A month before the launch of Irvine Weekly, Paul Simonds interviewed soon-to-be publisher Brian Calle about fake news and the media at a political action committee fundraiser for the South Orange County Economic Coalition in Lake Forest. Calle served as special guest for the “Understanding the Impact of Media on Local Politics” event. The two had been acquainted in conversation two years before. As chair of the South OC Economic Coalition, Simonds chatted with Calle, who worked as an opinion editor for the Orange County Register, at a monthly meeting of the group about the upcoming 2016 elections.
This September, the difference came not just in topics for discussion, but in the roles both men now play.
Simonds became vice president at Curt Pringle & Associates, a powerful lobbying firm headed by the namesake former mayor (and Dark Lord) of Anaheim, after a staff exodus afforded him the opportunity. Calle infamously took the helm of LA Weekly with a consortium of shadowy owners, mostly from OC GOP and weed circles, while readying to get in the alt-weekly game with a cheap OC Weekly ripoff centered in Irvine.
As reviled as Calle and Pringle both are, it’d be easy to say that it comes as no surprise that Pringle paw prints appeared all over Irvine Weekly as soon as its second issue. But that’s not true, at least on the surface level.
Calle found himself briefly at the center of Anaheim’s bitterly contested elections in 2014. Tom Tait, considered a traitor to the city’s resort elite, sought reelection as mayor that year when a Pringle mailer attacked him using Calle’s own words. Back then, the former Register opinion editor interviewed Democratic challenger Lorri Galloway on FOX 11’s You Decide SoCal 2014 and interjected when she invoked the Anaheim Riots during one of her answers. “But wasn’t the current mayor an advocate for the people who were rioting and their issues?” Calle asked.
Pringleistas smelled blood and slapped the quote on the mailer that painted Tait as a gang-loving, cop-hating, riot-apologist mayor. Calle cried foul. Host Tony McEwing brought up the issue on the program when Calle blasted Pringle for supposedly taking his words out of context for a mailer. “I just found it absolutely despicable,” he said. The Register followed with criticisms of the former mayor in a sternly worded op-ed and positioned the mailer within Pringle’s “shameful smear campaign” against Tait, who the paper endorsed for reelection.
But Pringle has a way of turning former critics around–just ask Anaheim councilwoman Lucille Kring! The most revealing Irvine Weekly issue to hit the stands (probably on top of OC Weekly racks) came on Oct. 29. With a local election just days away, the editorial board of the alt-beige paper endorsed Pringle pal Don Wagner for Irvine Mayor. “For the foreseeable future, many critical issues facing Irvine need Wagner’s temperament and experience,” the endorsement read. That may be a very short future, indeed, with Wagner’s recently announced but long speculated about run for Orange County Board of Supervisors in a special election slated for early next year, a bid sources tell the Weekly Pringle will bless with an endorsement over former Anaheim councilwoman Kris Murray who did the Dark Lord’s bidding for eight years!
But that’s another story, perhaps for another time.
The Wagner nod isn’t the only visible sign of the Pringle presence for those who know where to look. Irvine’s musical hometown heroes Young the Giant may have graced the cover of that issue, but inside Calle scored the virginal paper’s biggest interview yet with Lakers legend Kobe Bryant about his new children’s podcast. The in-person conversation happened at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, which only happens to be a client of Pringle and Associates. Hmm.
More directly, the Orange County Business Council graced the back of the issue with a full-page ad. Lucy Dunn, OCBC’s president and CEO, is another Pringle pal who offered his lobbying firm a quote of praise that appears on its website. A week after the Irvine Weekly issue published, Calle appeared alongside Pringle himself on a bill of speakers for the OCBC’s lighthearted Election Day Luncheon at the Disneyland Hotel. Dunn presided as emcee for the yuk-fest.
The Dark Lord with an alt-weekly at his disposal? It’s an idea as absurd as Irvine Weekly itself yet here we are.
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!