Rose Apodaca wrote La Vie en Rose from 1995 to 1998 before moving on to the big time in LA. Her columns are missing from the Weekly's online archives—sorry, Rose!
Posing a naked woman and man on the front cover with their guitars standing in for fig leaves.
Calling out the local billion-dollar board-sports industry for impudently promoting ribbed undershirts as "wife beaters."
Censuring the scrupulosity of those behind the San Joaquin Transportation Corridor. Telling tales of the drag queens, pro skaters, street-style designers, performance artists, poets, punks, coffeehouse owners, and other creators and instigators committed to making a scene in Orange County, circa 1995-'97.
Much as I'd love to conjure up more from my contributions during those inaugural years at the OC Weekly, its online archives don't reach back so far, and delving into the dusty crannies of my memory or storage unit for back issues is not an option as I write this on deadline. Time is also deafeningly ticking on the tedious, final steps of a 400-page beauty book with a fellow OC misfit who shares my penchant for red lipstick, Dita Von Teese. To wit, she was realizing herself then into the icon she is now, already serving as muse, in this case to the founders of Dita Eyewear, a venture I was the first to report on in my last-page column, La Vie en Rose.
A soapbox to report on social and political issues, style trends and business developments, as well as a de facto social page for the freaks and geeks of OC, La Vie en Rose was just that, life how I saw it. For a 27-year-old with indomitable will, an insatiable curiosity, little need for sleep and a commitment to journalistic principles, I strove to cover issues of consequence and frivolity with equal standards. During these pre-blog, pre-digital-camera years, I showed readers inside hard-to-reach corners of OC through the snapshots that I rushed to process and scan before the Tuesday deadline.
Mind you, these were naive days, before the threat of rising paper costs and the Internet gobbling up media viability. So when the owner of the Village Voice announced the launch of a sister publication in Suburbia, USA, 20 years ago, I was among the first to join the insurrection. It was a risky proposition. I'd be pulling the plug on my three widely read weekly style and culture columns for the Los Angeles Times. This had been home for five years, when I secured the grown-up gig of covering city news despite three semesters remaining in my journalism studies at Cal State Long Beach. I filed upward of four stories some days for the city and business sections and, finally, for this nightlife-loving, fashion-mad Lois Lane in thigh-high, flat-heeled patent boots, those prized weekly columns. Had I lost it by decamping to an experiment in readership and geography for the gambling publisher of an alternative weekly?
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Already signed on was fellow Times writer Jim Washburn, he of the bone-dry wit and mind-blowing music knowledge. Playing pied piper with Jim was our fearless new leader, Will Swaim. With his 1950s boyishness, preppy wardrobe (including turned-up polo collar), he resembled the very Stepford population we'd be scrutinizing. He was going to prod and disrupt status-quo thinking in the beige bedroom communities surrounding our beige, industrial, tract-office space? He was going to lead the revolt?
Will proved to be the most subversive of founding editors the Weekly could have had during its first decade. Despite his anodyne exterior, he led by example with rapid-fire, thoughtful intelligence; championing while always scrutinizing; embracing but willing to alienate in the interest of discourse. Whether I agreed with all his libertarian leanings or not, I respected his work ethic and his ethical integrity. He set the criterion in that newsroom, and by all accounts, it thrives on today.
Like them and the other assiduous, affable characters that dedicated exhaustive hours to ensure a solid foundation for this publication, I knew there was more to our county than the easy targets to snicker about. We aimed each week to hold up a mirror and challenge everything we could about this swath of Southern California utopia. The pace was relentless, the camaraderie tight and the pizza usually cold. I loved it.
I left the Weekly and the county I'd called home since age 9 and returned to Los Angeles when the late-'90s dotcom bubble beckoned. I don't recall ever swinging by again for a reunion visit. But as with any wildly beautiful relationship, this one resonated. A graphic designer there, Leslie Nash, would a decade later introduce me to my partner in marriage and business. When time and opportunity has allowed, I revive my signature column in print or online or with hashtagged postings. And I learned that in matters of disrupting convention and complacency and keeping life's conversation a mix of style and substance, wearing rose-colored glasses are always de rigeur.