Newsletter: Billie Jean King’s Long Beach roots

Tennis great Billie Jean King speaks to the media in February.
(Chuck Burton / AP)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Sept. 24, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

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Long before the barrier-breaking tennis legend won 39 major titles, fought for women’s equality in sports or defeated Bobby Riggs (and male chauvinism) at the fabled “battle of the sexes,” Billie Jean King was a Long Beach kid who grew up learning to play the game on city courts in the mid-1950s. Her parents, Bill and Betty Moffitt, both of whom are deceased, lived at the same house on West 36th Street for more than 40 years. King was still a senior at Long Beach’s Poly High School when she won her first Wimbledon doubles title in 1961. She was 17 at the time.

On Saturday, nearly six decades after her senior year and first Wimbledon title, King returned to Long Beach with all the pomp and circumstance of a visiting dignitary as the city’s main library was renamed in her honor. Later that day she would be at Dodger Stadium (she is a partial owner of the team) for “Billie Jean King Bobblehead Day,” where tens of thousands of fans would receive little commemorative bobblehead toys featuring the tennis trailblazer in a white dress and her signature glasses.

But the library naming, she said, was the real honor. “This is much more meaningful and much more emotional because I’m born and raised here, as you can see how many people helped me on my journey,” King told the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

For Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, the naming isn’t just about hometown pride. There may, according to the Long Beach Post, be nearly 200 buildings around the city named after various people. But, Garcia told the Post, “you can’t find many people’s names on those buildings who are LGBTQ.” (Garcia made history as Long Beach’s first openly gay mayor when he was elected in 2014.)


And now, here’s what’s happening across California:


Critical fire weather continues to threaten California, as high winds, low humidity and dry conditions combine to form a sometimes lethal mix, the National Weather Service warned Monday. A red flag warning remains in effect for more than 3.8 million Northern Californians. In Southern California, Santa Ana winds will carry warmer temperatures along with elevated fire dangers, forecasters said. For the first time this year, several communities around the state are facing preemptive blackouts to reduce the fire risks. This is adding a new element of uncertainty and controversy. Los Angeles Times

Gov. Gavin Newsom sharply criticized President Trump in front of foreign leaders Monday, using his first appearance on the international environmental stage to highlight how California is addressing climate change, in contrast to the federal government. The U.N. Climate Action Summit and surrounding events in New York will give many international leaders their first exposure to Newsom, while allowing the governor to signal where he plans to take California’s pioneering initiatives to address climate change. Other countries are watching closely to see how he carries a torch of activism lit by his predecessors. Los Angeles Times


A group of climate activists shut down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood on Monday afternoon, snarling traffic in the area. Los Angeles Times

A “white boy” from Maywood (a now 96% Latinx neighborhood) reflects on how his upbringing as the neighborhood shaped him, and made him a better parent and citizen. L.A. Taco

What is Hope Hicks’ life like in Los Angeles? When the former Trump whisperer arrived last year after taking a job as Fox’s chief communications officer, she wasn’t the toast of Tinseltown. Since then, it’s hardly been an episode of “Entourage.” Airmail

Serenity, now: There are roughly 25 million people in Southern California. Here are some of the best quiet spots to be alone amid the bustle. Los Angeles Times

How Reese Witherspoon became the new high priestess of book clubs with “Reese’s Book Club,” which launched in 2017 in partnership with the actress’s production company, Hello Sunshine. Vox

The Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival will get, at long last, a permanent stage. Los Angeles Times

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A looming change in immigration policy is spooking Bay Area families: Advocates say the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule is creating a chilling effect on immigrants. Mercury News


The city of Sacramento is set to ban automobile-centric businesses from two major corridors. The proposal would prohibit new drive-through restaurants, mini storage facilities and auto service shops from opening along a portion of Stockton Boulevard and Broadway that is being eyed for redevelopment. Sacramento Bee

A Salinas city councilman said he’s willing to “lower myself in the gutter” in his continuing social media feud with a 20-year-old school board trustee. The feud between the two elected officials began in a thread in a local crime watch Facebook group. The councilman then made a “pity party” Facebook event mocking the school board trustee, who also happens to be the councilman’s constituent. Salinas Californian

Grading the presidential candidates on their labor plans: The Democratic presidential candidates are working overtime to woo workers and union leaders. Labor reporter Steven Greenhouse (who penned a recently released book on the history and future of American labor) has issued letter grades for all the major candidates. New York Magazine

Former Gov. Jerry Brown will head a California-China institute to fight climate change. San Francisco Chronicle


Starting this week, the judge in the college admissions scandal case will sentence 10 more parents. Los Angeles Times


Months after the Paradise fire triggered her asthma, a teen climate activist goes to the U.N. climate summit. Los Angeles Times

A rookie California lawmaker plans to haul a 20-pound rodent carcass into Congress on Tuesday to press his colleagues for money to fight an invasive species wreaking havoc on his Central Valley district. Nutria, a large South American rodent, were found in Merced County two years ago. Sacramento Bee

California Department of Fish and Wildlife scientist Valerie Cook, left, and Rep. Josh Harder with a dead nutria, during a tour of the department's Nutria Eradication Program headquarters in Los Banos.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife scientist Valerie Cook, left, and Rep. Josh Harder with a dead nutria, during a tour of the department’s Nutria Eradication Program headquarters in Los Banos.
(Tomas Ovalle/Special to The Times)

[Previously: “Swamp rats have invaded California. A Central Valley Democrat is declaring war” in the Los Angeles Times]


For years, the legal team at Snapchat has kept a dossier of ways that the company felt Facebook was trying to thwart them. The dossier was internally titled “Project Voldemort” in reference to the Harry Potter villain. Per the WSJ’s report, a number of Facebook’s current and former competitors are talking about the company’s hardball tactics with investigators at the Federal Trade Commission, as part of the FTC’s broader investigation into Facebook’s business practices. Wall Street Journal

Did you listen to the “Man in the Window” podcast about the Golden State Killer? In this bonus episode, “The Missing,” Paige St. John explores how the Golden State Killer preyed on couples. Los Angeles Times

Autumn is officially here. Here’s where to see the best fall colors on trees around the state. Los Angeles Times

With recent cancellations of festivals in Huntington Beach, what’s the future for concerts on the sand? Orange County Register

From the archives: Joan Didion’s seminal essay “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” was first published 52 years ago this week in the Saturday Evening Post. Here’s the original piece, which looked at the underbelly of the Haight-Ashbury counterculture during the Summer of Love. Saturday Evening Post


Los Angeles: partly sunny 86. San Diego: sunny, 78. San Francisco: sunny, 81. San Jose: sunny, 93. Sacramento: sunny, 98. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory is from Kay Arnold:

“A not singular, but cumulative, memory is sailing on the San Francisco Bay on Sundays for a couple of years of my life, until the boat’s captain sailed it home to New Zealand. The wind was most vigorous sailing along the Embarcadero waterfront and calmer as the crew tacked near the Golden Gate Bridge and sailed behind Angel Island. One thing about being on a boat in the middle of the bay is how far sound travels across water. Another is sitting on the bowsprit as the boat’s prow dips in and out of the water in a strong wind, my hair whipping around my head, the sails full of wind. Pure peace.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.