It was the year Californians were schooled in scandal, while the governor got a lesson in humility at the ballot box.
Landslides of the geological and political kind reshaped the terrain in 2005: mud thundered down hillsides in Southern California and voters rejected Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s "year of reform” ballot initiatives.
"There was clearly a supply-and-demand rule here. There was a lot of supply of initiatives but not enough demand for it,” a chastened Schwarzenegger said after his November special election defeat.
While the governor vowed to work his way back into voters’ good graces, Antonio Villaraigosa was already there. Villaraigosa, who ran for Los Angeles mayor as a racial bridge-builder won with 59 percent, the city’s first elected Hispanic mayor in more than a century.
Other politicians left office in tears.
In February, Democratic Secretary of State Kevin Shelley resigned amid investigations into his handling of federal election funds, questionable campaign contributions and workplace behavior.
In November, San Diego Republican Rep. Randy "Duke” Cunningham pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax charges, admitting he took $2.4 million in bribes to steer defense contracts to conspirators.
That wasn’t San Diego’s only brush with infamy. Earlier, the mayor resigned following a $1.37 billion pension shortfall and two councilmen were convicted — although one was later acquitted — of taking bribes from a strip club owner.
Abashed, city officials briefly removed the slogan "America’s Finest City,” from their Web site and San Diego Union-Tribune readers offered a few of their own: "Scandalicious,” "Bunglers by the Bay” and "All Major Unmarked Bills Accepted Here.” New Mayor Jerry Sanders promptly restored the motto.
Civic commotion knew the way to San Jose, too, with Mayor Ron Gonzales getting censured by the City Council for not being upfront about a deal he cut with the city’s trash hauler.
But perhaps the biggest stir in San Jose was caused by an out-of-towner, Las Vegas resident Anna Ayala, who spooned up a mouthful of finger in her chili, starting a saga that was a hands-down favorite of the tabloids before it was uncovered by police as a hoax.
Disasters both natural and manmade struck, especially in Southern California.
Ten people were killed when thousands of tons of mud crashed on the beachside community of La Conchita in January. Another coastal landslide destroyed at least 18 Laguna Beach homes in June.
At an animal sanctuary in Caliente, two chimpanzees broke out of their cages in March and attacked St. James Davis and his wife, LaDonna, who were trying to celebrate a chimp’s birthday. The animals chewed off most of Davis’ face and tore off his foot and testicles before they were fatally shot.
In suburban Glendale, 11 people died and nearly 200 were injured when a commuter train derailed and crashed into another after hitting a vehicle parked on the tracks. Police initially said the driver was trying, unsuccessfully, to commit suicide, but later said it appeared he was trying to cause the crash. Prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty.
In a state famous for its famous people, celebrity again went on trial.
Singer Michael Jackson was cleared of child molestation. Former TV detective Robert Blake was acquitted of killing his wife although later ordered by a jury in a civil trial to pay her children $30 million.
And there were the people made famous by the justice system.
In March, fertilizer salesman Scott Peterson moved into San Quentin’s death row for killing his pregnant wife. In December, former gang leader Stanley Tookie Williams was executed for killing four people.
The high-profile trial of Susan Polk, charged with killing her psychologist husband Felix Polk, was abruptly postponed when defense lawyer and TV analyst Daniel Horowitz found his own wife beaten to death. A teenage boy who lived down the hill from Horowitz was charged with murder.
In Fresno, Marcus Wesson, leader of a clan he bred through incest, was sentenced to death for murdering nine of his children.
Two Californians found celebrity for challenging the White House.
A little-known Vacaville mother, Cindy Sheehan, took her grief over her dead soldier son to the national stage, protesting the Iraq war outside President Bush’s Texas ranch and becoming widely known as "Peace Mom.” A Santa Rosa grandfather, former FBI official W. Mark Felt, stepped into the spotlight and revealed he was the longtime anonymous Watergate source known as "Deep Throat.”
Northern California, meanwhile, welcomed a charmingly cheerful Prince Charles and his new wife, Camilla, who visited the homeless, toured organic farms and snacked on tasty, Earth-friendly treats.
Among the notable dead of 2005 were the quick-witted and ever-urbane Johnny Carson, the bitingly funny Richard Pryor and Johnnie Cochran, who successfully defended O.J. Simpson.
In business, Michael Eisner was out, resigning after 21 years leading the Walt Disney Co. So was Carly Fiorina, ousted as CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co. But Google Inc.’s ship was in as stock prices soared.
In sports, a knee injury kept Giants slugger Barry Bonds out of action for much of the season, a disappointment for fans eager to see him pass Babe Ruth and chase down Hank Aaron’s home-run record.
Off the field, Victor Conte, founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, better-known as BALCO, began serving a four-month prison term for orchestrating an illegal steroids distribution scheme. A number of star athletes were listed as his clients, although none was charged or had to testify in open court after four defendants pleaded guilty.
Phil Jackson returned as Los Angeles Lakers’ coach after a one-year hiatus, reuniting with Kobe Bryant, who settled his sexual assault case out of court for an undisclosed amount.
The 49ers flopped on the field but created a buzz elsewhere with an in-house video featuring racist jokes and topless blondes.
That flap apparently escaped some San Francisco police officers who were in hot water at year’s end for making videos that, among other things, showed a white officer driving over a black woman.
It wasn’t all rain clouds in 2005.
A California Institute of Technology scientist shared the Nobel prize for chemistry. Northern California writer Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, brought out the 12th installment of his darkly popular "A Series of Unfortunate Events,” and the San Francisco Opera tackled the birth of the nuclear age in "Dr. Atomic.”
Still, even the ebullient Schwarzenegger wouldn’t have minded a do-over.
"As a matter of fact,” he said, assessing the special election, "you know, if I would do another Terminator movie, I would have Terminator travel back in time to tell Arnold not to have a special election.”<