Diary of A Mad County

Wednesday, Jan. 12 I've been in this business more than 20 years and if I've learned anything—beyond that standards vary wildly when defining the term “state of undress in the newsroom”—it's that a story is only as big as its headline. Today, there is a very big story, under a very big, very black headline on The Orange County Register website: “Gwen Stefani Dress Stolen.” It's one of those thunderclaps of information that freezes you in time, like finding out JFK had been shot or that Roxanne DiMarco stuffed. The dress, a red-leather mini worn by Stefani on the cover of No Doubt's multi-platinum album Tragic Kingdom, was taken Tuesday from the Fullerton Museum Center, where it was on display behind a 7 -foot, Plexiglas wall as part of the “Orange Groove” exhibit of Orange County rock N roll memorabilia. Jim Washburn—who writes for this paper and who I know really well but, for the sake of making this seem really official, I will appear to have just learned his name right now—organized the show and in his typical, temperate manner—which I couldn't know about, having never met him—said, “Given tsunamis and things, I don't think this rises to the level of tragic, but it's sad that some people's level of selfishness carries them to this.” He's right, of course. I mean, how can you compare this to the tsunami? How many of the tsunami victims had a multi-platinum selling album and married a rock star? For now, there are no reports of widespread rioting or looting in Fullerton, but, as you'd expect, everyone is on edge. Residents, if I had talked to them, would tell me that Fullerton is a good place, the kind of place you'd like to raise your kids, the kind of place you'd never expect to hear of a dress worn on a multi-platinum selling album cover being stolen from behind a 7 -foot, Plexiglas wall. I wouldn't say this is the end of the innocence because No Doubt didn't sing that song, but the theft has forced Fullerton residents to take stock while awakening fears and forcing them to put things in perspective. It's also made them appreciate everyday heroes who, though I'm not exactly sure who they are right now, I'm sure they don't think of themselves as heroes.

Thursday, Jan. 13 Waiting in line at Togo's with Rebecca Schoenkopf and who do we see standing in front of us but Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. Seriously, ask Rebecca: “It's true.” Thanks, Becca. Anyway, Tony and I end up standing next to each other as our sandwiches are made, and I turn to him and ask, “So, what are you doing to find Gwen Stefani's dress?” I don't think it's accurate to use the term “blank stare” to describe Tony's response, since there seemed to be a bit of fear mixed in there, like he was trying to process if I was simply deranged or, perhaps, had been sent to prison by him and was muttering some kind of code phrase to my imaginary battalion of robots. Anyway, I explained the situation to him; he smiled and said, “You know, I knew a lady who misplaced an 11-carat diamond ring.” And then he walked away.

Friday, Jan. 14 Today, USC's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and Mater Dei grad Matt Leinart stuns just about everyone by announcing he'll remain at USC for one more year. Leinart's decision will cost him millions since he would have almost certainly been the first pick in the NFL draft, but he tells people that he simply wanted to be somewhere he liked being. In the end, he valued happiness over money. It is an amazing thing these days for someone to say there is more to life than money. Understandably, USC alums are inconsolable, lamenting “Have we taught him nothing?”

Saturday, Jan. 15 Day Four in the Stefani dress theft story. Well, that is, if you don't count the day it was stolen, which I'm not. See, I think the whole Day Whatever should count for the days after the event, but others say you should include the event itself because without that Day there is no Day Whatever. You think I'm kidding when I say I've discussed this with people, but that's what we do. Here is an actual email sent out by Weekly managing editor Matt Coker to our editorial staff: “Hey-Somewhere along the way, we made a style rule whereby 9/11 would always be changed to 'Sept. 11.' This has always bugged: EVERYONE refers to that day as 9/11. I understand the Sept. 11 reasoning; 9/11 could be confusing in a world where we dial 9-1-1 for emergencies. But there have now been three Sept. 11s since Sept. 11, 2001, so how could simply referring to it as Sept. 11 be any less confusing? From this point forward, we should go with the common-man vernacular, 9/11, always inserting the slash between 9 and 11 when referring to Sept. 11, 2001. Of course, if Sept. 11 is part of a direct quote or passage from some other written source, we should stick with Sept. 11. And there is nothing wrong with the full date—Sept. 11, 2001—either. Make sense?” I always get a kick out of the whole “vast left-wing conspiracy in the press” thing when, in reality, we spend most of our time arguing how to designate dates and which is the greatest Simpsonsepisode.

Sunday, Jan. 16 On this, the Lord's Day, a county wonders “What do we tell the children?” How do we talk to our children about Gwen Stefani's dress being stolen without terrifying them that their own leather minidresses valued at $5,000 will be taken from behind a 7 -foot, Plexiglas wall? Child-Fashioncrime experts say we should listen to our kids' fears and answer them with meandering speeches about “following your dreams” and “I bet the Mormons are somehow to blame.” Whatever is said, experts are clear on one point: Children cannot lose faith in Plexiglas. It is the glue that keeps our fractured society bound—it and award shows.

Monday, Jan. 16 Iraqi expatriates arrive today at the old El Toro Marine base to register to vote in their homeland's upcoming elections. Geez, could we make things any tougher on these people? Who knows what they had to endure in their country and getting out of there and now, when they can have a say in the way their country is run, we tell them they're going to have to brave the El Toro Y and then deal with Orange County election workers, or, as they are known in the vote-counting biz, “The Can'tculators.” And, by the way, isn't it Martin Luther King, Jr. Day? Aren't you supposed to be honoring his memory by not working?

Tuesday, Jan. 17 Stefani dress, Day Seven—or Eight, whatever. Fullerton policeare said to be looking for two women—or four midgets. The women aren't suspects, the Fullerton police just get really lonely sometimes.


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