoo’s makes the best fish taco. Ever. End of story.”
9 | CRAVEN DEVELOPERS
Hollywood has craven talent agents. Washington, D.C., has craven lobbyists. The Eastern Seaboard has craven polluters. Mexico has craven drug dealers. And Orange County has craven land developers. Over the years, the Weekly has repeatedly targeted Tony Moiso, scion of the Moiso family of Rancho Mission Viejo, for purchasing local politicians, invading the county’s last protected wildlands and master-planning more South County traffic; Donald Bren, chairman of the Irvine Co., for purchasing local politicians, roughing up tenants of his vast commercial properties and spreading his man seed like ugly clusters of estates carved into the Newport Coast; and George Argyros, chairman of Arnel Development Co., for purchasing local politicians, roughing up tenants of his vast fleabag-apartment empire and spreading his me-first, right-wing politics from Chapman University to Spain. Those, of course, are the biggies. There are also associated feeder builders/developers and their business groups and their hand-picked county supervisors whom we’ve called out over the years for putting the interests of the wealthy few ahead of the well-being of the millions of the rest of us. Coming on strong to join the craven crass like bleeding boils are the Irvine City Council, Redevelopment Agency and Great Park Corp. Board of Directors, which are each composed of mostly the same people. Indeed, as they burn through billions for the Orange County Great Park, the county’s largest public-works project, Agran and his minions must leave our fair region’s mega-developers green with envy. After all, the developers actually have to build something.
10 | POLITICIANS WHO DON’T SUCK
Are you out of your fucking mind?
11 | MARIJUANA MARTYRS
Looking back over the past 15 years, one constant theme of the Weekly’s coverage has been highlighting our fair county’s amazing penchant for sending people to jail for daring to follow the will of the people and actually make medicine available to patients. It all started in November 1996, just more than a year after our first issue appeared, when California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 215, legalizing marijuana for medical use. When Marvin Chavez and Dave Herrick, a former cop and combat medic in Vietnam, tried to organize OC’s first cannabis collective, county narcotics agents posed as patients and tricked the pair into providing them with pot. Prosecutors painted both men, who weren’t allowed to mention Prop. 215 in their trials, as drug dealers, resulting in both men heading off to the slammer. (Herrick’s case was later dismissed, thanks to prosecutorial misconduct, and he was released years early.) The county’s war on pot continues to this day; nary a week goes by without news on our Navel Gazing blog of yet another marijuana dispensary being raided. Just ask Mark Moen of the since-shuttered 215 Agenda in Lake Forest; he’s now awaiting trial for alleged money laundering and, if convicted, could spend the rest of his life in prison.
12 | DISHING ON DISNEYLAND
Early in Weekly history, a cover package was dedicated to all things Disneyland. It was so long ago that Craig Kilborn was still the host of The Daily Show. We know because we included fake-news correspondent Brian Unger’s biting segment, “In the Shadow of the Mouse”—word-for-word and with photos and the blessing of Comedy Central’s then-fledgling program. The huge pick-up that print edition received would be duplicated any time Disney-related images appeared on our cover. (Which reminds us: Isn’t it about time for another Disneyland feature, guys?) Corresponding stories can be Disney-positive—like strategies for families scaling Disneyland in a day—or Disney-negative—such as the investigative report that exposed huge pay disparities between Mouse House executives and lowly workers. Or, as in “The Happiest Freaking Place on Earth” by Vu Nguyen and Fermin Leal, an exposé of the controversy surrounding the theme park’s fireworks display. Even non-park-related covers with Disney imagery are quickly snagged from news racks, like the one advancing the Newport Beach Film Festival that included a photo illustration of Marilyn Monroe exposing Mickey Mouse-ear breasts and another on OC’s sexiest cities featuring a shot of topless lasses (and one lad) wearing Mickey Mouse-ear hats. Okay, the toplessness may have also helped spark the huge pick-ups. That’s not important right now. What is important is the love of our Magic Kingdom has spread to our blogs, where Disney-related content always receives large numbers of page views—with or without bare-breasted babes.
13 | MILFS!
Were we a people prone to polytheism, we Orange Countians might imagine our patron deity looking a lot like La Habra’s Nadya Suleman, the Octomom avatar of the desire to be desirable even in maternity. But although she birthed a Weekly issue dedicated to the idea of Suleman as a reality-TV mogul, she didn’t actually birth the modern MILF phenomenon. Rather, The Real Housewives of Orange County did, with the launch of the 2006 Bravo series popularizing the image of real-life, plastic-injected and desperately lonely mothers who would like you to like to fuck them. Beyond the TV ghouls, though—who are likely jealous that cougars have now replaced MILFs in the popular consciousness—we’ve got some legitimately fuckable-for-their-personality-and-other-stuff moms. Huntington Beach 50-something mayor Debbie Cook made our list of sexy people a few years back, and then valiantly, if unsuccessfully, took on ugly-faced Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. Lawyer and ex-Santa Ana Unified board member Nadia Marie Davis has rarely appeared in this paper without the word “hottie” appended to her name, even though she’s married to state treasurer Bill Lockyer and helped spring the accused-but-innocent Carmona from prison. Plus, there’s ancient Hollywood-turned-Newport starlet Mamie Van Doren, who, in 2001, inspired Stephen Lemons to write that her “34F fun bags” are “in so rare a state of mammarian excellence that were she my female parental unit, incest might be at least one postpubescent fantasy I’d entertain.”
14 | THIS HOLE-IN-THE- WALL COUNTY
The country—and even this paper—stereotypes Orange County as a land of staid, cookie-cutter strip malls, which isn’t too far from the truth. As we’ve grown more diverse, immigrants have embraced the county’s pro-business rhetoric in a way the master planners never envisioned—by creating one of the country’s most diverse ethnic-dining scenes. The pho palaces and bánh mì shacks of Little Saigon, Little Arabia’s hookah lounges and falafel dives, Santa Ana’s excess of regional Mexican cuisines, and nearly every other ethnic group—the Weekly has reviewed hundreds of them over the years, years before some crazy Yelp kid claimed to have “discovered” it. To this day, we’re one of the few newspapers left in the country that devotes a column to hole-in-the-walls. And the fancy restaurants? Yeah, we do that, too, but give us two tacos for a buck and free pineapple juice off a gleaming lonchera over brunch at the Ritz-Carlton any day.
15 | ALL ABOUT ME
The Weekly features plenty of fine reporting on the good, the bad and the ugly of Orange County, and that is not meant as a description of the times we have written about ourselves. Gustavo Arellano played Rashomon with his fame in “Someone Stop This Man,” an ¡Ask a Mexican! column about his ¡Ask a Mexican! book reaching No. 1 on Amazon. No self-examination tops Jim Washburn’s Lost In O.C. columns about “swinging weights from my dick,” a reference to virility-building courses he took after spotting Ki Cong ads in the earliest editions of our paper. Sex and politics were recurring themes of Weeklings writing about themselves. One detailed the joys of banging the spouse. It was written under another name to protect the innocent: the writer’s children. Matt Coker posed as a slightly off Republican to infiltrate Orange County GOP circles for one cover story. Local Republican operatives returned the favor by convincing Coker to write on obituary on a squat, hairy, gun-toting Femi-Nazi. Problem was, she didn’t really exist. Of course, no one took sex, politics and self-indulgence to the heights Rebecca Schoenkopf did in her weekly back-of-the-book Commie Girl columns. She outdid herself with “A Very Special Interview With Rebecca Schoenkopf” in the awards-show-spoofing 2000 Best of OC issue. Check that: She really outdid herself in her final Commie Girl, titled “See You, Suckers!” Schoenkopf announced she was quitting—and this time, she meant it.
For a look at the top covers, one per volume, from the past 15 years (as determined by our editors and art staff), click here.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Orange County, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.