The Huckster Cometh

Photo by Jack GouldWe thought the Orange County Fair's theme this year—"Join the Rush: Saluting Gold and Grain"—was silly. But then we saw a list of past themes—like "Everything's Coming Up Rosy," a salute to pigs; "Don't Miss the Egg-Citement," a salute to the poultry and egg industries; "Nuttin' but Fun," a salute to fish, fruits and nuts; and the seven almost-consecutive years that Orange Countians saluted "Hawaiian Holidays"—and we thought, by God, fair planners this year were almost tasteful. Except for that whole table-setting competition, in which people competed in how best to—yup—set a table, complete with fake menus. But here's a query: Would "Bart" and "Clem" really put fastidious little place cards on a "prospectors" table featuring venison stew and whiskey? Maybe even toothless, besotted old prospectors need to feel dainty once in a while. We bet they wish they could have been in the Home and Hobbiesbuilding (where allthe crazy shit goes down; there are satanic dolls in crocheted jumpers and windows painted to look like dead kids are peering out of 'em and awards for Barbie gowns, and all the contestants seem to be from Anaheim and Garden Grove) for the biscotti demonstration—or perhaps the scheduled "150 Years of Lace."

In fact, we had a lovely time at the fair this year. And by the time you read this, we'll have gone back for Peter Frampton! The father-and-son team of Keith and Keith, who were personing the Orange County Hemp Council booth, tipped us off to it in between getting glowered at by three separate law-enforcement agencies, all set up close enough to cop a contact high. "One of the cops—the woman—won't talk to us," Keith said. "But the other was real cool." Just a few minutes later, down where the Orange County Sheriff's Department had its Injun cave of fake gold, we lingered to take notes about the anti-hemp dcor—"Chuck the Truck," read one caption; "Libre de Drogas," read another —because one of the sheriff's helpers was a hotty! Unfortunately, he farted while we were trapped in the cave, and all of his sexy points went floating gently away. We think someonehad too many plates of prospectors' beans!

There were other stinkers as well. Whose idea was it to let large groups of children "sing" Beach Boys songs like "I Get Around" in shrill four-part cacophony? And to the carnie who generously wouldn't accept our ticket to get on one of the kiddie rides with our boy but then proceeded to gaze at length at our bosoms while explaining that he "just like[s] to do things for people," and we couldn't do anything about it because we were seated with our safety bar down: thanks, but we'd really rather just pay the dollar.

By all means, do go on the kiddie ride that looks like hot-air balloons. At once! Achtung! Now! And don't eat the Chinese food. But what were we thinking? County fairs are not about diversity and multiculturalism: they're about corn. They're about "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. They're about knitting toilet-paper cozies. They are about hucksters not just in the Parade of Products but in the Carnival of Products, too, and we damn near bought a mop. (It was an amazing mop.) But we were not even close to getting suckered in by the $20 sponges ("Before 1 o'clock, in exchange for your big happy smile, I will give you not one, not two, but three sponges! That's a three-year guarantee!"). They're about a couple making out on the counter across from you as you get your free chiropractic screening. They are about buying clever little teddy bears to affix to your shirt buttons. They're about live infomercials, with the perps wearing Janet Jackson headsets. They're about methed-out booth operators at the ends of their ropes, mumbling about their Pokmon competitors. They're about lots and lots of massage machines. People need massages. They are not about Chinese food.

The most impressive part of the fair—more impressive even than the Footsie Wootsie, the ubiquitous foot-massage machine that was a little embarrassing to use, as it made one's whole body quiver with its force, and more impressive than the giant horse we paid 50 cents to see that had something dripping out of his penis, making us think that animals should indeed have to wear clothes, like that big hoax in the '50s—had to be The Orange County Register's roving newsRV. The roving newsRV is a big ol' Fleetwood henceforth referred to as Big Marcia. It was right next to the Reg's other exhibits (on the influence of corn on OC history or some such), which were also housed in big ol' RVs. So you'll forgive us for thinking the Big Marcia was a big fake mock-up meant to excite schoolchildren about journalism. It did look as if the reporters were cops with stakeout equipment fancy enough to satisfy Barry Sonnenfeld. Hell, we wouldn't mind having Big Marcia's big leather captain's chairs in which to recline, or her cute li'l fridge in which to stick our broasted chicken, or even the Orwelliancamera recording everything for a future episode of The Real World: Register. But just like in The Real World, it's not all fun and house meetings! There are also the nuts and bolts that go into producing a newspaper! Like "gathering news." And "writing stories." And "laying it out." There were even sticky pads next to the big, unsmudged laptops and Mac monitors, bearing obviously fake notations like, "Remind Bonita about gray bar for color," or something close to that; we didn't actually write it down because it turned out to actually be someone's desk we were peering at, not just a pretend workstation. Yup, Big Marcia holds seven reporters, a graphics editor and a photographer, and she'll be making her way to a community event near you in order to better get to know the community. Of course, those seven reporters will get to know a community of fruitcakes; you should seewho comes to visit Big Marcia! Old, mean men growling about how the demographics in Westminster have changed and they don't goto the Tet Festival, thank you very much (we hear Idaho's less crowded), and wacky blind ladies whose whole day is brightened by a call to the Reg's InfoLine (714-550-4636, ext. 3247), and extraordinarily effeminate men with big mustaches, and we don't know how they get any work done, but that's not the point. The point, as our new friend Reg reporter Jonathan Volzke says, is to push the edges of advertising, marketing and journalism into one big, sloppy, lovable puppy dog of a newspaper. Except he didn't say the part about the big sloppy puppy dog. (And really, fantastic choice on Volzke for the Road Rules cast, guys. You couldn't get much more pleasant and patient with crazies than Volzke. Really, a very nice guy.) You can see Big Marcia at the OC Fairgrounds through July 25, and at the U.S. Surfing Open in Huntington Beach from July 26 through Aug. 1. Why not bring them a nice fruit basket and make some new friends?

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