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Associate editor/writer Dianne Russell: What you don’t know about her might surprise you

By LYNETTE BRASFIELD

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Dianne Russell, associate editor of Stu News Laguna for more than two years, is well known around town for her beautifully written articles on subjects ranging from predatory tarantula wasps to the miraculous recovery of a lost wedding ring. 

She’s perceived as a friendly, warm, curious person (curious about others, that is!), who wouldn’t harm a fly.

That is true: she wouldn’t harm a fly, well, except under extreme duress. 

Dianne has an incredibly soft heart when it comes to animals. To wit: though, like most people, she doesn’t like rats in her house, one day, upon coming across a helpless baby rat that her cat Anabel brought in, she could not resist feeding it with soy milk from a dropper. Sadly, it died despite her efforts.

Associate editor Dianne

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Dianne Russell, a many-splendored person

But listen up – before you start thinking she’s hopelessly sentimental, let me tell you something: there’s a dark side to Dianne. She loves horror movies, can’t get enough of them, and revels in cinematic blood and gore. Rosemary’s Baby is one of her favorites. 

Horror aficionado

“I watch Rosemary’s Baby probably twice a year. It came out in 1968, so that equals about 100 times. I love it because it’s set in New York at the Dakota. It’s both psychological and supernatural horror – the best kind – and I love Ruth Gordon, who played Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes’ next door neighbor,” she says. “I also like Alien, The Exorcist, The Shining, The Thing, and Silence of the Lambs, as well as more recent ones: Hereditary; It Follows.

“I’m not sure why I like them. Maybe it’s the surprise element (though not much of a surprise when I’ve seen them before) and the excitement of experiencing the unknown? I can’t think of any logical reason.”

Marathon runner

Dianne started her family at a young age. When sons Ronnie, now an animation colorist at Cartoon Network, and Brent, an avid skier who now lives in Steamboat Springs, Colo., left home, she was barely 40. She decided she needed new interests.

“One of my friends got me started running when I was 38. Then I joined a track club. We met once a week. I’ve done a bunch of five and 10Ks, 50 or more half-marathons, seven marathons, and one ultra-marathon in Bishop, Calif. I mostly competed in the 1980s, but some in the 90s.

“I’ve also done Bay to Breakers in San Francisco twice – it’s a 12K whose big draw is that it attracts nude runners, and I did see a few, though it’s not a pretty sight.

“I used to love to run the trails here, Dartmoor especially. I started having periodic back problems and stopped for a while and then just never picked it up again. I think I got it into my head that I was too old – or maybe I just got lazy. I miss it terribly. I’ve never experienced anything close to the feeling of runner’s high. I love hiking but it’s not the same.”

Dog-lover

Unsurprisingly, one of Dianne’s favorite articles for Stu News involved an interview with LBPD’s K-9, Ranger. “He wasn’t very talkative,” she admits. “But I did find out some interesting things about him. Like, his favorite sound is food going into his bowl. He hates the sound of a lawnmower, though.” 

Associate editor Charley

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Dianne with family member Charley, an Australian Shepherd

Passionate about dogs, she’s often seen in Heisler Park walking her 11-year-old Australian Shepherd, Charley. She’ll stop to talk to anyone and everyone about dog-related matters, from flea repellents to the relative friendliness of different breeds.

Charley is supposed to be a herder. But when Dianne took him to a place in Orange where several sheep and a cow are kept specifically to provide enjoyment for canines of the herding kind, she learned quickly that Charley was a city dog.

“He looked at the cow and then at me. I believe he rolled his eyes. I think he thought I was insane to imagine this was something he’d enjoy,” she says.

Charley was preceded by adored Golden Retrievers Greta and Sadie. And Anabel the cat, because Dianne loves cats too. She regularly takes care of my cat Boris when Bill and I are away for the weekend, and she’s one of the few people he’ll stick around to greet when he hears a knock at the door.

Sushi devotee

And then there’s her love of sushi, specifically Taiko in Irvine, known throughout Southern California for its authenticity. Patrons are willing to wait in line for hours just to sit at the sushi bar.

Associate editor Ron

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Ron and Dianne love living in Laguna

“We started going there over 40 years ago. We used to go more, but now we only go on [son] Ronnie’s birthday. I used to sit outside on a lawn chair from around 2 in the afternoon to be sure that we got seats at Chef Suzuki’s section of the sushi bar when the restaurant opened at 5,” she says. 

“Sadly, Suzuki retired last year. Both my grandsons, Forrest and Terry, started going there when they were too young to have sushi and had to order chicken teriyaki.”

Her favorite sushi is a spicy tuna roll. She also enjoys local restaurants, with mussels and peri peri prawns at the top of her list to order.

A (very) creative writer

In her fifties, Dianne began studying for her BA at UCI, and embarked on fiction writing while at the same time holding down a full-time job with Bayer Corporation.

Since then, every other Thursday night, she and her pal Marrie Stone attend a workshop to share their writing and get and give feedback. 

Dianne is a published short story writer and is currently working on a novel with some gruesome aspects. I would expect no less. 

She retired in her sixties and unretired in her seventies to work for Stu News.

“I don’t think I’ve ever worked this hard in all my life!” she says. “But I love meeting new people and writing stories about life in Laguna.”

The happy hiker

And then there are the trails in the Coast Wilderness Park. Dianne and I try to walk at least twice a week, though work, rain, and family challenges don’t always make it possible. She’s 12 years older than I am, but she’s just as capable of hiking the hills. (Though we are known to stop frequently on the Dartmoor Trail, ostensibly to admire the view.)

Associate editor Work

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Dianne at work: is she murdering a character in her novel, or writing one of her fabulous articles for Stu News? Hard to tell; she’s inscrutable.

“I like Barbara’s Lake and Sycamore Trail – which I’ve only done a few times,” she says. “I did a full moon hike up Willow, and that was amazing.”

Coming across a rattlesnake with a mouse halfway down its throat remains one of the most astonishing things we’ve seen on the trails.

“There’s always something new,” Dianne says. “We’ve seen coyotes, lots of bunnies, ground squirrels, and red-tailed hawks, not to mention an escaped pet iguana.”

Born and bred in Orange County

Her OC pedigree is untouchable. She grew up in Santa Ana, which she remembers as a wonderful place, when downtown was where everyone went to see friends. “It’s very different now. All the places that marked my childhood are radically changed or gone.”

Prior to WWII, Dianne’s mother loved to swing dance to the famous bands of the era at the Rendezvous Ballroom on Balboa Island and at the Pavilion on Catalina. In the 1930s, Dianne’s grandfather had a cottage in Crystal Cove, #2.

“My mother used to bring me to Laguna in the forties and fifties, and I thought it was a magical place,” she says. “I always wanted to live here. It took a long time, but I finally made it in 1998.”

Friend extraordinaire

What else can I say about Dianne? She is a vault. Tell Dianne something you don’t want anyone else to know and you can be one hundred percent sure that no one will ever know – not even her doting husband Ron. She’s a very private person. Reading this article about her will be agony, she tells me, though I think she might like it. I hope so.

I am beyond blessed that she is my best friend and has been for 20 years. There aren’t too many like her in this world. She’s thoughtful, kind, and hilarious. 

Oh – but don’t cross her (I would never dare…). She’s no pushover. If you’re nasty to her, or to an animal (heaven forbid), she may write you into her novel. And there your character has a good chance of being murdered in the most horrible of ways…as sweet Dianne smiles her inscrutable smile and taps away at her keyboard, quietly channeling scenes from her favorite horror movie.