Whenever I accept an award or give a commencement speech, I always write down a speech instead of my usual off-the-cuff remarks out of respect to the institution at hand. But last night at the OC Press Club awards gala, where I was being honored with the Sky Dunlap Award for lifetime achievement, my speech got lost between the bar and the bar. So what I REALLY said last night will be lost to history, although the themes don't vary much from the text of my original speech, which is published below.
The things I remember: I threw insults at Manuel Ramos, Mike Carona, and Claudia Alvarez. I told Orange County Register owner Rich Mirman he should buy the REAL moneymaker in OC media (Mirman, by the way, impressed everyone at the gala by engaging with anyone and everyone in a non-messianic way). I told the journalists in the room that our profession can't expect to be saved by Gandalf at Helm's Deep. But I didn't go on too much…HA!
Anyhoo, the speech!
I don't deserve this award–of course I don't. Nevertheless, I gladly accept it, not so much as a testament to my career, but rather that of the paper that I helm: the OC Weekly. We're celebrating our 20th anniversary this year during some interesting times for us: we're on sale. Know any crazy rich guys not named Don Bren? Send them my way, por favor.
Since we began in 1995, my infernal rag has lived a wild life, from one "escort" ad to another "alternative medicine" insert, from staff fights to battles with the bosses, and through more death threats, lawsuits, and wacky trolls than any reporter should ever have to experience. Not everyone is a fan of our style, and that's perfectly fine, because we are the paper Orange County needs: uncompromising, demanding, ball-busting, celebratory, all in the name of a county finally reaching its potential. We make no excuses for our reporting, because we don't see Orange County as a mere beat, as a steppingstone to a more prestigious job elsewhere. To more than half of my staff, we're OC born-and-raised-and-educated; to most of us, the Weekly is the only newspaper we've ever worked at. For all of us, we stay because we relish covering the county the way everyone should: as the beautiful, disgusting, maddening, inspirational center of the universe.
We do this even though the future is murky. It's no secret that our industry is in a state of crisis, with some of our best and brightest leaving the news business for higher-paying jobs in other professions. Yet this is when those of us who remain must put out the best possible stories. We must comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable even though it may not be financially advisable. We must swing above our weight, and expect to be walloped–and when that happens, you just grin, bear it, and throw the bolo punch. Salvation for journalists comes from a blistering pen, not bean-counting billionaires. That's the OC Weekly way, and I accept this award in its name and legacy.
That's enough words from me, because I have a lot of people to thank. I'd like to start by thanking God, and my two patron saints: the Santo Niño de Atocha, and St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of lost causes, and a holy man every writer should have in their corner. My beautiful wife Delilah, for making me a better man. Marge, the Khaleesi. My family. The Mexiclan–let's go slaughter the Special Olympics at Kelly's Corner Tavern soon, cabrones.
Yvette Cabrera, the first reporter I ever met, for setting the example early in my career of what a Latino reporter should be–the Register was pendejo to let you go. Betty Talbert, my first-ever editor–yes, Reg folks, you heard that right. Rob Eshman at the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, for giving this Gentile a shot. Kedric Francis, for always being a fan and friend. On radio, all my producers on KPCC, NPR, KCRW, KPFK, KABC, and Tom Leykis.
On the Weekly side: My corporate bosses Mike Lacey, Andy Vandevoorde, and Steve Suskin–thank you for letting me do my thing. To Weekly founder Will Swaim: I owe my entire career and adult life to you. And now, the parade of former and current Weeklings that I respect like crazy: Anthony Pignataro, Rich Kane, Chris Ziegler, Theo Douglas, Steve Lowery, Vickie Chang, Michelle Woo, Janine Kahn, Daffodil Altan, Erin Dewitt, Josh Dulaney, Yasmin Nouh, Tenaya Hills, Leslie Again (loser), Jay Brockman–the old school. Today, here before us: Dustin, Gilhooley, Dave Barton, Dave Lieberman, Charles, Joel, Bob, Kristine, Lisa, LP, Taylor, Aimee, Josh, Courtney, Nate: I hope I hope I've been a good steward of our paper.
And, finally, for the people who have stayed at OC Weekly since its beginning. To Moxley, for being Moxley and the most unappreciated writer in Southern California. To Matt Coker, for making me laugh hard every day since I've known you and for selling me your 1974 Cadillac Eldorado convertible. To Patty Marsters, the most unsung hero of them all–know that I respect you beyond words. And finally, to my #2, Nick Schou, the first person I ever met at the Weekly, who didn't get too mad when I mispronounced his name as Shoo, who taught me about Zapatistas and 1960s folk rock when I was just a cub reporter, who encouraged me at my writing when I needed it most. You are my mentor, my friend, mi hermano, and our fun is just beginning.
Gracias all, and God bless. Fight the good fight, and raise hell.