Every six months or so, I’m reminded of how naive and how unrealistic I am whenever something related to “Old Newport” raises its ugly head.
A year ago, the Republican Party of Orange County was debating whether to give its endorsement to former Los Alamitos Mayor Dean “Watermelons on the White House Lawn” Grose. Then, in April of this year, Republican Party of Orange County Central Committee Member Marilyn “Obama is a Chimp Email” Davenport made national headlines. Both times, the press reminded the Country about Newport Beach’s most famous former Councilmember, Dick “Mexicans on the Beach” Nichols.
Oh, the memories.
For those of you who forgot, here is a very condensed version of what happened. In 2003: Nichols said there were too many Mexicans on the Beach, and then the next day he said, “If you don’t believe me, go down there and look for yourself.” Both times, he said this to a Hispanic reporter. Some Newporters got mad, other Newporters defended him, Marilyn Davenport even defended him, but Nichols got censured by his fellow Councilmembers, and ended up receiving 10,724 votes (out of 25k cast) in his losing re-election bid…which means that 42.9% of Newporters who voted thought Nichols was doing a great job…
Anyways, this time I took pride (with tongue firmly in cheek) in being a Newport Beachian (Beacher? Beachite?) in my friend Barbara Venezia’s article joking about the creating of a combined Newport Beach-Costa Mesa “super city.” Her original article created such a “Stir” that she had a write a second in which she was surprised by how her County-wide readers viewed Newport Beach. Essentially, she wrote, they were saying“Newport residents would never take Costa Mesa due to its ethnic make-up, I’m putting it nicely – most didn’t, some calling it ‘Costa Mexico.’”
Is that how everyone else thinks of Newport Beach? If so, is it deserved?
Maybe…but lets back up a bit.
The term “Old Newport” was taught to me in 2006. I had just gotten my head handed to me in the City Council election and was going through my “You lost, but you did a great job” emails when an anonymous one stopped me in my tracks. It essentially had some generic bodily harm threats, laced with frequent obscenities, but it eloquently ended with “Go back to Irvine with the rest of the Gooks!”
Well, the Newport Beach Police were able to track it to an unsecured wireless Internet connection in Newport Beach. Something like that couldn’t have come from Costa Mexico or Irvine anyways, so there was no surprise there. It was in my subsequent discussions with my politico friends that I kept hearing that “Old Newport” term, everytime with a wink and a nod. I finally asked an especially well-connected Newport Beach politico what exactly did that mean?
Essentially “Old Newport” are those folks in Newport Beach who grew up in a time, or household, where racial epithets were OK to say (or email) to people, but who themselves – with a wink and a nod – are not racist, no sir.
And looking at how many votes Dick Nichols received in 2006, I cannot help but wonder how many of those votes were because he was the Incumbent … and how many came with that wink and a nod.
So there you go! Calling me a “Gook” was OK, because the person (p.s. I know whose house the wireless Internet signal came from) is just “Old Newport.” Dick Nichols saying that all the non-white people in Corona del Mar are Mexicans was just “Old Newport.” It’s not racist, it’s just how that person was raised.
So last year, while deep in a 70th Assembly Race primary discussion with a Democrat (yes, I know a couple), that impression of Newport Beach’s “Old Newport” rose it’s ugly head again. You see, at the time, Irvine Councilman Steven Choi was polling ahead of the other two candidates, and we were pondering how six years of Assemblyman Choi would go. The Democrat (who used to live outside of Newport Beach) then stopped mid-sentence to say, with a wink and a nod, and I paraphrase, “Old Newport will never vote for him because he doesn’t have Round Eyes.”
Oh yeah, “Old Newport.” That’s what this Democrat’s decades-long analysis of Newport Beach voting patterns indicated.
Later that election season, I was inquiring about one of the many City Council candidates with two of my extremely well-connected political friends, and used that “Old Newport” term with a wink and a nod. Imagine my excitement when they knew exactly what I was asking and responded, “No, he is very Progressive.”
So does this only exist in Newport Beach? Of course not. But one cannot help but wonder how many of those Barbara Venezia readers actually have seen that wink and a nod enough to say that Newport Beach would never join up with Costa Mexico, or if it’s a stigma that “New Newport” will have to live down for many years to come.