Newsletter: Essential California: The busboy who tried to help a wounded Robert F. Kennedy in 1968

Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy lies on the floor at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles moments after he was shot. Juan Romero kneels next to him.
(Boris Yaro / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Oct. 4, and here’s what’s happening across California:


Juan Romero struggled for decades with a memory he could not escape — the night an assassin took aim at Robert F. Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard near Koreatown. Romero, a 17-year-old busboy at the time, squatted next to the fallen U.S. senator, cradled Kennedy’s head, and tried to help him up before realizing how gravely wounded Kennedy was. This week, Romero died in Modesto. Columnist Steve Lopez remembers him. Los Angeles Times

Blue wave coming?


Republicans are at risk of a wipeout in California’s six most hotly contested congressional races, a new poll shows — a result that could radically reshape the state’s political map, with major consequences nationally. But the poll, conducted for the Los Angeles Times by UC Berkeley’s Institute for Governmental Studies, also underscores how close many of the contests remain. Los Angeles Times

Get more midterm election coverage on our Decision California page.

Cultural shift

As the #MeToo movement has gathered force, such powerful figures as Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner and CBS chief Les Moonves have been brought down by accusations of sexual harassment or abuse. But the most significant impacts of the Harvey Weinstein scandal may be less tangible, unfolding not in press releases or screaming headlines but in the hearts and minds of people in the industry and in their day-to-day workplace interactions. Los Angeles Times

Naming names

Over the last two decades, Roman Catholic dioceses across California have paid out massive settlements to parishioners who say they were molested by priests; acknowledged institutional breakdowns that facilitated abuse; and wrestled with followers who said they had lost faith in church leaders. But that hasn’t been not enough. And now, there is push for the church to do much more. Los Angeles Times

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Chemistry laureate: Frances Arnold of Caltech was awarded half the Nobel Prize for conducting the first directed evolution of enzymes, leading to more environmentally friendly manufacturing of chemicals, including drugs, and in the production of renewable fuels. Los Angeles Times

My lungs! Breaking down L.A.’s summer of bad air. LAist

My eyes! In what is becoming a downtown L.A. trend, the latest mega high-rise complex will have a massive LED screen. Curbed Los Angeles

Looking back: On Oct. 29, 2017, the Dodgers and Astros dueled for 5 hours and 17 minutes, combining for 98 plate appearances, 417 pitches and 25 runs. Houston scored last to win 13-12, completing a night of perilous exhaustion and misguided heroism that had franchise-altering implications. A look back as the Dodgers start the postseason tonight. Los Angeles Times


Major ruling: A U.S. district judge in San Francisco has dealt a blow to the Trump administration’s decision to rescind temporary protected status for hundreds of thousands of immigrants. The ruling late Wednesday afternoon will relieve immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan from the threat of deportation. Los Angeles Times

Photo essay: “In 2018, the White House has made clear its intention to reduce the presence of immigrants in America. But in California’s Central Valley, undocumented immigration still propels the agriculture industry.” California Sunday Magazine


The rent is too damn high: It’s expensive to be a tenant in California. Will Proposition 10’s rent control expansion help? Los Angeles Times

Oops: TJ Cox “made an honest mistake” when he marked a second home in Maryland as his principal residence, the Fresno Democrat’s campaign said. Fresno Bee

Assessing the new law: Can California really get more women on corporate boards? San Diego Union-Tribune

In the schools: California’s student test scores are stuck in neutral. Four years into a new testing program, student scores inched up this year but gains among younger students were nearly canceled out by a drop at the high school level. Los Angeles Times


Overshadowed? A lawsuit by the Trump administration to block California’s new net neutrality law could be put on hold until a U.S. appeals court decides whether the federal government acted legally in ending Internet regulation. Los Angeles Times

Protest: Several community groups gathered outside Long Beach City Hall on Tuesday to demand the firing of Police Chief Robert Luna and City Manager Pat West over the Police Department’s use of an app that automatically deleted text messages. Long Beach Post


Fires’ aftermath: “There is no official tally of how many people have left Sonoma County since the 2017 fires, but a Press Democrat analysis suggests that as many as 7,000 people may have departed Santa Rosa last year. Their reasons are varied.” Press Democrat


In conversation: Linda Ronstadt can’t sing anymore due to illness. But she is still telling her story. Los Angeles Times

It had to happen: California’s first robotic farm is opening in Silicon Valley. The robots are picking, not surprisingly, red veined sorrell. San Francisco Chronicle

Crooner extraordinaire: Examining the legacy of Charles Aznavour on L.A.’s Armenian community. “He was part of that first generation born in exile after the Genocide, very much a part of the country where he was raised but also deeply connected to a heritage that was nearly lost.” Los Angeles Magazine

Artist Lari Pittman: Finding beauty in violence and telenovelas. Los Angeles Times

Hairy situation: The “Wild Thing” podcast is like “Serial” for Sasquatches. Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles area: partly cloudy, 73, Thursday; partly cloudy, 74, Friday. San Diego: partly cloudy, 72, Thursday; partly cloudy, 71, Friday. San Francisco area: partly cloudy, 62, Thursday; sunny, 64, Friday. San Jose: partly cloudy, 70, Thursday; sunny, 72, Friday. Sacramento: partly cloudy, 73, Thursday; partly cloudy, 77, Friday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Perry Wilson:

“Almost 20 years ago, I took my two children to see the film lots in Century City. We had lunch in the cafeteria, and Jon Lovitz was sitting with someone at the table next to us. He was always a favorite of mine ever since ‘SNL.’ After lunch, we left and he was standing on the patio by himself waiting for something or someone. I may have nodded to him, but I never spoke. I told my children to respect his privacy. We are from Phoenix, and it used to be when you spotted Hollywood celebrities in town who were visiting, you didn’t bother them so they could have some peace. Things were different then, it was long before social media and cellphones with cameras, so it’s probably not that way anymore. But I always wonder if Mr. Lovtiz was maybe a little disappointed that I didn’t acknowledge who he was. If it were today, I would definitely at least say ‘Hi’ and introduce myself. It was a fun trip for my kids, and they were happy to have seen a celebrity that they knew.”

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 Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.