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Orange Countys 31 Scariest People

Photo by Myles Robinson1. RICHARD NIXON'S HEAD

Walt Disney's cryonically chambered noggin was once the scariest severed head in Orange County, but that was before the Richard Nixon Library, Birthplace and Deathplace unveiled sculptor Robert Berks' terrifying Richard Nixon's head on Aug. 14. Disturbingly wide-open eyes! A shit-eatin' grin! And—scariest of all—pockmarked skin designed to make the work appear cutting-edge but actually makes Mr. Nixon look like Hannibal Lecter wearing Edward James Olmos' face to get past a phalanx of cops. In fact, can we end this item right here? I'm getting a major case of the creeps just looking at this photo of the death mask. LOOK, IT'S STARING BACK AT ME! ITS SMILE JUST GOT WIDER! MAKE IT GO AWAY! DEAR GOD, MAKE IT GO AWAY! MITIGATING FACTOR:It's not real, right? It's made of clay, right? Nixon's dead, right?

 

2. Dr. Robert Simonds

The president of Irvine-based Citizens for Excellence in Education, Dr. Robert Simonds, makes his debut on our list this year after more than a decade of terrifying conduct that could have easily landed him atop previous lists. How did we miss him, you ask? Simple. The reserved Simonds just doesn't have the sex appeal or filthy richness of other OC ultraconservatives, such as the Reverend Lou Sheldon or Howard Ahmanson. But make no mistake, the retired Orange Coast College math instructor is every bit their equal as a wing nut. Remember a few years back, when righties were scrambling to stack local school boards with far-Right Christian activists? Simonds provided the blueprint for that movement with his 1988 book, How to Elect Christians to Public Office. Happily, the effort to create a school-board theocracy failed miserably, and Sheldon and Ahmanson opted out of the educational-advocacy game, at least for the present. But Simonds remains, and his organization now claims more than 1,700 chapters representing 350,000 members nationwide. Last year, however, Simonds told USA Today, he decided "after a lot of prayer and consultation with Christian groups, it was a hopeless affair to try and reform public education." Discouraged? Maybe. Giving up? No way. Simonds' newest campaign is called "Rescue 2010," a systematic effort to lure more than 20 million Christian students from the nation's public schools by the year 2010. And if Simonds' monthly letters to his flock are any indication, it's clear he intends to achieve his goal the old-fashioned way: by scaring the shit out of Christian parents. Simonds' monthly missives about public schools make you think his computer is programmed to randomly insert the words "pornography," "drugs," "psychotherapy," "alternative lifestyles" and "unborn babies." Simonds doesn't just scare us—he scares his own followers, too! MITIGATING FACTOR:No more Chick comics at recess.

 

3. VIET NAM DIET CONG HUNG QUOC DANG

In English, the name means "Vietnamese Organization to Exterminate Communists and Restore the Nation." Ouch! This murky right-wing death squad has its roots in Orange County's Little Saigon and has claimed responsibility for at least five unsolved murders there and in other Vietnamese communities around the U.S. during the 1980s. Perhaps the most famous of the slayings occurred in 1987, when Westminster publisher Tap Van Pham perished during an arson attack on the headquarters of his magazine, Mai. (Pham had refused to pull advertisements from the magazine that offered exiles a way to send money to relatives in Vietnam.) The group claimed responsibility for killing Pham and four other journalists in cryptic notes sent to such Vietnamese newspapers as Little Saigon's Nguoi Viet Daily News. None of the murders was ever solved, despite investigations by local law-enforcement agencies and the FBI. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the group is suspected of being made up of veterans of the Army of South Vietnam (ARVN) who boast U.S. training in the arts of terror and sabotage. MITIGATING FACTOR: They've been quiet for a decade. Real quiet. Maybe too quiet.

 

4. SCOOBY DOO

Scooby Doo, the big Great Dane with the courage of a French poodle and an accent as irritating as Crocodile Dundee's, is 30 years old—that's 210 in dog years! The cartoon series debuted on CBS in the fall of 1969, moved to ABC in 1976 and these days is the No. 1 show on the Cartoon Network. Combined with its airings on TNT and TBS, Scooby Doo plays more than 40 times a week and reaches more than 40 million households daily. A new home video, Scooby Doo and the Witch's Ghost, was released this month. And each show has the same plot! MITIGATING FACTOR: The show is rife with analogies to sex and drugs and counterculture, from Scooby Snacks to Shaggy to all those kids gettin' busy in the back of that Mystery Van.

 

5. THOMAS CESARIO

Under the dean of UC Irvine's medical school's watch, there've been human embryo scandals, mysterious radioactive waste discovered on a researcher's backside, secret research protocols, and bodysnatching. This ain't a university, it's a friggin' episode of The X-Files, and it sends our Heebie-Jeebie Meter into the red zone just thinking that if we ever wound up there, we could possibly be bred with thin, reptilian aliens intent on colonizing the planet. "But Mulder," you say, "surely this is just garden-variety ineptitude and corruption and not a secret government conspiracy to make way for an extraterrestrial invasion." Yeah, right. The truth is out there, and we don't care if we're friggin' bleeding to death, send us anywhere but UCI. It's bad enough we've got that thing about needles. Brrrr. MITIGATING FACTOR:Nice school mascot, that anteater.

 

 

6. JEANNE CARMEN

Onetime B-movie bombshell, model and gal pal to, among others, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, Jeanne Carmen has seen her career reboot over the past few years. There's been commercial work for Pac Bell and Nike as well as a couple of TV bios. All of which are nice, but what makes Jeanne Carmen scary is the way she makes us feel. You know. All tingly and . . . Look, yeah, she's in her, what, 70s, but she's still a very attractive woman. There's just something about the way she looks, smiles, carries herself, something about her that makes us want to . . . Not that we would. No, no, no. We're just saying that sometimes when we think about her . . . we think about . . . It's all very healthy, isn't it? I mean—I mean, we mean—that this is nothing that has anything to do with anything and don't bring our mother into this. I mean, we mean, have you seen Jeanne Carmen? Have you really looked at her? Have you?! We have. God help us. MITIGATING FACTOR:The woman is hot.

 

7. RAGHU P. MATHUR

"Disloyalty will not be tolerated." "I apologize for doing that, but I don't admit to doing it." "When you point your finger at someone, three fingers point right back at you!" Such are the curious pronouncements of Raghu P. Mathur, ruler of Irvine Valley College, the northern campus of the South Orange County Community College District. Recently, upon surveying his kingdom and detecting unsightly clutter, his Highness ordered his subjects to remove everything from their doors and windows. Although maybe it wasn't the clutter. Maybe it was those "Mathur must go!" posters. It all started in '96, when the board of trustees launched an assault on "shared governance," the state-mandated policy giving faculty and other groups a share in campus decision making. Soon, Mathur, a chemistry instructor, was made president, whereupon he embraced the board's agenda, especially the elimination of "reassigned time," a form of compensation for non-instructional duties such as senate office, upon which shared governance depended. But wait! As a teacher, Mathur enjoyed massive amounts of reassigned time! Oh well, l'Ètat c'est Mathur. Unilateral board rule has continued, and through it all, Mathur, the recipient (in 1998) of a 74 percent vote of no confidence, has remained unswerving in his devotion to governance unshared. MITIGATING FACTOR: When students flee the strife-ridden college, Mathur allegedly tells each one, "Thank you, loyal customer; please come again."

 

8. SHERIFF MIKE CARONA

Earlier this year, a maniac armed with an assault rifle sprayed 17 bullets into Orange County Sheriff's Deputy Brad Riches as he drove his squad car into the parking lot of a Lake Forest 7-Eleven. How did Carona, the county's top cop, respond? By ordering heavier firepower for his deputies, many of whom now carry AR-15 assault rifles locked inside the trunks of their patrol cars—something that still wouldn't have kept Riches from being shot to death. That move was consistent with the rest of Carona's gun policy: giving concealed-weapon permits to anyone who says they need one and who hasn't already been convicted of a felony. With 1999 likely to go down as the Year of the Public Massacre, there has never been a riper moment for law-enforcement officials like Carona to push for greater gun-control measures. But don't expect leadership on this issue from Carona, who prefers to shy away from saying anything that would disturb his right-wing backers in OC, many of whom think the sheriff's top priority should be upholding the Second Amendment. MITIGATING FACTOR: We still don't regret endorsing the guy over Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters, whose comments about Latinos during the sheriff's race still creep us out after the sun goes down.

 

9. HARALD MARTIN

The Anaheim Union High School president and longtime city police officer claims credit for persuading the Anaheim Police Depart-ment to bring the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) into the city's jail in an effort to speed the deportation of undocumented felons. This year, he's made his rep by demanding that the Anaheim Union High School board draft a resolution billing Mexico and other countries $50 million for the cost of educating the many alleged "illegal aliens" currently enrolled in the city's schools. Exactly how many? Don't ask Martin, who admits he has no idea and wants the INS to do the head-counting—something expressly prohibited by INS policy. Now Martin is under fire for telling the Los Angeles Times that an Anaheim high school student molested by her teacher—whose family was recently awarded millions in damages to be paid by the school district—was also "culpable" for what happened to her. Martin has refused to apologize to the girl or her parents. MITIGATING FACTOR: Hmmm.

 

 

10. DEER IN THE HEADLIGHTS

Deer in the headlights of drivers on the Eastern Transportation Corridor may not be people, but they definitely undergo some horrifying near-people experiences. And they're experiencing them more and more, as people get closer and closer. The still water that shimmers in the wide eyes of the average deer standing in the middle of the average toll road runs much deeper—and gets much darker—than any human eco-extremist. It's not necessarily terrified innocence that makes these creatures freeze when they suddenly show up in the cross hairs of your halogen beams. No, it is vengeance, my friend, long-simmering and well-focused . . . or have you forgotten the legacy of a long-ago OC amusement called Japanese Deer Park? Opened in 1967 in Buena Park, it was a few acres where people could come to pet and feed hundreds of free-roaming deer. But by 1974 the place had become unprofitable, and the owners began giving the deer lethal injections, claiming the animals had tuberculosis. They killed 177 of them before the health department stopped them, ruling that the massacre was "obviously economic." The 141 that were spared were donated to UC Davis for use in experiments. And now it's payback time: hundreds of deer, driven by the relentless purpose of true believers, roam the rural lands around the toll roads, seeking the glorious retaliation of warrior-martyrs. Innocent? Ha! As time bombs! And it's no coincidence that their antlers and hooves so strikingly resemble the horns and cloven footprints of Satan himself. Can any driver say otherwise who has been stared down by a defiantly wild-eyed deer in its final seconds, whose children will never be able to watch Bambi without thinking of Fox's When Animals Kill, who has had to pay the ultimate price to their body shop because the front quarter panel of their SUV couldn't be salvaged with Bondo? MITIGATING FACTOR: They are cute.

 

11. B.D.L WEIDE

B.D.L. Weide is a "retired English teacher" and "regular contributor" to The Orange County Register's "Faces of Freedom" feature. Strike one: her millinery instincts are a frightening tick below those of Queen Elizabeth II; did she get a free bowl of soup with that hat? Strike two: retired English teacher? Show me an English teacher who ever stopped whining about the connection between split infinitives and the Apocalypse. Strike three: in her intellectual world, we once lived among fairy people in a shady glen, were governed by a gentle princess called Prunella and slept beneath giant mushrooms. Then Kennedy beat Nixon. Today, Weide writes, "evil gangs terrorize weaker people, killing, robbing and raping without a shred of conscience or remorse. Life is cruel, chaotic and senseless." A well-read retired English teacher would reflect on the ancient world's remarkable catalog of backstabbing, slaughter and genocide and conclude that we live in pretty good—if not great—times. But not Weide: better to worry (with Dickens' Scrooge) that "we've slipped into a pattern of accepting incremental socialism, each year . . . wrenching more taxes from productive people to fund the unproductive." The unproductive: let that echo like a funeral toll in your ears this Halloween—or just keep reading the Reg. MITIGATING FACTOR: She isretired.

 

12. JACKIE PANZIK

One of the many mysterious arms of the Church of Scientology, the Citizen's Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) takes out ads in the Pennysaver, rents a room on the bottom floor of Garden Grove Medical Center, and periodically breaks loose with a slide presentation extolling the evils of the corrupt and conspiratorial psychiatry industry. It's a well-rehearsed show, complete with violent and disturbing slides and complicated overhead transparencies direct from L. Ron Hubbard's Los Angeles office. According to Jackie Panzik, organizer of the OC chapter, the show offers abundant evidence that psychiatrists everywhere are playing backgammon with our brains—almost always with perilous results. But that ain't the scary part. What makes Panzik scary is the fact that after shocking the audience into slack-jawedness, she and her group slyly offer what they believe is an escape from our destined shrink-induced stupor: Scientology. She doesn't do so explicitly, mind you, but deftly, in a style that can only be described as L. Ronian. All books and brochures on display at the meeting are published by the church's own publishing house, Bridge Publications Inc. And there are always a few strangely well-informed attendees seated among first timers to share shock and outrage and then help them make sense of the group's ideas. But to anyone finding themselves at a CCHR meeting, we say: be afraid. Be very afraid. The Church of Scientology really doesn't want you to surrender your mind to psychiatrists. They want it for themselves. MITIGATING FACTOR: Scientology is a church, and who could ever be afraid of a church?

 

 

13. GINNY GROUNDWATER

You see Ginny Groundwater there, flashing that toothy grin while hugging two cherubic youngsters, and think: "Ginny Groundwater must be really, really nice." That's what the Orange County Water District, which created the mascot in their "marketing department" (read: top-secret underground lab), wants you to think. "Ginny represents a drop of groundwater that fell in the San Bernardino Mountains, followed a stream to the Santa Ana River, then percolated into Orange County's groundwater basin to be pumped out by the district to help tell the story of water conservation and groundwater protection." What do they take us for? Idiots? Hey, we've seen your pumps, and there is no way in hell they could handle a 5-foot-10, 200-pound drop of groundwater. And look at how solid she is, obviously carrying bacteria-laden sediment from human waste and dairy-cow piss and chemicals that seep into underground basins. And now she has a grip on our future as tight as her grip on the kids in this photo (the girl seems ready to squeal, "Ow, you're hurting me!"). MITIGATING FACTOR: Douse her with a twist of lime, and she'll go down just fine!

 

14. CARL ARMBRUST

On Jan. 7, Carl Armbrust spent his last day as Orange County's octogenarian deputy DA doing what he likes best—watching a jury convict his latest unlucky defendant. Armbrust's final victim: Orange County Patient/ Doctor/Nurse Support Group founder Marvin Chavez, who was sentenced to several years in state prison for selling marijuana to undercover cops posing as sick patients carrying cleverly forged doctor's letters permitting them to smoke the drug under Proposition 215, California's 1996 medical-marijuana law. Armbrust also successfully prosecuted another co-op founder, former San Bernardino County Sheriff's Deputy David Herrick, using the same device—undercover cops with very official-looking doctor's notes. It was reminiscent of Up in Smoke's Sergeant Stedenko dressed up in a Hari Krishna outfit to bust Cheech and Chong, only not funny and a lot less justifiable. MITIGATING FACTORS: An appeals court recently overturned the Herrick conviction based on prosecutorial misconduct by Armbrust.

 

15. JOHN TAYLOR

As executive director of the Richard M. Nixon Library and Birthplace, John Taylor rubs the Tarn-X over Nixon's oh-so-blemished bust. When the National Archives released 54 minutes of old Nixon audiotapes in March, Taylor published his own version of the transcripts that differed sharply from those produced by Washington Post reporters. In one key exchange between Nixon and chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, the two talked of how to keep Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt from telling investigators about all the shady things he had done for the White House. Taylor's sanitized version makes it sound as if Nixon and Haldeman were discussing why they shouldn't silence Hunt. But when the Archives released more tapes last month (which included such shining Nixon moments as "I want to look at any sensitive areas where Jews are involved. . . . Generally, you can't trust the bastards"), Taylor skipped the transcription game and merely summarized the former president's words. MITIGATING FACTOR: Could've spent his life trying to rehabilitate Hitler instead.

 

16. LAURA SCHLESSINGER

Whether it's making life miserable for her millions of daily listeners or one Orange County small-business man, Laura Schlessinger never tires of destroying lives and reputations ("Thou shalt not kill"). Of course, while the radio host and author of such books as The Ten Commandments is in love with the sound of her own throat giving voice to her opinions, she isn't so hot about following them. Ms. Family Values reportedly cheated on her first husband ("Thou shalt not commit adultery") and, reportedly, has long since cut off all communication with her mother ("Honor thy father and mother"). Though she regularly predicts America is doomed for having abandoned God, she regularly uses the name of God to spew intolerance and hate ("Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain"). And though she regularly beats up on listeners for not using their heads, she also, like any demagogue, demands unquestioning acceptance of her wisdom and authority ("I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other god before me"). More than scary, she's bad. MITIGATING FACTOR: "For I, the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me."

 

 

17. MIKE DELGADILLO

He's the Costa Mesa Police Department officer who may be lurking in or around a men's restroom near you. Or not. See, it's the uncertainty that's so unsettling about undercover vice cops like Delgadillo, who hungrily work public men's rooms from Estancia Park to Orange Coast College to the Macy's at South Coast Plaza, looking for lewd-conduct busts. Who can tell the cops from the creeps? What's the difference anymore? Both spend the day sitting on johns, standing at urinals, washing and re-washing their hands, perhaps waggling their eyebrows while fooling with their flies, but maybe just dispensing a hale and hearty hello. It's enough to make a guy nervous about using the restroom to take a pee. But don't let them see you shaking too much. And if you happen to get so rattled you diddle on your shoes, don't bend over to clean it up. See, these officers are trolling for men they suspect are seeking homosexual sex. And Delgadillo hooks a lot of them—recently, his name has appeared on approximately three dozen arrest reports. But the police work behind these arrests raises some scary questions. Why do undercover vice cops only work men's rooms? Why are they undercover to begin with (most heterosexual sex crimes, from flashing to indecent exposure to child predators, are handled by uniformed officers)? And how fair is it to arrest somebody for intent? How can they tell for sure? It's gotta be hard. Hard? Did we say that? Honest, officer, it was just a figure of speech. MITIGATING FACTOR: It's a return, albeit with a whole new meaning, to the days when cops walked a beat.

 

18. DANA ROHRABACHER

In January, Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) co-sponsored House Judicial Resolution 10, a constitutional amendment providing "that no person born in the United States will be a United States citizen unless a parent is a United States citizen, is lawfully in the United States or has a lawful immigration status at the time of birth." Said amendment runs counter to the current U.S. Constitution, which states that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States" are citizens. It also conflicts with the 14th Amendment, which was ratified in the 1860s to outlaw the breeding of slaves. But Rohrabacher defended the amendment, saying, "It's a major problem for our country that pregnant women around the world believe they can improve the lives of their children by getting to the U.S. We have become a magnet for all the pregnant women of the world." MITIGATING FACTOR: This might suggest the U.S. is a chick magnet.

 

19. MARILYN MACDOUGALL

As head of the Sheriff's Drug Use Is Life Abuse task force, Marilyn MacDougall has made a name for herself as the county's Most Anxious Mom. We're not against moms (we love moms as much as the next guy, and the guy sitting next to us still lives at home). But we're terrified by even our few glimpses into MacDougall's nightmarish imagination. When Irvine-based computer-game manufacturer Interplay released Kingpin: Life of Crime early this year, MacDougall almost came unmoored from reality. "This is not a game," she told the Register. But, of course, it is just a game—except in MacDougall's fevered mind, where Kingpin morphed into some entity wandering the landscape devouring the souls of children: "This," she reportedly said, "is life and death." That sort of flight of fancy is typical of MacDougall, who worried on a public-radio broadcast in May that gang membership was exploding in South County. Pressed for evidence, she suggested that kids are dressing alike; pressed for a so-what, MacDougall couldn't come up with one—couldn't cite a rise in juvenile crimes, murders, or drunk-and-disorderlies, all of which are down. MITIGATING FACTOR: She's not John Taylor.

 

20. WALLY KREUTZEN

In January, Wally Kreutzen was named chief executive officer of the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA). He replaced 70-year-old William Woollett and was Woollett's financial wizard since 1989, during which time mammoth cost overruns plagued the toll roads (the cost for the San Joaquin Hills road alone went from $350 million to $1.5 billion). At the time of his selection as the new CEO, he told the TCA's board of directors, "I am looking forward to the construction of the Foothill-South project and leading the agencies into the future." Kreutzen says the 16-mile Foothill-South is his main priority—that's the toll road that would slice through either downtown San Clemente or San Onofre State Park while doing little to reduce traffic congestion anywhere. The park route is the TCA's preference and would bridge the San Mateo Creek—the last remaining pristine river mouth in Southern California. MITIGATING FACTOR: The overruns and chaos of past projects also infect the Foothill-South, forcing the TCA to push back construction from 2001 to late 2003 at the earliest.

 

 

21. MARK McGRATH

Mark McGrath is frightening not simply because he fronts up Sugar Ray—which, as the most embarrassingly contrived bit of aural foofery to emerge from OC since Stacey Q, is scary enough by itself. But what alternately spooks and fascinates us is how perfectly content this überdude is with being a walking rock cliché and a music-industry puppet—and how he either relishes this fact or is just too stupid to notice. Witness the moment in the "Every Morning" video when McGrath spreads his knees and thrusts his crotch toward the camera, as if he's asking all of us to sniff it; the interviews where he seems a little too honest ("We're extremely hateable; I understand that. If I wasn't in this band, I'd hate it, too," he told Rolling Stone), but honest nonetheless; the Rolex logo he has tattooed across his abs; his dating Madonna, and the clip that was shown on Hard Copy of him threatening to punch out a photographer who dared snap their picture; that he initially hated the calculated commercialism of "Fly" and even left the band for a week over it, changing his 'tude only after he realized how many Benjamins he'd pocket; that Atlantic Records executives initially hated Sugar Ray's music but were impressed enough by their "visual appeal" (read: hunky lead singer + teenage-girl target market = $$$!!!) to offer them a deal; that he roamed the stage at this year's KROQ Weenie Roast yelling, "Anybody got any coke? Anybody got any heroin?" while the crowd got the sinking feeling that he wasn't entirely kidding . . . and so on. MITIGATING FACTOR: This too shall pass. But McGrath's VH1 Behind the Music special oughta be a hoot.

 

22. MR. HANKY

We had always assumed Mr. Hanky was just a crude construction-paper cutout that depicted human feces on Comedy Central's twisted cartoon South Park. That was before he brushed up against Weekly staffer Matt Coker's pinkie finger while Coker was body boarding in the Huntington Beach surf near Pacific Coast Highway and Magnolia Street in July. Coker went stiffer than California Coalition for Immigration Reform leader Barbara Coe's Queen Victoria's Secret panties. Mr. Hanky turned out to be a friendly enough fellow, his yellowish-brown torso joyfully bobbing alongside our scribe. Perhaps under different circumstances, they could have struck up an immediate friendship. But Coker—obviously unaccustomed to wallowing in shit anywhere outside Orange County Republican Party headquarters—made a beeline for shore and refused to enter the water the rest of that day. A few days later, county officials closed that stretch of beach because of unusually high bacteria levels. Around that time, Coker fell ill; his concerned doctor drew blood and recommended further tests. At recent hearings involving the county's beach closures, Assemblyman Scott Baugh (R-Huntington Beach) mentioned that he's seen no reports of anyone getting sick from Surf City's bacteria scare. Coker can't prove his illness is ocean-pollution-related, but he did learn a valuable lesson: the next time he gets sick, he's not calling his doctor—he's calling Baugh (714-843-4966) because Baugh is obviously the one who's supposed to be informed of such things. MITIGATING FACTOR: Has anyone ever seen Mr. Hanky and Mr. Baugh in the same room at the same time?

 

23. SUSAN JESKE

Susan Jeske is one of those women who will let you know within the first 30 seconds of conversation that she was Miss So-and-So 20 years ago. The 37-year-old refuses to surrender the tiara, competing to this day in Ms. This and Mrs. That contests, which are only slightly less frightening than the beauty pageants JonBenet Ramsey competed in before someone (or no one) offed her. Jeske is currently the reigning Ms. America 2000. Sadly, even that loftiest of titles isn't enough to keep her from desperately trying to extend her 15 minutes of fame. The county Republican Party's perennial National Anthem singer in 1992 set the world record for belting out "The Star-Spangled Banner" at public events 17 times in 24 hours. The next year, Jeske angled for a notation in the Guinness Book of World Records for oh-say-can-you-seeing it at public events 400 times in a year. You go, girl! But did you really have to write to The Orange County Register's Trouble Shooter columnist, seeking everyone else's support for your obsession? Earlier this month, she addressed Buena Park High School students. Her topic? School violence. What qualifies her to tackle that subject? She's a native of Littleton, Colorado. Please. Enough already. MITIGATING FACTOR: We'd still do her.

 

 

24. KILLER BEES and FIRE ANTS

Hordes of the menacing insects have infiltrated Orange County in recent months. In isolated instances, people and animals have been stung to death by killer bees. Just one fire-ant sting can lead to chest pains, nausea, severe sweating, loss of breath, serious swelling or slurred speech—and if you don't get immediate emergency medical attention, it could be curtains. So it'd be best to avoid either pest. But which is scarier? To ascertain the answer, we turned to the Jim Washburn Principle. Washburn, a former Weekly scribe, once wondered in these pages what would be worse: a giant ant or a giant dog (we're talking garage-sized). The general consensus was that giant ants would be much more threatening because you can outrun and outthink a dog, while ants are intelligent, relentless buggers that can lift 10 times their own weight. So how about giant killer bees vs. giant fire ants? Yes, relentless attacks from the sky by Messerschmitt-sized bees would be a bitch. But experts agree the Africanized bee's "killer" reputation is greatly exaggerated. Fire ants, by contrast, are as aggressive as the Reverend Robert "Boom Boom" Schuller around a plate of first-class cheese and will defend their mounds from any threat—even a perceived one that's a great distance away. They will rush out by the thousands and sting anything within reach, some holding you with their ruthlessly strong jaws while their comrades administer multiple potentially deadly stings. Now that's scary! MITIGATING FACTOR: Y2K will wipe our species out long before we have to worry about either threat.

 

25. ROBBY LONGLEY

It's strange enough to see a dark-featured, widow's-peaked man walking maniacally through the streets of OC. But when said man is wearing a three-quarters-length cape and leather gloves among people who consider Etnies dress shoes and walking anywhere weird—now that's downright unsettling. And when Robby Longley takes off the black gloves, you notice the long, perfectly manicured nails on his right hand, nails painted with layer upon layer of nail hardener, so thick that each calcium cap reflects traces of light with a rocket's gleam; his left hand's nails are normal, tightly clipped. To look him in the eye is to be crucified by a gaze of relentless intensity; there is something commanding in it, and yet one gets the feeling that someone else is behind the eyes, as if Longley's body is on autopilot while his soul travels other galaxies. But what is scariest about Longley is his otherworldly mastery of the guitar. He is a self-taught flamenco guitaristaof unmatched technique and frothing passion. When he plays, his right hand isn't a thing of flesh and blood anymore; it's an engine, performing rasgueados and tremolos with inhuman efficiency. The soaring compositions of Robby Longley leave his guitar's sound hole and go directly into the gutbucket of sentient beings. He's the Cat-daddy of scary on six-string. MITIGATING FACTOR: We like inhuman efficiency.

 

26. DONALD BREN

Donald Bren is the richest man in Orange County and sole shareholder of the Irvine Co., the county's largest real-estate development outfit. A millionaire 3,250 times over, Bren apparently feels the fortune is still not enough; the reclusive fellow squeezes out every possible penny of profit by cramming near-zero-lot-line homes on his properties. Bren never met a government—particularly a Republican-controlled one—that his well-oiled lobbying machine couldn't manipulate for publicly subsidized sweetheart deals. He is perhaps single-handedly responsible for a majority of the concrete that covers coastal Orange County, yet Irvine Co. PR says their boss considers himself an environmentalist—even as his army of bulldozers wrecks the last open space between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach. MITIGATING FACTOR: He suffers from a pronounced case of self-delusion.

 

27. KURT WARNER

Kurt Warner's route to NFL stardom is as circuitous as it is inspiring. He started only one season for college-football pip-squeak Northern Iowa, after which he tried out for and was cut by both NFL and Canadian Football League teams. He was almost cut by the Iowa Barnstormers of gridiron carney outfit the Arena Football League but managed to stick and eventually star. Then, because of a season-ending injury to St. Louis Rams starter Trent Green, Warner was thrown into the starting role, where everyone assumed he'd be crushed. Instead, a month into the season, he'd led the Rams to a 4-0 record, was the highest-rated quarterback in the league and had thrown 14 touchdown passes; Ram quarterbacks threw all of 12 TD passes last season. As we say, this is all very nice and inspirational. Except here, where it sucks. The St. Louis Rams used to be our Rams, and the one consolation for losing them was that they were always so bad. They averaged just under 11 losses per year in the '90s. But now, with Mr. Wonderful, the Rams appear playoff-bound. In fact, with NFL parity at an all-time high—because quality of play is at an all-time low—this is just the kind of year that a young upstart team with a charismatic quarterback could make it to the—wait for it, here it comes—Super Bowl. When does the hurting stop? MITIGATING FACTOR: What, are we nuts? They're still the Rams.

 

 

28. GAIL HUTTON

She has been haunting Huntington Beach City Hall for nearly a quarter of a century now, and at this time of year, there is no shortage of old-timers who like to rattle the little ones by insisting they have seen her—have spoken with her, even. There's an office with her name on it and an expenditure in the budget that pays her a salary well into the six figures. Records show that she contributes to the campaigns of local council members —in 1998, she gave $275 to Dave Garafalo and $250 to Shirley Dettloff. The voters of Huntington Beach play along, re-electing her to the office of city attorney every four years. Yep, the ghost of Gail Hutton is becoming a part of local lore. Personally, we don't believe in ghosts, of course. But when it comes to Hutton, it's hard to know what to believe. We've never seen her. Hutton has missed every Huntington Beach City Council meeting we've ever attended, with a member of her staff always substituting and giving some weird apology. Last time, it was explained that Hutton had disqualified herself from discussions about a Wal-Mart development because her son pilots the private plane of the developer, George Argyros. Speaking of that staff, would it really require 14 people if a living, breathing city attorney was actually on the job? Beyond that, much of Huntington Beach's legal work is still farmed out to private firms and consultants, and the results are sometimes scary: recently, the law firm of Rutan & Tucker was litigating both for and against the city. MITIGATING FACTOR:We've never seen her.

 

29. BILL STEINER

Though he announced in 1995 that he definitely would not seek reelection to the Orange County Board of Supervisors when his term expired in December 1998, Bill Steiner nevertheless continued to solicit and accept "campaign contributions." According to county documents, the nearly $60,000 Steiner took from local corporations seeking lucrative county contracts was spent on making his already comfortable life more comfortable: $700 dinners, $1,300-plus wine purchases, trips and shopping at Fashion Island. Until the Weekly exposed Steiner's shenanigans earlier this year, the supervisor had—thanks to the county's daily press —maintained a reputation for charity and compassion for the poor. When we called for comment, Steiner apparently wasn't feeling charitable or compassionate. MITIGATING FACTOR: Exiled in Phoenix.

 

30. PAUL FREEMAN

Laguna Beach City Councilman Paul Freeman says he once loved the Weekly. That was before we uncovered and published stories about Freeman's far-too-cozy relationships with real-estate developers seeking special favors from City Hall. Freeman now says we're clowns and has asked how we could question a registered Democrat. (Answer: easy. We couldn't care less about his party registration, particularly since his closest campaign advisers are right-wing conservative Republicans.) He has also adamantly denied that he's a pawn of developers, even though he's bragged about giving taxpayer-funded subsidies to the Merrill Lynch-connected developers at the historic Treasure Island project. No surprise here: by day, Freeman works as a lobbyist for C.J. Segerstrom & Sons, one of Southern California's largest commercial developers. MITIGATING FACTOR: He speaks in a nerve-racking, pompous monotone that should preclude future political advancement.

 

31. LOB

It's not that OC poetry and noise-band promoter Lob is scary in and of himself, but anyone who can successfully run an ongoing poetry reading at Club Mesa has to be in league with Dark Elder Gods who have walked the earth in secret for untold millennia. But perhaps even scarier than Lob's probable Lovecraftian connections are the drunks at the bar who have now become part of the show. "IS HE STILL TALKING?" one shouts as the featured poet begins his fourth poem. Another time, one tried to pick a fight with an older poet reading about his experiences in Vietnam (until the barfly was forcibly ejected by Stephanie, the bartender, who is without a doubt a force for good on this wretched orb). Lob floats above the slurred, Michelob-fueled heckling, quite possibly possessed by none other than the great destroyer Cthulhu, who will rise from the depths and devour us like Chicken McNuggets. Confident in the powers of darkness, he grabs the microphone and shouts, "I AM YOUR HOST, AND I SUCK! I AM NOT YOUR FRIEND AND AM NOT EVEN HERE TO PRETEND TO BE SUCH!" The audience chants along as if they were ritually summoning Hastor, Queen of the Outer Planes, until Lob ends his diatribe: "I SUCK. I SUCK YOU IN. AND YOU LOVE IT." MITIGATING FACTOR: We do.

 

 

The Bob Dornan Hall of Fame

Dr. Bernard Rappaport

Inducted 1998. The first inductee into the Dornan Hall, Rappaport was head of the county's Children and Youth Services (CYS), where he ignored complaints concerning at least one psychiatrist who gave patients at the Orangewood Children's Home potentially dangerous drug combinations, illegal office drinking parties at one CYS clinic, a supervising psychiatrist who allegedly made dangerous misdiagnoses, and an Orange County grand jury that described him as "unaccountable." He still works for the county mental-health department.

 

Gloria Matta Tuchman

Inducted 1999. The terrifying Mexican-American schoolteacher co-authored with Ron Unz the troglodytic "Save Our Children" initiative—the one that gives Latino kids in our state one year to learn English before being thrust into an English-only classroom setting. Proving that narrowness begins at home, she proudly told a local magazine that her own kids had to learn Spanish in high school classes—because she never taught it to them at home. She's now betting that voters in the county's heavily Latino 46th Congressional District will put her in the seat once occupied by Hall of Fame benefactor Robert K. Dornan.

 

A Note on Methodology

This year's Scariest People research was temporarily hamstrung by the sudden outbreak among OC Weekly DataLab staffers of Foa's Syndrome—sometimes called Exposure Syndrome (ES) or Suppressed Stimulus Response Disorder (SSRD). Sufferers—"Foatics"—find that repeated exposure to a frightening stimulus gradually extinguishes the fear response (Foa and Kozar, 1956). In this case, staff researchers working on this, the third annual Scariest People list, found ordinarily terrifying stimuli decreasingly frightening; as Foatics, staff were unable to discern Truly Scary stimuli (TS) from even Moderately Annoying stimuli (MA). One group of six researchers found themselves so desensitized to naturally phobic personality stimuli that even graphic instances of TS (e.g., audiotapes of a speech by Gloria Matta Tuchman acknowledging that she works intentionally to achieve that pumpkin-colored hue in her hair) were no more frightening than such MA as an empty toilet-paper dispenser.

Stern Publishing recruited—at great expense—Oxford University's Dr. Raymond Keene, whose 1988 study "Foatic Inurement and Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange" brought Foa's Syndrome new attention in academic, clinical and even mainstream broadcast circles in the late 1980s. In his research and writing, Keene had used Foa and Kozar to argue persuasively that repeated exposure to violence would not produce in subjects nonviolent behavior patterns (as proposed by Burgess) but would in fact cultivate in subjects something like Hannah Arendt's sense (or "non-sense," as Keene called it) of the "banality of evil." Keene acted quickly, ordering the DataLab staff to halt all research into Orange County's Scariest People and to consider this and this alone: Was it not horrifying that they were no longer horrified? The entire procedure—which has come to be called Keening—was accomplished in the course of a single conference call; its result was immediate. "Keening's effect is to short-circuit the Foatic loop, to leapfrog up the anxiety hierarchy," Keene said. "I turned the Foatic response against itself, helping the subjects find horror in the absence of horror." Relieved, the DataLab staff returned to work with a new and heightened sense of absolute terror.


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