At the very end of 2019, Apple announced it had secured the rights to distribute a Billie Eilish documentary, discretely made by her team as the young pop star took a victory lap around the world promoting When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Originally anticipated for a release within 2020, representatives for Eilish told press today that the film will now stream on Apple TV+ starting next February.
Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry was overseen by filmmaker R.J. Cutler, known for his documentaries about larger-than-life personalities, including Anna Wintour in The September Issue and John Belushi in Belushi. The documentary is expected to feature footage of Eilish on the road in 2019, playing sold-out concerts and massive festivals to millions of adoring fans, as well as capturing some more intimate moments amid the whirlwind experience.
In December, The Hollywood Reporter estimated that producing The World’s a Little Blurry cost Eilish’s record label, Interscope, around $1 to $2 million. The nearly completed film was shopped to several possible distributors; Apple came through with the top bid, a reported $25 million.
A teaser trailer released along with the date announcement offers the first–albeit extremely brief–glimpse at the Billie Eilish documentary.
It’s hard to say exactly when California turned its back on Kamala Harris’s presidential ambitions, but historians could do worse than point to October 3, 2019. A poll released that morning showed Harris with single-digit support among California primary voters, placing her well behind Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Vice President Joe Biden—all of whom had built their reputations thousands of miles away. At the time, Warren was surging while South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg was peeling off some of Harris’s early supporters. Meanwhile, billionaire Michael Bloomberg was preparing to jump into a ridiculously crowded field and drop hundreds of millions of his own money to vacuum up any available airtime in California. Just a few months earlier, Harris held a hefty lead in her delegate-rich state, where she’d served as attorney general, and junior U.S. senator and was a staple of San Francisco’s political scene for two decades. It was clear by October, however, that the candidate dubbed “the female Obama” was staring down a fourth- or fifth-place finish in her primary. Eight weeks later, she dropped out.
As the bluest state in the nation, California is in lockstep with the Democratic Party, so its lukewarm support of a home-grown star—and a woman of color no less—speaks to the complexity of Harris’s political appeal.
“Everyone was so eager to get their daggers out with ‘the rise and fall of Kamala’ narrative,” says Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti. Much of that ill will was drained on August 11, when Biden selected Harris to be his running mate, effectively anointing her as the future leader of the party.
In choosing Harris, Biden seems to have tossed out the traditional playbook. She wasn’t picked for geographic reasons; California and its 55 electoral votes were always a lock for Biden regardless of whom he selected. It’s also not clear what Harris brings demographically. There’s powerful symbolism in having the first Black and South Asian American woman appear on a major party’s national ticket. But the reality is Black women aren’t uniformly enthusiastic about Harris, and Biden performed much better among the demographic during the primaries, as evidenced by his blowout 30-point victory in South Carolina. Furthermore, a number of Biden supporters never forgave Harris for her attack on Biden during the first debate, when she called him out for his opposition to federally mandated school busing with her now iconic “That little girl was me.” The exchange went viral, and Biden supporters worried that Harris, as vice president, wouldn’t play nice.
Interviews with prominent donors, strategists, and elected officials close to the vetting process—a number of whom played crucial roles in Harris’s resurrection—reveal that despite a drawn-out process and a formidable list of candidates, the job was always Harris’s to lose. Just 55 years old, she brings relative youth and energy to the ticket. Unlike some of the lesser-known candidates on Biden’s short list, Harris had been vetted on the national stage during her own presidential bid and so passed what’s known as the “do no harm” test (which aims to ensure nothing in a running mate’s past could come back to hurt the ticket). She had a personal connection to Biden from her earlier friendship with his late son, Beau, and as a crack fundraiser, she brings an impressive Rolodex of donors in Silicon Valley and the entertainment industry. Her fundraising prowess is already paying dividends. On September 2, the Biden-Harris campaign announced that it had raised $364.5 million in August, setting a new monthly record for presidential fundraising. That figure includes 1.5 million new donors, according to the campaign. Immediately after her selection, and in the days leading up to the Democratic National Convention, Harris’s name on the ticket seemed to unify the party.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. Her supporters had to beat back a late surge by Obama national security adviser Susan Rice and California congresswoman Karen Bass, who, as a longtime activist from South L.A., had her own coterie of die-hard supporters advocating on her behalf. There was also a not-so-subtle cameo from former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, who penned an editorial urging Harris to turn down the job, which inadvertently reminded everyone of Harris’s complicated history with Brown. All the while, Harris clung to a strategy that belied her killer political instincts: she sat back and let the job come to her.
By far the most loaded issues that emerged during the vice-presidential search were race and police reform, and if the Trump campaign has its way, the remaining month before November 3 will be a referendum on those explosive issues. Harris’s stints as district attorney of San Francisco, and later as California attorney general, saddled her with a tough-on-crime legacy that left her out of step with where California and the progressive wing of the party have been heading on criminal justice reform. The legacy came to haunt her during the presidential primary, most famously in a tense exchange Harris had on the debate stage with Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard over her record as a prosecutor.
Harris’s backstory as a tough-on-crime prosecutor could be Biden’s secret weapon if deployed adroitly.
But with President Trump desperately pivoting to a law-and-order message in the final weeks of the campaign, insiders say Harris’s backstory as a tough-on-crime prosecutor, once seen as a negative, could be the ticket’s secret weapon if deployed adroitly. “How do you respond to what’s been happening in communities of color, and have the conversation with law enforcement so their perspective is reflected and understood?” asks a source close to the Biden campaign. “I think she is unique in that she has experiences on both sides. She now has a platform to help educate white Americans while also defusing Trump’s law-and-order message.”
It’s widely acknowledged that after the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing Black Lives Matter protests, Biden’s calculus regarding Harris changed. The cultural winds had shifted dramatically, and it was no longer enough to have a female vice president, a pledge Biden made during a nationally televised debate months earlier. His selection would now also need to be a person of color. That mandate winnowed his list of candidates. In addition to Harris, Rice, and Bass, there were activist and Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams; Illinois senator Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient; Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; and Florida congresswoman Val Demings. (Warren and Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, while not women of color, reportedly remained in contention.)
“It was an excruciating decision for [Biden], because each one of these women could’ve been an exceptional vice president,” says Garcetti, who had an insider’s perch during the vice-presidential sweepstakes. Garcetti was one of four people tapped by Biden to vet the short-listed candidates, along with former Connecticut senator Chris Dodd; Delaware congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester; and Cynthia Hogan, a former Apple VP and Biden counsel. As the sole elected official from California on the committee who harbors his own national ambitions, Garcetti was in a unique, if not awkward position: Harris, Governor Gavin Newsom, and Garcetti have long been considered the up-and-coming Democratic stars from California, and now Garcetti was being asked a give a rival a potential leg up.
It can be argued that Harris was simply the right person for the moment. Her origin story dovetailed neatly with the historic protests that seized the country after Floyd’s murder, and she could speak eloquently and from the heart about America’s legacy on race relations. At the first Democratic primary debate in June 2019, she was widely acknowledged to have won the night by uttering the “little girl” zinger after flaying Biden for being chummy with segregationist senators and opposing the federal busing program that enabled her to attend an integrated school. Harris won plaudits for showing her Jedi-like ability to ruthlessly pin her opponents with rhetorical flare, but the lingering resentment it inspired among Biden loyalists would complicate her vice-presidential bid a year later.
Strictly speaking, Harris is an Angeleno. She and her husband, entertainment attorney Douglas Emhoff, own a home in Brentwood. Emhoff, a partner at DLA Piper, and Harris married in 2014 after being set up on a blind date and, by all accounts, share a happy and stable marriage. Though he was born in Brooklyn, according to one of his friends, Emhoff is very much an L.A. guy, having graduated from California State University, Northridge, and earning his law degree from the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law. An avid Lakers fan, Emhoff has two children from a previous marriage who call Harris “Momala.” Both got warm shout-outs from Harris during her VP acceptance speech, along with her sister, Maya, and niece, Meena, who are her closest confidantes.
But Harris is very much a product of the Bay Area. She was born in Oakland and raised in and around Berkeley by politically active immigrant parents. Her mother was a cancer researcher from India; her father, an economist from Jamaica. During her childhood, the Bay Area was a hotbed of civil rights activity, and her parents didn’t shy away from involving themselves and their daughters. While stumping, Harris often trotted out the line that her parents pushed her in a baby stroller at protests and marches.
Harris’s political style was forged in San Francisco’s cutthroat political scene, where politicians are required to debate policy differences in excruciating detail. The city has long been a political farm system, and it’s no coincidence that it fostered the careers of a stable of Democratic stars, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Newsom. Harris got her start as a sex-crimes prosecutor in Alameda County in the 1990s and quickly moved up the ladder. Political observers would get their first glimpse of her ambition and fierce campaigning tactics in 2003, when, at 38, she ran for San Francisco’s district attorney seat against the incumbent, Terence Hallinan, a prosecutor and fixture in the Bay Area’s progressive firmament who happened to be her former boss. As district attorney, Hallinan made cracking down on misconduct within the San Francisco Police Department a centerpiece of his tenure; at one point he indicted the entire command staff of the SFPD.
Harris, sensing that she could turn Hallinan’s core mission into a liability, ran on a traditional “law and order” campaign and hammered Hallinan for his low conviction rate. Gary Delagnes, a former San Francisco police union official, told Politico that Harris approached him at an event and poked him in the chest, saying, “You better endorse me, you better endorse me. You get it?” Harris won the election with 56 percent of the vote, becoming California’s first district attorney of color.
Since Harris joined Biden on the presidential ticket, Trump and his surrogates have failed to define a coherent counterattack on her or her record.
Nathan Ballard, a top San Francisco political consultant, has known Harris for more than 20 years and worked with her in the district attorney’s office. “She re-professionalized the DA’s office and pulled it back into the mainstream,” says Ballard. “Anywhere else she would’ve been considered a progressive prosecutor, but by San Francisco standards, she was restoring a traditional ‘law and order’ office.”
Ballard recalls walking with Harris during grassroots outreach to the city’s precincts. “She’d come in with designer heels and jeans and then put on her walking shoes. She’d hand me her heels and say, ‘Put these somewhere safe,’” he says. “I always thought of her as a good grassroots politician. There’s no doubt she’s always been ambitious, but she also pitched in on her way up. She’s mentored a lot of young women.”
Anyone who pulls off a meteoric political rise like Harris makes enemies along the way. “She’s brilliant. She’s beautiful and immaculately dressed,” says Ballard. “The two leading players in San Francisco, politically, are Gavin and Kamala, and they both have a movie-star quality, which adds to their allure but also leads to a lot of resentment and jealousy. They’re both very lucky and have led, by and large, charmed lives, so there’s going to be some schadenfreude when they fail,” he says.
One L.A.-based Democratic consultant, who declined to speak on the record, was surprised by her selection. “Whenever there is Kamala pile-on, most of the negative incoming is from California,” says the consultant. “She’s not somebody who people feel has always had their backs. Look at the Clintons: As much as they love power and exercising it, there’s a sustained belief among those who have worked for them that they’re genuinely motivated by doing good and getting good policy in place. That’s not a sentiment that’s shared about Kamala.”
In 2008, Harris announced her candidacy for California attorney general, and two years later narrowly defeated former L.A. district attorney Steve Cooley, yet again making history, this time, as the first woman to win that office. Serving from 2011 to 2017, her tenure was marked by several controversies. In 2014, she had to walk back a memo written by attorneys in her office that argued against the early release of prisoners, citing the need for inmate labor. A year later, her office became the first statewide agency to adopt a body-camera program for police, but was criticized for not making the policy mandatory. In 2016, Harris announced her intention to run for the Senate seat vacated by Barbara Boxer and went on to win that race by a healthy margin.
Since Harris joined Biden on the presidential ticket, Trump and his surrogates have failed to define a coherent counterattack on her or her record. They’ve ping-ponged from calling her a stooge for the extreme left and reminding supporters of her tenure as attorney general. In a sign of how confused the messaging has become, the pro-Trump website The Federalist took the perplexing strategic step of selling T-shirts with a badge that simply says: “Kamala is a cop.”
By late July, California lieutenant governor Elena Kounalakis was getting nervous. During the long-running speculation over whom Biden would pick as his running mate, Kounalakis had read a string of stories in Politico in which unnamed sources questioned whether Harris, a longtime friend from the social scene in San Francisco, could be loyal to Biden and play second fiddle. “They characterized her as someone who was not a team player. They used the trope of the ‘ambitious woman’ that you couldn’t trust, and it was so far from the truth,” Kounalakis says. Harris—famous for leaving nothing to chance—had instructed her closest supporters not to lobby Biden’s camp on her behalf, hoping her record would speak for itself.
Then former San Francisco mayor and California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown published an editorial urging Harris to turn down the vice presidency and instead seek a cabinet position in a potential Biden administration. The editorial resurfaced long-held suspicions that Harris benefited from Brown’s political patronage when he appointed her to several state commissions early in her career. In the early 1990s, Brown reveled in playing a kingmaker in California politics and regularly doled out cushy committee appointments to up-and-comers who showed fealty and promise. Newsom was an early beneficiary.
Harris and Brown were romantically linked when Harris was a deputy district attorney and Brown was making his successful bid to become the first Black mayor of San Francisco. At the time, Brown was 31 years her senior and estranged from his wife, Blanche Brown, though they were still married. Harris would later appear to distance herself from Brown, calling their relationship an “albatross hanging around my neck.” But a source close to Brown says the reality is more complicated. “He and Kamala have been close over the years, and he wanted her to get that VP nomination,” says the source. Calling for Harris to abandon the sweep states, the source adds, was Brown’s way of “tweaking the narrative to keep her in the decision-makers’ consciousness—he really is a political genius.”
Harris’s closest friends and confidantes point to the disconnect between the public Kamala and the private one.
Regardless of Brown’s intentions, in late July, Kounalakis organized a Zoom meeting of 20 California officials who made their case for Harris to Biden and his team. One of Kounalakis’s first calls was to Long Beach mayor Robert Garcia, whose mother, Gabriella O’Donnell, had just died of complications from COVID-19. (Less than two weeks later, Garcia’s stepfather, Gregory O’Donnell, also succumbed to the virus.) Harris had met Garcia’s mother four years earlier when, as attorney general, she swore in Garcia as mayor. “She’s always been there for me,” he says. Garcia adds that after his mother’s death, Harris reached out to him and “talked a lot about her own mother and how important she was to her. Her words were sincere and kind and came from a place of friendship, and they brought me lot of comfort.”
Harris’s closest friends and confidantes point to the disconnect between the public Kamala and the private one. Words like “tough,” “ambitious,” and “ruthless” are replaced with “funny,” “warm,” “kind,” and “thoughtful.” Ballard, the San Francisco-based consultant, says Harris possesses a skill that he’s seen in only a handful of politicians: an uncanny knack for remembering the smallest details of people’s lives. During her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, it was impossible to miss her focus on friends and family or that she wore a huge smile throughout. She shared the intimate detail that when she was five, her parents split, leaving her late mother, Shyamala Gopalan, to raise her two daughters on her own. “My mother instilled in my sister, Maya, and me the values that would chart the course of our lives. She raised us to be proud, strong Black women, and she raised us to know and be proud of our Indian heritage,” she said.
The convention speech was widely seen as an attempt to smooth out Harris’s sharper edges and counter the impression of her as the tough-as-nails prosecutor who had rhetorically pinned U.S. Attorney General William Barr during the impeachment trial and lacerated Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearings (a YouTube video of her exchange with Kavanaugh has been viewed 3.5 million times).
But it’s precisely those sharp edges that the Biden-Harris campaign may need to call upon in the last month of a campaign during which the president is guaranteed to pull out all the stops of outrageousness. Of course, unleashing Harris’s inner cop risks alienating the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, already irritated that neither Sanders nor Warren are on the ticket. But the Trump campaign wasted no time leaning into the unrest in the wake of the police killings in Minneapolis and Kenosha, Wisconsin, as a way to turn the race away from the president’s failures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic that has crippled the economy and killed more than 200,000. For now, the strategy appears to be working only among Trump’s immovable base; polls conducted in early September, weeks after the Kenosha shootings and the Republican convention, showed Biden’s eight- to ten-point national lead over Trump had barely budged. That could change, of course, but at the very least, Harris’s presence on the ticket has had no discernible negative impact. And if the Trump campaign persists in a “law-and-order” theme, Harris’s background as California’s former top cop is a formidable weapon, locked and loaded, that Democrats can draw upon at a moment’s notice.
In the final days leading up to Biden’s selection of his running mate, Garcetti said that his committee’s intent was to identify the core character of the finalists and present each candidate to Biden “almost like they were characters in a play.” Whether or not Harris will need to channel her inner Cersei Lannister may end up determining this election.
How do you win against a political party that will do anything to hold onto power? How do you communicate the significance of the November election to undecided voters without resorting to primal screams? Is it possible to have a pulse and not pass out from a panic attack when considering everything that currently hangs in the balance?
These are all questions that have swirled around Taylor Minas’s head over the past several days, as Donald Trump repeatedly refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power following Election Day. The filmmaker, who lives in Eagle Rock, also wonders if she should have an exit strategy in place should Trump declare himself the winner of the election.
“Sometimes it feels like there’s no coming back from this. Like you’re just watching our democracy be destroyed and then being gaslit about it,” she says. “As a Jew, it’s hard to be like, ‘Well, let’s just wait and see what happens.’”
There’s the significance of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death to ponder, Trump’s repeated attacks on mail-in voting, that bombshell report on his apparent penchant for tax avoidance—plus, of course, the pandemic, the scourge of racial injustice, the wildfires, and that not-so-little earthquake that rattled more than a few frayed nerves on the night of Ginsburg’s death. “I’ve been having panic attacks regularly in a way I haven’t in many years,” Minas says.
So, she’s considering getting a visa to Italy or Canada—”not that they want us”—and trying, when it doesn’t feel impossible, to stop doomscrolling. “My partner doesn’t let me tell her any information about the news when we wake up or before bed,” she says. “She has boundaries, unlike me.”
When it comes to feelings of hopelessness and despair about the election, Minas is far from alone. According to the therapist Dr. Steven Stosny, who coined the term “Election Stress Disorder,” many of us are lashing out at partners after reading political news. “I think the reason it’s worse is because the 2016 election never really ended,” he told the New York Times. “This is still a hangover from that. And negative emotion is more contagious than positive emotion.”
A survey from research firm Gartner found that 47 percent of workers believed, even back in February, that the 2020 election had distracted them from doing their jobs. That survey’s results echoed a November 2019 report from the American Psychological Association that found 56 percent of U.S. adults considered the presidential election to be a “significant source of stress”—and that was way before mailboxes were being removed and Trump was encouraging followers in at least one key state to vote twice.
Plus, we now have the pandemic to worry about. Thirty-five percent of Americans currently meet the diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder, according to an ongoing weekly poll of 900,000 Americans conducted by the Census Bureau. In California, the rate was 39 percent this month, down from a high of 44 percent in July. Overall, the numbers have quadrupled since the virus emerged.
Therapists’ calendars are already booking up for November, according to one report that emerged last month, as an influx of folks anticipate needing extra support around the election. L.A.-based marriage and family therapist Lucy Rimalower says the nomination of a conservative replacement for Ginsburg’s seat on the highest court in the land is intensifying her patients’ anguish.
“Trauma is coming up for my clients who are Black, POC, women, and LGBTQ—and especially folks at the intersection of those identities—where it feels like Ginsburg’s death means, ‘This is a cancelation of my rights and it is not going to be safe for me to be here anymore,’” she says.
She counsels clients to continue “laying out the welcome mat” for their feelings while trying to stay present. “The lens I keep returning to is: How do you take care of yourself in this moment and leave space and flexibility for yourself to make plans and decisions as we get more information?” she says. “Anxiety likes to tell us stories that haven’t been written yet.”
“Anxiety likes to tell us stories that haven’t been written yet.” —Therapist Lucy Rimalower
On Twitter, where many are now seeking connection during the pandemic, she notes that it’s hard to maintain any semblance of emotional equilibrium. She encourages her patients to check in with themselves before and after logging in.
“The question I’m asking people is, ‘When does it make you feel satisfied and when does it make you feel saturated? And are you paying enough attention to your experience to know the difference?” she says.
What helps the most, according to experts, is focusing on things within your locus of control—whether that means writing postcards to undecided voters, calling congresspeople, donating, or protesting. Rimalower says more of her clients are taking part in their local elections. “People are texting, phone banking, and showing up to Zooms,” she says. “In a way, the pandemic is making us feel closer to what’s going on in our neighborhoods.”
Efrén Pérez, a professor of political psychology at UCLA, believes the anxiety and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 could actually be suspending people’s normal political habits, strengthening more hard-line political views in some while pushing others away from politics altogether.
“It’s plausible that some individuals who are already the least predisposed to participate in politics will become even less engaged,” Pérez says. “I wouldn’t be surprised if voter participation levels are lower than what you’d expect because more people are depressed.”
Conspiracy theory groups that have flourished online are another eminently human reaction to uncertainty, Pérez adds. “For all the braggadocio you see in these people protesting masks, it really stems from this question of, ‘Where do I belong in a world that is hard to predict and control?’ You buy yourself some of that control by latching onto groups that seem counterintuitive to outsiders.”
But he sees our fears around election security as potentially productive for the future of our democracy, noting that it may help a majority of Americans understand what it’s like being part of a historically disenfranchised minority.
“Ask an older Black person from the South or a Mexican-American who has been here for four generations in the Rio Grande Valley what it feels like to be disenfranchised,” Pérez says. “Yes, it’s a different tone today, but they’d probably say the underlying melody sounds familiar.”
“In that sense, it’s a potential teaching moment,” he adds. “This could be a time to empathize with those who have been marginalized and have a deeper conversation about disenfranchisement on a wider scale than ever before.”
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or worried about someone who is, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 for confidential support 24/7, or text HOME to 741741.
» The New York Times has released an extensive report on Donald Trump’s taxes. They find he paid no federal income taxes for 10 of the last 15 years, among other revelations. [The New York Times]
» Sunday night, former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale was hospitalized after reportedly barricading himself him his Fort Lauderdale home with firearms and threatening self-harm. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or worried about someone who is, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 for confidential support 24/7, or text HOME to 741741. [Sun Sentinel]
» A federal judge blocked the White House-pushed ban on TikTok downloads just hours before it was scheduled to go into effect. The move means TikTok can operate as usual until a full court hearing in the case; no date for that hearing has been set. [NPR]
» California is seeing a “record surge” in home sales. Experts say the hot market may cool rapidly, depending on how the pandemic and economic downturn progress. [Forbes]
» Experts have concluded that there we are not experiencing a Labor Day-linked COVID-19 surge in Los Angeles. Confirming that could open the door to additional commercial reopenings. [Los Angeles Times]
» A L.A. County sheriff’s deputy was filmed beating a man with a riot shield after he was pinned to the ground. The incident took place at a West Hollywood protest over the handling of the case of Breonna Taylor. [Los Angeles Times]
A Second–and Final–Kobe Bryant Novel Will Hit Shelves in December
During his life, Kobe Bryant created a sports-fantasy book series for young adults in collaboration with author and athlete Ivy Claire. On Friday, Vanessa Bryant and publisher Granity Studios announced there will be one more book in the best-selling series.
Art has a special power to connect us to other people–and that’s especially important in a time where empathy and connection can seem in short supply–yet most galleries and museums remain closed due to the pandemic. Looking to bring a little art into all our lives in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the teams at Art of Elysium, the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, Hyundai, and the Hollywood Palladium got together and developed a plan for something special. Driven: A Latinx Artist Celebration, will be a drive-thru, outdoor art exhibit highlighting the work of local artists who identify as Latinx, complete with an audio narration that will help viewers really understand the work, rather than just cruise by.
In advance of the installation, which will open to the public on October 1, we spoke with the Museum of Latin American Art’s chief curator, Gabriela Urtiaga, about what went in to putting on such an unusual show.
Can you tell us a bit about Driven: A Latinx Artist Celebration, and the collaboration between all the organizations involved?
This is a special and innovative experience between Hyundai, MOLAA, and the Art of Elysium, a drive-thru art exhibit celebrating Latinx art during this Hispanic Heritage Month. All of us are very excited, we´re going to show some of today´s groundbreaking Latinx artists in an immersive environment celebrating its huge cultural legacy and its influence especially in the City of Los Angeles.
It’s a great opportunity to see something different, something inspirational, during this complicated and uncertain time when we are trying to find new ways to connect with people. So the idea to do it in a drive-thru experience at the historic Hollywood Palladium is really fabulous.
What is the process of creating a drive-through art exhibition like? Are you as the curator looking for anything specific in the works that might be different than the needs of a traditional, indoor presentation?
Absolutely, we are living in an unprecedented time, so we have to think about everything differently. Driven is not only a show when you see art, it’s more than this. It’s a whole new experience. As a curator, I tried to tell a brief story about this Latinx legacy with powerful artworks, but not only from their aesthetic perspective but also from their meaningful message and ideas. Art can be something entertaining and exciting of course, but we don’t have to forget that art is also something that can change the way you see and think about everything.
Tell us a bit about how the experience will work for those that come to visit, and what they might be able to expect?
Driven is an immersive and interactive journey where people can experience contact with art, part physical and part virtual, without getting out of the car, in a socially distant way. It is a cultural event for the whole family, with art and music, a multi-cultural landscape throughout the work by prominent Latinx artists you can enjoy while you listen to a beautiful musical playlist, especially curated for the show. All from the comfort of your car!
Can you share an artist that you’re particularly excited for viewers to see and what makes their work so exciting?
All of them are really amazing but I would say the work of Judithe Hernández is one of the highlights of the show. She is a L.A. based artist and muralist; she was a pioneer in the Chicano Movement advocating for a critical feminist understanding. For Driven, I selected a very powerful work where she linked the women’s power with the Latinx roots in a quite sensual atmosphere. All of the artworks we present in the show are part of the MOLAA Permanent Collection.
Obviously, as just the existence of a drive-through exhibition indicates, we’re living through difficult, challenging times. What is the power of the arts to help us understand the world around us right now?
Art is always necessary, today maybe more than ever. I truly believe art can change people’s lives. In times where things are tense, uncertain and complicated all around, art has the extraordinary ability to bring us some inspiration, ideas, knowledge and beauty. All human things that really matter. Art is so necessary today in order to build a diverse society. We’re so excited to engage and share with the people the power of the art.
Driven: A Latinx Artist Celebration runs October 1-4 at the Hollywood Palladium in Hollywood. Attendance is free; advance reservations are recommended and can be booked online.
“Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” So said Dr. Emmett Brown in Back to the Future, and so agrees Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose office just wrapped a nine month collaboration with the World Economic Forum (WEF) developing a framework for the implementation of urban air mobility, better known in non-aviation parlance as flying cars.
“Urban air mobility may seem far away today, but really the timescale is probably five to seven years before we see actual expansion of this type of technology,” WEF Aerospace and Drones Project Lead Harrison Wolf told Los Angeles.
Wolf, who worked with the city on the roadmap, says urban air mobility vehicles will more likely resemble “high scale drones” that are powered by electric propulsion and multi-rotor technology, employ vertical takeoff and landing, and hum as quietly as Teslas over the city at a low altitude. Over time, the drones will use automated systems, Wolf predicts, taking weather into account, and connecting to other modes of transportation.
“We’re at the beginning of a twenty year story,” Wolf says. “This is like the Model T.”
The logistics have yet to be determined, but Wolf can envision future Angelenos scheduling a flight on their smart phone, taking an elevator to a “vertiport” at the top of a nearby high-rise or parking lot, and flying off to their destination.
Technology is developing so rapidly, says Wolf, civic leaders worldwide worry the speed of innovation may well outpace policymaking. A similar problem occurred with electric scooters. When the sharable scooters landed in L.A. in late 2017, city officials weren’t prepared, and had to rush to regulate the new vehicles. To avoid the same mistake, Mayor Garcetti’s office wants to have a plan in place before looking up and finding drones (or humans in jetpacks) littering the sky.
To design the plan, the Mayor’s office formed a working group of more than 50 government planners, community organizations, manufacturers, service providers, academics and other stakeholders, including the WEF, Los Angeles Department of Transportation, FAA, and NASA. Industry partners included Uber Elevate, which is developing aircraft to enable “aerial ridesharing” as well as tech giants Amazon and Google, which are working on drone programs to improve the speed of package deliveries.
The working group’s end product was a sci-fi sounding set of “Principles of the Urban Sky” to guide policymakers in Los Angeles and elsewhere as they implement urban air mobility: environmental sustainability, safety, low noise, job creation, equity of access, connectivity to existing transport options, and data-sharing that allows providers to respond to demand.
Wolf predicts L.A. will likely be one of the first cities to implement urban air mobility on a commercial scale, which is fitting, he says, given the region’s rich history of aerospace pioneers like John Northrop, Amelia Earhart, and Howard Hughes.
In light of the global pandemic, many cities’ urban air mobility efforts are on the back-burner, but Mayor Garcetti believes it still deserves a place on the agenda. “Even in the face of COVID-19 today,” he said in a statement, “our eyes are fixed on the horizon of a reimagined tomorrow, where Urban Air Mobility is a central part of a safe, sustainable, equitable future.”
During his life, Kobe Bryant created a sports-fantasy book series for young adults in collaboration with author and athlete Ivy Claire. On Friday, Vanessa Bryant and publisher Granity Studios announced there will be one more book in the best-selling series. Epoca: The River of Sand, set to release on December 15, will be the final chapter in the story of magical sports academy Ecrof.
In Epoca: The River of Sand, readers reunite with Pretia, the princess of Epoca, as she prepares for the Junior Epic Games. But, she discovers, there is civil unrest in the place where the Junior Epic Games will be played, with poor children being blamed for inciting trouble. She is challenged to decide what matters most to her as an athlete and a person of power and privilege within the society.
“The Epoca books take readers on a journey of discovery that allows them to understand the power and positive force that can be found in times of adversity,” a statement from the publisher notes. “At a time when the power of protest has proven as critical as ever, Bryant’s popular fantasy novel takes readers through the complexities of belonging, relationships and identity, while empowering youth to follow their dreams and hearts to discover and serve a larger purpose.”
Claire recalls being caught off guard by Bryant reaching out to her. “I got an email one evening from a woman who said ‘Kobe Bryant wants to call you tomorrow about a book. Can I have your phone number?'”
She would learn that Bryant had done his research on her, seeking out a collaborator for the project who was both a former professional athlete and a published author–but who could also bring a specific bit of expertise he felt the project demanded. He wanted someone with a degree in classical studies, specifically an expertise in the literature of ancient Greece.
“I guess there was only one person in the whole world and I got lucky,” she laughed. “All these weird things I’ve done in my life and the only person who’s interested in their unity is Kobe Bryant.”
Starting this season, more Black animated characters–including beloved fixtures on Family Guy and The Simpsons–will be voiced by Black actors. On Friday, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane and showrunners Rich Appel and Alec Sulkin announced on Twitter that voice actor and YouTube star Arif Zahir will be replacing Mike Henry as Cleveland Brown on the Fox show starting with the 2021-2022 season.
Henry, who’s played Cleveland for two decades on Family Guy and for four seasons on its spinoff The Cleveland Show, announced in June that he would be stepping away from the role as calls for greater diversity in entertainment began to surge along with the mounting protests of police violence against Black people.
“It’s been an honor to play Cleveland on Family Guy for 20 years,” Henry wrote at the time. “I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role.”
It’s been an honor to play Cleveland on Family Guy for 20 years. I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role. pic.twitter.com/FmKasWITKT
Zahir will take over the role for Season 19, scheduled to air starting in 2021. The actor, known to his more than 6 million YouTube followers as Azerzz, has previously posted videos of himself imitating Cleveland playing Call of Duty:Modern Warfare, and singing Lil’ Mosey’s “Blueberry Faygo.” The likeness of the impression inspired pages of comments from fans calling on Family Guy producers to consider Zahir for the role.
“Firstly, I’m eternally grateful to have received this once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said. “When I heard that Mike Henry was stepping down from the role of Cleveland Brown—my favorite cartoon character of all time—I was shocked and saddened, assuming we’d never see him again. When I learned I would get to take over the role? Overabundant gratitude. To Mike, you created something truly special and I promise I will do my absolute best to honor your legacy. To Rich Appel, Alec Sulkin and Seth MacFarlane, thank you for this incredible gift. And to the millions of fans who love this show, I promise not to let you down.”
Elsewhere on Fox, Hank Azaria is stepping down as Homer Simpson’s pal Carl Carlson after playing the part almost since the series’ beginning. He will be replaced by The Flash actor Alex Désert on Sunday’s Season 32 premiere, although it’s unclear if he’ll be playing the part after that.
A statement from the show read only, “We are very pleased to welcome Alex Désert, playing Carl in the Simpsons season premiere,” with reps for The Simpsons declining to comment further. The show’s producers announced earlier this year that, “moving forward, The Simpsons will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters.”
The movement to highlight voice actors of color extends beyond the Fox network. Jenny Slate announced in June that she was quitting her role as half-Black, half-Jewish Missy Foreman-Greenwald on Netflix’s Big Mouth. Last month, Slate was replaced by Ayo Edebiri.
The end of the Pacific Dining Car came with a few mouse clicks this week as the final bids were entered on the leather booths, fine china, and crystal goblets inside the landmark restaurant. Ninety nine years ago, Fred and Grace “Lovey” Cook started serving up meals just outside of downtown in a replica railroad car. Over four generations, the food got better, the wines got fancier, and the Dining Car expanded into a dim and sprawling, elegant oasis that never closed. It was a refuge for movie stars and politicians looking for a comfortable night out in a place where old-fashioned rules of decorum still applied. Los Angeles magazine raved about the restaurant for decades, and once named it one of the 101 Greatest Things About L.A. Our former food critic Jonathan Gold wrote that at the Dining Car, he “feasted on a prime dry-aged New York strip steak with the magnificent sour ripeness of a runny French St. Nectaire.”
While much of the kitchen equipment and plush décor (including the contents of a sister restaurant in Santa Monica) have been sold at auction, Cook’s great-grandson Wes Idol III does a good job convincing us that the restaurant is simply taking a nap during the pandemic and will return someday. “I have zero interest in having my family’s legacy go away,” Idol told us from his home in Calabasas this week. “There’s something very productive in a pause.”
The last crate of Dining Car relish and jam sold for $535, A wooden plaque for the “Club Car” sold for $5,025, and the restaurant’s curbside sign, two life-size steers that stood over 6th Street and Witmer Avenue for decades, fetched $7,250. “The whole physical space is on hold,” he says. “There’s going to be a large redecoration and renovation anyway, It’s really not as dramatic as it seems.” Idol removed photos and artifacts of personal or historical interest before the sale and insists that everything in the auction needed to be replaced anyway.
Whatever the interior looks like, it may involve more room for aging beef. Idol plans to use the restaurant building, which his family owns, for a new venture at the original location. Starting sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Pacific Dining Car will be selling frozen steaks online. Idol speculates on a whole line of future food products. If things go well, macaroni and cheese, creamed spinach, and potato souffle could also come back, in to-go form. “This is not the end of anything,” he says. “This is the beginning of something.” The restaurant needs to work out new supply chains and age the prime beef for up to two months (Idol claims his great grandfather introduced dry aged beef to Los Angeles) before offering a kit with easy-to-follow cooking instructions that Idol says “a college student with a hotplate” could follow.
The fourth-generation owner remembers a visit to a museum with his father, who passed away last year, where he spotted the Remington logo on an antique bicycle. The curator explained how the famous rifle company got their start manufacturing bikes. “How’s that for adapting?” his father said at the time. “This is personal. This is my family,” Idol says. “One of my main drivers is keeping Pacific Dining Car alive and going into the future. This is the pivot we’re going to do.”
Idol has worked every job in the restaurant, from busboy, to IT, to maître d’. Having spent decades seating warring politicians away from each other has taught him diplomacy, so he won’t take sides, but you can tell he’s not a fan of the regulations that closed his business. “Much of the state has been gutted,” he says. “Many of my peers would like to see our mayor and governor hung out to dry. They both have my sympathy, but the industry feels far more cantankerous.”
While I can’t imagine the Dining Car’s coddled customers finding the same pleasure grilling their own steaks and mixing their own martinis, perhaps some inhabit their own cozy labyrinth with overstuffed chairs and tuxedoed staff around every corner. Sure, the food at the Dining Car was great, but the experience was all about the service and the environment. Idol remembered “My dad used to say, ‘People may not remember what you do or say, but they’ll never forget how you make them feel.’”
You’re not supposed to worry about your agent. That’s the most appealing thing about the relationship. All you talk about is your career, your money, your opinions of studio executives.
But when lockdown started, I worried about Richard Weitz, co-head of WME’s scripted television department. Weitz is a blast of staccato, fast-talking, gravelly voiced, optimistic confidence that’s sometimes hard to contain long enough to follow what he’s talking about. He goes out every night, to such cool places and with such cool people that you could piece together a history of 21st century Los Angeles solely from his Instagram: Floorside at the Lakers game with Josh Groban, seeing Star Wars with LL Cool J, posing with Jennifer Hudson at the Saban Community Clinic gala, accepting the Bernie Brillstein Legacy Award from Rob Lowe at the Wilshire Country Club. He’s friends with Craig Susser at Craig’s and also Gloria Leon, the 69-year-old waitress at Nate ‘n Al’s. He once, without explanation, handed me a Richard Weitz Funko Pop! figurine.
“Sometimes it was really really frustrating,” says Richard’s 17-year-old daughter Demi about her dad’s schedule. “He was home when he wanted to be home. But I was like, ‘No. Be home the other times when I want to hang out.’” Richard’s wife, Candie and son, Aidan, had struggled with his peripatetic ways as well. The Richard Weitz 2018-2019 Tour shirt, created by WME partner Ari Greenburg, lists 100 events around the world he went to.
I knew that if Richard had to spend two nights in a row in his own house, he was going to lose it. What I didn’t know about was Zoom. If he couldn’t go into the world, he was going to talk the world into coming to his house.
It was less plan than instinct. Like most parents back in the early days of the pandemic, he felt badly that his daughter’s birthday plans were ruined. So on March 27, he threw a virtual surprise party for Demi’s 17th birthday. Richard invited a friend who plays covers at a piano bar in Chicago to sing for her and 40 of her friends and family. When the teens quickly tired of 1980s cover tunes, Richard logged off and came up with a new, Richard-ier plan. He called John Mayer, and Debbie Gibson, and got them to sing happy birthday. This went over much better. The teens eventually signed off, but Richard stayed on with his friends, getting his social fix.
Jonesing again, he invited some more musicians to perform for his friends the following weekend. Soon, Richard had more than 500 people at his weekend Zooms—dubbed “Quarantunes”—to hear songs by Groban, Astley, Thomas Rhett, Billy Ray Cyrus, Boy George, Rick Springfield, and Rev Run.
Demi, who is shy and never completely comfortable with her high school friends, finally found her own platform. She went from binge watching How I Met Your Mother to avoid her loneliness, to talking to powerful people and somehow making jokes around them, and being impressed with her dad’s skill as an agent, seeing him connect people who trusted his advice. “I thought his job was going out and was all fun and games. I’m seeing the hard work and dedication he puts into it,” she says. “I thought he did nothing.”
By April 4, Demi started to feel guilty for having the best pandemic ever. “I felt a little over privileged to be doing this with what is going on now. It wasn’t a good feeling,” Demi says. So she suggested asking guests to donate to the Saban Community Clinic, which was likely to be overwhelmed with virus patients. Richard, who is president of their board, was into it. Demi’s initial goal was to raise $10,000, which they accomplished in an hour. Within 24 hours, they’d raised $100,000.
The Weitzs put on a show nearly every week, often twice on weekends, supporting a new charity each time—Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Heart of Los Angeles, United Way of Greater L.A., the L.A. Food Bank. So far, over the course of 25 Quarantunes Zooms, they’ve collectively raised over $11.5 million. Billboard created an award—the Heroes of the Pandemic Award—just to give it to them. Girls Inc. had Tina Fey present Demi with the Champion for Girls Award, and celebrated her with appearances from the stars of her favorite shows: The Big Bang Theory, New Girl, and How I Met Your Mother. “You really saved your dad’s life,” Fey said on the Zoom, referring to Richard’s “extreme extroversion.” Earlier this month, Bob Iger presented them with the Walt Disney Philanthropists of the Year Award at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles’ during its The Big Night In virtual gala.
As Demi felt empowered by raising money, Richard felt empowered by throwing events. He’d always been a huge music fan, and now he got to live out his dream of hosting Live Aid every week. He turned his Zoom call into a new type of entertainment, a combination music awards shows, variety program, and Hollywood party.
Which was a role Hollywood needed filled. People I’d never met, or hadn’t talked to in a long time, privately messaged in the chat room. I got at least one meeting out of it. Others got more. After playing a song, Jack Antonoff said that the quarantine made him realize he needs animals in his life and talked to songwriter Diane Warren about advice on getting some birds. Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda told Ashanti that she was the inspiration for one of the musical’s songs, and Broadway actress Emmy Raver-Lampman landed two gigs after covering a Lizzo song. When Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez gathered around a piano with their daughters to sing the Frozen songs they wrote, Bob Iger got made fun of in the chat box for typing, “Everyone can find it on Disney+ right now.” It was better than a Hollywood party, because it felt safe to mock Bob Iger.
Paging through Zoom screens, I regularly saw Sherry Lansing, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Tom Werner, Dana Walden, Tina Fey, Amy Adams, Courtney Cox, Rob Lowe, Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts, and tennis star Pam Shriver. Nearly 300 performers have played their hits and told stories about writing them: Rod Stewart, Josh Groban, Elvis Costello, Earth Wind & Fire, Florida Georgia Line, Shawn Mendes, Smokey Robinson, and the Killers. At one point, I was convinced that people were coming back from the dead to be on the Zoom, when songwriter Mike Stoller of Leiber and Stoller (“Hound Dog,” “Yakkity Yak”) called in.
Richard plays the role of gushing, well-prepared interviewer. He’ll yell like a teenager at a Beatles concert. He’ll talk to his parents. He’ll cry. His favorite thing is declaring himself a “sniper,” demanding a performer sing something they didn’t prepare in the Zoom rehearsal.
“I snipered Melissa Etheridge to sing a Janis Joplin song. And she didn’t sing one but she sang two! She was going to sing ‘Come Through My Window’ and all of the sudden she’s singing ‘Me and Bobby McGee’!” Richard tells me in disbelief. He has made two producers his de facto cohosts, calling on them not only to book guests, but to ask them questions after they played: 88-year-old music executive Clive Davis, and songwriter and producer Jimmy Jam.
“I don’t think anybody turned us down,” says Davis, who wears a sweater and tie for every event. “Al Stewart was going to do ‘Year of the Cat’ and ‘Time Passages’ but the person coming to set up the Zoom got the virus. So we had to postpone it,” he says.
When Davis asked Barry Manilow to come on, he performed a particularly relevant song he recorded in 1989, ‘When the Good Times Come Again.’ I Facetimed my mom and held my phone up to the Zoom performance. I was not alone. Manilow sang it on The Late Late Show with James Corden and The Today Show and wound up at number 18 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. After Bryan Adams sang, he told Davis he had an unreleased solo version of Aretha Franklin singing ‘Never Gonna Break My Faith,’ a song he wrote for her and Mary J. Blige. A few weeks later, it was number one on Billboard’s gospel chart.
Jam, a calm, professorial presence, became friends with Richard a dozen years ago when he burst into Jam’s meeting at WME yelling, “How come Jimmy Jam is in the building and no one told me!” then naming the most obscure songs that he produced and running out of the room. “He texted me about Demi’s party. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Jam remembers. “The next week he did another one and after the fact mentioned that John Mayer was going to be on. I thought that sounded kind of cool.” Soon, Richard was asking him to book guests and calling on him to deliver commentary after they played. When he’s not talking, he’s scrolling through pages of guests. “ I like watching people listening to music. Watching the emotions wash over them,” he says. “We’re all in the same place feeling the same thing.”
On May 23, instead of hosting from their kitchen—the room in their Beverly Hills house with the best WiFi reception—Richard and Demi popped up at the Hollywood Bowl with Mayor Eric Garcetti and Gustavo Dudamel, as they watched performances from Kenny Loggins, the trumpet section of the L.A. Philharmonic, and members of Youth Orchestra Los Angeles. Billie Eilish zoomed in. The week before Hamilton premiered on Disney+, creator Miranda and the cast reunited to raise money for Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative. A few weeks later John Legend cohosted to support his prison reform nonprofit FreeAmerica. Governor Gavin Newsom came on to talk about COVID. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms discussed how to cut hair during a pandemic. Weitz was set to host from Dodger Stadium to raise money for the team’s Dodgers RBI youth development program until Black Lives Matter protests, followed by the return of Major League Baseball games, led them to cancel.
“Imagine a year ago. I had no writer clients. A year later I’m talking to everyone I’ve ever been a fan of directly. From my kitchen,” Richard told me. A few months later, he went further: “This has been the best year of my life. I solidified a new relationship with my daughter, and a new reputation for me, well beyond being an agent.”
In fact, it’s hard for Richard to log off the Zooms. Really hard. They sometimes last more than seven hours, long after Demi gets exhausted and leaves. Once, she came down to her kitchen near midnight in her sleeping clothes, shocked Richard was still asking Amos Lee to play another song for former Comedy Central head Kent Alterman and 40 other die hards.
When the quarantine ends, Richard vows not to let Quarantunes end with it. He’s already figuring out a way to stage live events and Zoom holiday specials.
But Demi also knows that the quarantine has changed her dad as much as it’s changed her. “My dad is going to want to be home a lot more now,” she told her mom while we were on speakerphone. “I think he’s realizing the simplicity and beauty in life and what’s important.”
“Demi don’t get your hopes up. You’re going to be disappointed,” Candie added.
Hearing this, a newly wisened Richard gives it the millisecond of thought he gives everything. “I’m dying at home every day. I need to go out,” he says.
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