Newsletter: Essential California: When a false alarm upends an entire airport

Traffic backs up through the Sepulveda Boulevard tunnel as travelers pull their luggage toward LAX, where false reports of a gunman grounded flights and caused mass panic.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

Good morning. It is Tuesday, Aug. 30. A warm welcome to our new readers from the “Framed” series! We hope you enjoy Essential California — and we would love to hear from you. You can keep up with us on Twitter at @TheCityMaven and @ShelbyGrad. Here’s what is happening in the Golden State:


False alarm


In the last two weeks, officials at LAX and JFK airports have learned firsthand how hard it is to quell a public panic over erroneous reports of an active shooter. In both cases, chaos ensued, leaving officials questioning how to better control these situations. Some experts say a fake report of violence can be harder to deal with than an actual shooting. Los Angeles Times

Fate of farmworkers

A sweeping bill designed to improve the lot of California’s farmworkers took a big step forward Monday. The bill has some parallels to last year’s fight to significantly increase the minimum wage. Critics worry it could backfire. Los Angeles Times

Comedy legend passes

Beloved comic actor Gene Wilder died Sunday night at age 83 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. Wilder was best known for his collaborations with Mel Brooks, including “The Producers,” “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein,” and his iconic role as Willy Wonka in the 1971 version of “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” “Gene Wilder—One of the truly great talents of our time. He blessed every film we did with his magic & he blessed me with his friendship,” Brooks wrote in a tweet. Los Angeles Times


Power couple: Kent and Jill Easter were accomplished attorneys living the good life in Irvine. But were they out to get Kelli Peters? Here is the second chapter in reporter Christopher Goffard’s six-part series titled “Framed.” Los Angeles Times


From the sidelines: A diving injury left Lenny Larsen paralyzed. Now, he’s using what he knows to coach divers. “Let other coaches gesticulate and model proper form, send signals from sidelines or pace their dugouts; such demonstrations are not available to Larsen. He has only words to make a point.” Los Angeles Times

Activist dies: Joe Hicks, an African American community activist whose conservative views were often solicited by the media, died Sunday at the age of 75. “He would take a stand on an issue because he thought it was right, whether it was popular or not. He had a very strong moral compass,” said David Lehrer, who co-founded the think tank Community Advocates with Hicks. Los Angeles Times

What’s for lunch: Edin Park, a new giant food hall, is slated to open on Beverly near Fairfax next year. Curbed LA

All of the lights: The Museum of Neon Art is open once again, this time in Glendale. LA Observed


Trump’s guy in Hollywood: Stephen K. Bannon is running the Donald Trump presidential campaign these days, but for 20 years he worked in Hollywood investing in movies and media projects. “Bannon’s work in Hollywood set the stage for his media career, helping pave the way for his eventual move into the political realm.” Los Angeles Times

Legislative accomplishments: Term limits are forcing state Sen. Mark Leno to leave office after 14 years. During that time, he has authored 161 new laws. “He’s not afraid to have a fight. But he has the rare ability to fight while also maintaining a grace about himself, and an intellect to go with it,” said Democrat Darrell Steinberg, the former president pro tem of the state Senate. Los Angeles Times

Call for help: The folks at the Golden Gate Bridge are turning to text messages to persuade young people not to take their lives from the famous bridge. Signs encouraging anyone who may be suicidal to contact a crisis counselor are now posted at the Golden Gate Bridge. CityLab


Firestarter: A Northern California woman was so high on pills she didn’t realize her car had gotten a flat tire and the sparks from the rim set her car and the nearby forest ablaze, authorities said. “She knew she was driving, but was oblivious to any of the carnage she was causing,” said CHP Officer Tobias Butzler. Los Angeles Times

Teaching assistant arrested: A Los Angeles teaching assistant was charged with smuggling heroin and cellphones into San Quentin’s death row. Authorities say Teri Orina Nichols admitted to bringing contraband into a visiting room. The items seized included 18 cellphones and chargers, three ounces of heroin and two unidentified blue pills. She was at the prison to visit Bruce Millsap, a gang member who received eight death sentences and 200 years behind bars. Los Angeles Times


Serious danger: The threat of quicksand in Southern California is real. The Press-Enterprise

Animal cruelty: Someone fatally shot three Southern sea otters along the Central Coast. The animals, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act and state law, were killed sometime between late July and early August. Wildlife officials are offering a $10,000 reward for information in the case. Los Angeles Times


For the man who has everything: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg met Pope Francis and gifted His Holiness a drone. NBC News

#GOAT: These data visualizations show why Serena Williams is the greatest of all time. Los Angeles Times

Culinary landmark: Border Grill in Santa Monica is closing after 26 years. Los Angeles Times

His legacy: Gustavo Arellano reflects on what musician Juan Gabriel meant to him as he became an adult. Los Angeles Times

Musical protest: What it means when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick doesn’t stand for ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.” The New Yorker

Love and grief: In 1991, actor Gene Wilder reflected on his late wife’s ovarian cancer — a condition that went untreated and undetected by doctors for 10 months. “Gilda went through the tortures of the damned and at the end, I felt robbed,” Wilder said of Gilda Radner’s death. People


San Diego will have low clouds and a high of 80 degrees. Riverside will be sunny and hot at 103. It will be sunny and 89 in Los Angeles. Sacramento will be sunny and 89. There will be clouds and a high of 71 in San Francisco.


Today’s California Memory comes from Chris Ungar:

“In the early 1980s, what is now the Bakersfield Blaze was the Bakersfield Dodgers and owned (at least in part) by a Santa Monica pharmacist whom we knew. On a warm summer night, my brother-in-law and I took a road trip north to catch a game. Even then, the stadium was old and rickety. We were invited into the shag-carpeted press box where we met Dodger great Tommy Davis. I’ll never forget the blind organ player who never missed a beat. Farewell Bakersfield baseball.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (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 and ideas to Alice Walton or Shelby Grad.