I spent July 4th this summer in Warsaw, Poland. As a tip of the hat to visiting American tourists and businessmen, a downtown hotel put on a special "American Independence Day" buffet. And standing at the entrance to the restaurant--in a larger-than-life cardboard cutout, dressed in cowboy garb and brandishing a pistol--was Orange County's own John Wayne.
It warmed me to know that if any Poles who happened on that buffet should ever fly into Orange County, they would have no trouble identifying the statue enshrined in our new airport terminal building. They may not know why an airport should be named for John Wayne, but at least they'll know who he is.
They assuredly won't know the other two names immortalized at our new airport: Eddie Martin and Tom Riley. But if we tell them we're divvying up the honors between a honest-to-God pioneer aviator, a politician and a movie actor--and wink--they'll probably understand how the latter two came into the picture. They've been around the block a few times.
In pondering all the controversy that took place in naming John Wayne Airport, the Thomas F. Riley Terminal and the Edward J. "Eddie" Martin Terminal, it occurred to me that the argument might have been resolved--or at least moderated--by passing the honors around a little bit more. There are all sorts of places within the new facility that we can name to recognize deserving Orange Countians.
Here are a few:
* It seems a little unfair that Orange County's other famous cowboy, Angel owner Gene Autry, has been neglected at the airport. So maybe we could manage a plaque for him at the base of the flagpole since this would appear to be the closest he will ever come to a pennant.
* The Richard M. Nixon Baggage Claim Area might be named for the former president because no Orange Countian--or American, for that matter--has ever carried, or managed to lose, so much political baggage so effectively.
* The Georgia Frontiere VIP Lounge would honor the Rams' owner because more than anyone else in Orange County, that's where she lives.
* Orange County Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder and Irvine mayor Sally Anne Sheridan could share the Lost and Found Department, since both of them managed to mislay college degrees.
* The Ronald Reagan Control Tower would be a fitting tribute to a California President probably unexcelled in the nation's history in staying above all the problems going on below and around him.
* There are so many candidates for commemorative plaques over the restrooms--including, some letter writers have urgently and graphically suggested, this reporter--that it's hard to make a choice. But a leading candidate, especially after his recent run on a network radio talk show, would surely have to be Rep. Robert (B-2 Bob) Dornan (R-Garden Grove), for obvious reasons.
* There's another Orange Countian who would be wonderfully appropriate to replace--or at least share--the John Wayne moniker. His name is Douglas Corrigan, and he is just-right on two counts. First, he's a legitimate, intrepid aviator who became famous by filing a flight plan to Los Angeles out of New York and then flying to Dublin in a crate held together with coat hangers at a time when even airliners weren't crossing the Atlantic. And second, there are still a lot of people in Orange County who believe firmly that expanding the airport was the "wrong way" to go.