Retired Marine Corps Gen. Thomas F. Riley has no doubt seen pomp and elegant send-offs, but there would be none of that Tuesday as he ended two decades on the County Board of Supervisors.
No medals, no gushy plaque exchange, no honor guard--not a Boy Scout in sight. Just a guy berating him in an orange mini-skirt with a boombox, threatening to play a song meant to disparage the supervisor's manhood.
At least fellow retiring Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder had the composure to throw back her head and laugh, but it was hardly the dignified "swan song" she would have wished for as the pair ended their service in public office.
"This is my penance," Riley said dryly to the skirted man who called himself Will B. King. "Out! Out! Out!"
A citizenry not often present for the weekday drone that is government-in-action turned out at the chambers Tuesday morning, and the end result was, at times, carnival-like.
Just inside the tall, white building on Civic Center Drive, a homeless woman in violet sweats stood beside her trash bag of belongings and remained there for the duration. Sipping coffee machine cappuccinos outside the boardroom, she had a ringside seat as all the suits and TV cameras whizzed by to convene on the matter of Orange County being in the poorhouse.
Given that Orange County two weeks ago filed the largest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history during his watch, Board Chairman Riley seemed strangely surprised at the depth of wrath as people lined up waiting for hours to vent.
And vent they did.
Ross Perot followers from his United We Stand organization filled parts of the chamber. In an overflow room, a mother and daughter, the latter in a little fur coat, unfurled red banners reading Coalition for Accountability.
At one point the skirted man offered Christmas gifts to the five supervisors, "some cold-weather gear in case you become homeless, and you \o7 should\f7 . . . . This should keep you warm."
Riley pointed out that, as public officials, the supervisors were not allowed to accept gifts. This elicited a low rumble of murmurs and snorts in corners of the room, perhaps in light of the ongoing investigation into whether the supervisors or resigned Treasurer-Tax Collector Robert L. Citron accepted any special favors in return for investing billions via several brokerages.
All that before the general public comments were even launched at 12:15 p.m.
With Supervisors Riley and Gaddi H. Vasquez trying to make the best of a tedious situation by throwing in some ad-libs, the meeting's tone grew into tense absurdity.
"I live in the 'fabulous 5th District' and . . . I'm sorry you have to leave under these circumstances. Sincerely," Dolores Otting told Riley, using his own trademark description of his political turf.
But her overriding sentiment was disgust that the supervisors could allow millions in public funds to be lost and that "these meetings have come to this," meaning the parade of epithets and the antics of skirt man.
Otting, a waste hauler for several school districts, also sarcastically thanked Wieder "for ignoring me" the many times she approached the Board of Supervisors, saying it gave her the conviction to return.
Schoolteachers on holiday break, county employees who'd taken time off to appear, the head of the county branch of the League of Women Voters and, of course, the skirt man, who complained that the bad press about last week's appearance before the board had cramped his chances at a political career.
Wieder took her swats at the press as well, saying the local newspapers were the only "blight" on her tenure.
It wasn't all supervisor bashing, though.
A female consultant complimented Wieder for surviving countless political crises. All the while, she said, "you've never lost your femininity."
A voice of levity from the audience came from James Stoddard, who offered to repair county typewriters for free and intoned: "You may have to live with less, like I do. . . . Live within your means."
Some spectators who crowded into overflow chambers of the downtown Santa Ana boardroom questioned whether you could say leadership was transferred Tuesday. But Riley did pass the gavel on to Vasquez as the new board chairman.
By then the gallery was draining, and nobody seemed to much care.
After the meeting, after playing his boombox outside for a sheriff's deputy, skirt man tugged up his ensemble and headed off to the parking lot. "Excuse me, ma'am, do you have a dollar so I can catch the bus back to Newport? Some spare change?"