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Are We All Decorating Early for the Holidays This Year?

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This year it feels like we were seeing holiday decorations popping up everywhere pretty early–from driving by big outdoor displays to catching glimpses of a tree behind a coworker on Zoom. And, in an anxious, difficult year, who can begrudge anything that might bring some cheer?

Last week, we asked our Instagram followers when they’re getting festive this year, and what’s going through their heads as they’re decking the halls. We’ve collected a few of the responses, from the joyful to the poignant.

  • I did it last week! Thought I could use some holiday cheer a bit early this year.”
  • This weekend! Why not? I’m home all the time and sick of our place. Let’s spruce it up.”
  • We started on Monday November 16. Since we will not be visiting family in L.A. this holiday season we will start taking in all the holiday spirit ASAP!”
  • I wish but I will be alone so there’s no point.”
  • “Tree went up on Nov 8th! If I’m stuck at home, might as well be surrounded by twinkle lights!
  • This pandemic has been very stressful so I’m bringing Christmas joy earlier.”
  • “Skipping Christmas this year.”
  • Christmas decorations went up when I took Halloween down, November 3.”
  • The day after Thanksgiving! Need that holiday cheer extra this year!”

We want to see however you’re celebrating in this most unusual of holiday seasons. Share your photos with us on Instagram by tagging @LAMag and #LAMagViews.


RELATED: The Best Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in L.A. in 2020


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L.A. County’s Outdoor Dining Ban Will Go Into Effect, Despite Challenges

A three-week halt on outdoor dining at restaurants, wineries, breweries, and bars in Los Angeles County appears set to go into effect on Wednesday night as scheduled, after withstanding multiple challenges today. A Superior Court judge rejected a motion to block the ban and a motion proposed at to the Board of Supervisors failed to receive a majority of votes.

On Tuesday morning, a judge dismissed a challenge to the health order filed by the California Restaurant Association. Judge James Chalfant deemed the evidence offered by the group wasn’t enough to halt the shutdown.

At a meeting of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, public health officials presented a series of recommendations for a “targeted stay-at-home” order yet to be formally adopted. After laying out the initial framework of those modifications to current protocols, the supervisors’ questioning took a contentious turn, as Janice Hahn and Kathryn Barger challenged the doctors on the rationale for closing outdoor dining.

Public Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis, cited two studies in particular, one that found people who test positive for COVID-19 are twice as likely to report having dined out, and separate research that found workplace outbreaks at restaurants have increased threefold.

“If we’re going to ask people to sacrifice quality time with the people they love, the things they enjoy doing–and also their paychecks–they need to trust that these are the right recommendations,” Hahn stated. “If we had federal dollars to pay people to stay home, thinks would be different […] To close restaurants without money to pay these workers, we are careening down an economically dangerous road.”

Following an animated line of questioning during which she challenged the decision to focus on outdoor dining as a high-risk activity based on what she interpreted as inconclusive data on the matter, Supervisor Barger introduced a motion to the board that would have halted implementation of the public health order. She and Hahn were the only votes in favor, with three votes against from supervisors Sheila Kuehl, Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Hilda Solis.

“I sadly–but strongly–support [pausing outdoor dining],” said Kuehl, noting that she had received communications particularly from restaurant workers groups who backed the move, and expressing concern that the largest growth in cases and hospitalizations in the county appear to be concentrated in lower-income communities, more likely, she said, to be home to hospitality and service workers.

In an 11 to 3 vote, Los Angeles City Council passed a non-binding resolution expressing that body’s preference that outdoor dining be reinstated, but the city is obligated to follow County regulations.

At least one municipality has decided to act unilaterally on the matter, however. Pasadena city officials announced that they would not demand restaurants follow the order, and would instead follow state guidelines, which currently do allow for outdoor dining, even in Purple Tier counties.

Pasadena and Long Beach each maintain their own city-level public health departments which issue local orders, which generally stay close to county guidelines. All other cities and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County are covered by the county’s Department of Public Health.


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Billionaire Larry Ellison Is Attempting to Manage COVID-19 on the Hawaiian Island He Owns

Even as Oracle co-founder and Donald Trump backer Larry Ellison was closing a deal to partner with video platform TikTok in a lucrative arrangement championed by Trump himself, he was dealing with a crisis farther afield: an explosive COVID-19 outbreak on the island he’s owned the bulk of for eight years.

As the coronavirus swept the U.S. mainland, the tiny Hawaiian island of Lanai was virus free and, even as tourism cratered with Hawaii’s March lockdown, Lanai’s 3,000 residents escaped massive layoffs thanks to Ellison, who owns 98 percent of the idyllic hideaway.

But now reality is closing in on Ellison’s enclave as more than 100 people tested positive in the last two weeks of October, four have been airlifted out because Lanai’s only hospital lacks a critical care unit, and Ellison is scrambling to stop things from reaching critical mass.

“They’re going through what we went through in March and April,” Michael Shea, chief medical officer of Maui Memorial Medical Center, tells Al Jazeera.

Ellison, the seventh richest person in the world, already had massive real estate holdings when he bought Lanai from billionaire David Murdoch for $300 million in 2012. But the 140-square-mile island, 2,500 miles southwest of L.A., is different than his many mansions because thousands of people who live there rely on Ellison as a sort of benevolent landlord.

Lanai has no traffic lights and just one school, but it also has two top tier hotels—both Four Seasons—plus a luxury wellness resort, and Ellison owns it all. In fact, almost every employed person on the island is an Ellison employee, and that fact has not eluded him.

Compared to the contiguous 48, Lanai’s COVID-19 response has gone smoothly. Already, over 4,000 tests have been administered on an island of 3,000, thanks largely to kits donated by Ellison, while leaders at his company work with local officials to get the outbreak under control.

Likewise, Ellison and his three Lanai companies—the land and resource management company Pulama Lanai, Sensei Farms, and Four Seasons Lanai—didn’t wait for federal relief checks when Hawaii shuttered. Ellison told his workers that they would be paid through May. He ended up paying them through July.

The May cover of Lanai Today features the headline “A Grateful Community” above a photo of residents holding up a sign reading, “Thank you, Mr. Ellison!”

But keeping people sustained isn’t grace. Ellison has invested in remodeling the hotels, built his wellness resort and a hydroponic farm, and he owns much of the housing stock, not to mention Richard’s Market, Lanai’s main grocery store.

And while the pandemic has demonstrated to many residents the need to diversify the economy away from tourism-only, Ellison’s Pulama Lanai has resisted all efforts to come up with a new economic plan.

Butch Gima, a longtime Lanai resident and social worker, hopes another aspect of the pandemic will loosen Pulama’s grip on the island.

“If you’re going to have brick-and-mortar businesses, then yeah, Pulama will be involved because they own all 98 percent of the land,” he said. “But if you’re going to do web-based, internet-based types of businesses, then you don’t necessarily need brick-and-mortar establishments and you can work out of your home.”


RELATED: Which Local Power Players Win (and Lose) If Biden Bumps Trump


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Move Over, Kardashians: TikTok Families Are the New Reality TV Families

When 20-year-old social media star Addison Rae Easterling began hanging out with 41-year-old reality TV star Kourtney Kardashian, fans suspected it was a sort of passing of the torch.

Kardashian, who starred on E!’s Keeping Up the Kardashians since 2007, became vocal about her disdain for the constant presence of cameras and a lack of privacy, even refusing to film some episodes. It got bad enough that the Kardashian family and E! announced in September that the show would end in 2021 after 20 seasons. If fans were right, it seemed like Easterling—who is the second most-followed creator on TikTok after 16-year-old phenom Charli D’Amelio—would be the perfect person to step into those shoes. Besides that she has the Kardashian look with her long, dark hair, pouty lips, and curves, she also has a family that’s ready for stardom. Easterling’s mom and dad, Sheri Easterling and Monty Lopez, signed to WME when Easterling did and Easterling’s two little brothers, Lucas and Enzo, have a combined 700,000 Instagram followers. Put it all together and you have Livin’ the Lopez Life, the family’s YouTube channel, which has more than 200,000 subscribers.

Family channels aren’t anything new, but with popular channels like The Ace Family and The LaBrant Fam, it was the parents who got famous on social media first. Once they had kids, they added them to the YouTube content farm. Easterling, on the other hand, is carrying the weight of the fame while her parents and siblings get in on the action in the background. (You’ll notice videos that have Easterling in their accompanying thumbnails on the family channel have more views than those that don’t.)

“It is appealing because it is different,” says Joe Gagliese, CEO of Viral Nation, an influencer marketing agency. “We live in a world where there’s millions of influencers and tons of them on the come-up, so anything unique you can do to stand out and be different is what’s going to give you the attention and opportunities.”

The D’Amelios also seem to want a shot at making viral stardom a family affair. TikTok sensation Charli D’Amelio has a family YouTube channel with her sister, Dixie, and their parents. Their YouTube channel has more than 1 million subscribers, and when the family was recently got some bad press (fans accused Charli and Dixie of being spoiled brats), it only helped propel their notoriety, Gagliese says. It’s a phenomenon the Kardashians are more than a little familiar with.

“The reality is when you go viral through the news with something like that, it actually introduces them to a whole new group of people,” Gagliese says. “You look at the Kardashians and I can promise you there’s a large chunk of that audience who can’t stand them but engages with all of the things that they post. Unfortunately, you’re just never going to have 100 million people who all love you.”

Right now rumors that the D’Amelio and Lopez families could land respective reality TV deals are just that, rumors, but Gagliese says YouTube might be more lucrative anyway. Families can make millions off brand sponsorships, which is more than a network would offer.

“We’re living in a time where the YouTube subscriber base and the YouTube channel could be in the next four or five years more fruitful financially than a reality TV show on TV,” Gagliese says. “In a worst-case scenario, the YouTube channel is incredible support for the TV show itself. They play off each other and I wouldn’t say either of them is more important, but I think for sure they could have a shot at the reality TV space.”


RELATED: TikTok Stars Are Turning Swanky L.A. Mansions into ‘Content Houses’


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Opposition to L.A. County’s Outdoor Dining Shutdown Grows

With a temporary shutdown of outdoor dining set to go into effect at 10 p.m. on Wednesday in Los Angeles County, business people, county officials, and industry groups are part of a growing chorus asking that the measure be reconsidered unless public health officials can provide evidence that in-person dining is contributing to a troubling spike in COVID-19 cases.

On Sunday, as virus cases and hospitalizations continued to skyrocket, the county Department of Public Health announced that all on-premises outdoor dining at restaurants, breweries, wineries, and bars would have to cease on November 25 for a minimum of three weeks. The announcement was a big blow to already-battered local restaurants, many of which invested in pricey, now useless outdoor dining setups—tables and chairs, tents, outdoor heaters.

On Monday, in a post on her website, L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said she would oppose the shutdown at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

“These proposed measures by the Department of Public Health will further devastate local businesses and employees who have been asked to shoulder an unfair burden this year,” Barger said. “Businesses throughout the County have invested thousands of dollars to ensure safety for their employees and customers only to be punished for the recent surge they have done everything in their power to prevent.”

Barger pointed out that, according to data provided by Public Health, between 10 and 15 percent of people who’ve tested positive in L.A. County have reported dining out with someone who tested positive, while 50 percent reported attending a private social gathering with someone who ended up being positive. Barger’s release argues that “by closing restaurants who are in compliance, the County may adversely incentivize residents to host and attend more private gatherings without safety precautions.”

On Twitter on Monday, fellow Board of Supervisors member Janice Hahn said she wished “[the board] could have figured out a way to put in more restrictions rather than completely shutting down dining.”

In a previous tweet she said, “While I know our case counts are growing rapidly, I would have rather discussed this measure openly during our Board of Supervisors meeting so that the public could understand the rationale behind it.” The Board of Supervisors is set to convene on Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, the California Restaurant Association, a statewide industry advocacy group, announced Tuesday morning that it will seek an order in Los Angeles Superior Court to direct public health officials to “provide supporting medical and/or scientific studies and evidence that the operation of outdoor dining establishments poses an unreasonable risk to public health” and to stay the Wednesday shutdown.

“The recent order with no stated scientific basis from L.A. County singles out a specific industry and could jeopardize thousands of jobs,” California Restaurant Association president Jot Condie said in a statement provided to the media. “There are thousands of restaurants and many thousands more employees who could be out on the street right before the holiday season.”

Local mall magnate Rick Caruso also voiced concern about the fate of restaurant workers, and in a statement asked the county to suspend the shutdown until justification can be provided. “The impact to working class men and women who will be driven to unemployment over the holidays will be devastating,” Caruso said in a statement sent out on Tuesday. “As we walk or drive our neighborhood streets, we already see the thousands of small businesses and restaurants who have had to permanently close their doors. Government leaders must not only act to save lives, but also livelihoods.”

On Monday, L.A. County experienced its highest daily case count since the start of the pandemic, with 6,124 new COVID-19 cases. In addition to the outdoor dining shutdown, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer has warned that a “targeted safer-at-home order” could be on the horizon.


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Does Netflix Finally Have a Shot at a Best Picture Win?

Seven years ago, the Hollywood establishment snickered when Netflix, originally launched as a DVD-rental-by-mail service in 1997, entered the content-creating game with House of Cards. “Everyone thought they were nuts,” says one industry insider. Now, with COVID-19 wreaking havoc on theatrical releases, the streamer may be having the last laugh.

“For a long time, Netflix had a lot of resentment aimed their way,” explains veteran awards marketer Stu Zakim, also an Academy member. “But the pandemic only helps them. They’re the savior, the white knight, of the whole film business. They’re bailing out studio films that lost distribution, and they didn’t have to shift release dates. Whatever good will they didn’t have is now definitely headed their way.”

Netflix cohead Ted Sarandos had his heart set on taking the top trophy for Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma in 2019, but sappy Green Book took home the big prize, although Cuarón nabbed a statuette for directing. After the loss, Netflix brass berated their awards-campaign teams, telling them, “We didn’t spend millions for best director!”

In 2020, Netflix again failed to nab the big prize, despite a slate that included Martin Scorcese’s The Irishman and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story.

In 2021, Sarandos may finally get his big win. Netflix is creating more prestige programming than anyone, they have an ideal distribution model for COVID-19 times, and old Hollywood has warmed to the company—and even come to work for it, likely for a great deal more money than they were being paid at the studios. Plus they’ve got awards veteran Lisa Taback—known for spearheading successful Oscar campaigns for The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love, Chicago, The King’s Speech, and The Artist—leading the charge with an Oscars marketing budget reportedly as high as $100 million, several times what competitors can spend.

“I admit I’d always trash their films because, hey, they had every advantage,” says the industry insider. “Now I just signed a contract with them. And all I can say is, ‘Hallelujah!’ By next year, the whole town will be working for them.”

mank
Gary Oldman in ‘Mank’

Netflix

Here’s a look at Netflix’s biggest Oscar contenders coming out in late November and December …

Hillbilly Elegy

Ron Howard directs Amy Adams and Glenn Close in the cinematic version of J. D. Vance’s bestselling memoir about three generations of an Appalachian family dealing with extreme poverty. Oscar voters love an unglam turn, so Close, playing a Kentucky matriarch, might finally get the trophy that has eluded her, despite seven noms over the years. November 24

Mank

In David Fincher’s latest, Gary Oldman plays hard-drinking Herman J. Mankiewicz as he struggles to finish the script for Citizen Kane. Remarkably retro in both look and sound, the film is garnering raves for its technical achievements—and likely endearing it to below-the-line Academy members. Oldman and Amanda Seyfried are also getting early acclaim. December 4

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Denzel Washington produces; the source material is an August Wilson play about 1920s jazz musicians; it stars Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman in his final performance—this film is steeped in Oscar cred. Boseman could score two Oscar noms, for his role here and in another Netflix film, released over the summer: Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods. December 18

 The Midnight Sky

Mr. Oscar-bait himself, George Clooney, directs and stars in this big-budget sci-fi thriller about a lone scientist in the Arctic attempting to alert a spaceship crew about how dystopian Earth has become. With its topical subject matter—and Oscar-winning composer (Alexandre Desplat) and editor (Stephen Mirrione) on the crew—this horse has multiple shots at the gold. December 23


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Morning Brief: Millions of Americans Are Flying for Thanksgiving Despite Health Officials’ Pleas

» Millions of Americans traveled through airports over the weekend, with more expected this week, despite public health officials nationwide imploring people to stay home. Dr. Fauci said the travelers “are going to get us into even more trouble than we’re in right now.”  [Los Angeles Times]

» Los Angeles County reported 6,124 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, an all-time record. Officials are expect to institute what’s being called a “targeted safer-at-home” order in the coming days.  [Los Angeles Times]

» Joe Biden has announced Alejandro Mayorkas, a former U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles who helmed ICE during a portion of the Obama years, as his pick for Secretary of Homeland Security. Cuban-born Mayorkas would be the first immigrant ever picked for the job, which oversees federal immigration enforcement. [CBS News]

» Mayor Garcetti’s office has launched a design competition, seeing innovative ideas for affordable housing. Architects are encouraged to submit concepts that address cost, sustainability, and equity–and aren’t the typical high-rise apartment towers many cities have adopted. [The Architect’s Newspaper]

» A 25-foot-long, 1,208-pound fiberglass replica of the shark seen in Jaws has been installed in its new home at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. While not used in the filming, this 45-year-old sculpture was created from the original mold after the actual props were destroyed, and is the only cast of its kind now remaining.  [Santa Rosa Press Democrat]


TOP STORIES FROM L.A. MAG

» General Motors Yanks Support of Trump Efforts to Roll Back California Pollution Rules GM is pulling out of a lawsuit in which it sided with the administration–and execs are said to be encouraging other automakers to do the same

» Veteran Journalist Carl Bernstein Calls Out 21 GOP Senators for Refusing to Openly Condemn Trump Bernstein castigated the senators he says ”have privately expressed their disdain” for the president, but refuse to stand up to him in public

» 2020 Gift Guide: The Best Gifts for a Beautiful and Cozy Home An acrylic menorah, locally made candles, and more


ONE MORE THING

queens gambit chess netflix

‘The Queen’s Gambit’ Is Inspiring Millions to Snap Up Chess Sets

The Queen’s Gambit is one of the most popular Netflix Originals of all time–and it seems to be having a surprising impact on people who watch it. Within weeks of the show’s debut, sales of chess sets have skyrocketed and the nation is gripped with a level of chess obsession that hasn’t been seen in decades.

 [FULL STORY]


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Dianne Feinstein Will Step Down from Her Judiciary Committee Leadership Role

In recent years, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has been scrutinized for her handling of certain matters as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, particularly during the confirmation hearings of Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh. Today she announced that, when the new Congress is seated, she’ll be stepping back from that leadership role.

“After serving as the lead Democrat on the Judiciary Committee for four years, I will not seek the chairmanship or ranking member position in the next Congress,” Feinstein said in a statement.

Feinstein nonetheless expects to remain on the committee as a member and, despite murmurs that at 87-years-old her days in the Senate may be waning, she appears to have every intention of, at the least, serving until her current term ends in 2024.

During the Barrett hearings, a number of progressive leaders and organizations called on Feinstein to step aside, expressing concern that she appeared disinclined to use the hearings as an opportunity to stage an aggressive fight against the Republican agenda and may have been too close to conservative colleagues.

Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, one of the activist groups that called for Feinstein to resign the role, told NBC News that today’s announcement is an acknowledgement that Feinstein’s more collegial tone seems out of step with today’s political reality.

“This was a necessary step if Democrats are ever going to meaningfully confront the damage Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell have done to the federal judiciary,” Fallon said. “Going forward, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee must be led by someone who will not wishfully cling to a bygone era of civility and decorum that Republicans abandoned long ago.”

While Feinstein’s resignation of the prominent post is being seen by many as a victory for the Democratic party’s progressive wing, even establishment members of the party had appeared to distance themselves from Feinstein following the Barrett hearings.

On October 20, when asked about her leadership, Chuck Schumer told reporters, “I’ve had a long and serious talk with Senator Feinstein. That’s all I’m going to say about it right now.”


RELATED: If Kamala Harris Becomes VP, What Happens to Her Senate Seat?


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Most Wanted: 7 Chess Sets to Go with Your ‘Queen’s Gambit’ Obsession

It’s been a year full of surprises—some of them pleasant, some of them not—and you can add chess’ resurgence in popularity to the list of the former. Thanks to the insane success of Netflix’s chess-and-pills drama The Queen’s Gambit, which is now the streamer’s most-watched scripted limited series, people are picking up chess sets of their own, perhaps to double check they aren’t prodigies themselves. In fact, a marketing director at Goliath Games told NPR their chess set sales are up more than 1,000 percent this month over last November.

Here’s a roundup of boards that you’ll love to have around the house even if the hobby doesn’t take.


Bright + Cheerful

Hard to be bummed about losing playing on a board this sunny. This set, a collab between Swedish design Printworks and Anthropologie, is made from plexiglass and wood and is available on Anthro’s site. Printworks for Anthropologie Chess Game, $58. 


Translucent + Lovely

If you don’t already know your pawns from your rooks, this set from Urban Outfitters could make gameplay a little complicated, but it sure is nice to look at. Acrylic Chess Game, $169. 


The Big Splurge

Neiman Marcus sells this self-contained set with zinc-cast pieces, half with a gold-tone finish. The game of kings (and queens) has never looked more regal. Aerin’s Shagreen Chess Set, $3,250.


Classic Design

In 1920, surrealist Man Ray designed the abstract geometric pieces that come with this board from Design Within Reach. Man Ray Chess Set, $680.


For the Witches and Wizards

Harry Potter fans will flip for this set, which transports you to the climactic scene in Sorcerer’s Stone. Harry Potter Wizard Chess Set, $33.20 at Amazon.com.  


Cute for Kids

Get ’em started young with this set from Vilac, available online from MoMA’s museum store. My First Chess Set, $32. 


Pure Sunshine

This set from Jonathan Adler looks good enough to eat. Of course, we wouldn’t recommend that unless you’re losing. Acrylic Chess Set, $595.


RELATED: ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ Is Inspiring Millions to Snap Up Chess Sets


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‘The Queen’s Gambit’ Is Inspiring Millions to Snap Up Chess Sets

Actress Anya Taylor-Joy may play the central character in The Queen’s Gambit, a mega-hit Netflix drama about a Cold War-era chess prodigy, but for many viewers, it’s chess itself that’s emerged as an unlikely star. The show’s popularity appears to be inspiring a surge in interest in the game.

The show, viewed by more than 62 million people, is now Netflix’s all-time most-watched scripted limited series. And, it seems, an awful lot of viewers liked what they saw on screen. Since The Queen’s Gambit premiered on Netflix in late October, sales of chess sets have spiked nationwide.

“Manufacturers and retailers weren’t likely prepared for this increase in sales,” Julie Lennett, a toy industry analyst, told The New York Times. “If consumers want a chess set to give as a gift, I would highly recommend they buy it now before they sell out.”

Mary Higbe, director of marketing for chess board manufacturer Goliath Games, told NPR she has observed an even more dramatic impact, starting within days of The Queen’s Gambit dropping, and then exploding in November.

“Our October sales for chess were up 178 percent over the same period last year,” she noted. “Our chess sales [this month] are up 1,048 percent.”

On eBay alone, chess sets and accessories have shot up by more than 200 percent, with classic wooden styles and vintage sets–those most similar to what appear on the show–leading the trend.

The Times reports that even streams of chess matches on Twitch are experiencing “skyrocketing viewership.” Enthusiasts wanted more than 4.2 million hours of people playing chess on the platform in the last month–double the amount watched during the same period of 2019.

A spokesperson for the International Chess Federation, David Llada, told the paper that the show is having an impact on global excitement for the game similar to high-profile world championship matches, like the meeting of Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in 1972.

“The chess community fell in love with the series because it successfully portrays different aspects of chess in all its richness: It’s easy enough to be fun to play, but also complex enough to pose a challenge,” Llada said. “It is nerdy, but also cool and fashionable. It is intensively competitive, but full of interesting, creative and colorful characters.”


RELATED: 7 Chess Sets to Go with Your ‘Queens Gambit’ Obsession


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