What exactly makes you or me a Newport local? It's a loaded term if there every was one. Here in Newport Beach, a place that has always prided itself on its special status as the jewel of Southern California, being a local has always seemed to grant some kind of special mystical powers. At least it's seemed that way to me since I packed up my crib and moved here when I was three years old!
In the name of full disclosure and accuracy, I actually lived in Costa Mesa growing up. Our family home, until I left to attend a four year University (only 5-years after graduating from Newport Harbor High School and spending a few extra years lolly gagging around Newport and OCC and working) My turf was a block off of Irvine Avenue and Monte Vista Street. A location just at the top of what are known to locals as the "S" turns on Irvine Ave along the Upper Back Bay. This infamous spot has cost many lives over the years when drivers (mostly teens) misjudged the curve either going too fast or not completely sober. I went to kindergarten literally on the dividing line between Costa Mesa and Newport Beach. The official boundary line of Newport Beach is Irvine Ave. I checked the City's official map and so can you.
I have lived in Newport Beach since then as well. For the last two years in Newport Coast and now in Newport Heights. Once again, I find myself literally living on the dividing line between the two cities. On my side of the street it is Newport Beach, on the other side Costa Mesa.
If you're a local it's probably old news to you that the two cities have had a longtime ongoing 'war' trying to annex various parts of disputed territory between them. Places like Santa Ana Heights (which Newport won) but other areas are still being fought over.
What does this all mean you ask? Well I'm going to tell you!
I'm new to the opinion column business. In my now 20-year career as a journalist, (mostly as an investigative journalist) doing "news", I've had to get my facts straight or somebody who doesn't like what I have to report or disclose is always itching to sue me or my media employer if I get it wrong. Therefore, I learned long ago not to get it wrong! Journalism is not rocket-science! I've never been sued for anything I've published or broadcast in over 20 years and I don't plan on starting now!
Here in Newport there are other columnists who have been espousing their opinions much longer than me. I know some of these people and I enjoy reading their columns just as much as the next guy. I find them often informative, funny, witty and sometimes even more so when I totally disagree with them on some important issue! What really gets me worked up is when they fall short in their attempts at being funny. I think humor belongs in the hands of professionals not journalists. So if you think I'm not funny, that's O-K. Jimmy Kimmel's Executive Producer Doug Deluca has never relented in telling me to "keep your day job" and I've never given up trying to get him to hire me as a comedy writer! As long as you read my column, I'm a happy camper. Everything else is gravy!
Now that I'm in the column writing business I'm reading most of the columns and columnists here in Newport on a routine basis. I hope they are returning the favor. What they don't know is that I'm working day and night on my diabolical plan to steal each and every one of their readers! Problem is so far I have not come up with a way to do so! So people like William (Bill) Lobdell who writes a widely read column for the Daily Pilot (aka The Plot) and Tom Johnson of the recently launched weekly, The Newport Beach Independent, who's motto is "For Locals, By Locals" can sleep well tonight. There's also Amy Senk over at Corona Del Mar Today. Amy does mostly straight news reporting but dubs her opinion column "Amy the Ranter" I love that name and her site, but I've never been able to figure out the difference between a rant and an opinion. In my short career on this beat, these three local pontificators/journalists seem to be the big three of the "local" Newport-Mesa opinion cartel.
What I find most interesting (and telling) about the current line-up listed above (other than me of course) is that none of those mentioned actually hail from Newport as natives sons or daughters. Lobdell is from Ohio by way of the LA Times and has been based in the O.C. for over two decades according to his own bio. I even found a picture of Bill on the net looking strikingly like David Hasselhoff in full stride in an action beach shot wearing a Huntington Beach t-shirt!. Don't get me wrong Bill, you look great for a Speedo loving triathlete having taken to the beach life many years ago. But what most in Hollywood have known for a long is you don't "Hassle-the-Hoff...it can only lead to trouble!
Next on the list is Tom Johnson. He is the former publisher/editor of the Daily Pilot who resigned his post in 2008 in the midst of a newspaper industry meltdown of the Pilot's owners (The L.A Times Company). Tom hails from Pleasanton, CA, so I've heard. Not sure how long exactly Tom's been in town but I'm sure it's been a while. He knows everybody and they know him. We met once and he's a very likeable guy. We're both mutual alums of San Diego State University, so I won't attempt any more bad jokes at his expense.
Last but not least, is Amy Senk of Corona Del Mar Today (and The Daily Pilot) I can't seem to figure out exactly where Amy comes from but her online resume implies she moved to Corona Del Mar sometime in the mid-90's. Based on some "investigative reporting" of mine, it seems she hails originally from Missouri! Amy is a big Angel's fan, but her well-documented backing of the Missouri Tigers seems to me to be a dead giveaway!
What a true Newport local is or is not, I will never be able to answer for certain. For those locals (and non-locals) on Facebook, there are two places you'll want to visit to understand what the hell I am talking about! One is "I Grew Up in Newport Before It Was The O.C." and another is "I Grew Up in Newport And I Don't Remember A Thing"
From my biased perspective, I seem to be the most "local" of all the columnists in town. I'm the new kid on the block so to speak, but I have seniority on this one account. What that really means in reality I have no idea ... but it sure feels good!
Now I'm not saying that coming to Newport and making it your home even if it was decades ago doesn't make you a local. What I am saying is being a local and being a true local are two different things. I lived in Los Angeles and around the country for many years. No matter where I have lived I have never called myself a local in those places. I never really was or will I ever be.
Bill, Tom, Amy, move over and make room for one more local!