New acts rule Grammys as Lizzo, Lil Nas, Eilish lead in noms

By MESFIN FEKADU

NEW YORK — The Grammys are screaming “Cuz I Love You” to Lizzo: The breakthrough singer-rapper scored a whopping eight nominations, including bids for the top four awards, making her the show’s top-nominated act.

Lizzo picked up nominations for album of the year with her major-label debut, “Cuz I Love You”; song and record of the year with her anthemic No. 1 hit, “Truth Hurts”; and best new artist.

Like Lizzo, other new artists dominated with Grammy nominations on Wednesday: Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X earned six nominations apiece.

Eilish also scored nominations in the top four categories, making the 17-year-old the youngest artist in the history of the Grammys to achieve the feat. Lil Nas X, 20, is up for three of the top four awards, including album and record of the year for “Old Town Road,” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus.

Lizzo’s “Cuz I Love You,” Eilish’s “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” and Lil Nas X’s “7” — an 8-song EP — will compete for album of the year along with Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next,” Bon Iver’s “I,I,” Vampire Weekend’s “Father of the Bride,” H.E.R.’s “I Used to Know Her” and Lana Del Rey’s “Norman (Expletive) Rockwell!”

Nominees for record of the year include songs that hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart this year, including “Old Town Road,” “Truth Hurts,” Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” Grande’s “7 Rings” and Post Malone and Swae Lee’s “Sunflower.” H.E.R.’s “Hard Place,” Bon Iver’s “Hey, Ma” and Khalid’s “Talk,” which peaked at No. 3 on the Hot 100, round out the eight nominees.

While Taylor Swift was shut out of album of the year with “Lover,” the album’s title track earned a nomination for song of the year, a songwriter’s award. It will compete with “Truth Hurts,” “Bad Guy,” “Hard Place,” Lady Gaga’s “Always Remember Us This Way” from “A Star Is Born,” Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved,” Lana Del Rey’s “Norman (Expletive) Rockwell” and Tanya Tucker’s “Bring My Flowers Now,” co-written by Brandi Carlile.

Swift earned three nominations, while Beyoncé — who was shut out of the top three categories — scored four. While her groundbreaking “Homecoming” documentary earned a nomination for best music film, its album version didn’t pick up any nominations. Instead her “The Lion King: The Gift” project — which features songs inspired by “The Lion King,” for which she voiced the character Nala — is up for best pop vocal album, competing with projects from Ed Sheeran, Swift, Eilish and Grande. Beyoncé’s “Spirit,” from “The Lion King” which is being pushed for Oscar consideration, is up for best pop solo performance along with Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down,” “Truth Hurts,” “Bad Guy” and “7 Rings.”

Overall, female acts out-performed their male counterparts in the top four categories: Five of the eight album-of-the-year contenders are women, while seven of the eight song-of-the-year nominees are by women. Female musicians also rule in the best new artist category, though record of the year is evenly split.

Grande, who won her first Grammy earlier this year, scored five nominations, as did H.E.R. and Finneas, Eilish’s older brother who co-wrote, co-produced and engineered her debut album. Finneas’ nominations include producer of the year (non-classical) and best engineered album (non-classical).

Several acts picked up four nominations, including J. Cole, Gary Clark Jr., Lucky Daye, Thom Yorke, Bob Ludwig and Tanya Tucker, who in August released her first album of new songs in 17 years.

British country-soul performer Yola also scored four bids, including best new artist, pitting her against Lizzo, Lil Nas X, Eilish, pop singer Maggie Rogers, New Orleans group Tank and the Bangas, the Austin-based duo Black Pumas and Spanish singer Rosalía, who won album of the year at last week’s Latin Grammys.

Lizzo’s road to the Grammys has been a long one: The 31-year-old, who performed with Prince on his “Plectrumelectrum” album, grinded as an independent and touring artist for years before signing a major-label deal, releasing her first album in 2013. But this year marked her major breakthrough: Her song “Truth Hurts” topped the charts for seven weeks; she’s wowed audiences with her live performances — including her twerking while playing the flute. She’s also graced several magazine covers, earning praise for promoting body positivity and denouncing fat shaming.

But Lizzo has also had her fair share of critics: Some felt she shouldn’t qualify for best new artist at the Grammys since she’s been on the music scene for years. Others thought since “Truth Hurts” was originally released in 2017, it shouldn’t qualify for the 2020 Grammys. The Recording Academy said “Truth Hurts” qualified because the song was never submitted for contention in the Grammys process and it appears on an album released during the eligibility period for the upcoming show.

“Truth Hurts” was co-written by Tele, Jesse Saint John and Ricky Reed, who is nominated for producer of the year (non-classical). Mina Lioness, the British singer who Lizzo gave writing credit to after using some of her viral tweet in the hit song, didn’t appear on the list of writers nominated for song of the year for “Truth Hurts.” Lizzo’s label, Atlantic Records, told The Associated Press last week it was in the process of adding Lioness to the song’s credits.

Lizzo’s other nominations include best urban contemporary album, best pop solo performance for “Truth Hurts,” best traditional R&B performance for “Jerome” and best R&B performance for “Exactly How I Am,” which features Gucci Mane and marks the rapper’s first Grammy nomination.

Another first-time nominee: former first lady Michelle Obama, who is nominated for best spoken word album for “Becoming” (Barack Obama has won two Grammys in the same category).

Nipsey Hussle, who died in March and was nominated for best rap album earlier this year, scored three nominations: His song “Racks In the Middle” is up for best rap performance and best rap song, while “Higher” — a collaboration with DJ Khaled and John Legend that was one of the last songs Hussle recorded — is nominated for best rap/sung performance.

The Cranberries picked up a nomination for best rock album for their eighth and final album, “In the End,” which the surviving members of the Irish band created using unfinished vocals from singer Dolores O’Riordan, who died last year.

The 2020 Grammys will hand out awards in its 84 categories live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on January 26. Nominees were selected from more than 20,000 submissions, and the final round of voting runs from Dec. 9 until Jan. 3.

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Israel heads toward unprecedented 3rd election within a year

By ARON HELLER

JERUSALEM — Israeli kingmaker politician Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday refused to endorse a candidate for prime minister, blaming both the contenders engaged in a tense standoff that has paralyzed Israeli politics and pushing the country toward a likely third election in less than a year.

Lieberman’s comments came ahead of a midnight deadline for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rival, Benny Gantz, to form a coalition. Without Lieberman, Gantz appears unable to secure the required majority in parliament to be prime minister.

If Israel is forced into a third election, it would be entering uncharted waters, with opinion polls already predicting a very similar deadlock. But a new campaign could benefit the embattled Netanyahu, who is expected to be indicted on corruption charges in the coming weeks. Netanyahu would be best-positioned to fight any charges from the prime minister’s office.

Lieberman, who heads a small secular, ultranationalist party, triggered the September election after refusing to join Netanyahu’s traditional allies of hard-line and religious parties following earlier elections in April. The do-over vote left Netanyahu’s Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White party both short of a required majority in the 120-seat parliament without Lieberman’s support.

Lieberman, who hails from the former Soviet Union, has objected to the outsize influence of ultra-Orthodox religious parties and has urged Netanyahu and Gantz to join him in a unity government as a way out of the stalemate. But Gantz and Netanyahu have refused to bend on their core conditions for such an arrangement.

After weeks of negotiations, Lieberman told reporters he wouldn’t align with either party on its own.

“I made every effort. I turned over every stone,” he said. “There were no significant gaps, they were mainly personal gaps and after it all, at least for now, it seems we are heading for another election.”

Lieberman said he objected to Netanyahu’s alliance with “messianic” religious parties, while he also accused Gantz of reaching out to religious parties and not negotiating in good faith.

“Who is to blame in this situation? Both parties together” he said. “There was an impressive blame game from both parties, but at the end it was a blame game, with no real will to take tough and dramatic decisions.”

Gantz was given the opportunity to form a government last month after Netanyahu failed in the task.

A former military chief, Gantz has a midnight deadline to present a potential coalition government. If he fails, as expected, the country enters the final 21-day period for any candidate to present a majority before new elections are called.

But after weeks of failed talks, the odds of any candidate succeeding in forming a government appear low.

Both Gantz and Netanyahu have expressed a willingness to sit together in a unity government. But they could not agree on a power-sharing agreement.

Gantz’s Blue and White party refuses to sit under Netanyahu while he faces such serious legal problems. Netanyahu refused to drop his alliance with smaller nationalist and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties.

A dizzying array of mediations and creative political machinations failed to break new ground and a Netanyahu-Gantz meeting late Tuesday night produced no headway, resulting in just more mudslinging.

Netanyahu has lambasted Gantz and his fellow former military chiefs in Blue and White for dangling the prospect of a minority government in which Arab lawmakers would provide outside support without officially joining the coalition.

His comments have drawn accusations of racism and incitement, including a speech by Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, who criticized Netanyahu’s “ugly” comments about Arabs.

A minority government could end Netanyahu’s decade-long grip on power. But the hard-line Lieberman ruled out any alliance with the Arab lawmakers.

Barring a last-minute development, it looks like Gantz will be forced to inform Israel’s president that he has no government to present — just as Netanyahu did before him — setting off the final 21-day period before new elections are called. The past two have been inconclusive and polls indicate the result of a third will not differ significantly.

“The truth must be said: Netanyahu is rejecting unity and will do anything to deteriorate us to a third election within a year,” Gantz wrote on Facebook. “I am ready to make compromises for the benefit of the citizens of Israel but not to cave on our core principles.”

Looming above the entire process is the long-expected announcement on Netanyahu’s corruption indictment that could remove him from the equation and potentially provide a long-sought way out of the impasse.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has recommended that Netanyahu be indicted on fraud, breach of trust and bribery charges in three separate cases. His final ruling has long been anticipated and is expected in the coming weeks, perhaps sooner. Though Netanyahu will not be compelled by law to step down immediately, it will certainly harden the opposition’s stance.

Rising regional tensions could also force the sides into compromise.

Israel carried out a wide-scale offensive against Iranian targets in Syria early on Wednesday in response to rocket attacks against it. Eleven people were reported killed, including seven non-Syrians who were most likely Iranian.

Israeli security officials expect Iran to respond, which could set off a direct confrontation, a week after the most intense fighting in Gaza in years. Against such a backdrop, the prospect of another dreaded election would weigh heavily on an already weary public.

Rivlin, among many others, has pleaded with the sides to find some sort of compromise to avoid another costly and divisive election campaign and even offered a power-sharing plan in which Gantz and Netanyahu would rotate as prime ministers. But among their other difference, they failed to agree on who would go first.

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California lawmakers: Time to consider revoking badges of problem police officers

State lawmakers this week said it’s time for California to consider joining 45 other states that can revoke the badges of officers who commit crimes and engage in other serious misconduct.

The call for action comes in the wake of a six-month investigation from a statewide coalition of news organizations, including the Southern California News Group, that revealed more than 80 law enforcement officers working today in California have a prior criminal conviction.

“We need to do something about this,” said state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Democrat and member of the Public Safety Committee representing Santa Barbara and part of Ventura County. “Having convicted criminals on our police force is just not OK in any way, shape or form.”

With demands for more police accountability growing in Sacramento, Democrats and a Republican on state public safety committees said they are deeply concerned about revelations in the series.

Jackson said she was “upset and angered,” particularly about officers routinely pleading down domestic violence charges to lesser crimes that allow them to keep their guns and, in some cases, remain on the job.

California is one of only five states in the country that doesn’t “decertify” an officer for misconduct — or essentially take away a license to work in law enforcement. Instead, almost all hiring and firing decisions are up to local departments.

So while many departments hold officers to the highest ethical standards, there are some that allow officers accused — and even convicted — of egregious misconduct to stay on the force.

And some small rural departments have a history of hiring castoff cops. For example, the news coalition’s investigation found the police department in the Kern County city of McFarland hired more than a dozen officers in the last decade — nearly one of every five officers — who were either sued or fired from another department for misconduct or convicted of a crime.

Jackson said the question now for her fellow legislators is: “Do we want some kind of state oversight?”

‘Right thing to do’

At least one Republican legislator agrees. State Sen. John Moorlach, who represents parts of Orange County, is vice chairman of the Senate’s Public Safety Committee. Moorlach said he’d likely support more state oversight, including decertification.

“It’s the right thing to do. It’s not a partisan issue. It’s about quality control,” Moorlach said.

Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, an Oakland Democrat who sits on the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee, agreed.

“There’s no denying that we need to explore changes once this level of sunlight is cast on law enforcement,” she said in a statement.

The series examined the cases of 630 current and former officers convicted of a crime in the past decade, featuring many of the cases in a searchable database. The exact number of officers with convictions is unknown.

Earlier this year, reporters from the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley obtained a secret state list of nearly 12,000 officers and applicants with convictions in the past decade. But the state Attorney General’s Office refused to say who on the list was an actual officer. Reporters ultimately were able to review about 1,000 court files and used news clips to identify other cases.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra has refused to answer questions about the list and his office declined numerous interview requests before the series was published and again for this story.

Smear on reputation of police

Michael Rains, a Bay Area-based lawyer who represents law enforcement, including officers named in the newspapers’ investigation, said he was “dismayed” to read about the crimes committed by police officers, calling them a “smear on the great name and reputation of their colleagues.”

“I’m a firm believer the badge is something that should be valued and honored by law enforcement officers,” Rains said. But, “rather than saying we have 630 bad apples, that’s the wrong way to look at it. We have close to 80,000 good ones. Those are the ones we should be thanking for all that they do.”

California Police Chiefs Association President Ronald Lawrence echoed those comments earlier this week in a statement, stressing that only a tiny percentage of officers are convicted of crimes. There are about 79,000 sworn officers in California.

“Our criminal justice system, for both the public and peace officers, must offer due process as well as pathways for an individual to accept accountability and correct their mistakes,” Lawrence wrote. “For those who are deserving and willing to embrace accountability and retraining, there must be a way to retain experienced, well-trained officers in an environment that is already difficult to recruit new hires.”

Low pay undermines hiring

Rains, who is also a former police officer, said he’s seen examples around the state of troubled small agencies like McFarland, due to a combination of low pay and benefits and a smaller pool of applicants.

“Departments are lamenting the fact that the people they are hiring don’t have, in some cases, the level of education, life experience and maturity that in an ideal world they’d prefer,” Rains said. “If those agencies get in such trouble they can’t find quality candidates and individuals that have not had problems elsewhere, they should call the county sheriff to bail them out.”

Powerful police unions have had strong pull over the years in Sacramento, but the latest call for more accountability comes after California enacted a law known as SB 1421 that opened some officer disciplinary records to the public for the first time. However, after unsuccessfully fighting the law in court, many departments have been slow to comply.

Rains said he is not opposed to the state asserting some control over decertifying officers, but he would “insist it be a fair, impartial and thorough investigation” that sometimes does not occur at the local level due to what he called “politics and mob rule.”

“That’s a joke,” Rains said, “and that’s not fair to anybody.”

This story is part of a collaboration of news organizations throughout California coordinated by the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley and the Bay Area News Group. Reporters participated from more than 30 newsrooms, including MediaNews Group, McClatchy, USA Today Network, Voice of San Diego, and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Click here to read more about the project. Email us at cacriminalcops@gmail.com.

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California laws protect criminal cops: Dan Walters

When the state of California licenses professionals, it is telling Californians that they can depend on licensees to perform their services competently, that miscreants will be disciplined and that in serious cases, their licenses will be lifted.

For instance, the state bar, which oversees attorneys, publishes all of its disciplinary actions, along with the underlying information that justifies its censures.

Alas, it doesn’t always work that way. Licensing agencies are often dominated by the professions they regulate and are reluctant to act on complaints. Moreover, professional trade associations lobby the Legislature for special protections.

Police unions have been especially aggressive in erecting barriers to disciplinary oversight, including a “peace officers bill of rights.” Politicians, from the governor down, have been eager to do their bidding because their campaign endorsements are precious political commodities.

Cop unions’ political clout has waned a bit in recent years, most noticeably in failing to block measures that impose stricter standards on use of deadly force and require the release of information on such cases.

However, our laws still make it difficult, or even impossible, to discipline rogue cops, and one of those laws is back in the spotlight because of an extraordinary journalistic effort.

Last weekend, dozens of California newspapers published a shocking article, revealing that more than 80 police officers who had committed serious crimes were still on the job.

In response to a series of fatal police shootings, the investigating reporting program at UC Berkeley sought disciplinary records on cops.

The Department of Justice rebuffed inquiries, but the UC journalists submitted a Public Records Act request to the Police Officers Standards and Training Commission (POST) and received data on 12,000 men and women with criminal histories who had applied to become police officers, had worked as officers or are currently employed.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra, threatening prosecution, demanded that the records be returned.

The journalists not only refused but collaborated with dozens of California newspapers to delve more deeply into the histories of criminal cops who are still on the job and find out why. One revelation: McFarland, a small San Joaquin Valley town, has an especially large number of cops with criminal records.

The article points out that California was an early leader in creating professional standards for police officers via POST, including the power to take away certifications — in effect, their professional licenses — for misconduct. However, when POST sought to tighten up standards in the 1990s, police unions pushed a 2003 bill to take away that power.

The measure, Senate Bill 221, was sponsored by a phalanx of police unions and supported by POST itself. Carried by then-Sen. Gloria Romero, a Los Angeles Democrat, it whipped through both houses of the Legislature on the “consent calendar” with no debate and was signed by then-Gov. Gray Davis, whom the unions had helped win election and re-election.

“They were protecting their working members by doing something that would keep POST from ever getting a bigger bite of the apple,” Mike DiMiceli, POST’s former assistant executive director, was quoted as saying in the article.

POST now just adds a notation to officers’ training records when they are convicted of felonies and doesn’t even note other, less serious crimes. Thus, whether a cop is fired for some act is left to his or her employer.

California is now one of just a handful of states that cannot decertify criminal cops. That’s a civic embarrassment. Fixing it is in the hands of today’s Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom.

CalMatters is a public-interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/commentary.

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This Veterans Day, let’s join forces and tell our vets, ‘Welcome home’

“Welcome home.”

To American veterans returning from a military assignment — whether overseas or stateside — those are the sweetest words they can ever hope to hear.

Yet, for thousands of homeless veterans living on the streets or in cars in Orange County and across the nation, welcome home is a concept they simply can’t imagine experiencing. Warm, safe, and clean places to call home are despairingly out of their reach.

As Veterans Day approaches, it is time to finally take strong action locally on behalf of Orange County’s homeless veterans. The time has come to reach out to them and say, at last, “Welcome Home.”

The resources to do so are in place; as a community, we now need to join hands to put them to good use on behalf of our homeless veterans.

This past March, Orange County United Way launched a unique and ambitious program called WelcomeHomeOC. It’s a joint effort amongst United Way, private philanthropists, and — here’s the key — rental property owners like myself. The Apartment Association of Orange County, of which I am a board member, former president and interim executive director, is playing an instrumental role in this exciting new program, which is part of United Way’s larger umbrella initiative, United to End Homelessness.

WelcomeHomeOC works closely with rental property owners and managers to identify units that could become part of the program’s housing inventory. The Housing Authority provides pre-qualified individuals and families with rental vouchers. The tenant who is housed then pays 30% of their income towards rent. The program helps with additional costs, such as holding fees and security deposits, as well as items like furnishings for the clients.

Importantly, the program stays in close contact with the residents, making sure they are receiving ongoing community services and overall case management. For Orange County rental property owners, the program is a win-win in every sense of the phrase. Owners will be welcoming vets who want, more than anything, a secure place they can call home. Vets who are fortunate enough to secure stable housing know a great thing when they see it. As a result, they are proud of their homes and treat them with respect.

But in my view, the most important reason for participating is because you’ll be playing a critical role in helping solve our county’s biggest crisis, homelessness — a festering problem that is only going to get worse unless we take the kind of bold action the WelcomeHomeOC program proposes.

Our nation was built on the sacrifices of men and women who served, and who currently serve, in our Armed Forces. Through this innovative and compassionate program, we have a rare opportunity to do the right thing by local veterans who are working hard to regain self-sufficiency.

WelcomeHomeOC was designed to provide just that — but greater numbers of property owners are needed to realize the program’s positive long-term potential and benefits.

When I was in junior high school, I participated in a poster contest to honor and help veterans. The theme of my poster was, “Help Them Help Themselves.” Maybe that’s why I am so impressed and excited by the WelcomeHomeOC program: It is founded on the belief that our vets deserve our support — and once they have it, will be able to use it to regain their dignity.

For that reason, I invite Orange County’s rental property owners to join me in the program, so that on Veterans Day, our local vets hear the words that have the power to transform their lives.

“Welcome home.”

Craig Kirkpatrick is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and subsequently served as an officer in the US Army. He currently serves as vice president of Morgan Skenderian Investment Real Estate Group.

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More than 25,000 University of California employees prepare to strike Nov. 13

More than 25,000 University of California service and patient care technical workers plan to stage a statewide unfair labor practices strike Nov. 13 to protest the school outsourcing jobs to lower-paid workers.

In an announcement released Friday, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 3299, which represents the employees, said the action will take place at all 10 UC campuses and at five medical centers.

Picket times and specific locations will be announced in the coming days, union representatives said.

Service workers range from security guards and cooks, to custodians and truck drivers, while patient care technical workers take in such jobs as nurse aids, respiratory therapists, radiology technologists and patient transporters.

Unfair labor practices

Friday’s notice follows six new unfair labor practices charges recently filed against the university over its alleged efforts to outsource jobs to lower-wage private contractors. The union claims UC has worked to secretly expand outsourcing by circumventing legal disclosure and bargaining requirements, as well as the university’s own competitive bidding and minimum wage policies.

Monica De Leon, a UC Irvine hospital unit service coordinator and member of AFSCME’s unfair labor practices committee, said the outsourcing is wrong on several levels.

“This is not just morally bankrupt, unfair and unsafe for the students and patients who depend on the work we do — it is illegal,” she said in a statement. “And we will not rest until this lawlessness stops.”

UC’s response

UC spokesman Andrew Gordon said the union has been difficult, if not impossible, to work with.

“Over the past two and a half years of negotiations, ASFCME leaders have not budged on their unreasonable wage demands,” Gordon said via email. “They have refused to hold a vote on any one of UC’s many fair proposals. And this strike notice does nothing to give employees the long-overdue agreement and raises they deserve.”

The university has settled contracts with the leaders of nine other unions “who worked in good faith” to resolve issues at the bargaining table, he said, adding that “our employees deserve the same from AFSCME leaders.”

Gordon said the number of AFSCME-represented employees has increased by double digits over the past five years. The number of service workers has grown 16.8 percent, he said, and the number of patient care workers has jumped 27.9 percent.

Spending on outsourcing

Union representatives said documents recently published by the state Legislature show UC has increased its spending on outsourcing of campus service and patient care jobs normally performed by university employees by 52% since 2016 — and by 84% at UC Medical Centers.

AFSCME also alleges UC’s outsourcing practices disproportionately target black women and other people of color.

As direct employees, their starting wages are already as much as 23% less than white men doing similar jobs, the union said, and as outsourced workers, they are paid as much as 53% less than regular UC employees.

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Long Beach, West Orange County nonprofits to celebrate grand relaunch with Jewish Long Beach premiere night

A reception and film screening will serve as a grand relaunch of Jewish Long Beach, a merger of the Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Foundation of Long Beach and West Orange County two years in the works.

The Jewish Long Beach Premier Night will take place at the Alpert Jewish Community Center on Wednesday, Nov. 6.

“We are thrilled to roll Jewish Long Beach out to the Long Beach and West Orange County communities,” Jewish Long Beach CEO Zachary Benjamin said in a statement. “We designed the event to set the tone for the future of our organization and the impact we plan to have in the community. We are excited to share our vision in a setting that the whole family can enjoy.”

The evening festivities will be the first event kicking off the Jewish Long Beach Annual Campaign Fund, which Benjamin said has refocused its mission to serve the local and global Jewish community through a strategic grant-making model where organizations apply based on community needs, rather than distributing funds to predetermined foundations.

Attendees will begin the night by walking a red carpet and enjoy a dessert reception of Jewish Long Beach-branded kosher dishes. A promotional film will reintroduce Jewish Long Beach to its community with brief description of the nonprofit’s mission with issues including: establishing cultural leadership programs, combating anti-Semitism and educating against injustice and planned giving programs.

As a chapter of Jewish Federations of North America, Jewish Long Beach will provide resources and opportunities in the Long Beach and West Orange County communities. Jewish Long Beach owns and operates the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Jewish Long Beach Campus — home to the Alpert Jewish Community Center— and Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Long Beach and West Orange County.

“I’m excited about it, and I believe our community is excited too,” Benjamin said. “I hope to see a big and curious crowd walking away feeling energized about this new organization born from the best of two longstanding foundations.”

The premiere night will also serve as the opening event for the Long Beach Jewish Film Festival with a screening of “A Land of Milk and Funny,” followed by a Q&A session with producer Avi Lieberman. The film festival will continue through Sunday, Nov. 10.

Tickets to attend the relaunch are free with a minimum donation of $18 that will go toward the 2020 Jewish Long Beach Annual Campaign Fund. Attendees will receive a Jewish Long Beach Premiere Night bag with branded souvenirs, marketing materials and more inside.

If you go:

When: 6 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 6

Where: Alpert Jewish Community Center, 3801 E. Willow St., Long Beach

More info: 562-426-7601, or visit picatic.com.

Cost: Free, with a minimum $18 donation

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Theme park sues California man over dark ride he built in his garage

A Missouri theme park that attracts more than 2 million visitors per year is suing a Southern California man who built a dark ride in his garage for Halloween over who owns the trademarked name.

But the Silver Dollar City theme park in Branson, Missouri, didn’t throw the first punch. That surprising first blow was delivered by Scott D’Avanzo.

“I’m confident we’ll win in the end,” said D’Avanzo, 45, of Ladera Ranch (Orange County). “We’re small and they’re big bullies.”

For the past few years, D’Avanzo has built a theme park-style dark ride in the two-car garage of his Ladera Ranch home and welcomed thousands of visitors at Halloween to take a spin.

D’Avanzo called the ride Mystic Motel and dreamed of building bigger theme park attractions one day — so much so that he trademarked the Mystic Motel name for theme park attractions in 2013. He founded a company called Adrenalin Attractions to develop his dream of one day building a theme park with the Mystic Motel ride as its centerpiece.


Scott D’Avanzo’s children, Brayden and Ava, then 6 and 4, pose in one of the Mystic Motel ride carts in D’Avanzo’s Ladera Ranch garage in 2015. (File photo by Nick Agro, Orange County Register/SCNG)

That’s where Silver Dollar City comes in. In August, the Missouri theme park announced plans to build the $20 million Mystic River Falls river rapids ride in 2020 as part of a new themed land.

D’Avanzo’s attorney sent a letter to Silver Dollar City in late September demanding that the park change the name of the Mystic River Falls ride because it infringed on the Mystic Motel ride’s trademarked name. Silver Dollar City responded with a 16-page lawsuit that accused D’Avanzo and Adrenalin Attractions of trademark infringement, unfair competition and an implied legal threat.

Silver Dollar City has asked the U.S. District Court to declare that the Missouri theme park owns the trademark rights to the Mystic River Falls name. And one more thing: Silver Dollar City wants D’Avanzo to change the name of the ride in his garage.

The civil lawsuit states that Silver Dollar City acquired the trademark for the Mystic River Falls name from the U.S. Patent office in September and never heard any opposition from D’Avanzo during the months-long process.

Silver Dollar City declined to comment due to the legal nature of the situation, said theme park spokeswoman Lisa Rau via email.

Adrenalin Attractions is in development discussions with investors and amusement park vendors to build a Mystic City theme park at an undisclosed location in California, D’Avanzo said. The $2 billion theme park will feature 35 attractions including dark rides, roller coasters and a water ride, he said.

“We just don’t want to have 14 different attractions with Mystic on them,” D’Avanzo said in a phone interview. “It just muddies the waters.”

Adrenalin Attractions also sent a trademark infringement letter earlier this year related to the name of the $15 million Mystic Timbers roller coaster that opened in 2017 at Kings Island, D’Avanzo said. Lawyers for the Ohio amusement park told D’Avanzo’s attorney that they considered the matter closed, he said.


Scott D’Avanzo and son, Ashton D’Avanzo, then 11, pose at the check-in counter of Mystic Motel in 2015. (File photo by Nick Agro, Orange County Register/SCNG)

D’Avanzo built the Mystic Motel dark ride with his son, Ashton,  now 15, in the garage of their suburban home in Ladera Ranch, a master planned bedroom community in an unincorporated part of Orange County near Mission Viejo.

Set in an abandoned 1955 desert motel along Route 66, Mystic Motel takes visitors through the decrepit interior of a deteriorating motor lodge and into its haunted basement. Along the way you peek into a bustling casino, explore derelict motel rooms and step into a diner for a refreshment.

 

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Maria fire in Ventura County could reach 12,000 acres before running out of fuel

Lingering winds were blamed for churning up a wildfire that erupted Thursday evening and quickly spread from a hilltop near Santa Paula, north of Los Angeles.

Authorities in Ventura County ordered evacuations for about 7,500 people in an area that includes roughly 1,800 buildings as the blaze threatened the small, unincorporated rural community of Somis.

  • The Maria fire burns late Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, between Santa Paula and Somis in Ventura County. The blaze had consumed more than 8,000 acres by early Friday and could burn a total of 12,000, a fire official said. (Photo by Rick McClure/Special to the Los Angeles Daily News)

  • The Maria fire burns late Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, between Santa Paula and Somis in Ventura County. The blaze had consumed more than 8,000 acres by early Friday and could burn a total of 12,000, a fire official said. (Photo by Rick McClure/Special to the Los Angeles Daily News)

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  • The Maria fire burns late Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, between Santa Paula and Somis in Ventura County. The blaze had consumed more than 8,000 acres by early Friday and could burn a total of 12,000, a fire official said. (Photo by Rick McClure/Special to the Los Angeles Daily News)

  • The Maria fire burns late Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, between Santa Paula and Somis in Ventura County. The blaze had consumed more than 8,000 acres by early Friday and could burn a total of 12,000, a fire official said. (Photo by Rick McClure/Special to the Los Angeles Daily News)

  • The Maria fire burns late Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, between Santa Paula and Somis in Ventura County. The blaze had consumed more than 8,000 acres by early Friday and could burn a total of 12,000, a fire official said. (Photo by Rick McClure/Special to the Los Angeles Daily News)

  • The Maria fire burns late Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, between Santa Paula and Somis in Ventura County. The blaze had consumed more than 8,000 acres by early Friday and could burn a total of 12,000, a fire official said. (Photo by Rick McClure/Special to the Los Angeles Daily News)

  • The Maria Fire burns on a hilltop in a view from Somis, Calif. Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Firefighters battle the Maria Fire in Santa Paula, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. According to Ventura County Fire Department, the blaze has scorched more than 8,000 acres and destroyed at least two structures. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

  • Smoke from the Maria Fire rises above an oil pumpjack in Santa Paula, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. According to Ventura County Fire Department, the blaze has scorched more than 8,000 acres and destroyed at least two structures. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

  • Smoke from the Maria Fire billows above Santa Paula, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. Calmer weather allowed crews to increase containment on wildfires after a three-week siege of gusts fanned blazes across California and led utilities to cut power to prevent winds from blowing branches into electric lines and igniting an inferno. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

  • Firefighter Giannis Giagos battles the Maria Fire in Santa Paula, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. According to Ventura County Fire Department, the blaze has scorched more than 8,000 acres and destroyed at least two structures. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

  • Flames from a backfire consume a hillside as firefighters battle the Maria Fire in Santa Paula, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. According to Ventura County Fire Department, the blaze has scorched more than 8,000 acres and destroyed at least two structures. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

  • Firefighter Giannis Giagos battles the Maria Fire in Santa Paula, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. According to Ventura County Fire Department, the blaze has scorched more than 8,000 acres and destroyed at least two structures. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

  • The Maria Fire burns on a hilltop in a view from Somis, Calif. Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • The Maria Fire creates a glow over The Saticoy Country Club Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, in Somis, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Fire crews stage on a fire road in front of the Maria Fire Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, in Somis, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • A structure is engulfed by the advancing Maria Fire Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, in Somis, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Firefighters walks on a road leading to a residence as the Maria Fire burns on a hillside Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, in Somis, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Firefighters walks on a road leading to a residence as the Maria Fire burns on a hillside Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, in Somis, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Firefighters walks on a road leading to a residence as the Maria Fire burns on a hillside Thursday, Oct. 31 2019, in Somis, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • A firefighter battles the Maria Fire Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, in Somis, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • A firefighter watches flying embers while battling the Maria Fire Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, in Somis, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • A firefighter cuts barbed wire to let the rest of his crew enter a fire zone while battling the Maria Fire Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, in Somis, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Firefighters discuss their strategy as they fight the Maria Fire Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, in Somis, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Fire crews battle the Maria Fire Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, in Somis, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • A firefighter battles the Maria Fire Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, in Somis, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Firefighters battle the Maria Fire Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, in Somis, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • A firefighter stands on a road as the Maria Fire burns behind him Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, in Somis, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • This photo from video provided by KTLA-TV shows shows the beginning of the Maria fire at an antenna farm atop South Mountain near Santa Paula, Calif., Thursday evening, Oct. 31, 2019. (KTLA-TV via AP)

  • This remote-camera photo posted on the Ventura County Fire Department’s Twitter page shows the beginning of the Maria fire at an antenna farm atop South Mountain near Santa Paula, Calif., Thursday evening, Oct. 31, 2019. (Ventura County Fire Department via AP)

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Hundreds of firefighters raced to attack the blaze, which initially was fanned by moderate winds and then was fueled by tinder-dry brush in canyons. It grew in only a few hours to around 8,040 acres — just over 12.6 square miles (33 square kilometers) — by 1:30 a.m. Friday.

Ventura County Fire Assistant Chief John McNeil estimated that the fire could reach around 12,000 acres before running out of fuel. Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said a small drone that appeared to be “looking at photography of the fire” interfered with aerial firefighting efforts Thursday.

Meanwhile, dozens of local schools across several districts announced Friday closures because of what officials dubbed the Maria fire.

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Halloween and Hollywood go together like tricks and treats. Here’s how

Hollywood. Halloween.

They sound similar, but that’s not all they have in common. The movie and television industry’s impact on the dress-up holiday is substantial, as local costume and makeup retailers can attest.


“I was born into this business,” says Ryan Goldman while wearing a Pennywise mask from the horror film “It” at his new Halloween Superstore location in West Hills on Friday, October 18, 2019. His father brought the popup Halloween Adventure store to the Valley from the East Coast in 1989. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

“Hollywood, Halloween; to me, sometimes they’re one and the same,” said Phantom Halloween So Cal store chain president Ryan Goldman, who estimates 30% to 40% of his holiday sales comes from licensed character masks, costumes, animatronics and the like.

And in a city where a shop caters to industry pros throughout the year, things are getting particularly busy right now.

“It’s a big effect,” Danny Stein, CFO of Burbank’s professional makeup business Cinema Secrets, said of film and TV’s impact on his family’s nearly four decade-old store and wholesale operations. “Halloween, for retail, would be the busiest time in the store.”


Cinema Secrets Co-Owner CFO Danny Stein, at his store in Burbank, Monday October 21, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

 

As it has happened every year in recent memory, the most popular, mass-manufactured costumes for adults and children are licensed from the year’s most popular movies that lend themselves to character imitation. From the superhero genre, Captain Marvel is leading an avenger force of empowered females onto the trick-or-treat circuit.

For horror film fans, “It Chapter Two’s” Pennywise is the king of the season’s killer clowns.

For reasons Goldman isn’t quite sure of, the company with the license for DC Comics characters didn’t do a Joaquin Phoenix Joker costume this year. This happens sometimes, for such reasons as merchandising rights negotiations with the intellectual property’s owner or that copyright holder not approving something about the costume company’s designs. Goldman noted that costumes made for this season’s dark Disney princess sequel “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” were yanked before the holiday sales period got underway in September.

But not to worry. A good Halloween superstore – and Phantom has four year-round locations and two pop-ups this season, including its new, 30,000-square-foot headquarters in West Hills at the corner of Fallbrook Avenue and Victory Boulevard – can help make your look when the big costume companies drop the pumpkin.

“There are other companies that have tried to pick up the slack,” Goldman noted, pointing to a wall with a green-haired jester mask that remarkably resembles Joaquin Phoenix’s disturbed Arthur Fleck. He also noted that you can still get packaged versions of Heath Ledger’s “Dark Knight” Joker, which has been a solid seller for each of the dozen years since that movie hit. Phantom Hollywood can also combine different pieces to accentuate the new Maleficent’s look over the original, 2014 film’s or 60-year-old “Sleeping Beauty” cartoon’s.

Turning you into a zombie

You can find Jolie-like demon horns as well in a small, accessories-and-masks alcove at Cinema Secrets’ main store. An annex of more common Halloween stuff is open next door for the season, but the Riverside Drive brick-and-mortar’s main business is selling the makeup, application tools and brush cleaners it makes to the nearby studios, entertainment industry professionals and, increasingly through online retailers and chains like Sephora, the general public.

This time of year, however, more than usual of the main store’s shelf space is taken up by the company’s Woochie line of latex and foam horror appliances, which include everything from the usual scars and bullet wounds to full witch, zombie and Day of the Dead kits, with all the water-activated makeup and vintages of stage blood you could want to color your own, wearable nightmare.


People shop at Cinema Secrets in Burbank, Monday October 21, 2019. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)NG)

Or, you can have a Cinema Secrets makeup artist apply it for you the day of your Halloween party or on All Hallows Eve.

“We’ve kind of just been making little kits – we’ve all memorized if people come in looking for, say, Joker, you give them this, this, this and this – and if you want to get it done, we can do it for you,” said Jessica Stein, the social media marketing specialist for the company started in 1985 by her makeup artist dad, grandmother and late grandfather along with her uncle Danny.

“Superheroes have been popular for years,” Danny Stein added. “But instead of you walking into the party and everyone looks the same because they’re wearing the same costume, we’ll change it with makeup. So you might go in with a group of Batmen, but we’re going to make yours look all beat up.”

The Hollywood influence on Halloween looks can go beyond characters to the actors who portray them.

“How does Hollywood influence Halloween?” Jessica Stein asked. “Everybody wants to be someone that they’re not on that one day a year, or a couple if they’ve got a lot of parties. We get people wanting to be the actual celebrities, not just the characters that they play. Obviously, Harley Quinn is huge, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone walked in and said, ‘I want to be Margot Robbie.’ She’s just blowing up now, so it’s very, very likely.”

Super females

To give some idea of the ebb-and-flow of the Hollywood-Halloween connection, Goldman noted that Robbie’s psycho sweetheart Quinn costumes aren’t selling as well this year as they did in seasons closer to the “Suicide Squad” film’s release, which introduced the character in 2016. He expects her to make a comeback in 2020, however, after Harley hits screens again in “Birds of Prey” next February.

Other super females will be introduced in that movie, and if trends hold some will surely become in-demand costumes.

“It seems like, in the last year, the empowered woman has not only come into everyday life and the movies, it’s transformed into Halloween as well,” Goldman observed. “The female characters are no longer secondary, they’re now leads: Harley Quinn, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman. That is definitely a trend this year.”

A whole aisle of superhero stuff at Phantom Halloween reveals that the past 12 months’ different Spider-Man iterations – from the animated Miles Morales of “Into the Spider-Verse” to Peter Parker’s various “Far from Home” getups to hot videogame visions – have rejuvenated and expanded that costume line. The superhero films’ repeated re-envisioning of their characters keeps their holiday merchandising fresh (although – and we can’t imagine why – nobody thought of making a Fat Thor from “Avengers: Endgame” costume this year).

“Star Wars,” on the other hand, according to Goldman, has been noticeably shedding Halloween cosplayers over recent years, as the new characters introduced in the Disney-made films have failed to resonate like Luke, Leia and Darth did with fans. We’ll see if there’s a change in that following the opening of the climax of the latest trilogy, “The Rise of Skywalker,” at the end of this year.

Outside the big franchises, some movies capture the costuming imagination (the new, animated “Addams Family” was perfectly timed to sell more cartoony versions of Morticia, Wednesday and Lurch getups) while others don’t (the red jumpsuits the Tethered wore in Jordan Peele’s popular but perplexing “Us” aren’t flying off the racks).

Movies, with their generally bigger promotional budgets and media profiles, tend to generate more merchandise sales than TV shows. It looks like “Game of Thrones’” dress-up popularity ended with the HBO series this year, and Netflix’s megahit “Stranger Things” seems to be the only streaming show getting much Halloween traction. That’s mostly Eleven’s dresses from assorted seasons, although it is reported that the Scoops Ahoy uniforms from this summer’s Season Three have pretty much sold out.

All this keeping up with Hollywood’s latest costume trends can seem a bit exhausting, can it not? But another good thing both the holiday and the entertainment industry share is tried-and-true tradition, and that can make dressing up for Halloween less scary.

“I’ve been everything for Halloween,” Jessica, the third-generation Stein makeup maven, logically pointed out. “At this point, I just want to be comfy, so I might go for a fun Beetlejuice this year.”

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