Re-living the Great Disneyland Cast Member Strike of September 1984

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This week's feature story, "David Koenig Has Exposed the Disneyland Secrets Mickey Doesn't Want You to Know About," mentions how much the September 1984 strike by cast members was a gut punch to employee morale, resulting in the many of the stories that turn up in the author's books.

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An Oral History of OC Weekly, Part 1: Sept. 15, 1995-Sept. 2000

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Stern Publishing--owned by Leonard Stern, a pet-food magnate whose Hartz Mountain corporation controlled 70 percent of the pet-supply market--bought the Village Voice, the nation's oldest alternative weekly, in 1983. In 1994, Stern purchased the LA Weekly, which then set its sights on Orange County. . . .

Michael Sigman, LA Weekly/OC Weekly publisher, 1983-2002: The crass but simple answer [why OC Weekly was created] is that big advertisers in LA Weekly like Tower Records said they'd advertise in an Orange County edition. Before Leonard bought us, there were several years of exploratory machinations and research, but we never had the funding or authorization. And even though other people had explored it and had decided it wasn't such a good idea, it seemed obvious to us that it had potential. There was never any question in my mind that we could do a successful paper. After we were bought, the mandate was "Let's get OC Weekly started as soon as possible." I remember having serious conversations with [the late New York Times media critic] David Carr about the position [of editor], and there were probably one or two others, but I can't remember anyone else being a serious candidate. And then there was Will.

Nathan Callahan, OC Weekly contributor, 1995-2004: Will and I had worked on a little zine back in the early '90s, The County, and we tried to cover OC as much as we could. It came out sporadically and slammed everyone from Irvine City Councilman Dave Baker to Jerry Brown. And when [Will] heard about the editor job, it went from there.

Will Swaim, OC Weekly founding editor, 1995-2007: I was working at Entrepreneur, a business magazine, and a friend of mine said she had heard of LA Weekly starting something in Orange County. At the time, the landscape was littered with a whole bunch of attempts to start alt-weeklies here, and they had all been grotesquely underfunded or weren't very good.

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An Oral History of OC Weekly, Part 2: September 2000-September 2005

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The Weekly began its second five years in September 2000 with a new ownership group. In two months, a new president is elected--kind of. In one year, two buildings fall in New York, and the build-up to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would follow, and then the bombs rain. But through the national and international turmoil, the Weekly keeps chugging, reflecting on big issues while still focusing on local ones.

Michael Sigman: Leonard [Stern] was a business genius. He sold the paper at the absolute top of the market, right before the dot-com crash, for a tremendous amount of money. And the people who bought it were heavily leveraged, and it was making a lot of money, but they bought it based on it making more money. LA Weekly and OC Weekly still made a tremendous amount of money for the next two years, but it wasn't enough. So they made a lot of changes throughout the company. Pretty much got rid of everyone. [Sigman left the company in 2002.]

Shelle Murach, PR/special events coordinator, 1998-2003: Under Stern, we were owned by that family, and they were fantastic and very supportive. The paper was growing, there was a lot of support in Orange County, and we really expanded into a lot of things we wanted to do. Then we were sold to Village Voice Media, and it was just different. Things were becoming more corporate, and there were a lot of impacts because of what the economy was going through. After 9/11, we saw a huge decline in advertising, so there were a lot of changes as far as the whole industry.

In April 2000, a writer who would later make an impact on the county appeared.

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An Oral History of OC Weekly, Part 3: September 2005-October 2010

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OC Weekly's 10th-anniversary edition, a 154-page tome, hit the streets Sept. 9, 2005, as one of America's most beloved cities was drowning. Rebecca Schoenkopf wrote the introductory column, subheaded "It's hard to celebrate 10 years of the Weekly when you're busy hating the president." Little did the Weeklings know the paper would soon descend into its own murky waters.

Matt Coker: One thing they always told us is "We'll never sell you guys to the New Times." We had heard all these horror stories about the New Times. A big part of it was Lowery and Wielenga had worked for New Times Los Angeles and had horrible experiences. And the two chains seemed to hate each other. They seemed bitter rivals. [David] Schneiderman always said, "Don't worry. We'll never sell you to the New Times." So what happened? They sold us to the New Times.

Technically, it was a merger. On Oct. 24, 2005, Village Voice Media, which owned OC Weekly and five other papers, announced it had reached an agreement to be acquired by New Times Media, which began in 1971 with a paper in Phoenix and had grown to 11 across the country. Once sworn adversaries, the two chains had apparently grown closer since 2002, when a deal they'd reached to shut down papers in Los Angeles and Cleveland was blocked by the Justice Department, which charged them with collusion. The new company retained the name Village Voice Media.

Coker: I don't know. Maybe once their lawyers started talking, they started liking each other more?

Michael Sigman: I wasn't remotely surprised. They had been salivating for LA Weekly for many years and had started a paper in Los Angeles to compete with it, which was not successful. It was their dream to build a national network of papers, but without Los Angeles and New York, they could never have accomplished that. They were serious bidders when Leonard [Stern] sold the papers [in 2000], but they weren't the winner. But they kept trying, and to me, it was inevitable that it would happen.

Rebecca Schoenkopf: First they fucked up The Village Voice, then they moved onto LA Weekly. We thought we were safe. We were very profitable. We had a very lean operation, but even so, we weren't doing it in their very formulaic, jigsaw-puzzle sort of way, so that was not acceptable.

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Do You Have a Copy of This OC Weekly? We'll Give You $50 for It!

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Anyone got a copy?

This Thursday, the OC Weekly will publish its 20th anniversary issue, a fantabulous collection of oral histories, essays, and general merriment. Part of the online package will be slideshows of every single cover this infernal rag has ever published--over 1,000! Amazingly, our archives (which look like the apartment of the Collyer Brothers) are virtually complete--we're only missing one issue of the entire run, an achievement more miraculous than remaining in business in these crazy times.

And that issue? Amazingly, not one involving legal action against us or one that Bob Dornan's spawn tried to collect every copy of and throw into a bonfire, but the one above.


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Joseph Jackson Jr. Made Civil Rights History as a Member of Mississippi's Tougaloo Nine

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Mugshot memories
"You know you don't belong here!" a worker yelled at 23-year-old Joseph Jackson Jr. as he walked into the Jackson, Mississippi, main public library on March 27, 1961, to try to desegregate it. "You go back to your library!"

Dozens of angry, white faces surrounded the slight, bespectacled, nervous student as he made his way to the information desk and into the front lines of war. In a couple of months, freedom riders would get arrested by the hundreds in the city; the following year, James Meredith tried to enroll at the University of Mississippi with the help of U.S. Marshals only to have a deadly riot erupt around him. The year after that saw Jackson weather a sit-in at Woolworth and the assassination of legendary activist Medgar Evers. And in 1964, the murder of three civil-rights workers brought in the federal government and led Nina Simone to pen her scintillating smackdown of the Magnolia State, "Mississippi Goddam."

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OC's First Black Resident was an Anaheim Barber Named Drew

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Legendary cover by Luke McGarry
Can't stop sharing this cover...HA!

When one just reads stuff--as opposed to Google, Proquest, Lexis-Nexis or Reddit--you'll discover amazing things. And that's what happened while I was doing research on Rosario "Zarco" Sainz, the Anaheim murder who was OC's last desperado.

I was in the SanTana Public Library, going through microfilm, when I decided to walk around the library stacks. I came across "The History and Development of the Negro Community in Santa Ana, California," a 1967 Cal State master's thesis documenting the city's significant African-American community at the time. Did you know, Orange Countians, that SanTana at one point was not all Mexican? Of course not.


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Vanity Fair Covered Caitlyn Jenner Right--But Don't Forget When They Wronged Transitioning Sportswriter

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Cover by Vanity Fair
Go get a copy!

The world is rightfully celebrating both Caitlyn Jenner's personal journey and the great job done by Vanity Fair in telling her story on its cover with a profile and photo shoot. But lost in the praise is how the magazine has improved dramatically from a previous time they had tried to profile someone from the sports world who was transitioning: the sad story of Mike Penner, who was scheduled to appear on the pages of VF as Christine Daniels.


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Interview with Authors of Vietnamese in Orange County

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Thuy Vo Dang
The authors with their new book!

It's no big news that the flag of South Vietnam flies next to the American flag all across Little Saigon. In fact, Little Saigon is no real big news anymore, multipart Orange County Register series notwithstanding. But while the general public knows of the enclave, there's always more to the story.

In a new book called Vietnamese in Orange County, authors Thuy Vo Dang, Linda Trinh Vo, and Tram Le provide historical accounts and artifacts showing how the Vietnamese community has evolved in the county. The Vietnamese-American experience, they say, is far from binary.

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The Legend of Rosario "Zarco" Sainz, OC's Last Desperado

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Photo courtesy California State Archives

It wasn't enough for Rosario "Zarco" Sainz to break out of the Orange County Jail, beat up legendary Sheriff Theo Lacy, toss a female Bible-study teacher against a wall, lock them both in a cell, steal a rifle and revolver, then make a run for the border. He also wanted a hat.

Sainz was in for first-degree murder, for shooting a man just for the hell of it. He had done four months for the killing after nearly half a year on the lam, a seemingly ignoble end to a criminal career that included smuggling Chinese immigrants into the United States, assaults, brawls, at least five murders for which he never faced punishment, and more nights in the drunk tank than law enforcement in both OC and Baja California cared to remember. A trip to the gallows seemed certain--and Sainz didn't give a damn.

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