Newsletter: Essential California: The secret story of Yolanda’s Little Black Book


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, July 14. Here’s what you don’t want to miss this weekend:


For years, Yolanda’s Little Black Book has been one of the biggest mysteries in Los Angeles luxury real estate circles. By gleefully revealing tightly guarded details of the latest multimillion-dollar celebrity housing transactions, the gossipy anonymous blog has wreaked havoc among the city’s elite real estate agents and their wealthy clients. But who is behind the website, whose writer goes by such aliases as Yolanda Yakketyyak, the Real Estate Yenta and Donald Frump? Los Angeles Times

They want answers


Some members of a Los Angeles County watchdog panel are calling on Sheriff Jim McDonnell to launch a thorough investigation into allegations of a secret society of deputies that brands its members with matching skull tattoos. The revelation this week that a deputy admitted to getting inked two years ago as part of a ritual within the Compton station has raised concerns that deputy cliques, long part of a controversial agency subculture, have persisted despite the department’s reform efforts. Los Angeles Times


Lawyering up: Former USC gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall, accused of sexually abusing young patients, has retained a prominent Los Angeles attorney to represent him amid a widening criminal probe and mounting lawsuits. Los Angeles Times

Records, please: The Los Angeles Times sued L.A. on Thursday after the city refused to turn over records detailing taxpayer costs for security on out-of-state trips taken by Mayor Eric Garcetti. Los Angeles Times

A field trip: A team of top Trump administration officials traveled to Mexico on Friday to meet its next president and try to repair strained relations in a largely symbolic visit after nearly two years of diplomatic discord. Los Angeles Times

Read this: An open letter to anyone who loves Anthony Bourdain and what he stood for. Los Angeles Times


Big business: “Detaining immigrant children has morphed into a surging industry in the U.S. that now reaps $1 billion annually — a tenfold increase over the past decade.” Associated Press

Those password reset questions: Singer Selena Gomez’s email accounts were hacked by a New Jersey college student who is now facing 11 felony counts for stealing the performer’s digital property, prosecutors said Friday. Los Angeles Times

Ugh: “Nothing can fix L.A. traffic, so deal with it.” LAist

On the silver screen: “Thirty years ago, a Rubik’s cube-like building, Fox Plaza, became one of the most recognized filming locations in the history of motion pictures when it was converted into ‘Nakatomi Plaza’ in the iconic film ‘Die Hard.’ ” L.A. Taco

Nice! Davis continues to be one of the safest biking cities in the country. Next City

Regret haunts Wine Country fire hero: “I’ve never cried this much.” San Francisco Chronicle


Sad! Chase Utley, the second baseman whose gritty play and veteran leadership have played an integral role in the Dodgers’ success since the summer of 2015, will retire at the end of this season. Los Angeles Times

Save the date: “The Los Angeles Philharmonic is throwing a huge open-streets festival on Sept. 30 — and the entire city is invited.” Curbed LA

Water wars: “California’s premier wine-growing region has been identified for more regulation under the state’s new groundwater law, likely resulting in new fees and limits on water extraction for the industry.” Pacific Standard Magazine

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Youlen Chan gave up his weekends and his days off to find the secret of baking a sponge cake that was as airy as his father’s original.
(Gabriel S. Scarlett / Los Angeles Times)



1. “What’s the most dangerous freeway in L.A.?” Crosstown Traffic

2. “In 1982, a family disappeared from their Valley home — What happened to the Salomons? Los Angeles Magazine

3. A Fresno mother photographs her son, who is addicted to drugs. “My heart is broken in so many ways.” Fresno Bee

4. Five Picassos went missing from the L.A. Times. What happened to them? Los Angeles Times

5. This license plate has a creative history. LAist



Chinatown institution: It took more than a year for Youlen Chan to figure out the secret to baking his father’s signature strawberry cake. The stakes were surprisingly high. He was carrying on the legacy of one of the founders of Chinatown’s Phoenix bakery, which would become one of the last businesses of its kind in a quickly changing neighborhood. For 80 years, the bakery has thrived and then survived; but its greatest legacy might have been keeping generations of family together. Los Angeles Times

Smoke’s up: They worked at Apple, Amazon and Lyft. Now they’re working to get you stoned. Los Angeles Times

Awesome: From Black Panther” to “Luke Cage,” black superheroes are breaking barriers once considered impenetrable. Los Angeles Times

Beyond the headlines: Remember the couple and their six adopted kids who all died when their car went off a cliff in Mendocino County? There’s a lot more to that story — how the parents Sarah and Jennifer Hart abused and neglected the kids and programs designed to protect children ushered six siblings to their deaths. Washington Post

Wild story: How a sexting scandal took down one of the most powerful lawyers in the U.S. Wall Street Journal

On the street: Capturing the art of walking in L.A. The New Yorker


Our history! “From its downtown fortress, the Los Angeles Times built L.A.” Curbed LA

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.