For those haunted since childhood by clown nightmares, it has been pretty easy to stay away from them. Just avoid circuses, kiddie birthday parties and certain hamburger joints. But recently, the so-called creepy-clown phenomenon—which has murderous-looking jesters popping up along roadsides and other places to scare the bejesus out of you—has spread from the Land of Hillbilly Incest to the county of Orange. And no mixture of rye, Ambien and Welsh rarebit prevents our new nightmares.
So what theme did we decide on for this year's Scariest People issue? Creepy clowns! Even the most Pennywise of Pagliaccis can't hold a seltzer bottle to this year's crop of cretins. Enjoy, and don't forget to look for the newest inductee into the Bob Dornan Scary Hall of Fame! P.S., if there seems to be a plethora of Trump mentions this year, it's because the Donald is the biggest clown of them all. Oh, and #fucktrump.
1. TONY RACKAUCKAS
Enshrined in our Scary Hall of Fame waaaaaay back in 2003, Orange County's district attorney claims to be a law-and-order proponent hell-bent on protecting society from criminals and standing up for the victims of violence. But in the past two years, Rackauckas has advocated that two vicious serial-killer inmates, Oscar Moriel and Rene “Boxer” Enriquez, should have the right to freely roam public streets again. His rationale? Moriel and Enriquez supposedly redeemed themselves while in custody by serving his office as jailhouse snitches. Meanwhile, the DA is helping to lead the effort to pass this November's Proposition 66, which seeks to speed up state executions under the theory that ruthless killers aren't redeemable. Mitigating factor: Susan Kang Schroeder, the DA's chief of staff, wears expensive, killer red outfits.
2. JENNIFER MURPHY
Jennifer Murphy would be just another washed-up ex-beauty queen if not for “I Want to Be Neenja.” The jaw-droppingly racist tune she crooned this year during a Laguna Hills launch party for her signature beds rightly enraged Asian-Americans when it surfaced on YouTube. But instead of apologizing for her ching-chong sing-along, she released a full music video that was followed up with “I Drive Like a Neenja”—get it, Asians (oops, neenjas) are bad drivers! The former Apprentice candidate also recently spoke out about Trump planting a kiss on her after a leaked Access Hollywood video exposed him bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy.” Only twist? Murphy firmly supports Trump and didn't think his smooch was sicko. Mitigating factor: Finally put Laguna Hills on the national map.
3. CHUCK DONNER
The Exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan for some chapter or other arrived in Anaheim's Pearson Park in February for a White Lives Matter rally, hoping to re-create all the hooded glory of 1924, when 20,000 Kluckers gathered there. This time around, only half a dozen Klansmen showed up, vastly outnumbered by protesters ready to kick Klucker ass. Donner pulled a blade during the ensuing brawl and went Chucky on protesters, stabbing a Felipe Esparza-looking punk, a white dude and a Green Party guy before he was tackled by Anaheim police. Claiming Donner acted in self-defense, the cops later set him free. The gilded son of the late Charles D'honau, a former publisher of TIME Magazine in Japan, Donner forsook his family's name—but not the million-dollar San Francisco home daddy left behind. With Jewish and French roots, Donner is part Judenrat and Vichy, collecting Nazi regalia in his abundant free time. Mitigating factor: Donner told Anaheim police when and where the Klan planned to arrive, only to have the cops fuck up their protection anyway.
4. KAMALA HARRIS & DILLON ALLEY
Inside the Central Justice Center in March, Orange County district attorney's office (OCDA) investigator Dillon Alley pummeled James Crawford, a defense attorney who'd earlier won a new murder-trial motion for a client over OCDA objections. Kamala Harris, California's attorney general and current U.S. Senate candidate, investigated the assault and—despite photos of Crawford's bloody, swollen and bruised face—claimed she couldn't decipher who'd been the aggressor. Mitigating factor: It's cute to see Democrats and Republicans working together for injustice.
5. JOSHUA ACOSTA AND FRANK FELIX
For all the stares, guffaws and flapping lips directed at those who dress in animal costumes and take on critter personas—as well as the people who love them—the furry community could at least take pride in knowing they were not hurting anyone with their lifestyle. But things took a dark turn in September, when a couple was found murdered in their Fullerton home alongside a family friend. The deceased wife and slaying suspects Joshua Acosta and Frank Felix were furries, although it remains unclear if that had anything to do with the killings. Mitigating factor: Prison provides many opportunities for cosplay.
6. THE JOHN AND KEN SHOW
Not too long ago, KFI-AM 640 ruled the Southern California airwaves, with John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou being their loudmouthed right-wing golden voices. But KFI's glory days are fading faster than Bryan Suits' career, so what's a desperate duo to do? After harping on Santa Ana's Civic Center homeless encampment for weeks, The John and Ken Show did a live broadcast onsite. Only about 35 John and Ken fans showed up to go on a safari tour of OC's downtrodden. Ken told listeners he hadn't stepped on a syringe yet, while John made sport of a troubled woman who rambled incoherently on-air. So stale is their act that only a few Mexican activists bothered protesting—the most damning indictment of their popularity possible. Mitigating factor: JohnKen finally found out what SanTana residents have known for decades: Mayor Miguel Pulido is a pendejo.
7. AYA IBISH
On Sept. 27, the Laguna Beach resident posted on Instagram a photo of her smiling with her “new pride and joy”: a black Mercedes-Benz with a giant red ribbon on the hood. Around 11 that same night, the 22-year-old allegedly slammed into a bicyclist in Costa Mesa and drove off—only to be captured by police a short distance away. Police say Ibish failed a field sobriety test before she was arrested on suspicion of felony hit-and-run and felony DUI causing injury. Her case reinforces negative stereotypes that Orange County's privileged willingly commit the seven deadly sins—and take selfies to prove it. Mitigating factor: At least she wasn't the daughter of a former OC supervisor.
8. COLE BARTIROMO
The Mission Viejo resident got sucker punched during April's anti-Trump protests in Costa Mesa, with his blood-stained face gracing the cover of the New York Post the next day. Sympathies didn't last long when Bartiromo's crazed Facebook rants against Muslims and Mexicans surfaced along with his swindling past, which included fraud charges against him filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission and a 33-month prison stint for conspiring to defraud a Mission Viejo Wells Fargo bank. After the Weekly outed his past, he even put up thousands of dollars in reward money for info on “little Jorge Ramos” (his name for our Mexican-in-Chief). Hey, Cole: Gustavo Arellano is an anchor baby. Pay up! Mitigating factor: Bartiromo is a Seattle Mariners fan, which builds character through insufferable seasons.
9. MICHELLE SUZANNE HADLEY
She's accused of sending emails threatening her ex-lover's wife and unborn child as well as posing as the mother in response to Craigslist ads to have violent rape fantasies fulfilled and to have attacks continue even if she resists. Somehow, we don't think the CW's My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend will work this plotline into its second season. Mitigating factor: Didn't use Backpage. (Editor's note, Jan. 9, 2017: in yet bizarre twist to the case, prosecutors now say Hadley got framed by the wife)
10. STEVEN KORESSEL AND RICHARD BRENTON MELBYE
Tim the Turkey was a beloved presence at Orange High School. But this spring, the 5-pound bird was found wandering near the Orange Circle bruised, reeking of beer, missing feathers and with a gooey substance on his chest. If that sounds like your typical Chapman University undergrad, you're not too far off: Orange police arrested lacrosse players Steven Koressel and Richard Brenton Melbye for kidnapping the gobbler. Tim never recovered from his injuries and was euthanized in August; Koressel and Melbye pleaded guilty to misdemeanors and were sentenced to probation and community service—but not before rejoining their team in time to help the Panthers win a national championship. Mitigating factor: Lacrosse is a sport for wimps.
11. RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN
Turkey's president has tasked attorney Robert Amsterdam with tackling U.S. charter schools linked to Fethullah Gülen, his ally-turned-rival. That proxy war hit Anaheim, where liberals such as Anaheim Union High School District Superintendent Michael Matsuda and current Anaheim City Council candidate Jose F. Moreno cast themselves as public-education heroes against the reclusive Islamic cleric with op-eds against Gülen-linked schools and a formal complaint filed with the California Department of Education, respectively. They then rolled out the red carpet for a March screening of Killing Ed, an anti-Gülen documentary. Matsuda and Moreno didn't seem the least bit bothered as the film built to a big Islamophobic crescendo about Gülen's supposed secret agenda: “Global Islamic State.” “Caliphate.” “Sharia Law!” Anaheim liberals haven't gotten so played by a despot since Scary Hall of Fame inductee Curt Pringle became Anaheim's mayor. Mitigating factor: Erdogan has been so distracted by Gülen he hasn't had time to stamp out the Kurdish revolution in Rojava.
12. BIG BROTHER CAMERAS
Anaheim and Santa Ana cities are implementing city-wide camera systems manned by police. Santa Ana is already affixing HAL-looking orbs on city-owned buildings in downtown, while Anaheim plans to soon start its surveillance program complete with one-way audio allowing for police to bark orders through loudspeakers. Laguna Niguel Amtrak mooners: Please bring your butt cheeks over to Santanaheim, stat! Mitigating factor: Maybe Santa Ana's cameras will catch a councilman walking out of a bar with a woman other than his wife.
13. DR. KEVIN SABET
Once topping a Rolling Stone listicle of “Legalization's Biggest Enemies,” Sabet's over-the-top lectures about how and why marijuana is the beginning of the end of the world are hilarious if you understand that he's full of shit. In his two visits to OC this year, he spouted off lines such as “Recently completed research shows that pot can significantly decrease IQ” and “One out of every six children who try the drug become marijuana addicts and end up on the streets.” No wonder Sabet is a favored guest of OC law enforcement and education officials—they're full of shit, too. Mitigating factor: In a century, he'll be as big a punch line as the Volstead Act.
14. NAKED TODD MARINOVICH IN YOUR BACK YARD
You're lying on your couch, watching the season finale of The Real Housewives of Tulsa, when you hear something outside. You grab the nearest fireplace poker and use the tip of it to gently pull back the curtain to your back yard, only to reveal a tall, skinny, near-albino dude looking back with a dazed expression. Upon closer inspection, you realize it's Todd Marinovich, and the cool night breeze is doing no favors to the former Mater Dei/Capo Valley/USC/NFL QB's shotgun formation. That was the scenario for the Irvine resident who this summer found him, toting meth and marijuana. Mitigating factor: As with his former Raiders offensive line, Marinovich is always holding.
15. MARIA ELENA SALINAS
The Univisión anchor is the most famous Latina journalist in los Estados Unidos, so it was natural for Cal State Fullerton to invite her to give the school's general commencement speech this year and let her speak again at the College of Communications' ceremony. What wasn't natural was for audience members to boo Salinas during her second talk when she said a few words in Spanish and urged students to hold politicians accountable. What was even more unnatural was for Salinas to write a column bashing not her haters, but rather Weekly staffer Denise De La Cruz, who just happened to be graduating that day and wrote an account of the fiasco. Even worse? Salinas slipped into Denise's DMs and quoted her without permission. Way to inspire the next generation! Mitigating factor: Still better than Peggy Noonan.
16. DAVE RODRIGUEZ
Last July, the California state director and president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) endorsed the Poseidon desalination project in an Orange County Register op-ed, arguing it was a “matter of environmental justice and civil rights” for Latinos in Orange County. This came as a surprise to local Latino activists, who've been too busy fighting for actual civil rights, including exposing dirty cops and stopping deportations, to notice. Mitigating factor: No one reads the Register or cares about LULAC anymore, so Rodriguez's scribbles had no influence whatsoever.
17. WHOEVER HIRED SOMEONE TO SHOOT DEREK WORDEN
Last November, someone tried to kill South Coast Safe Access manager Worden outside the medicinal-marijuana dispensary. He was lucky: Although two bullets hit him and he spent days in a medically induced coma, Worden didn't die. The would-be assassin is still at large, and rather than having a personal beef with Worden, he was most likely a hired hitman. It's the scariest local marijuana-related crime since October 2012, when another dispensary manager was kidnapped, tortured and sexually mutilated by a trio that includes Hossein Nayeri, who's still facing trial for that crime and who briefly escaped from Orange County Men's Jail this January. Mitigating factor: There's still a reward for the shooter's arrest.
18. BRANDI ALMA VALADEZ
Orange County prosecutors say the 40-year-old was aware that a preteen boy committed lewd acts with a girl, who was younger than 10, in the adult's home. Following an investigation, she has been charged with making the children perform lewd acts in front of her, molesting the boy and threatening him with a scalding bath if he did not comply. Held on $1 million bail, Valadez could get 30 years in prison if convicted. Mitigating factor: A cauldron just opened up in Hell.
19. CHRISTOPHER QU
The 24-year-old was taken into custody in March on suspicion of yelling racial slurs at a black teen at Irvine High, hitting the teen's older brother with a metal pipe and head-butting the youngster. Previously, Qu was charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon and a misdemeanor count of making criminal threats. He copped to the lesser charge, the felony was dismissed, and he went to jail. He has a pretrial hearing scheduled in November on the new charges. Mitigating factor: We need reminders that the model minority stereotype is a myth.
20. THIS DAB!
21. THE “PULL TRUMP” GUY
A white-haired gentleman in a pickup truck became Internet famous after a videotaped confrontation between him and a cyclist in Corona Del Mar went viral. “You're a tiny little man, a big shot,” the truck driver seethed, explaining that he's a local OC surfer and doesn't appreciate bike-riding outsiders clogging up the road. “What are you going to do,” he added, realizing he's on camera. “Put it on tape? Surfer against a queer? . . . I'd like to smack you so fucking good. If there wasn't any witnesses, do you know what I'd do to you? I'd pull Trump on you.” Mitigating factor: The man apologized after the tape hit the local news, and at least he didn't try to grab anyone's genitals.
22. PETER NAVARRO
The UC Irvine economics professor came into Trump's sights after he wrote 2006's The Coming China Wars, and the New York real-estate developer responded with a favorable blurb for the professor's 2011 Death by China: Confronting the Dragon, which a Los Angeles Times writer hailed as “xenophobic hysteria.” Without meeting him, Trump—who has blasted “Gyna” hundreds of times in speeches—put Navarro on his presidential campaign's economic advisory committee. The profe, a former Democratic Party candidate, claims Trump “will no longer tolerate” American corporate bosses abandoning U.S. workers for ones in China. Yet, the GOP candidate has made his lame suits and ties in China and chosen Chinese steel over a better American-made product for two of his last three projects. Mitigating factor: Sometimes, you have to sleep with the yellow-haired devil for a potential White House cabinet position.
23. CHRIS EPTING
Epting became a regional folk hero a couple of years ago after spearheading a campaign to beat back a beach-fire-pit ban. But after losing his column last fall with the Huntington Beach Independent, Epting turned . . . weird. He signed up with the newspaper of Surf City's felonious ex-mayor Dave Garofalo and spends the rest of his time trolling Huntington Beach online forums and blogs. Southern California got to see this new Epting when he and his son crashed a summer peace vigil at the Huntington Beach Pier, snarling at attendees after someone wrote the name of the man who killed five Dallas police officers on the ground. The author left after press cameras caught his hissy fit, boasting in a Facebook group later that night that he “deflated” the memorial; after Epting left, 200 people continued as if nothing had happened. Mitigating factor: His orange tan is natural.
24. DAVID YERUSHALMI
What do you do when you're sued for anti-Muslim discrimination? Hire an anti-Muslim lawyer! That's the strategy of Urth Caffe, whose Laguna Beach outpost was sued by a group of Muslim women for discrimination. The coffeehouse chain countersued with the help of Yerushalmi, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) placed in its “Anti-Islam Inner Circle” for gems such as saying the War on Terror “should be a war against Islam and all Muslim faithful” and that moderate Muslims are “effectively non-existent.” True to form, he summarily dismissed one of the plaintiffs as “a young Palestinian woman who belongs to organizations that call for the destruction of the state of Israel.” Mitigating factor: One of the Urth Caffe owners is Muslim, so Yerushalmi can't hate Muslims that much.
25. BRIAN CALLE
The Orange County Register editorial board boss oversaw three embarrassing gaffes this year that drew national attention. In January, he apologized after an editorial argued pro sports cheerleaders shouldn't seek state classification as employees (as opposed to independent contractors) because the job has “fringe benefits . . . such as working closely with” millionaire players. Then came a piece in March blasting Assemblymember Don Wagner for running against State Senator John Moorlach. Only problem? Wagner wasn't running. The Reg swung and missed again in October, when it endorsed Ling-Ling Chang against Sukhee Kang for a State Assembly seat. But Kang wasn't her opponent. Mitigating factor: Calle has luck, because despite these fuck-ups, Digital First promoted him to oversee the opinion pages at the chain's 11 Southern California dailies.
26. JOHN WALTHALL
It's bad enough to swindle elderly couples, but Walthall became unglued after his 2009 conviction. He concocted a prison-hatched plot to kidnap U.S. District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford, torture him into confessing in an Internet video feed that he'd presided over a tainted trial, and then feed him into a wood chipper. The Orange County businessman also wanted Colombian hit men to murder the federal prosecutors and FBI agents involved in his case. At his early 2016 trial, Walthall—who espouses the dominant power of secret societies—offered mentally incompetent, barking-wild rants and won a deadlocked jury. A second jury in July didn't buy it. Mitigating factor: The Illuminati strikes again!
27. CERTIFIED TIRE & SERVICE CENTERS INC.
Prosecutors this month forced a $1.4 million consumer-protection settlement against Jeffrey Darrow's Certified Tire business after undercover investigators repeatedly took already-inspected vehicles to his shops and were charged for unperformed or unnecessary repairs. Darrow didn't admit to any wrongdoing, but it was déjà vu all over again: In 2008, the SoCal businessman paid a $550,000 settlement for alleged deceptive practices in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties during the prior six years. Mitigating factor: Certified advertises it “won't be undersold.”
28. LYNN SCHOTT
You can't underestimate the lack of trust Orange County Republican Party powerbrokers felt for Lynn Schott during her 2010 Irvine City Council run. It's likely a Schott victory would've given the GOP control of the city two years earlier than its 2012 takeover. But party bosses refused to endorse her, and while we're not accustomed to praising those guys, their suspicions were right. Skip ahead to the present: Schott, an ultra-right-wing conservative, publicly backed Melissa Fox in this year's council election. Fox isn't just a hardcore lefty; she's a close ally with Larry Agran, the liberal icon who brought Irvine countless ethical scandals. Mitigating factor: We finally don't have to listen to retiring Beth Krom, Agran's other protégé, screech incoherently from the council dais.
29. OAK CANYON PARK
For nature, this stretch of sylvan beauty next to Irvine Lake is a regional jewel. But as a place to hold all-day festivals—as it has increasingly become this decade—it makes Altamont seem as well-organized as a night at the Hollywood Bowl. Consider what happened in August after the Day N Night hip-hop festival: no cellphone reception, massive dehydration, and lines stretching up to six hours to get out, which resulted in a bunch of car battery failures. Did millennials learn nothing from their Hootenanny-going older siblings? Mitigating factor: Being stuck in a canyon without any cellular service forces you to undergo a digital detox.
30. MARIO RODRIGUEZ
Rodriguez is the head of the Hispanic 100, a PAC that laughably tries to get more Latinos in Orange County to vote GOP, but really only succeeds in holding lavish fundraisers. He further ruined what little influence his group has by being the only California Latino on Trump's Hispanic Advisory Committee—this despite last year signing an open letter alongside other Latino Republicans that they'd never support the candidate. Normally loquacious, he hasn't uttered a word to the press since. Mitigating factor: Mysteriously showed up at a Placentia City Council meeting this spring in support of marijuana dispensaries.
31. ARTHUR ROMAN
The Oak Forest, Illinois, police officer was arrested along with his brother and sister-in-law in February. Authorities claim Roman yelled, “What's up, Obamabam?” at an Arab-American teen and his brother-in-law in Huntington Beach, while his brother stands accused of stabbing the teen, who recalled being left like “a fountain squirting blood.” A preliminary court date is set for Dec. 2; Roman was placed on administrative leave. Mitigating factor: If he'd shot the kids, Roman would be off by now.