Orange County’s Great Moments of 2016

134

Illustration by Vidhya Nagarajan

On the grand spectrum of weirdness, it’s hard to top the presidential campaign. But O.C. tried. Here’s a look back at some of the hilarity, strangeness, and just plain goofiness.

One possible explanation for the Duke’s white hat
The California State Assembly voted in April against declaring May 26 “John Wayne Day,” citing racially charged comments the longtime Newport Beach resident made during his career as an actor. In 1971, for example, he told Playboy that he believed in white supremacy “until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility.” He also suggested that Native Americans were “selfish” for trying to keep their land.

Stopping the presses I
In February, a developer unveiled plans for the building in Costa Mesa that for decades was home to the Los Angeles Times’ Orange County newsroom, printing plant, and the Daily Pilot offices. They’re calling the planned creative office environment “The Press” and invite new occupants to “write their own story,” possibly while at the envisioned volleyball courts or barbecue pits.

Another shrewd move by the Great Park team…
Mike Reidel, president of O.C.’s venerable Wild Rivers water park, first approached the city of Irvine a decade ago with the idea of making the water park one of the attractions at the planned (and attraction-starved) Great Park. But it wasn’t until March 2016 that the council began seriously considering the idea—about a month after a $250 million competitor, The Great Wolf Lodge Southern California, opened in Garden Grove. Wild Rivers closed in 2011.

Corporate clarification of the year…
Catering to a sport that for decades has struggled with drug abuse among its athletes, Huntington Beach-based surfwear company Quiksilver caught some flack for launching an ad campaign in February built around the slogan “Stay High!” For the record, the company claims the slogan is all about “finding positives” and “getting stoked.”

Laguna Beach’s appeal is pending…
A dubious survey by the website RoadSnacks.net factored the number of bars, wineries, and liquor stores in California cities, as well as the divorce rates, and concluded that Newport Beach (sixth), Costa Mesa (11th), and Huntington Beach (14th) were among the 100 “drunkest cities in California.”

Stopping the presses II…
The slow disassembling of The Orange County Register continued in September when its latest owners announced plans to move the newspaper to Anaheim from its freeway-visible tangerine headquarters on Grand Avenue in Santa Ana. The announcement triggered the following Facebook exchange between two apparently unhappy former employees.
ex-staffer 1 “I’ll no longer be able to see the building from the freeway and flip it off, I mean, salute it.”
ex-staffer 2 “I thought I was the only one who did that.”

He’d better hope his property value went up by $90,500…
The city of Seal Beach demanded restitution of $89,300 from a Crestview Avenue resident who apparently paid a tree service $1,200 to cut down 153 Brazilian pepper trees in Gum Grove Nature Park. The resident claimed “they weren’t trees, they were bushes—and they were dead.” The city’s arborist disagreed.

The country goes red; we go blue…
Hillary Clinton didn’t break the glass ceiling to win the presidency, but she broke an 80-year preference for Republican presidential candidates in Orange County. County voters gave a win to a Democratic nominee for president for the first time since 1936. Clinton received nearly 50 percent of the vote, while Donald Trump got almost 45 percent. In the previous Democratic victory, voters cast their lot with Franklin D. Roosevelt, who bested Kansas Governor Alf Landon.

We’d rather he just run for the border…
A former Taco Bell executive who was fired after he drunkenly assaulted an Uber driver apologized at first. But then he sued the driver he assaulted, because the viral video of the incident caused him severe emotional distress, humiliation, and anxiety, he said.

New frontiers in xenophobia I…
A Newport Beach resident sued the city clerk in August to force Iran-born city council candidate Fred Ameri to go by his full legal name, Farrokh Ameri, on the ballot. But an Orange County judge ruled in September that Ameri was free to use the nickname he has been known by for decades. Ameri said the suit was a ploy to use his ethnicity against him.

Breakthrough in local entertainment…
The stinking carcass of a 40-foot, 60,000-pound gray whale washed ashore at Lower Trestles in April and became a magnet for spectators until the city spent an estimated $30,000 to haul it away. Said Steve Netherby of the San Onofre Parks Foundation, who stayed to watch the removal operation, “I figure this is an event you can’t miss if you live here.”

Pickleball elicits higher decibels…
A Corona del Mar woman filed a lawsuit in March against the city of Newport Beach, claiming the noise level has become intolerable since the paddle game pickle-ball was allowed on the public tennis courts about 100 yards from her house. City officials had already reduced playing hours and put up acoustic fencing in response to previous complaints, but the woman’s suit claims that since pickle-ball was allowed, she has been exposed to “substandard conditions.”

New frontiers in xenophobia II…
Hate crimes against Muslims surged in 2015, particularly in our county. According to an FBI report released in November, hate crimes against Muslims were up 67 percent compared to the year before. A Council of American-Islamic Relations report released in July found that incidents against O.C. Muslims were up 68 percent from 2014. Among the factors that led to the increase, group officials said: political rhetoric against Muslims.

Why we prefer covered parking at Disneyland…
Visitors in late April were surprised to see a flying elephant not named Dumbo hovering over the theme park. The life-size audio-animatronic beast, on duty since the 1950s, had been hauled away to repair its broken neck and was being returned by helicopter to the Jungle Cruise attraction.

Wait. Just $1.2 million?
A preliminary independent audit released in July found that Newport Beach might have overpaid $1.2 million for its new civic center, which some critics dubbed the “Taj Mahal.” In 2005, the center was projected to cost $49 million, but ended up costing $140.2 million when completed in 2013.

Bambi is lost…
An errant deer in the surf at Salt Creek in Dana Point had to be guided back to shore in April. Dana Hills High School was holding its surf team tryouts when— look out!—one contestant had to bail out of a wave to avoid colliding with the animal. “This is the first time in a long time I’ve heard of one swimming around in the ocean,” OC Lifeguards Capt. Brad Herzog told The Register. “I can tell you about dolphins, but a deer is a bit out of my range.”

We’re No. 1, but not proud of…
The California state auditor released a report on May 31 that concluded Orange County’s female public employees make an average of 27 percent less than their male counterparts, making the gender pay gap the worst among four large California counties the auditor studied.

We have to worry about uneven nipples?
A topless photo of “Real Housewives of Orange County” star Vicki Gunvalson ended up on the social media account of a 15-year-old girl in October, triggering an FBI complaint, according to the celebrity site TMZ. Why did Gunvalson flash? TMZ says that fellow housewife Heather Dubrow was on FaceTime with her “Botched” plastic surgeon husband Terry Dubrow and Gunvalson wanted him to take a look at her “uneven” nipples.

A politician running a positive campaign…
In the midst of his congressional campaign to succeed Loretta Sanchez, former state Sen. Lou Correa was driving south on Broadway in Santa Ana when he saw a second-story apartment balcony in flames. He made a U-turn, parked his car, found a nearby garden hose, and began spraying the flames while dialing 911 and yelling for three women and four small children to flee the apartment. The blaze was pretty much out by the time firefighters arrived.

Those drunken high schoolers…
Corona del Mar High School principal Kathy Scott canceled the homecoming dance after drunk and overly rowdy students at the Newport Harbor High School-Corona del Mar football game engaged in behavior the principal called “despicable” and “deplorable.” One Newport Harbor student was arrested and one other person was hospitalized, leading Orange Coast College, where the annual Battle of the Bay game is played, to assess whether it would continue to host the game.

Facebook Comments