Cover Orange County for 20 years, and you learn to love the awesome hypocrisies, oxymorons, contradictions, and flat-out HILARITY that define us. Yes, some of our stories, trends, and issues could happen anywhere in the United States--but some are absolutely, only OC. So, in honor of our 20th anniversary, behold the 20 most OC things that have ever happened in Orange County history (or rather, during OUR history, which is when OC really started). Enjoy, and make sure to rant in the comments section!
20. Orange County's Bankruptcy
Okay, so this happened in 1994, about a year before OC Weekly's first issue hit the stands. But the financial fiasco--then the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history--was the first crack to the OC GOP's facade of good, limited, clean government. Yeah, it was Democratic Treasurer Bob Citron who ultimately orchestrated the bankruptcy with his creative bookkeeping--but it was an all-Republican Board of Supervisors who was asleep at the board chamber while Citron did his thing. Thanks to them, OC gets to be mentioned in the same breath for eternity with winning cities such as Birmingham, San Bernardino, and Stockton.
19. Gwen Stefani Moves to Los Angeles
Gwen Stefani is probably the biggest homegrown celebrity Orange County ever produced, and definitely its most iconic and relatable--unlike other OC celebrities like, say, Diane Keaton and Will Ferrell, we got to see her grow from an Anaheim ska-punk princess playing backyard concerts in Placentia to blowing up with Tragic Kingdom, released just weeks after the Weekly's debut. Orange County is where Stefani became famous; Orange County is what catapulted her to the stratosphere. So what did OC's ultimate queen do upon becoming famous? Leave her homeland for Los Angeles. The brain drain of our creative class to cooler, more liberal places goes back decades--but it's Stefani's decampment that still stings the most.
18. Kendrys Morales Breaks His Leg After Game-Winning Home Run
A 2002 World Series victory notwithstanding, your Anaheim Angels of Anaheim have been one bizarre occurrence after another, from the sad (the suicide of Donnie Moore) to the ridiculous (the whole Los Angeles Angels thing) to the plain bizarre (why did they sign Josh Hamilton again?). But the most telling incident showing the snakebitten essence of this franchise is what happened to Kendrys Morales after he hit a game-winning grand slam in 2010.
Morales was a man on the rise, having established himself as a slugger on a team that had won the American League West five of the previous six seasons. On May 29, Morales hit his game-winner, much to the delight of a home crowd. As national cameras focused on his trot around the bases, he leaped high into the the air to land on home plate, surrounded by teammates...only to break his leg. Morales missed the rest of the season, and was never the same player again. And the Angels would go on to miss the playoffs until last year.
17. Mary Kay Letourneau
Letourneau was the original Hot for Teacher, the second-grade instructor in Washington who was arrested in 1997 for having sexual relations with a 12-year-old boy who was her former student. But the best parts of the story are all OC, baby: she was the daughter of legendary arch-conservative John Schmitz, and attended Mater Dei High, which has produced as many sex perverts as it has USC quarterbacks.
16. The Great Park
Lest you think all we do is trash Republicans, let's not forget what happened when Democrats orchestrated the stunning defeat of a proposed airport at the old El Toro Marine base and promised a Great Park that would be the talk of America: they blew it. OF COURSE they would. And OF COURSE Larry Agran--once the progressive lion of Orange County--would destroy his legacy on this multi-million-dollar boondoggle. But, if anything, Agran just brought the Democratic Part of Orange County back to its corrupt 1970s roots--you can look it up! 15. Woman Accuses Her Maid of Stealing Purse, Gets Them Deported, Later Finds Purse at McDonald's
In 2006, a Rancho Santa Margarita woman accused three of her maids of stealing her purse. Sheriff's deputies were called; when it was discovered the maids were undocumented, they were summarily deported. After that, the Rancho Santa Margarita pendeja found out her purse was actually at a McDonald's. Whoopsie-doodle!
14. Conservative, Closeted Politicians
OC breeds a special type of hater, of course, yet the most telling is the anti-gay conservative gay. The fun started with Bob Dornan's former chief of staff, Brian Bennett, coming out as gay to this paper in 1997 (I believe), goes all the way up to a prominent conservative publisher to even longtime GOP head Tom Fuentes, whose grooming of young conservatives activists to be his own private catamite is the stuff of legend. There are many GOP closet cases out there who have yet to come out lest the donations dry up--but we'll hold our tongues for now.
13. White Supremacist has Sex with Black Prison Guard
Just like the headline says! And the story is here. Quick note: The 14 and 88 tattooed on the neo-Nazi pictured above is white supremacist code for "dumbass hypocrite."
12. The Reelection of Dana Rohrabacher Despite Everything
Americans have long elected morons to political office, but we're a special type of stupid for continuously electing Congressman Dana Rohrabacher to represent Huntington Beach and other parts of coastal county. This is a guy, after all, whose wife pleaded guilty to campaign shenanigans, who pledged to only serve a couple of terms in Congress instead of his current 26-year stint, who palled around with the Taliban, had a pedophile as a staffer, and is a slob par none. And yet despite being a dirty man--rather, BECAUSE of it--Rohrabacher crushes his competition year after year. Or maybe it's just a Huntington Beach sort of stupid?
11. Wally George
God bless that bewigged skeleton...
10. Lack of Black People
As we've pointed out many times before, OC is the only major metropolitan area in the United States with an African-American population of less than five percent--and we clock in at a whopping 2.1 percent. This, of course, is wholly based on OC's long, racist history--even if we're not as bad as we used to, it's perceptions that count (just ask Stanton). And, of course, when we point it out, y'all get mad--way to live up to the OC stereotype!
9. Riots at the U.S. Open of Surfing aka R.I.P. Racky
Across America, oppressed people riot for reasons that Martin Luther King, Jr. described as "the language of the unheard." But in Orange County, it's the privileged class that usually starts breaking shit, and the best example are beach bums who riot during the U.S. Open of Surfing--not just in 2013, but also 1986 and really any time you get surf bros getting aggro when the booth bitches at the Hurley tent don't want to go out for a drink at Baja Sharkeez later.
8. Real Housewives of OC Becomes a Hit, Arrested Development Doesn't
Nine years ago, The Real Housewives of Orange County debuted on Bravo, thereby launching a franchise that spawned across the world to ever-diminishing returns. The same year RHOC debuted, the magnificent Arrested Development was canceled, never to return (sorry, diehards: like The Godfather Part III, the Netflix season of the Bluths simply doesn't exist to us). Arrested Development remains the best documentary of Orange County life EVER; RHOC remains a fantasia of Coto de Caza, Rancho Santa Margarita, and Newport Coast. In a just world, RHOC would've never taken off and Arrested Development would've survived--but this is Orange County, so we're stuck wondering if Vicki's guy is really faking his cancer instead of wishing Gobias Industries good luck.
7. The Orange County Register
Perhaps no American daily better exemplified the region that it covered than the Orange County Register. When its old-timers say it made Orange County, they're partially right, giving a sense of shared identity to dozens of disparate cities. But, of course, only OC could birth such a lame paper, from the libertarian ramblings of founder R.C. Hoiles and his descendants to the eternal comforting of the comfortable and afflicting of the afflicted that the paper continues to this day to even the spectacular rise and fall of current owner Aaron Kushner, he of the hundreds of hirings and subsequent layoffs. Orange County long ago moved away from the Reg, which seems to now be hinging its future on writing as many Disney blowjobs as possible.
6. Dad Gets Daughters Matching Breast Implants
5. Crystal Cathedral Declares Bankruptcy
The annals of American Christianity are replete with holy men conning their way into millionaire status only to see their empire crumble. But the person who fell hardest and farthest was OC's own Robert Schuller. His ostentatious Crystal Cathedral was the Jesus OC wanted for decades: accepting of suburbanites, happy with the rich, angry at the liberals, and pals with scumbag politicians galore. Schuller's Glory of Christmas and Glory of Easter stage shows were Southern California institutions and the red-headed stepchildren of serious evangelicals nationwide. So it was fitting that the legendarily asshole-ish Schuller spent the last years of his life in bankruptcy court, fighting his own family and longtime associates as he desperately tried to keep Mammon happy.
4. Mike Carona
Carona is now, of course, a disgraced felon who got out of prison this year. It's a fine denouement to OC's ultimate con man. Yes, dirty sheriffs exist all across the United States, but only in OC could you have the tale of Carona: a man who tricked Democrats and Republicans alike into believing he was America's Sheriff--a God-fearing lawman so beloved by everyone for capturing the killer of a little girl that people really thought he'd become a senator or lieutenant governor. But thanks to our Moxley, OC discovered the truth: Carona was a dirty, Mob-loving, two-timing sex freak who nicknamed his penis the Little Sheriff. Nevertheless, Carona still won reelection in 2006. The following year, the feds finally indicted him. Carona's story is especially OC in that his adviser was Mike Schroeder, who also advised OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who somehow never bothered to convict Carona on anything--that's so OC!
3. White-Power Nightclub Turns into Mexican Bar
This remains the story I tell audiences when I want to show them how much Orange County has changed in the past 20 years. In 2001, we exposed an Anaheim club called The Shack for hosting white-power shows. The club quickly closed, and reopened as Xalos, a nightclub not just for Mexicans, but for people from Jalostotitlán, Jalisco, which has thousands of residents living in Anaheim. From white power to wab--the modern Orange County story in one rundown club.
2. "White Trash Disco"
"White Trash Disco" is the headline for a 1998 news story by our R. Scott Moxley that is not only one of the most beloved articles among Weeklings, but perhaps the finest indictment of OC Republicans at their nastiest. The setting: Election Night 1998, when the OC and California GOP had just suffered historical losses. At the podium: Dornan. We urge ustedes to read the whole story, but this passage will suffice for now.
The Dornan Family Theater wasn't over. On the other side of the stage, Kate found, of all people to heckle, a Fong supporter. Soon, people were wrestling on the floor. Blood poured. A member of the Dornan clan was hauled off in handcuffs. No arrests were made. But just as tempers were calming, a disheveled 42-year-old Bob Dornan Jr. showed up, made a derogatory remark about Fong, asked bystanders "to show some class" and then challenged a few fellow Republicans to fistfights. Bob Jr. later described the encounter this way: "I told them, 'Man, you aren't nothing but low-class assholes, so shut up.'"
Classy! But, by far, the most OC thing to have ever happened in OC history is also the greatest thing that EVER happened in Orange County history. And that was...
1. Riots in Anaheim While Disneyland's Fireworks Go Off
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In 2012, Anaheim received national coverage after a string of officer-involved shootings led to protests and riots outside Anaheim City Hall. Over 1,000 people faced off against police, with store windows broken and all other sorts of chaos. And at the height of it all, Disneyland's fireworks blasted off, the Mouse completely oblivious to the chaos up Harbor Boulevard--as perfect a metaphor for this beautiful, infernal county as ANYTHING.