And Don’t Call Him ‘The O.C.’ Supervisor


You can’t blame Chris Norby for his flip-flop last week. It’s the company he keeps. Under the immense weight of being the first Orange County supervisor in recent memory to shuck convention and stick his neck out, he buckled.

For a day or so, Norby gave us hope.

To paraphrase Mr. Spock, I couldn’t believe my ears. What would possess an elected official in a conservative county like this to go public with an idea to rename (sort of) the John Wayne Airport after “The O.C.,” Fox’s hit TV show? What would lead someone to be so bold as to even contemplate dumping the Duke? Could it have involved a hotel bar and an inordinate number of cocktails? A fall from a ladder while working at home? A lonely cry for attention?

Whichever, I liked it. Finally, someone in county government thinking wa-a-a-y outside the box.


Alas, by week’s end, Norby, 54, had climbed back inside the box, beaten to a pulp by constituent complaints.

“I did it because, No. 1,” Norby says, “I always wanted Orange County to have a more unified identity. I was born and raised here and interested in the fact that it’s one of the biggest counties in the country but one that has no dominant city, so its identity is somewhat diffused.”

With that nagging irritation in his head, a bell went off when tourist officials told him they too wanted to unify the county’s identity. “I said, well, and I just threw this out,” Norby says.

He suggested “The O.C. Airport -- John Wayne Field.”

The trial balloon became a lead balloon.

Some of Norby’s constituents, it seems, don’t like the series and its cast of “sleazy lawyers and troubled kids” and certainly didn’t like the idea of demoting the iconic Wayne, who used to frequent the Newport Beach environs, from an airport to a field.

Chastened, the first-term supervisor says he learned a thing or two about the sensitivity of names on things and about a TV show he’s never watched.

Unifying Orange County will have to wait for another day.

I’m bummed, because I was primed to support Norby’s idea. Mainly, I wanted to praise him for his moxie in downgrading the Duke for “The O.C.”


Obviously, people have used the initials over the years to refer to the county, but it’s the success of the year-old series that has spurred interest in our paradisiacal mishmash of 34 cities and 3 million residents. The county has become hip in ways that would have made John Wayne cringe.

By the time we talked Friday afternoon, though, Norby said the whole thing had diverted attention from more important things, like the county’s property-tax share, Proposition 172 and the toll roads.

Mr. Supervisor, renaming the airport after a TV show is a lot more interesting.

“In throwing out a few ideas that I thought could be explored,” Norby said, “they metastasized into something beyond what I thought they would.”

No need to backtrack, my man. “The O.C.” is what’s happening, baby. Besides, I never understood why John Wayne got his name on an airport, anyway. Wouldn’t a boulevard or a marina have been enough?

At one point Friday, Norby’s staff, at my request, was compiling some of his constituents’ complaints for me. I figured it would make for entertaining reading. Eventually, however, Norby scotched that, saying, “I don’t want to make fun of people who write me with their concerns.”

Thus, a week that began with such promise had disintegrated into business as usual.

“It’s good to think outside the box,” Norby said, “but there’s a reason there’s a box, too.”


Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted.

Dana Parsons’ column

appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He can be reached at (714) 966-7821 or at An archive of his recent columns is at