Apodaca: U2 concert a lesson in 'loud and unruly' behavior

I thought about Newport Beach's new "Loud and Unruly Gathering" ordinance when I attended a U2 concert at Angel Stadium last month.

While a connection between the Irish rock band and Newport's effort to crack down on overly rowdy partiers seems unlikely, bear with me while I tell you my story.

U2 is one of my all-time favorite bands, so my husband kindly indulged me with tickets. My enthusiasm dimmed when I realized that the tickets were for admission on the field, standing room only.

I had visions of my decrepit old body being tossed about in a mosh pit, even though I'm not entirely sure what a mosh pit is. So I gave those tickets to my son and bought two more in one of the stadium's seated areas, which turned out to be the favored spot for obnoxious, middle-aged drunks.

Our first encounter occurred during the opening act. We were gradually making our way to our seats when a woman approached and asked to use one of our cell phones — or as she put it, "Can I borrow a shell phone? I can't find my shtoopid hushband."

My husband lent her his phone, and after she made her call she droned on in slurred fashion about her hubby's disappearing act. I started to think he might be hiding.

We finally managed to break away, but a few moments later she grabbed our arms again and announced that she had found her husband and wanted to introduce us. He stood beside her, rolling his eyes and insisting that he'd been in the same spot where she'd left him.

We took our seats in time for the main act, which was wonderful. I did my best to ignore the guy sitting right behind us, who was drunk as a skunk. As the concert progressed, he got louder and unrulier, to the point where his sober companion tapped our shoulders and apologized.

His friend had been having a very hard time lately, the man explained, and he'd been so excited to attend the concert that he'd gotten carried away. We said no problem; we understood.

The drunken guy continued to bellow out songs and shout profanities, slapping my husband on the back as if they were old buddies. He stumbled and my husband caught him, preventing what could have been a nasty fall.

That's when security showed up and gave Mr. Party the boot. I watched as he was escorted from the stadium, his friend following dejectedly behind.

We couldn't help feeling a little sad. Yeah, the guy was annoying, but we'd seen worse.

The security staff, we believed, had been a bit heavy-handed. The concert was almost over at that point. Surely a stern warning and an appeal to the inebriated man's friend to keep the situation in check would have sufficed?

And that's what concerns me about Newport Beach's new law, which the City Council passed in May and took effect July 1. As previously reported, the ordinance gives law enforcement additional authority to punish individuals for excessively noisy gatherings and disruptive behavior.

Certainly, no one wants out-of-control parties in their neighborhoods. But are we in danger of giving too much discretion to police to control personal conduct? Offensive behavior is bad, but the risk of oppression by authorities is worse.

I asked Newport Beach Police spokeswoman Kathy Lowe how the new law was working so far. She said it had a significant deterrent effect over the Fourth of July weekend, resulting in fewer big and unruly parties.

Regarding the potential for police overreach, Lowe responded that officers use their discretion in the course of the job "on a daily basis," but they are trained to adhere to the specific criteria of the new ordinance. She added that the law provides a process for appealing citations.

I remain skeptical, but for now we'll have to wait and see if the law and its implementation strike the proper balance between individual rights and peacekeeping.

Jumping to conclusions

While I'm on the subject of personal conduct, a little circumspection might be in order for Walt Davenport, president of Newport-Mesa Unified School District's board, regarding Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard, who is due to stand trial next month on two counts of misappropriating funds at his previous job as Beverly Hills schools chief.

Davenport has publicly proclaimed that prosecutors have trumped up the charges, and that he is convinced Hubbard will be found not guilty.

The presumption of innocence is a given, but Davenport's unrestrained championing of Hubbard is inappropriate and injudicious. He should put away his pompoms, can the cheering for Team Hubbard, and at least try to stay impartial.

If Hubbard is cleared of the charges, the school board will still have to answer to the many parents and district employees who are understandably disturbed that the superintendent sent sexually suggestive emails to his co-defendant. Such thoughtless actions call into question his suitability for the district's top job.

It continues to astonish me when seemingly rational people behave so witlessly. I also considered that point at the end of the U2 concert as we walked through the stadium lot toward our car.

My husband's cell phone rang. It was the man whose snockered wife had misplaced him hours earlier. He couldn't find his wife, he said. Was she with us?

It was a fitting end to the evening.

PATRICE APODACA is a Newport-Mesa public school parent and former Los Angeles Times staff writer. She is also a regular contributor to Orange Coast magazine. She lives in Newport Beach.

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