California Sun

Good morning. It's Tuesday, Aug. 7.

President Trump tweets nonsensically about California water.
Frequent beach sweeping is making them biologically sterile.
And a sexual fixer who catered to secretly gay Hollywood stars.

The lede


Historic inferno

A recent view of California's wildfires from the International Space Station.


443 square miles burned. 75 homes lost. Tens of thousands of people displaced.

The Mendocino Complex fire, about 30 miles north of Santa Rosa, is now the largest wildfire in state history — and it remains far from being fully contained.

“That’s one of those records you don’t want to see,” a fire official told the L.A. Times.

Read more about the Mendocino blaze in the Sacramento Bee and Press Democrat.

Here's the latest on more than a dozen fires raging across the state:

A fire north of Yosemite destroyed part of the Dardanelle Resort, a historic property on the Stanislaus River dating to the 1920s. Union Democrat |
President Trump posted a tweet that accused Gov. Jerry Brown of shortchanging firefighters by diverting water into the Pacific. Experts dismissed the claim as nonsensical. "You don’t even really want to respond,” said Jay Lund, a U.C. Davis water expert. A.P. | Desert Sun
An out-of-control brush fire that erupted Monday spread across six square miles of Orange and Riverside counties, forcing evacuations and sending a towering plume of smoke into the sky. It was 0 percent contained. O.C. Register | L.A. Times
Of roughly 50 homes in the tiny Shasta County town of Keswick, just two remained standing on Monday amid the ashes of the Carr fire. It's "pretty much obliterated from the map," an official said. Record Searchlight



Low-income patients are 10 times as likely as their wealthier counterparts to lose a toe, foot, or leg to diabetes. That's why California has started a new diabetes prevention program. By one estimate, it could save taxpayers $45 million a year.


The U.S. Census Bureau stands to undercount millions of Californians in its 2020 survey, according to a new analysis. That could result in less federal funding or the loss of a congressional seat. Census response rates tend to lag in counties with high concentrations of non-U.S. citizens, such as Monterey, where nearly a fifth of residents are noncitizens.


A Mariposa fox sparrow in 1925, observed during a survey of California fauna.

Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, U.C. Berkeley

In California's High Sierra, massive ecological change is underway in response to climate change. Leading the charge are birds, which are adapting to rising temperatures by nesting earlier. "We saw nesting dates that were as much as five to 12 days early on average across all birds," a scientist said.


Duck n'duja hummus at Bavel.

A ranking of the 18 best new restaurants in America included three in Los Angeles — Bavel, Dialogue, and Majordomo — and two in the Bay Area — Nyum Bai and True Laurel. The food critic Bill Addison said the Middle Eastern Bavel makes "some of the smoothest, most purely earthen hummus in America."


Northern California


Alex Jones in 2014. The right-wing provocateur trafficks in dark conspiracies.

Major technology companies are booting the notorious conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Apple, Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify erased years of content from Jones and his site Infowars, which has spread bizarre theories including that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax. Jones called the moves an attack on free speech.


Gig-economy companies including Uber and Lyft are quietly lobbying California’s top Democrats to suspend a California Supreme Court decision that that could make many of their contract workers into employees. “In the worst-case scenario, it isn’t a viable business model anymore,” the California Chamber of Commerce president said. The governor declined to comment.


"It’s San Francisco’s freshest icon." Next week, transbay bus service will begin at the $2 billion Transbay Transit Center. The roof above the concourse is covered by a 5.4-acre park that includes eight gardens, a picnic meadow, a children’s play area, and a restaurant with a terrace 80 feet in the air. Here's a look (with drone footage).


The Russian River meets the Pacific in Jenner.

The Russian River — mined, diverted, and dammed — has been called moribund, even dead. But the emblem of Sonoma County is showing new signs of life as a group of people dedicated to the river's revival work to forge a new future. "I’m genuinely optimistic," said a Pomo community elder.


Southern California


Santa Monica State Beach is among California's busiest beaches.

Are we grooming beaches to death? A pitfall of frequently sweeping beaches to clear trash: They can become barren and biologically sterile. That's why Santa Monica State Beach launched a project to try to rewild parts of the shore. Native plants are now flourishing, creating homes for birds and bugs.


Anaheim police sergeant: “Hey, uh, want to ask my permission?”

Voice of OC reporter: “I’m a reporter – Voice of OC."

Sergeant: “I don’t care who you are. Have a common respect, and ask my permission if you wanna take my picture.”

Reporter: “Well, may I take your picture?”

Sergeant: “No.”


As part of Mayor Eric Garcetti's initiative to build shelters in all 15 of Los Angeles’s City Council districts, architects were asked to design appealing homeless shelters on a $1 million budget. Here's what they came up with.


The president's star has been repeatedly vandalized.

Reed Saxon/A.P.

Donald Trump's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame has become a site of contention, and even violence. Now West Hollywood's City Council has approved a resolution urging that it be permanently removed, citing "his disturbing treatment of women," among other objections.


Scotty Bowers with actresses Valerie Vernon, left, and Constance Dowling in the 1950s

Scotty Bowers archive

Meet Scotty Bowers, the sexual fixer who catered to secretly gay stars of Hollywood's Golden Age. Asked whether he really obtained 150 female sex partners for Katharine Hepburn, Bowers replied, “Remember, this was over a period of 39 years — almost 50 years.”


California archive


Bigfoot birthday

The town of Willow Creek in Humboldt County has embraced its connection to the Bigfoot legend.

The legend of Bigfoot turns 60 this month.

It was in August of 1958 that Jerry Crew, a tractor operator working in the remote wilderness of Northern California's Six Rivers National Forest, spotted giant footprints in the mud. They were 16 inches long and, to his eye, manlike.

The news media pounced. Writing about the find, a columnist at the Humboldt Times introduced the name "Big Foot" in an article titled, “Giant footprints puzzle residents along Trinity River.”

"Are the tracks a human hoax?” he wrote. “Or, are they actual tracks of a huge but harmless wild-man, traveling through the wilderness? Can this be some legendary sized animal?"

Reports of ape-like behemoths had circulated for generations. Native American lore included mention of a race of hairy sasquatches, and California settlers whispered about them as far back as the 1880s.

But Crew’s footprints turned Bigfoot into a national media sensation, prompting countless campfire debates, and inspiring an army of Bigfoot hunters. Years later, a jerky one-minute film purported to catch a glimpse of the fabled ape-man striding along a creek in Humboldt County.

For believers, Humboldt County is Bigfoot country.

Then in 2002, the story appeared to suffer a damaging blow when Ray Wallace, a member of Crew's work squad and an inveterate prankster, died at 84. His family then revealed a secret: The whole thing was a hoax. Wallace had made the oversized footprints with a set of carved wooden feet.

Wallace was Bigfoot.

Yet, far from fading into myth, public fascination for the furtive ape-man has remained as strong as ever, said Mike Rugg, owner of the Bigfoot Discovery Museum in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

He railed against the closed-mindedness of skeptics and cited “tens of thousands of witness accounts,” including a brief encounter of his own during a childhood camping trip on the Eel River.

“Once you see one, it changes your life,” said Rugg, 72.

Asked about the Wallace family’s disclosure, he scoffed: “Anybody that does any research into sasquatch knows that they were seen for hundreds of years before Ray Wallace was born, and that they have continued to be seen since he died.”

In recent years, the ranks of Bigfoot believers have swollen with the rise of the paranormal television genre and the endorsements of some well-regarded scientists. Among them is Jane Goodall, the renowned chimpanzee researcher. "You'll be amazed when I tell you, I'm sure that they exist," she told an interviewer in 2002. "I've talked to so many Native Americans who've all described the same sound, two who've seen them."

Jane Goodall is on board with Bigfoot.

Victoria Will/Invision/A.P.

There’s no doubting that Bigfoot lives on in the hearts and minds of people in Willow Creek, the modern ground zero for the legend in Humboldt County.

The one-time logging town has embraced the beast as a civic emblem and tourist draw. Local businesses include the Bigfoot Golf Country Club, Bigfoot Steakhouse, Bigfoot Motel, and Bigfoot Rafting. There's a Bigfoot Avenue and a Bigfoot Scenic Byway.

On Labor Day weekend, the town will host the annual Bigfoot Daze celebration. In a bit of wishful fantasy, costumed impersonators of Northern California's most reclusive celebrity will parade through the downtown for all to see.


Thanks for reading!

The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.

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