Novel Has Newport Buzzing

It was 85 degrees Fahrenheit on the sand at her club, and the club’s hot mommas were white-hot on that Saturday afternoon. . . . Most of the hot mommas were no younger than Cher and no older than Jane Fonda. Many could rival either when it came to body sculpting. It was astonishing what the Nautilus, the knife, and single-minded dedication had accomplished in The Golden Orange.

--"The Golden Orange”

by Joseph Wambaugh

Newport Beach telephones are sizzling with talk about the “hot mommas” of Joseph Wambaugh’s new novel about Orange County.


Everybody knows they’re supposed to be a covey of tanned and tawny women who hang out at the Balboa Bay Club (on a patch of sand Wambaugh calls “The Kill Zone”). Even Wambaugh has gone on the record to confirm that.

The question that’s crisping the wires: Who are they exactly? Gadabout Mary Ann Miller, for 20 years a member of the exclusive enclave by the bay, swears that toned and saucy Sassy Luby was/is one. “But the group changes like the tide,” Miller says. “Because they come to the beach when they’re going in and out of divorces. They’re simply gorgeous women who wear outrageous bathing suits and lay around the club’s beach bar. They don’t do anything wrong. They just like to have fun.”

But Luby, who holes up in one of the sanctum’s coveted bay view apartments, says uh-uh. “I’m not a tight body,” she purrs with a giggle. “I haven’t been a hot momma since I was 16!”

Luby, ex-wife of Roger Luby (ex-boyfriend of Aissa Wayne, daughter of John Wayne), says she found Wambaugh’s 317-page fictional account of Orange County’s club, restaurant and bar scene “amusing.”

“Joe and I are old friends,” she said with that easy sound in her voice that tells you life is good. “He went to school with Roger. Joe has taken a composite of people and written a book. Of course the club is the Bay Club. Of course there are hot mommas. And of course they’re gorgeous. There’s enough silicone on that beach to float a boat.”

Ron Soderling, also a Bay Club resident, said the whole beach scene at the Bay Club is hot to watch. As for “hot mommas,” well, Soderling wants to take the Fifth, thank you very much. “I’ll just say there are some ladies who frequently come to the beach who are mostly divorced and live at the club. They’re unattached females looking for attachment. I don’t feel they wear terribly outrageous bathing suits. They’re very nice, sophisticated ladies who enjoy the sun.”

Surprise. Balboa Bay Club President Tom Deemer hasn’t read the controversial book that calls the bar at his prestigious hangout “dark enough to camouflage nips and tucks and bad sutures and lumpy implants and curdled silicone.”

“What?” he said, when told about the teensy paragraph that jolts the reader at the bottom of Page 63. “That’s ridiculous! Come on down here and I’ll show you windows! And when the sun goes down, the lights go on!

“Joe moved out of town kind of quick, didn’t he?” Deemer added, referring to Wambaugh’s recent switch from Newport Beach to north San Diego County. “He’s moved out of Orange County three times. It’s the strangest thing; people who are celebrities aren’t celebrities in Newport Beach. Sometimes it distresses them.”

Trying Out: A few hundred of arts society’s most svelte women are set to audition to model for the benefit fashion show that will be staged at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Sept. 18. On May 30 at the Center’s rehearsal hall, members of the Guilds of the Orange County Performing Arts Center plan to strut their stuff before four judges: Bonnie Page, a marketing rep from South Coast Plaza; Kitty Leslie, fashion coordinator for Newport Center Fashion Island; Marge Cooling, an ex-model who is chairing the modeling committee, and Carlton Burnett, director of the fashion extravaganza that is expected to pour a considerable sum into Center coffers. While most of the models--150 are needed for the show--will be selected by the judges, some will appear by virtue of their beauty and dedication to Center causes. On that list: Kathryn Thompson, Georgia Spooner and Judie Argyros. What? No Janice Johnson, whose idea it was to stage the innovative fund-raiser? “I’m too short--5-foot-3,” Janice says, noting that models must be at least 5 feet, 6 inches. Renee Segerstrom and Willa Dean Lyon are honorary co-chairwomen of the event. Both South Coast Plaza and Newport Center Fashion Island have donated $25,000 to help underwrite the production.