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TimesOC: Sometimes you just have to laugh

"Sign up for our TimesOC newsletter" and the L.A. Times logo over the Huntington Beach Pier at sunset.
TimesOC, a newsletter about Orange County, is published Wednesdays and Fridays.
(Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, Jan. 12. I’m Carol Cormaci, bringing you today’s TimesOC newsletter with the latest roundup of news and events.

As we’ve recounted in recent weeks, seemingly every sector of our communities is beleaguered by the current state of coronavirus affairs. Hospitals are overflowing due to this winter surge, schools, businesses and even city halls are finding themselves short-staffed due to absences, and parents are again stymied over whether or not they should send their kids to school. You know firsthand the litany of delays and outright closures tied to the Omicron variant. Remember when fast food was, well, served up fast? Those were the days.

It occurs to me that we should all step away from the insanity of the situation for a moment or two and consider the endeavors of the Orange County Crazies, now celebrating its 32nd anniversary of teaching the fine art of making people laugh.

Who wouldn’t want to know how to amuse others effortlessly? It’s a great skill that OC Crazies founder Cherie Kerr inspires in her comedy students, according to a wonderful feature story by our colleague Sarah Mosqueda.

As Mosqueda learned, Kerr started on her career path as one of the first 12 members of the storied L.A. Groundlings improvisation and sketch comedy theater.

“They were going to come here, to Orange County in late 1980s,” Kerr told Mosqueda. “But they had gone to New York, and they hadn’t done very well with a satellite situation.” That was when Tom Maxwell, the artistic director and head of the school from 1979 to 1989, suggested Kerr start her own venture in O.C.

The result, of course, was the Crazies. We could all use a chuckle or two around here. Serve it up!

Students improvise a sketch during the Orange County Crazies Improv class at the De Pietro Performance Center in Santa Ana.
Guy Nelson of Riverside, from left, Brent White of Pomona, Matt Morrison of Los Angeles and Max Fay of Huntington Beach improvise a sketch during the Orange County Crazies Improv class at the De Pietro Performance Center in Santa Ana, on Jan. 9.
(James Carbone)

MORE NEWS

— If you’ve ever had a catalytic converter stolen off your vehicle, you’ve learned what a costly theft that is. If you have not experienced it, you might want to call (714) 848-9222 and make an appointment for a free service offered from 10 a.m. to noon on the first and third Saturday each month at ExperTec in Huntington Beach. They will etch identifying information on your car’s catalytic converter so that if it is stolen and recovered by police you’ll get it back. My colleague Sara Cardine looked into which cars are most targeted by thieves and spoke to a Santa Ana man recently reunited with the catalytic converter stolen off his car because he’d had it etched. Read her report here.

Sheriff's deputies on Jan. 4 arrested three individuals in Santa Ana on suspicion of stealing catalytic converters.
Sheriff’s deputies on Jan. 4 arrested three individuals in Santa Ana on suspicion of stealing catalytic converters after suspects fled and collided with two police vehicles.
(Courtesy of Orange County Sheriff’s Department)

— A man whose body was discovered floating just north of the Pacific Coast Highway overpass of the Santa Ana Riverbed in Huntington Beach on Jan. 4 was identified this week by officials as 53-year-old Paul Lupien, who did not have a known address.

— California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta on Monday gave his approval to Newport Beach-based Hoag Memorial Hospital’s split from Renton, Wash.-based Providence St. Joseph Health, the nation’s fourth-largest Catholic hospital system, as of Jan. 31. L.A. Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik takes a look at the dissolution of a 10-year relationship during which Hoag chafed at the “intrusive interference of women’s healthcare” on the part of Providence. Hoag first sought to dissolve the affiliation in 2020.

— An assistant public defender who is defending a man accused of being in possession of drugs for sale made a legal filing this week accusing an O.C. sheriff’s sergeant who is a witness in that case with perjuring himself in a courtroom. The sergeant allegedly played roles in two scandals that rocked the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in recent years — the evidence mishandling and snitch scandals, according to a report on the recent legal filing by my colleague Ben Brazil.

— After 80 years, it is time for Vanguard University to say goodbye to the Pit. The university plans to demolish the gymnasium this summer and hold a groundbreaking for a new facility, Lions Arena, which officials are hoping to open on campus in 2024.

LIFE & LEISURE

— Huntington Beach resident Adam “Bushman” Orozco, an airbrush muralist, has taken it upon himself to put his skills to work tackling graffiti in his hometown, and he works fast. “I started my own vigilante thing against the taggers,” he told reporter Matt Szabo. “It only lasts about one night with me around. They put it up at night, and boom, 5 o’clock in the morning if I come across it then I’ll take it down.”

Adam "Bushman" Orozco cleans up graffiti on a wall in Huntington Beach.
Huntington Beach native Adam “Bushman” Orozco, 59, left, and his son Thunder, 22, right, clean up graffiti on a wall behind the Arco gas station at the corner of Beach Boulevard and Adams Avenue in Huntington Beach on Friday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

— One more casualty of the seemingly never-ending pandemic is this year’s Orange County Cherry Blossom Festival, so you can strike that off your 2022 calendar (it had been planned for March 11 through 13). The last one was held in 2019. Event director Kevin Elliott has optimistically announced the next Cherry Blossom Festival is scheduled to take place March 10 through 12, 2023.

— The popular Phin Smith in Garden Grove, a purveyor of delicious Vietnamese coffee, is one of several such businesses finding new inspiration in Vietnam’s unique coffee culture, writes Garrett Snyder, in his feature story in the L.A. Times Food section, “The best Vietnamese coffee in Little Saigon? Try these new cafes.”

Viet Do makes coffee at Phin Smith.
Viet Do makes Vietnamese coffee at Phin Smith in Garden Grove.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

SPORTS

— After their season-ending loss Sunday to the Las Vegas Raiders, Chargers players say they still support coach Brandon Staley, who was criticized by many for a fourth-down decision that failed in the third quarter, according to a story by Times sportswriter Jeff Miller.

— UCLA football offensive lineman Sean Rhyan, an athlete hailing from O.C.'s Ladera Ranch, on Monday declared for the NFL draft. The Bruins’ 6-foot-5, 320-pound left tackle is a junior this year and is joining the team’s right tackle, Alec Anderson, in departing school early for a pro career.

UCLA offensive lineman Sean Rhyan sits on the bench during the second half of the Nov. 20 game against rival USC.
UCLA offensive lineman Sean Rhyan sits on the bench during the second half of its annual rivalry game against USC. UCLA won 62-33. Rhyan, a junior, has declared for the NFL draft.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

OBITUARIES

A veteran Orange County activist and organizer, Mike Clements, died earlier this month of pulmonary fibrosis in Fullerton. He was 76. In an obituary written by my colleague Gabriel San Román, Clements is remembered by those who knew him as a passionate worker on behalf of poor and exploited people.

Mike Clements was a community organizer in Orange County for decades.
Community activist and organizer Mike Clements, photographed in early 2020, passed away Jan. 2 in Fullerton.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

— Orange County philanthropist Ruth Ann Moriarty passed away Jan. 4 at her home in Santa Ana at the age of 99, according to an announcement Friday by officials from South Coast Plaza, still run by the family-owned C.J. Segerstrom & Sons founded by Moriarty’s grandfather, Charles John Segerstrom, in 1906. She is remembered by her family and acquaintances for her service to others.

Ruth Ann Moriarty, pictured in 2018, died in her home in Santa Ana on Jan. 4, South Coast Plaza representatives reported.
(Courtesy of South Coast Plaza)

If you have a memory or story about Orange County, we would love to read it (please keep your submission to 100 words or less).

We want your help in making this the best newsletter it can be. Send your memory of life in O.C., news tips or comments to carol.cormaci@latimes.com or benjamin.brazil@latimes.com.