Los Angeles Times

Venezia: My political column is returning home to the Pilot

My friendship with John Canalis, editor of the Daily Pilot, is both strange and wonderful. He's wonderful and I'm just strange!

But all kidding aside, since we met more than four years ago, not only have we put our heads together creating the ground-breaking political forum series Feet to the Fire, but we also did something unprecedented.

We brought together media outlets in Orange County.

Moving past the pettiness of competition, the Daily Pilot, Orange County Register and the Voice of OC have continued to come together for a common goal with these forums.

And in the process the journalists involved, Norberto Santana Jr., Jack Wu, Roger Bloom and Frank Mickadeit, have all become close friends — Canalis and me included.

So last week, when my editor at the Orange County Register called to say that because of cutbacks the newspaper would be keeping only my lifestyle column in the local section and cutting my Newport-Mesa political column in The Current, Canalis had an idea.

He suggested I bring my Newport-Mesa column to the Pilot.

Write for two papers?

Though this might seem odd, I am a freelancer and I would be writing a very different column for each publication, both of which I love.

I've made a career out of transcending barriers, so the concept isn't out of my wheelhouse.

In fact, I've often found myself in situations that might not be the everyday occurrence.

For those who don't know me, I'll give you some background.

I moved to Orange County from New York in the early 1980s.

My last job on Long Island was managing a rock 'n' roll club. I got the job while waiting in line at a deli and striking up a conversation with the club's owner.

Little did I know, waiting for pastrami on rye, that I'd spend the next several years rubbing shoulders with rock legends like Billy Joel, Joan Jett, The Ramones and others.

In the mid-'80s I discovered local-access cable and produced a talk show interviewing interesting entrepreneurs.

That's how I met Fleetwood RV founder John Crean.

After interviewing him for a segment, he suggested I produce a cooking show with him.

Having no interest in cooking myself, I thought maybe I'd learn something from the experience. That's when my career path changed once again and I became a professional "stirrer."

"At Home on the Range" premiered in 1992, and it certainly was the cooking show for the deranged.

Though it didn't start out to be a comedy, after realizing Crean's specialties were homemade dog food and anything with SPAM in it, there was no other direction it could've taken.

During that time I also married the local trash man — well he did co-own the company. (Today my husband, Stan Tkaczyk, is chairman of the Orange County Fair Board).

Then, in 2007, I was offered a weekly opinion column in the Daily Pilot by then-Publisher Tom Johnson.


From comedy cooking to writing about local politics?

Johnson didn't think it was a stretch. He felt my natural curiosity and no-holds-barred opinions would resonate with readers, which it did.

Again, I was stirring, this time the political pot.

The column found a voice and caught the eye of the Orange County Register in 2008. They made me an offer I couldn't refuse, and the column moved there.

Over the past six years, in addition to the Newport-Mesa political column, I've also written a weekly lifestyle column for the Register's local section. And last year I developed the Tasty Tidbits restaurant column for the paper as well.

Starting this week, I'm back on the pages of the Daily Pilot on Fridays.

I plan to continue to ask the uncomfortable questions about issues residents want answers to.

It's a big election year in our cities, and I'll profile the candidates running for City Council in both cities.

Knowing who these people are, and what they stand for, is important.

Once elected, these folks directly affect what happens right outside our front doors.

And as we know, the wrong people in power can cause all sorts of craziness.

As part of this discovery, I'm happy to be working with my media pals producing four Feet to the Fire forums this season, which you can learn more about at our site, Feet2theFireForum.com.

Yes, my life has had some strange twists and turns, but I seem to always wind up in a good place.

And I'm happy to be contributing again to my hometown paper.

BARBARA VENEZIA, whose column appears Fridays, lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at bvontv1@gmail.com.

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