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Happy quasquicentennial, Orange County!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 11, 2014 03:00pm | Post a Comment
On this day in 1889, Orange County, California was born, making it 125 years young today. 


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Orange County

In early 1889, Pemberton Medicine Company (later Coca-Cola) incorporated in Atlanta, Colombia Phonograph (later Columbia Records) launched, Japan adopted the Meiji Constitution and the Eiffel Tower opened in Paris. Meanwhile in Southern California, the communities on Coyote Creek's left bank seceded those on the right bank and incorporated as the County of Orange. More precisely, on 11 March a bill was signed into law which allowed for voters to vote whether or not to approve the motion to incorporate -- which they did (2,509 to 500) on 4 June, 1889. But today's date is the one that is observed by most of Orange County's friends and family as its birthday.

It wasn't the first time county borders within California had changed. In the first half century after the US invaded and conquered Alta California from Mexico, the county borders have changed several times; San Bernardino County split from Los Angeles County in 1853, parts of Los Angeles County became Kern County in 1866, and in 1893 Riverside County was formed out of what had been parts of San Bernardino and San Diego counties. Several attempts were made and failed to establish Orange County in the 1870s and '80s.




Today Orange County includes the incorporated communities of Aliso Viejo, Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Cypress, Dana Point, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Irvine, La Habra, La Palma, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Los Alamitos, Mission Viejo, Newport Beach, Orange, Placentia, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Stanton, Tustin, Villa Park, Westminster, and Yorba Linda


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of North Orange County

Orange County's unincorporated communities include Coto de Caza, Cowan Heights, Emerald Bay, Ladera Ranch, Las Flores, Lemon Heights, Midway City, Modjeska Canyon, North Tustin, Orange Park Acres, Rancho Mission Viejo, Red Hill, Rossmoor, Silverado, and Trabuco Canyon.


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of South County

Unlike Los Angeles County, which is usually viewed as comprising about twenty regions (unless you're one of those unfortunate bipolar "Eastside vs Westside" types), Orange County is usually just divided into two -- North County and South County -- and the dividing line between the two is considered by most to be California State Route 55.


DIVERSE ORANGE COUNTY 

Most peoples' ideas about Orange County probably owe more to television series like The OC (primarily filmed in Los Angeles's South Bay) and quasi-scripted "reality" series like Real Housewives of Orange County and Laguna Beach... or perhaps to films like Gleaming the Cube, Suburbia, Brick than they do to firsthand experience. Of course any sensible person knows better than to trust Hollywood when it comes to depicting the reality of Southern California so set aside our preconceptions and consider some facts. 

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Forbes
recently named Orange County one of the country's most diverse places (placing it above even Los Angeles County). There is no ethnic or racial majority in Orange County (or Los Angeles County, for that matter).  Roughly 44% of Orange Countians are non-Latino white, 34% are Latino of any race, 18% are Asian, 2% are black, and 1% are Native American. It's home to the largest Vietnamese-American community in the world and three widely recognized ethnic enclaves: Little SeoulLittle Arabia, and Little Saigon Additionally there are large populations of Armenian, Chinese, English, Filipino, German, Irish, Jewish, Lebanese, Mexican, Persian, Salvadoran, Scottish, and Taiwanese-Americans. 30% of Orange County's residents were born in another country and 45% speak a language other than English at home. Roughly 31% of Orange County voters are registered as Democrats (the same as the national average) and 42% are registered Republicans -- meaning of course that there's no political majority. 

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LITTLE SEOUL


Garden Grove's Little Seoul is indeed quite little although it's nonetheless the second largest Korean-American community on the West Coast, after Koreatown in Los Angeles. Although it emerged in the 1980s, at just three kilometers long, Little Seoul is still more of a Korean commercial corridor than residential enclave -- Buena Park, Fullerton, and Irvine are all home to much more of North County's Korean-American population, the county's second largest Asian-American population after Vietnamese-Americans. Little Seoul is home to offices of Korea Times; various Korean-American community services; an annual Korean Festival; and many Korean markets, BBQ, cafés, lounges, noodle houses, churches, plazas, and seafood restaurants.


LITTLE ARABIA 

Little Arabia, in Anaheim, is by some estimates the second largest Arab enclave in the country after the one in Dearborn, Michigan. It's also sometimes referred to as Little Gaza on account of the fact that many of its Arabs have roots in Palestine (as well as Palestine's neighbors Egypt and Syria) and that the neighborhood's original designation is Garza Island. There are numerous bakeries, beauty salons, halal butchers, hookah cafés, markets, restaurants and jewelry stores in the neighborhood today that reflect the Arabic community's presence, which began to flourish in the 1990s


LITTLE SAIGON


Orange County's Little Saigon is the largest Vietnamese-American enclave in the country. The neighborhood is also colloquially known as Bolsa, after the main thoroughfare (Bolsa Avenue) of the neighborhood's original borders, which contained a small overlapping area of Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, and Westminster. Much as with Koreatown in Los Angeles, the Vietnamese-American population and character has since massively expanded since the original borders were officially designated in 1988 and now parts of Huntington Beach, Midway City, and Stanton also have a strong Vietnamese character. As of the 2010 census, Westminster's population was nearly 48% Asian-American (mostly Vietnamese) and Garden Grove's Vietnamese-American population exceeded 54,000. This translates to vibrant annual Tết Nguyên Đán festivities; more than 500 Vietnamese restaurants (time to move beyond phở and bánh mì); Euro-disco/Vietnamese New Wave; "ethnic" malls; lingerie cafés; and Vietnamese-language television stations, radio stations, and newspapers.


Of course "diversity" extends beyond humanity and Orange County is not just culturally diverse but extremely biodiverse, geographically diverse, and diverse in other ways too. Exploring its corners I've found faux-Spanish seaside villages (San Clemente), faux-Bavarian villages (Old World Village), faux-Utopian futurist villages (Irvine), Eichler tractsItalo-disco performers, great vegetarian Vietnamese food (Bo De Tinh Tam Chay and Au Lac), Isamu Noguchi's California Scenario, Pao Fa Temple, the Crystal CathedralDisneylandKnott's Berry Farmthe largest freestanding wooden structures on the planet (Tustin's WWII-era blimp hangars), Asian Garden Mall (Phước Lộc Thọ), Mission San Juan Capistrano, forests, city centers, parks, mysterious business parks, beaches, red-tile tract house tracts, chaparral-covered mountains, master-planned madness, and biker bars. 




URBAN ORANGE


Costa Mesa skyline

As with Los Angeles, Orange County is usually mischaracterized as a vast, sprawling, and completely flat collection of suburbs. However, thanks to nature (which such mischaracterizations conveniently ignore), Orange County actually rises rather dramatically from sea level at the coast to 1,337 meters high at Santiago Peak -- which positively dwarves cities more often characterized as vertical such as Hong Kong, New York, and Shanghai.


Newport Beach with the Santa Ana Mountains behind

Orange County's skyscrapers may provide no competition for height with the Santa Ana Mountains but there are more than of the towering structures in the region than the dated stereotypes suggest. Currently there are at least 27 skyscrapers rising above a height of thirty meters located in Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Garden GroveHuntington Beach, IrvineNewport Beach, Orange, and Santa Ana. What's perhaps more surprising is that according to the most recent census, the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim area is the most densely populated region in the country. Orange County is also the sixth most populous county in the country (after Los Angeles, Cook County (Illinois), Harris County (Texas), Maricopa County (Arizona), and San Diego County).


ORANGE COUNTY ARTS


Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Orange County has a thriving and diverse art scene reflected in the presence of its many museums, art festivals, art centers, and art galleries. In addition there are numerous theaters, cultural festivals, culinary festivals, opera, and Segerstrom Center for the Arts. I'm sure that there are a lot more but off the top of my head I can think of several talented Orange County born-and-bred musical acts such as Social Distortion, Emily's Sassy Lime, Agent Orange, The K-nobsThe VandalsThe Adolescents, Jeff Buckley, Giant Drag.

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EXPLORING ORANGE COUNTY 


Orange County is home to one of the Southland's three international airports; John Wayne Airport (the other two are LA/Ontario International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport) which makes getting to it convenient. 



Once on the ground, exploring Orange County is becoming increasingly easy due to an expanding network of public transit options. The workhorse of the region is the Orange County Transit Authority (OCTA), which has existed since 1975 and currently operates 78 lines. Smaller local bus and shuttle companies include Anaheim Resort Transportation (ART), Irvine's iShuttle, and Laguna Beach Transit's trolley buses. 


Metrolink train to the sea -- source: AmtrakCal462

Orange County is additionally served by several commuter rail lines including Metrolink's 91, Orange County, and Inland Emp-Orange Co lines as well as Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner (which connects San Luis Obispo and San Diego). In the future (hopefully), Metro's 30 kilometer, planned West Santa Ana Transit Corridor will connect Santa Ana to Norwalk in Southeast Los Angeles County via light rail.


Ferries serving Orange County (from Santa Catalina Island) include Catalina Flyer, which connects with Newport Beach, and Catalina Express, which connects with Dana Point. There are also about 1,600 kilometers of bikeways in Orange County. Most of Orange County is also easily walkable although there sadly hasn't always been a lot of apparent thought given to pedestrians and frequently long stretches of unshaded sidewalk pass by commercial spaces constructed without walkers in mind. Hopefully that too will change as more and more people turn away from car-dependency for every single errand, which will make Orange County an even more vibrant place. 


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BLOGGING ORANGE COUNTY

In 2010 I expanded my blogs about local neighborhoods and cities to Orange County and ever since they've fairly dominated the poll. As I write this, Los Angeles's Glassell Park is in first place followed by the Orange County city of Anaheim in second and Yorba Linda in third. In Orange County I've so far explored and written about Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Orange, San Clemente, Santa Ana, and Tustin. To vote for more Orange County communities for me to explore and write about, click here


California Fool's Gold -- A North Orange County Primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 5, 2012 07:00pm | Post a Comment
SHE HAD ORANGE RIBBONS IN HER HAIR -- NORTH ORANGE COUNTY



It comes as something of a dismaying surprise to me how casually many seemingly intelligent Angelenos freely dismiss Orange County. Iv'e grown used to (if still somewhat surprised by) the out-dated chauvinistic attitude of New Yorkers and San Franciscans. But while those widely and rightly shrugged off by knowing Angelenos, many of those same sorts of hollow, outdated mis-characterizations tend to be freely expressed about regions like LA’s Westside and Orange County without apparent irony. This blog entry, then, will focus on the communities of North Orange County with the hopeful aim of introducing readers to some of what makes it a region worthy of reexamination and exploration.



Jim Morrison - "Orange County Suite"



DIVERSITY IN ORANGE COUNTY


Orange County Panorama - source: Yashar Sahaleh


Although often stereotyped as a uniformly white suburb, Orange County – especially North Orange County – is in fact highly diverse. There are large numbers of Armenian, Chinese, English, Egyptian, FilipinoGerman, Irish, Jewish, Korean, Lebanese, Mexican, Palestinian, Persian, Salvadoran, Scottish, Syrian, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese-Americans, to name a few. Orange County is home to the largest community of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam. North Orange County is home to several ethnic enclaves, including Little Arabia, Little Saigon, and Little Seoul. In fact, 45% of Orange Countians speak a language other than English at home. With a population that is 44% white, 34% Latino, 18% Asian, 2% black, and 1% Native American, there is no racial or ethnic majority. In fact, last month Forbes magazine published “America's Most Diverse Neighborhoods And Metros” placed Orange County in their 7th spot – above Los Angeles County.


NORTH AND SOUTH ORANGE COUNTY


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of North Orange County


Whereas Los Angeles County is often separated into numerous smaller regions (the Eastside, Hollywood, the Harbor, Midtown, the San Fernando Valley, the San Gabriel Valley, the South Bay, the Verdugos, &c), Orange County (being much smaller) most often tends to divide into just two – North Orange County and South Orange County. Some South Orange Countians portray North Orange County as a lawless border region where illegal immigrant members of Mexican drug cartels and Vietnamese home-invaders terrorize “real Americans” as society crumbles around them (and a bald eagle cries). Their Birth of a Nation-esque views are often voiced in the comment sections for the OC Weekly and OC Register and are virtually indistinguishable from those of your garden variety internet trolls.


Costa Mesa skyline at dusk


There are real distinctions between North and South Orange County. The north is more crowded, urban and developed. It bustles where the south seems to relax. It’s the area that I’m much more familiar with  both because most of what brings me to Orange County (friends, food, entertainment, &c) is located in the north… and readers of this blog have consistently voted more heavily for North Orange County communities to be covered over those in South Orange County.

Of all communities in the Southland, right now Anaheim in North OC and Irvine in South OC are tied for first place (leading all LA County communities). To vote vote for Orange County neighborhoods and communities, vote here. To vote for other Los Angeles County communities to be covered on the blog, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods, vote here


HISTORY OF NORTH ORANGE COUNTY

For thousands of years before the Spanish Conquest, what’s now North Orange County was home to the Acagchemem and Payomkowishum nations. It was also home to the Chumash and Tongva people – two seafaring people who, some evidence suggests, may’ve had dealings with Pacific Islanders All spoke languages in the Takic family and likely, therefore, migrated to the region from the Sonoran Desert.

All of California was claimed for Spain in 1769. In 1822, it became part of the newly-independent country of Mexico. Two years after the USA defeated Mexico in 1848, California became a state and what’s now Orange County was made part of Los Angeles County. On 11 March, 1889, Orange County seceded from LA County. In 1900 there were only 19.696 residents of the then-new, mostly agricultural county. The 1920s saw significant growth and the region’s population first surpassed 100,000. In the 1950s and ‘60s Orange County’s grew incredibly quickly. Since then, every decade has seen further growth although it has slowed considerably.


POLITICS IN NORTH ORANGE COUNTY




Although Orange County has long been characterized as a stronghold of Republican and Right Wing politics, today a mere plurality of 44% of registered voters are registered with the GOP whilst 32% are registered Democrats. Additionally, though still one of the most conservative regions in Southern California, Republicans in Orange County often have more in common with Libertarians than the far right, science and equal rights-denying neo-Con variety. North tends to grow increasingly Democratic with that passage of time. Nowadays, among what most people consider to be North Orange County, Yorba Linda and Villa Park are only incorporated communities with overwhelmingly Republican constituencies.


CULTURE IN ORANGE COUNTY


Segerstrom Center for the Arts


Many people scoff at the suggestion that there’s culture in Orange County (just as they do about Los Angeles). It’s never been clear to me what either camp of haters means by “culture” since there are numerous art galleries, botanical gardens, cultural events, historic sites, live music venues, museums, performing arts centers, a variety of restaurants, revival movie theaters, &c in both regions – some of which I will touch upon below. So without further ado…the communities of North Orange County.


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ANAHEIM



Anaheim is the largest city in Orange County (population-wise). To all but those that think that Disneyland is in Los Angeles, the city of Anaheim is largely synonymouse (sic) with that theme park. Less well-known but equally amusement park is the tantalizingly-named Adventure City.

Anaheim was founded by Bavarian immigrant winemakers in 1857 and incorporated in 1870 – making it the second oldest city in (then) Los Angeles County. “Heim” is German for “home” and “ana” refers to the Santa Ana River. As of 2010 Anaheim’s population was 53% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 28% non-Latino white, 15% Asian (mostly Vietnamese and Filipino), 3% black, and 1% Native American.

A large number of the white population are Arab (primarily Egyptian, Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian) and the city is home to Little Arabia aka Little Gaza Strip. Other Anaheim neighborhoods include Anaheim Hills, Anaheim Resort, Downtown Anaheim, East Anaheim, the Platinum Triangle, and West Anaheim. The so-called “Platinum Triangle” was, according to the Orange County Business Register in 2010, the fastest growing region in the county. To read more about Anaheim, click here!





Anaheim is the birthplace of musicians Don Davis, Eden Espinosa, Jeff Buckley, Jennifer Warnes, Marcus Mumford, No Doubt, and Tairrie B. as well as actors Alli Mauzy, Alyson Reed, Austin Butler, Connie Needham, Lisa Tucker, Milo Ventimiglia, Moon Bloodgood, and Rosalind Chao.


BREA



The city of Brea includes the neighborhood of Olinda, named after the former Olinda Village which was incorporated as part of Brea in 1911. The city is known for its public art program which, since 1975, has placed over 140 artworks throughout the community. Brea, which means “tar” in Spanish, is a reference to the town’s early and close relationship with the petroleum industry. The Brea-Olinda Oil Field was discovered in 1898. Eventually, oil gave way to citrus groves which in turn gave way to industrial parks and suburban residences. The population of Brea today is about 67% white, 25% Latino,18% Asian, and 1% black. Brea is the birthplace of actress Stephanie J. Block.


BUENA PARK



Buena Park, whose motto is “the center of the Southland,” is home to two amusement parks, Knott's Berry Farm and its sister park, Knott's Soak City. The former was founded in 1887 by James A. Whitaker, a grocer from Chicago. It wasn’t incorporated until 1953. The so-called “E-Zone” district is home to Pirate's Dinner Adventure Show, a Medieval Times, and a Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum. The population of Buena Park is roughly is 45% white, 39% Latino, 27% Asian, 4% black, and 1% Native American.


COSTA MESA


As home to Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Orange County Fair, Isamu Noguchi Gardens, Talbert Nature Preserve, South Coast Plaza, and a couple of so-called "anti-malls,” Costa Mesa has arguably earned the nickname, “City of the arts.” I still find it amusing that the largest employer is McDonald's.

Prior to 1920 Costa Mese was known as Harper. It didn’t incorporate until 1953. Today it includes the neighborhoods of Cliff Haven, Mesa Verde, the Theater & Arts District, the Metro Center, the City Center, and Santa Ana Heights.



Musical acts from Costa Mesa include Bill Madden, Cowboy Buddha, Measles, Naked Soul, The Pressure and Xployt (aka Joe Public), and Supernova. Movies filmed there include Suburbia and In the Shadow of the Stars. To learn more about Costa Mesa, click here.


CYPRESS


Due to the preponderance of artesian wells in the area, the city of Cypress was at one time called Waterville. It incorporated in 1956 as Dairy City, in part to preserve its agricultural character from suburbanization (as did neighboring Dairy Valley (now Cerritos) and Dairyland (now La Palma). All the dairy-centric communities nonetheless suburbanized by the 1960s. Only a year after incorporation its citizens voted to change its name to Cypress, after the trees planted as a wind break next to Cypress Elementary School.




The population of Cypress, according to the 2010 census, is about 54% white, 32% Asian, 18% Latino, and 3% black. Two of its most famous sons are actor/singer/yoghurt-peddler, John Stamos and famed golfer/philanderer, Eldrick Tont "Tiger" Woods.


EL MODENA


Source: Orange County Archives


El Modena is a small, unincorporated community surrounded by the city of Orange. For much of its history it was a barrio set aside for Mexican-Americans. Through annexation, El Modena High School is now located within Orange although El Modena still has the El Modena Community Center and the Jones Victorian Estate (built in 1881).


FOUNTAIN VALLEY


Mile Square Park - image source: Justin Kim

Fountain Valley’s motto is “A nice place to live.” It was originally known as Gospel Swamp and later, Talbert, before its incorporation in 1957. Until the 1960s it was primarily agricultural. The population today is roughly 57% white, 34% Asian, 13% Latino, and 3% black.It’s home to an historical site, Courreges Ranch, although it’s not open to the public. Thankfully, the historic buildings in Heritage Park are.


FULLERTON


Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton, California

Fullerton is the town where Hawaiian Punch was invented in 1934. In 1949 it’s where Leo Fender invented the Fender Telecaster. It’s also the birthplace of a couple of seminal Orange County Punk bands: The Adolescents and Social Distortion – other music acts from Fullerton include Belay My Last, Coco B's, Derek Shawn O'Brie, Dusty Rhodes and the River Band, Gwen Stefani, Jay C. Easton, K-Nobs, Kid Ramos, Lit, Stacey Q, The Daisy Chain, The Illustrious Theatre Orchestra and Tui St. George Tucker. One of the town’s major cultural attractions is the Muckenthaler Cultural Center.



Fullerton also includes the neighborhoods of Downtown, Fuller Park, SoCo, and Sunny Hills. The population is 54% white, 34% Latino, 23% Asian, and 2% black. To read more about Fullerton, click here.


GARDEN GROVE


Downtown Garden Grove

Garden Grove has been a "capital of" numerous things from its early days up until the city was incorporated in 1956. Over the years it's been declared the chili-pepper capital of the world in the early 1920s, the poultry capital of the world a little later, the egg capital of the world not long after that, and the strawberry capital of the world in the late '50s.

It includes the neighborhoods of the Central Industrial District, College Park East, Colonia Manzanillo, Downtown, Little Seoul, Old Ranch, South of Katella, Uptown, West Garden Grove, and part of Little Saigon. To read more about Garden Grove, click here.


HUNTINGTON BEACH



For a city primarily associated just with surfing, Huntington Beach – aka “Surf City,” has a number of surprisingly varied attractions. There is surf culture aplenty and Main Street is sometimes referred to as “The Jersey Shore of the West” but there’s the Bolsa Chica Wetlands, a Richard Neutra-designed public library, the kitschy/charming Old World Village, beautiful Central Park, clubs with Vietnamese New Wave/Italo nights, and more.



HB also includes the neighborhoods of Huntington Harbour, Sunset Beach, Surfside (or Surfside Colony). The population of the city is 77% white, 17% Latino, 11% Asian, and 1% black. It is the birthplace of metal band Avenged Sevenfold, reggae group The Dirty Heads, rap rock group (Hed) P.E., folk singer Matt Costa, pop punk band The Offspring, power pop group Hellogoodbye, ska punk band Reel Big Fish, ska group Suburban Legends, and punk band The Vandals. To read more about Huntington Beach, click here.


LA HABRA



La Habra takes its name from Mariano Reyes Roldan’s Rancho Cañada de La Habra. Just north, in the Puente Hills of Los Angeles County is La Habra Heights. La Habra was incorporated in 1925. In that same decade, Rudolph Hass planted the Hass Avocado Mother Tree there and began producing one of the world’s most popular cultivars of the fruit. The tree ultimately died in 2002.




La Habra is the birthplace of metal band The Funeral Pyre, singer Jennifer Hanson, and musician Rusty Anderson. The population of La Habra is approximately 58% white, 57% Latino, 10% Asian, and 2% black.


LA PALMA


Miller Street in La Palma (1960) - image source: Orange County Archives


La Palma was incorporated in 1955, originally as Dairyland – an agricultural community zoned to exclude housing developments. Nonetheless, after the last of the dairies moved away in 1965, the name was changed to La Palma, after La Palma Avenue, and it was suburbanized. It is, area-wise, the smallest city in Orange County. The population today is about 48% Asian, 37% white, 16% Latino, and 5% black.


LITTLE SAIGON


Asian Garden Mall

Unlike fellow North Orange County ethnic enclaves Little Arabia and Little Seoul which are both fairly small, vast Little Saigon sprawls across parts of Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Midway City, Santa Ana, and Westminster (and, to a lesser extent, Anaheim, Huntington Beach, Irvine, and Stanton). It’s the oldest, largest and most populous Vietnamese enclave in the country. It was established in Westminster although Garden Grove is now home to about 10,000 more Vietnamese than that city.



Two business pioneers, Danh Quach and Frank Jao, established the first Vietnamese businesses along Bolsa – Little Saigon is actually often referred to as Bolsa. Around the same time, in 1978, Yen Ngoc Do began publishing Người Việt Daily News. There are now more newspapers -- The Little Saigon News and Vien Dong Daily News as well as TV and radio stations including Little Saigon TV, SBTN TV, VietFace, VNA TV, Saigon TV, Little Saigon Radio, and Radio Bolsa.

Not surprisingly, it is home to a vast number of quality Vietnamese restaurants.


LOS ALAMITOS


Not to be confused with Rancho Los Alamitos, in Long Beach, the Orange County city of Los Alamitos was incorporated in 1960. The name, “Los Alamitos,” is Spanish for “The Little Cottonwoods.” The population today is approximately 71% white, 21% Latino, 13% Asian, and 3% black.

For decades the main industry in Los Alamitos was sugar beet production. Today the top employers are Los Alamitos Medical Center, Arrowhead Products, Trend Offset Printing, SuperMedia, Pharmacy Advantage, Bloomfield Bakers, Systems Services of America, Alamitos West Health Care Center, Timken, and MDA Information.


MIDWAY CITY


Despite its name, Midway City is not an actual city. It’s a “census designated place” jointly presided over by a chamber of commerce and a homeowners’ association. The “Midway” of its name comes from its being nearly equidistant to Huntington Beach, Long Beach, and Santa Ana.


Midway City began life in 1922 when John H. Harper purchased 200 acres due to its location near a stagecoach stop and the Huntington Beach Oil Field. Harper began selling lots the following year. Over the years it’s been chipped away at with annexations by Westminster and is now made up of several small, disconnected sections.

Some of the highest profile businesses include Dakao Poultry, Baladi Poultry, and Midway City FeedStore. In 1994, Midway City became the subject of mockery when several school campuses banned the playing of POGS. As the Vietnamese population has grown, the community has become unofficially part of Little Saigon. The population today is roughly 48% Asian (mostly Vietnamese), 34% white, and 29% Latino. It was the birthplace of actress Dedee PfeifferMichelle Pfeiffer’s sister.


ORANGE


Eichler Tract in Orange

Orange is fairly unique among Orange County communities in that it preserved many of its older homes, rather than demolishing them. As a result, there are many attractive Craftsman homes near the neighborhood of Old Towne. It’s also home to three Eichler tracts, more than half of the total in Southern California. It’s motto is “a slice of old town charm.” Other neighborhoods include Olive, Orange Hills, Santiago Hills and surrounds the communities of El ModenaOrange Park Acres and Villa Park.

Prior to 1873 the community was known as Richland. That year it changed its name to Orange since there was already a Richland, California. The population in 2010 was 67% white, 38% Latino,12% Asian, and 2% black.

Orange is the birthplace of actress Amber Lynn, comedian Brad Williams, actor Jason Lee, and singer Toni Childs. To read more about Orange, click here.


ORANGE PARK ACRES



Orange Park Acres is an unincorporated community surrounded by the city of Orange. In 1894, Ferdinand Keifhaber purchased a 2,000 acre farm that was part of a Spanish land grant known as Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana. In 1911, the Kiefhaber family sold a portion of the land to C.C. Chapman, Dr. Randell, Mervin Monnette, and Frank Mead Sr. In 1928, the latter two formed the Orange Park Acres Corporation of what is today Orange Park Acres. It remains mostly residential with a pronounced rural, equestrian character.


PLACENTIA



The city of Placentia’s name is Latin for “a pleasant abode.” The population is 62% white, 36 % Latino, 15% Asian, and 2% black. It’s recognized locally as home to The Bruery, Knott’s Berry Farm Foods and some supposedly excellent Mexican restaurants. It’s also the birthplace of punk bank Agent Orange and the rap-rock group Kottonmouth Kings.





ROSSMOOR



Rossmoor is a planned community developed between 1955 and 1961 by Ross W. Cortese. Part of the design involved not one but two shopping centers -- Rossmoor Village Square and Rossmoor Business Center. The latter was annexed by neighboring Seal Beach in 1962 and renamed The Shops at Rossmoor (even though they're no longer in Rossmoor). Rossmoor is walled off from the surrounding communities by a red brick “separation barrier.” The population behind the wall is 85% white, 12% Latino, and 10% Asian.


SANTA ANA


Santa Ana has the second largest population in Orange County, after Anaheim. As with most of Orange County, it was formerly dominated by a non-Latino white population back in the mid 20th Century. As late as 1970 nearly 70% of the population was white. As of 2010, an even larger majority (78%) was Latino. The rest of the population is 11% Asian, 9% white, 2% black, and 1% Native American. This radical shift is undoubtedly the reason that online comments about the city tend to laughably compare it to Juarez or Tijuana.

In reality it’s one of the county’s primary cultural centers – home to the Bowers Museum, CSUF Grand Central Art Center, El Centro Cultural de México, Discovery Science Center, Heritage Museum of Orange County, and more. The Observatory (formerly the Galaxy Theatre) was where I was lucky enough to see a live performance by Italo/Vietnamese New Wave legend, Gazebo.

In short, it enjoys a bustling nightlife, daytime, art scene, food scene and many historic sites. To read more about it, click here.


SEAL BEACH



Seal Beach Pier - image source: Ajumma's Pad

Seal Beach is located in westernmost Orange County, adjacent to Long Beach in Los Angeles County. It also includes the neighborhoods of Leisure World and Surfside Seal Beach. It was previously known as Anaheim Landing. It later became known as Bay City but since there was already another Bay City, it was renamed Seal Beach when it was incorporated in 1915.

As of 2010 the population was 84% white, 10% Asian, 10% Latino, and 1% black. In 2011 Seal Beach witnessed Orange County’s worse mass shooting when Kenneth Caleb murdered eight people at a beauty salon. Seal Beach Councilman Gordon Shanks offended many when he remarked, "These things are not supposed to happen here. Maybe in Compton." Many were quick to point out that there had never been a mass shooting of that magnitude in Compton’s history.


STANTON


Stanton, California's Del Taco #10

Stanton grew up along the Los Angeles Interurban Railway’s Santa Ana Railway Line, which formerly connected Watts to Santa Ana beginning in 1905. It was incorporated in 1911. The fickle city then dis-incorporated in 1924. It once again incorporated in 1956. For such a small city, it is blessed with the presence of numerous, small parks.

Stanton’s largest employers are CR&R, Sam's Club, The Home Depot, Adventure City, and All Metals Processing. The population is 51% Latino, 21% white, 24% Asian, 2% black, and 1% Native American.


TONNER CANYON



Tonner Canyon is an undeveloped area in the Puente Hills just south of Rowland Heights at the southern edge of LA County’s San Gabriel Valley. Nearly all of the 5,700 acres are owned by the City of Industry. The Orange County portion was formerly owned by Brea Cañon Oil.


VILLA PARK



Villa Park is a small community completely surrounded by the city of Orange. It incorporated in 1962. Its declining population has turned it into the smallest city in the county, population-wise. The small city is mostly residential – comprised of about 2,000 single family homes. There is one shopping center with a Ralph’s grocery store, a pharmacy and more. There are zero public parks and few streets have parking lots, perhaps to dissuade visits from outsiders. Its motto is “Villa Park, the hidden jewel.”

The population is 78% white, 16% Asian, and 10% Latino. 60% of residents are registered Republicans. It’s the birthplace of no known notables in any creative field as far as my (minimal) research has turned up.


WESTMINSTER


Vietnam War Memorial - Westminster, California

Westminster was founded in 1870 by Reverend Lemuel Webber as a Presbyterian temperance colony, its name a reference to the Westminster Assembly of 1643 (which laid out the basic tenets of Presbyterianism). Its motto is “The city of progress built on pride.” Before its incorporation, Westminster (along with Barber City and Midway City) was considered to be part of “Tri-City.” Upon incorporation it annexed Barber City (Midway City remains unincorporated).

In the 1970s, it received a large influx of Vietnamese refugees. Today the population is 48% Asian (85% Vietnamese), 36% white, 24% Latino, and 1% black. Nowadays it is home to the largest concentration of Vietnamese-Americans in the world. Any visit should include checking out Asian Garden Mall (Phước Lộc Thọ) and a meal at Bo De Tinh Tam Chay (which I'm responsible for adding to Urbanspoon).

Westminster is the birthplace of documentarian Harrod Blank, professional gamer Ken Hoang, dance crew Poreotics, and the a cappella group, the Westminster Chorus.


YORBA LINDA



Yorba Linda is an Orange County community that borders the Inland Empire’s San Bernardino County and whose motto is “Land of gracious living.” It’s named after Californio rancher, Bernardo Yorba. It was primarily agricultural until the 1960s, when the population began to grow rapidly.

President Richard Nixon was born there in 1913, the year after it acquired its first post office and began receiving electricity. His home, where he lived until 1922, and the adjacent Richard Nixon Library and Museum are the city’s chief attractions. I visited the museum once but became so engrossed by Dan Quayle’s memoir, Standing firm (with its frank discussion of his beef with Murphy Brown and Potatoegate) that I never made it past the gift shop.

Yorba Linda was incorporated in 1967 and also includes the neighborhoods of Carlton and East Lake. In some ways it feels more like a typical South County city. The population is 75% white, 16% Asian, 14% Latino, and 1% black. About 57% of its inhabitants are Republicans.

It’s the birthplace of guitarist Eric Charles "Erock" Friedman (Creed and Submersed), actress Mitzi Kapture, singer Sabrina Ryan (of The Cheetah Girls), and the metalcore band, Atreyu.

So there you have it – a brief and by no means complete entry to North Orange County. Get out there and explore, vote and share your experiences!

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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Costa Mesa, The Standing Ovation Capital of Orange County

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 8, 2010 07:30pm | Post a Comment

This episode is about Cosa Mesa, which I journeyed to with photographer Jeanine Michelle and filmmaker Diana WardTo vote for other Orange County communities to be covered on the blog, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities to be the subject of future entries, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods, vote here
 
 Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Costa Mesa
 
Costa Mesa is a city in North Orange County, California, located on the coastal tableland above Newport Bay. It’s neighbored by Santa Ana to the north, Irvine to the northeast, Newport Beach to the south, Huntington Beach to the west, and Fountain Valley to the northwest. Originally an agricultural community, nowadays Costa Mesa’s economy is primarily based on retail, commerce and light manufacturing. There are a good deal of cultural events and centers for an Orange County town and Costa Mesa proclaims itself to be Orange County’s “Center of the Arts.” Nonetheless, it’s still Orange County and the biggest money maker is a mall; the largest employer is Mickey D's.
 
Costa Mesa skyline

Though long thought of as a purely suburban County, there are pockets of urbanization that have arisen since the 1970s, especially in North Orange County. Costa Mesa is probably the most urbanized city in Orange County. The two tallest skyscrapers in Orange County are located in Costa Mesa. The oldest, and third tallest building in the city is the 17-story Park Tower, completed in 1979. The tallest skyscraper in the city and county is the 21-story Center Tower, completed in 1985. It's part of South Coast Plaza. The second tallest building in the county and city is Plaza Tower, built in 1992 and also part of South Coast Plaza. Other skyscrapers include the two 15-story Comamerica Bank Tower and DiTech.com Tower (both part of Two Town Center), the17-story Westin South Coast Plaza, the 12-story Metro Center I and Metro Center II (both completed in 1988), and the South Coast Metro Building (completed in 1989).
 
The southwestern portion of the city is somewhat industrial in character. The area hemmed in by the 405, 55 and 73 is known as SOBECASouth on Bristol, Entertainment, Culture and Arts. The shopping area includes "anti-malls" The Lab and The Camp. Other areas include the
Theater & Arts District, the Metro Center, the City Center and the neighborhoods of Cliff Haven and Santa Ana Heights.
 
The duck-less Metro Center Duck Pond

 Yours truly giving a speech about Costa Mesa

The current population is roughly 69% white, 7% Asian and 32% of Latino. Although a minority, the Latino contingent reflects the browning of formerly lily white Orange County and some have exaggeratedly nicknamed the town “Costa Mexico.”

   Costa Mesa Estancia under normal conditions                           

   Costa Mesa Estancia on the day of our visit
 
At the time of the Spaniards’ arrival, the area now making up Costa Mesa was home to the Acagchemem, Payomkowishum and Tongva. The Spanish, of course, didn’t care and in 1801 granted a large portion of land to Jose Antonio Yorba. His Rancho San Antonio included the lands of modern day Costa Mesa, as well as Olive, Orange, Villa Park, Santa Ana, Tustin and Newport Beach. It was primarily used as pasture and in 1823, work on an estancia for vaqueros was completed. The structure later became known as the Diego Sepúlveda Adobe (after one of the inhabitants) aka the Costa Mesa Estancia aka the Santa Ana Estancia. It still stands and serves as a museum although it's undergoing restoration currently.
 
Fairview, Harper and Paularino


Fairview Hot Springs, 1909
 
 
The land was later part of Mexico until the US’s imperialist victory in the Mexican-American War. After newly becoming part of the US, settlers built the town of Fairview near the modern day intersection of Harbor and Adams. There was a church, a schoolhouse and a 25-room hotel to accommodate tourists visiting the nearby sulfur hot springs. Fairview was devastated in 1889 when a storm and flood ravaged the town and it soon reverted to farmland.
 

Harper-Fairview Grammar School c. 1920

To Fairview’s south, another town, Harper, had sprung up. It continued to function until three years of droughts at the dawn of the new century drove most families, including the Harpers, off the mesa. It slowly began to recover around 1908, when a new school opened at 17th and Newport. Harper also acquired its first commercial building, Ozment General Store, at the northeast corner of 18th and Newport. In 1910, the first commercial apple orchards were planted by George Waterman and George Huntington. A second schoolhouse (this one with two rooms!) opened at 17th and Orange. Tragedy again befell the residents of the mesa in 1916 when the Santa Ana River flooded the town.

Paularino was a sleepy lima bean farming community to the northeast. I don't have much info about it... and it doesn't seem like people thought it was worth photographing.
 
Costa Mesa
 
Perhaps wanting to signal a new start, on May 11th, 1920, Harper changed its name to Costa Mesa. Its character stayed relatively the same, however, with most of the economy based around growing sweet potatoes, corn, tomatoes, strawberries and apples. Eight years later, in 1928, Costa Mesans effectively fought off arch rival Santa Ana’s attempts to annex them. The discovery of oil brought new growth to the city and everything was hunky dory until the depression struck. Industries folded and Costa Mesa’s only bank closed.


Earthquake aftermath, Newport Blvd, 1933

Then, in 1933, the Long Beach Earthquake damaged most of what remained.
 
Costa Mesa soldiered on, getting a second start after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when the government hastily established the Santa Ana Army Base nearby and the population of Costa Mesa grew considerably.


Ed Hardy fan in Ed Hardy's hometown

In 1945, Iowa-born Don Ed Hardy and his family also moved to Costa Mesa. He later went on to become a tattoo artist and founded one of the most loathed clothing brands (outside Orange County).


In 1949, Paul Clinton and Edward "Buddy" Grant opened Grants Surplus, which offered "1001 things you can't use” to a town otherwise mostly defined by feed barns, hardware stores and pharmacies. It is still in business today as Grant Boys.
 
Incorporation
 
On June 29th, 1953, Costa Mesa was incorporated as a city. The rest of the decade was fairly uneventful until scandal rocked the suburb when Miss Costa Mesa of 1958 was stripped of her grown after it came to light that she was a divorcee. The ‘60s were predictably more tumultuous.

In 1960, a more serious crime occurred when a man pretending to be interested in buying 29-year-old Nancy Haas’ house on Princeton Drive shot her to death (five times) in front of her three-year-old daughter, Heidi. Heidi’s testimony lead to the capture and conviction of Robert Elton Edwards, a 19-year-old from Modesto.

 

Newport Blvd. at 18th St. circa 1963

Four years later, a group of rowdy teenagers were involved in a fatal car chase when 19-year-old Costa Mesan Michael Madison saw his girlfriend, 16-year-old Sheri Lilly, in a car with 18-year-old Newport Beach resident Jerry Dale Kennedy. The incident ended with Kennedy being thrown from his car and dying.
 
 
In 1964, a group of theater students started Costa Mesa’s South Coast Repertory. Leading the way were two San Francisco Stage College graduates, David Emmes and Martin Benson, who opened their theater in Costa Mesa, convinced that there was a future for theater in Orange County. In 1972, South Coast Repertory launched a new branch, Actor’s Mime Theater. Sadly, that didn’t last (I’m not joking – I like pantomime) but the SCR is still active.


Newport Ave in the mid-1960s
 
In 1965, Chuck Smith, a leading figure in the “Jesus Movement,” established Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa. It started with 25 members and now boasts 1,400. They church is responsible for radio broadcasts, and many live Christian music recordings on CD and DVD.


 
Costa Mesa was forever changed in March, 1967, when Harold T. Segerstrom and his cousin Henry T. Segerstrom opened South Coast Plaza on the site of their family’s lima bean field. Most malls that old have long since been demolished but Sout
h Coast Plaza just continues to grow and generates more than one billion dollars a year. In fact, it's estimate that if the female Vietnamese population used the money they spend at the plaza and instead sent it as remittances to Vietnam that it would elevate that country's economy to that of Dubai.
 
In more Christian Costa Mesa news, in 1970, Richard T. Coughlin established Costa Mesa’s All-American Boys Chorus. Coughlin had been moved to Costa Mesa from Boston by the pedophile-enabling Catholic Church after he was accused there of molesting young boys. Later, five members of the chorus would make the same accusations but Coughlin swore to the Almighty that he couldn’t remember anything.

 
In even more creepy Christian news, in 1973, the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) began. It’s headquarters are in Costa Mesa and it is the largest and most popular Christian network in the world. Occasionally TBN’s promotes “prosperity gospel,” promising viewers that if they give cash to the network, they will in turn be rewarded with money. If you've ever lived without cable and tried to pretend that there are more than enough free stations, TBN is the one where the pink-haired harlot, Jan Crouch, joins her husband, Paul, on the set of Praise the Lord where they sit on lavish thrones of gold.

In case you're the average Christian who's never bothered cracking open a Bible, here are some of Jesus's teachings on wealth. 
  • “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
  • “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
  • “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
In other unholy news from the 1970s, in 1978, Costa Mesa witnessed the formation of the Nazi Lowriders gang.
 
Some say that Costa Mesa got back on track in the 1980s. In 1981, the Costa Mesa Historical Society’s Museum and Headquarters opened. In 1986, the aforementioned Orange County Performing Arts Center opened. However, not everyone was happy with the increasing cultural opportunities. A complaint was made by crotchety Costa Mesa resident John Feeney when he realized that South Coast Repertory was using city money to produce flyers supporting the NEA, which a conservative reactionary claimed amounted to “religious bigotry.” Chester priests vs. Robert Mapplethorpe...

 
In 1991, another shopping center, Triangle Square, opened in downtown Costa Mesa although over the years it's more like a ghostmall. That same year, game manufacturer Zono Incorporated was founded in Costa Mesa. They’re best known as the developer of Mr. Bones for the Sega Saturn. In 1995, The OC Weekly was founded in Costa Mesa and has somehow avoided completely going to s**t like the LA Weekly which has since been taken over by soulless – and worse, clueless -- Arizona-based media mega corporation New Times Media.
 

Music

 
In 2006, The Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall opened in Town Center.


From 1976 till 1981, the most famous music venue in Costa Mesa was Jerry Roach’s punk venue, Cuckoo’s Nest. The Vandals wrote a song about the infamous club, "Pat Brown." The club also claimed to be the birthplace of slamdancing and was documented in the 1981 film Urban Struggle.

Bands that were formed and musicians who were born in Costa Mesa include Bill Madden, Cowboy Buddha, Measles, Naked Soul, The Pressure and Xployt (aka Joe Public). Supernova was another band from Costa Mesa, who even wrote a song called "Costa Mesa Hates Me."
 
Movies & TV

 

Not a whole lot of films have taken place in Costa Mesa. Reflecting the punk rock past, Suburbia was filmed there, as was In the Shadow of the Stars.


Orange Coast College entrance circa 1960

Perhaps the first film shot in Costa Mesa was the Vincent Price-narrated, Chuck Roberts-starring recruitment film, Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California. Other films and television programs with scenes shot in Costa Mesa include Arizona, Convict, Big Momma's House 2 (the Deloitte & Touche Building), Entering the Student Body, Final Assignment, Hierarchy, Laguna Beach, The Newest Pledge, Quest for the Holy Ale, Stratagem, The Omega Code, The Sopranos and Time Changer.





There used to be a big drive-in theater too, the Paulo, but it was torn down in the name of progress.
 
Theater
 
Costa Mesa is home to the Theater & Arts District, a performing and visual arts campus. It included the Orange County Performing Arts Center (OCPAC), Segerstrom Center for the Arts (which comprises the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall and Samueli Theater), as well as the aforementioned South Coast Repertory.







Richard Sera's Connector, which you can step inside of (and make noise)

There’s also a large Richard Sera sculpture on the grounds, Connector, as well as works by Jean Dubuffet, Henry Moore, Joan Miro, Charles O. Perry and Isamu Noguchi’s California Scenario.
 
Events


Orange County Fairgrounds, 1950
 
 
Costa Mesa is home to the Orange County Fairgrounds which hosts the Orange County Fair each July. The fairgrounds were also featured in Tom Hanks’s directorial debut, That Thing You Do!. Regularly scheduled events in Costa Mesa include the New Years Eve Block Party at OC Fair and Event Center, Howl-idays at the Costa Mesa Bark Park and Food Truck Fare Thursdays. For fans of libido-destroying plastic surgery or atrocity exhibitions, there’s the Costa Mesa Streetlow Show Bikini Contest -- google at your own risk. Back in 1938, residents started the annual Carnival of the Scarecrows. By its second year, it drew 10,000 attendees. It ended with the US' entry into World War II. Maybe they should bring that back. 
 
Other Stuff To Do


Hidden behind some nondescript buildings is the California Scenario, a tranquil sculpture garden with trees, a stream, cacti, fountains and rocks.


There are also three libraries and 26 parks. The largest park is Fairview Regional, on the city’s western edge. It's a large park along the Santa Ana River with trails and the Talbert Nature Preserve.

 

In 2001, Fairview was the site of the grisly and senseless murder of sixteen-year-old Ceceline Godsoe on a hiking trail by a deeply-disturbed high school friend who was ultimately arrested after fleeing to Mexico and being arrested for beating his wife.



When we visited, it was a happier place. We saw Audobon Cottontails and a Red Tailed Hawk. The park is also inhabited by American Goldfinches, American Kestrels, California Groundsquirrels, Gopher Snakes, Southern Alligator Lizards, Western Fence Lizards, Western Flycatchers and Western Kingbirds.
 

And no stop to Costa Mesa is complete without a visit to the Pain Center, which includes Massage parlors, salons, a suit store and a liquor store to help make a visitor feel better.
 
 
Eats



Henry's, hot spot in the 1960s   

                                                                       Plums, the hot spot now

Especially prominent cuisines in Costa Mesa are Italian and Mexican but there’s a pretty good variety of cuisine represented across the city. I think that the first place I ever went to was a tragi-romantic meal at Scott's a couple of years ago. On the day of our visit, the crew ate at Plums, which was excellent. There's also Anjin, Anotello Ristorante, Arriba Baja Grill, Boudin SF, Bristol Palms, Champagne French Bakery Cafe, Corner Office Grill, Darya Fine Persian Cuisine, Diho Siam Restaurant, Finbars Italian KitchenDurty Nelly's Irish Pub & Restaurant, Fresca's Mexican Grill, Garduno's Ristorante Italiano, The Gypsy Den Café, Habana, Hamamori Restaurant Lounge, Hemingway's, Jerry's Famous DeliKarl Strauss Brewery, Kura Sushi, La Cave, Lawry's Carvery, Le Chateau Restaurant, Leatherby's Cafe Rouge, Marché Moderne, Marrakesh, May Garden Chinese Restaurant, Memphis Café, Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant & Bar, Nello Cucina, Newport Rib Company, Oki Doki, Old Vine Café, 118 Degrees, Onotria Wine Country CuisineOrchid Cuisine Grill & BarPark Privé, Pinot Provence, Quattro Caffé, Ristorante Mamma Gina, Royal Khyber Fine Indian Cuisine, Skosh Monahan's Steakhouse and Irish Pub, Soprano's Restaurant, Sutra Lounge, TerraNova, La Terraza Mexican Grill and BarValhalla TableWahoo's Fish TacoWestside Bar & GrillZ’Tejas and Zipangu.

   




*****


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Vietnamese New Wave - Part I - German Euro-disco

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 8, 2008 10:14pm | Post a Comment
Vietnamese New Wave

Are any of my readers out there Vietnamese? I was turned on to this amazing genre by "the Jewel of La Puente," the one and only (OK, one of thousands but still one of a kind) Ngoc Nuyen. I have asked the experts here at Amoeba Hollywood about "Vietnamese New Wave" (also referred to as Asian New Wave at times) groups and no one seems even remotely familiar with any of them, with the exception of Chris Matthews, to whom "Modern Talking" sounds familiar ...

First of all, when people talk about Vietnamese New Wave, they’re not talking about Vietnamese artists (although there is Thu Thuy, Lynda Trang Dai and supposedly a tieng viet cover of a Night Society song), but rather a movement that includes mostly German Euro-disco, Italo-disco and English synthpop artists who acquired, through means that no one seems to understand (although it definitely involves mixtapes) massive popularity amongst Vietnamese in Cali, Texas and Canada (and maybe elsewhere).

And whilst there’ve been at least four or five documentarians who’ve explored the still supposedly strange popularity of Morrissey amongst Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, to my knowledge no one has yet delved into the mysterious “Vietnamese New Wave” movement in which (in addition to OMD, Pet Shop Boys and Gazebo's "I Like Chopin") four German performers, with no radio play, no MTV exposure, no Amazon recommendations, no local performances came, against all odds, to achieve stardom in the Vietnamese immigrant population.

To start with, the term “new wave” as used in music means many different things to different people. History records that Sire records head Seymour Stein was the first to borrow the term from the 1950s and 60s film movements from Europe to describe the bands that played at CBGB like Blondie and the Talking Heads. Before long it seemingly became applied to any band formed after 1976 and was applied to such musically dissimilar artists as Spandau Ballet, Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, the Thompson Twins and definitely anyone with asymmetrical hair or '80s fashions regardless of their sound. By the late '80s, I don't remember anyone really using it anymore. "Alternative" had pretty much replaced it as the term for anything underground or bizarre (at least in Columbia, Missouri, where I was still living.) Anyway, in the context of Vietnamese New Wave, four performers loom large that are pretty much completely unknown by every non-Vietnamese I’ve talked to (except DJ Lance Rock, pictured below, with Vietnamese New Wave expert Ngoc-Thu Nguyen and some people who've never even heard of Modern Talking, including Amoeba blogger Chaz Reece).


Hi-NRG” was a term coined by the UK magazine Record Mirror which had a Hi-NRG chart and was used to describe songs with a staccato sequenced synthesizer as heard in Hazell Dean’s “Searching (I Got To Find a Man)” and Evelyn Thomas’s “High Energy.” This music, filtered through songs like Dead Or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” became known as Eurobeat to some, although I had never heard anyone arguing about the distinctions of these sounds until the age of the chatroom, many years later. There's arguements about what’s what and even Freestyle was frequently marketed as Hi-NRG in the US (as well as Latin Hip-Hop and who knows what else). Canadian band Lime was often considered Italo-disco. I’m not an expert but there is a common sound to the stars of Vietnamese New Wave, as I’m sure you’ll hear if you take the time to watch these awesome videos.

In my research I have found that they have a “New Wave Night” at the Shark Club in Costa Mesa on the first Friday of every month (in the Red Room) and it's specifically Vietnamese New Wave, so I’m going to have to check it out for further research and get back to you.


Bad Boys Blue

Bad Boys Blue was formed in Cologne, Germany in 1984 by producer Tony Hendrik and his lyricist wife Karin van Harren. The group itself was comprised of a Brit, an American and a Jamaican. They became most popular in Russia, South Africa and Ukraine.






C.C. Catch

C.C. Catch, born Caroline Catharina Müller in Oss, Netherlands, moved to Germany in the 1970s and eventually teamed up with writer Dieter Bohlen in 1985, who produced all of her hits (well, hits in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Yugoslavia) until they fell out in 1989.




Modern Talking

Modern Talking was formed in Berlin by Dieter Bohlen and Thomas Anders in 1984. They split in 1987 after achieving considerable popularity in Argentina, Austria, Finland, Iran, Scandinavia, South Africa and Switzerland. In the UK they were marketed toward fans of gay duos like Erasure, the Pet Shop Boys and trios Bronski Beat and Culture Club, despite their heterosexuality. In their videos and live performances they usually consciously appeared with a measured distance between them, fearing that their assumed gay image was holding them back. In 1985, Thomas Anders began wearing a necklace which spelled out his girlfriend’s name in gold letters.







Sandra

Sandra Cretu (born Sandra Ann Lauer in Saarbrücken, Germany) was in the disco group Arabesque and before she began performing solo as Sandra in 1984. After teaming up with her then boyfriend Michael Cretu, she became immensely popular in Germany, Israel, Lebanon and Switzerland. In America she is still mostly known, if known at all, as the female voice in “Sadeness,” the hit single of her by-then-husband’s group Enigma. She’s the one whispering “Sade, dit moi. Sade donne moi.”

 


Go here for Part II of Vietnamese New Wave!

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