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TRUE STORY :: Behind the Corrupt California City True Detective's Vinci Is Based On

TRUE STORY :: Behind the Corrupt California City True Detective's Vinci Is Based On

This year’s season of True Detective changed everything from the first season, including the geographic location. Instead of the backwoods of Louisiana, Season 2 finds itself in the tiny town of “Vinci” aka Vernon, California. Vernon sits five miles south of Los Angeles with a population of less than 150 people, so calling it a small town setting is no understatement at all. But is the town really as shady and corrupt as the show suggests? Yes. Absolutely.


The town is just a few miles south of Los Angeles and is basically the equivalent of a Monopoly game board. There are buildings and structures that people pass through, but it’s only a façade for making piles of money and wearing a tiny top hat while walking around on a cane and giving away $200 for passing Go. Can we talk about how the Monopoly’s guy’s name is actually Uncle Pennybags, by the way? Their idea of supreme wealth is an old man in a tuxedo carrying around bags of unrolled coins. The government officials in Vernon are basically different versions of The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase. They own every house in the city so all the money goes through them. It doesn’t seem like you’d make that much money in a town with a population less than 200, but the twist is that there are over 1,800 businesses and manufacturers in the town that generate a huge amount of employment opportunities and income.

Over 50,000 workers commute into the city every day, which means Vernon is getting to tax them without having to take care of them. Basically, every employee is a side chick of Vernon and they use them for what they want without any real investment in them. If you think that’s a recipe for greed and corruption, you’d be absolutely right! Vernon makes FIFA look like an upstanding company fully supported by the Better Business Bureau. According to Deadspin, the town produced $295 million in revenue in 2011 from power plants, that the city owns, which keep the factories running. It has a $4.1 billion property-tax base even though the population is barely more than the number of band members in the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Plus, since they don’t have to worry about improving public schools or bettering the community, the government employees can live like a Ric Flair speech complete with stylin’, profilin’, limos, jets, and stealing kisses.


They can’t be making THAT much money, right? Haha yes. Yes they can. Some of the job titles and salaries include a renewable energy consultant, which totally sounds like a job and not something Captain Planet would require if he were a diva, and that gig pays a respectable $160-per-hour. The light and power director, aka Storm from the X-Men, made $785,000 in 2009 and the city attorney made $800,000. The only way a city attorney for that small amount of people would make $800,000 is if Al Pacino’s character from The Devil’s Advocate personally wrote his resume for him. And just like Pacino’s character, there’s nothing anyone can do about this because they’re the government and they pretty much control the election. They just keep voting each other back into office because it takes less people voting for you to win their election than it does to have a mandatory group tip included at dinner at Applebee’s.

One of the craziest stories to come out of Vernon’s government is about the former mayor Leonis Malburg. This guy was drawing a huge salary from the city as mayor, but wasn’t even living in Vernon. He pulled a Fresh Prince and secretly slipped out to live in a mansion miles away in Hancock Park. How hard is it to be the mayor of a town with a population less than the number of starting quarterbacks the Oakland Raiders have had since 2004? Pretty much your only job is to live in the city and even that was too much to ask.

Vernon appointing a Finance Director in 2013. Photo:

It’s hard to expect more from a city that has more True Religion clothing factories than public parks. For the record, there’s one True Religion factory and no parks whatsoever. As you can imagine with this sort of business practice, city officials are very concerned about their carbon footprint and protecting the environment. There was a battery plant that Los Angeles residents fought to get shut down because it was “emitting lead and arsenic into the surrounding areas.” That may sound like an open and shut case, but it took more than a decade to get the plant closed. Were they trying to recreate the ooze that mutated everyday turtles into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Because that’s really the only logical reason you could have for fighting to keep that battery plant open for that long. Oh, also lots of money.


So, if you’re looking for a new place to live that smells like farm animals (another one of the perks of living next to manufacturing plants hooray!) and is more corrupt than an .exe file your mom accidentally downloaded by clicking on an ad that said she was the 10,000,000th visitor, Vernon is the place for you. Just make sure you can get a government job and always cheer for the bad guy in episodes of Law & Order. Enjoy!

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