The Beauty Queen, the Fighter and the Baseball Player

Orange County
Registrar of Voters
Orange County Poll Worker Insights

On September 7, 2011, Noelle Freeman, 22, the newly crowned Miss California, was speeding towards Santa Ana from her new home in Long Beach. It didn’t seem like a long ride at first, until she hit the wall of traffic known as the “afternoon 405”. But that was alright with her, it gave her a little extra time to catch up on some talk radio – even if it wasn’t one of her favorite topics.

The recent Chapman University graduate arrived at the Registrar of Voters’ offices right on time, despite her brush with the freeway most Californians dread. And Noelle knows a thing or two about California – she was crowned Miss California in June 2011 and it has been a whirlwind journey ever since. She competed before, in the 2009 Miss California competition, as the former Miss Teen World, but she didn’t do as well. This time around though she was ready – and she amazed the judges with her rendition of Swan Lake. “I kept looking down at my sash to make sure it was actually happening,” she would say later in half disbelief.

When Noelle entered the room you could tell why she was Miss California –poised, articulate and a natural beauty. “This is amazing, you guys are ready to go,” she said as she walked into the newly renovated Election Studio. The studio, with its lights and backdrops, was installed in preparation for the 2012 elections – and is another first for the nation’s fifth largest voting jurisdiction. This is a real departure for the office – moving aggressively into upgraded content ripe for an eager election audience. The studio will be used to increase video and multi-media content on the Registrar of Voters’ new website – just in time for the Presidential elections.

But that is not why Noelle was here – she was ready to film a public service announcement for the Registrar of Voters, which will be used to recruit poll workers for the upcoming busy election season. Noelle had dressed for the occasion – in one of the signature bright red dresses she wore as a contestant on the Miss California pageant. Her smile was as broad as her personality. “I hope you’re ready for a lot of takes,” she joked with the crew standing by to direct and film her. Somehow most people in the room knew she was kidding – it was clear she was made for this kind of work. After all, she has been in front of the camera since before she was a teenager.

A few weeks before Noelle’s shoot it was a different story. The Registrar of Voters’ crew was headed in the opposite direction, towards Surf City U.S.A., otherwise known as Huntington Beach. The crew was driving towards the gym owned by the world-famous Tito Ortiz, the former UFC light-heavyweight champion.

Most people don’t know him by his given name, Jacob Christopher Ortiz. Tito – born in 1975 – is a Mexican-American mixed martial artist (MMA). Along with fighters like Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell, he was one of the sport’s early stars. Ortiz ultimately became the biggest pay-per-view draw of 2006 for his fights with Liddell, Forest Griffin, and Ken Shamrock.

The film crew pulled up at 2 p.m. sharp - on an unusually hot Huntington Beach day - outside of the Punishment Training Center, the name appropriately given to the gym owned by one of the most feared MMA fighters in the world. Tito wasn’t at the gym yet but the crew was told he would be arriving soon, so they began to set up all of the camera gear that would be necessary to light the large gym space. They would be filming Tito for his part in the Registrar of Voters’ public service announcements.

Tito walked in about a half hour later, in a black suit with white shirt. This was hardly the way Tim Patterson, one of the crewmembers, recalls Tito. “The last time I saw him he was on television wearing shorts and his face was covered in blood,” he would say after the shoot. Tito was the consummate professional, despite feeling under the weather. His assistant would later say that he had been battling the flu but wanted to keep his promise to help recruit poll workers.

Tito received his nickname, which means tyrant, from his father when he was a year old. He is the fourth child of his mother, Joyce, who has three sons from a previous marriage. Ortiz began wrestling in his sophomore year at Huntington Beach High School under coach Paul Herrera, finishing fourth in the state high school championships as a senior. Ortiz’s mixed martial arts debut was at UFC 13 in 1997. Still in college, Ortiz competed as an amateur for no prize money or contracts. He beat Wes Albritton in an alternate bout by referee stoppage in the first round. Ortiz went on to countless victories in the UFC until his last fight on May 24, 2008, when he lost to then undefeated Lyoto Machida. In between though, as many who follow UFC know all too well, Tito was a force to be reckoned with – chalking up numerous victories.

Of course he was camera ready as soon as he entered the ring in his gym – and the crew went right to work. Tito recited his lines dozens of times in order to capture just the right take. Despite his fever he stayed focused and looked into the camera - as though he were still a competitor in the ring and said “They’re counting on you,” referring to the need to staff 1,300 polling places for the 2012 elections.

Late summer in Laguna Beach means early morning fog and this day was no exception. It was the day to film the last of the three celebrities the Registrar of Voters would be filming for their recruitment videos. As the crew rounded the last few bends of Laguna Canyon Road, they could see the ocean come into view. A quick left from the highway and they were at the Laguna Beach Senior Center – the location of the newest poll worker training video.

Combining the training video shoot with the last of the public service announcements made things efficient – with lighting and cameras in place it was time for one of the most famous Angels to show up – not the heavenly kind but the kind known for his baseball acumen. Bobby Grich, a first-round draft pick, played five seasons in the minors. He hit as high as .383 in 63 games with Rochester in 1970. The following year he had 32 home runs for Rochester. He had to be good, because his competition at the major league level was Mark Belanger at shortstop and Davey Johnson at second base. But that was a long time in the past and he was ready to help recruit poll workers – and he arrived in great spirits.

One of the staff members at the Center was thrilled at the thought of meeting the six-time All-Star player. And it was not hard to tell why – her desk was festooned in Angel memorabilia. She was one of the first to greet the affable Mr. Grich, who was accommodating to everyone who was on the set.

In 1972 Bobby Grich became a regular without a position, getting over 500 plate appearances while playing several positions in the field. Grich played for only two major league teams. He was with Baltimore through 1976 and then the California Angels through 1986. He was named to six All-Star teams, three while with each of his two major league teams. In 1972 he was named to the All-Star team as a shortstop while in the other years he was named as a second baseman. Most baseball players would love to have the career Grich did at that point – but his career went beyond even his dreams. He was also a four-time American League Gold Glove Winner.

Bobby delivered his lines like he’s done a thousand times before as a well-known baseball player. He was enthusiastic – looking into the camera as though he were looking directly at everyone individually. He summed up the day’s shoot by encouraging everyone to make sure they voted in the upcoming elections – and he had his favorite candidate – although he’ll save that one for the ballot box.