Talking Points

Biggest Los Angeles brush fire was actually in 1938. And more.

LATUNA5SeptAMProgressionMap.jpgLA Tuna Fire burn map. Colors detail the spread by day.

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1. Once and for all, weekend La Tuna Fire never was LA's biggest
Just to close a loop on a recent topic at LA Observed, the La Tuna Canyon fire that erupted with a fury last Friday is basically out. Fire officials will hold their final formal press briefing at 10 a.m. on Thursday. Some luck — favorable winds and a bit of rain — plus ferocious firefighting likely averted a major human disaster. It's now at 80 percent containment and 7,194 acres burned.

garcetti-latuna-fire.jpgMayor Eric Garcetti and Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas were flat out wrong when they said on Saturday that the fire was the biggest in acreage in the city's history — prompting crazy headlines around the world. At the time, the fire's area was considerably smaller than the catastrophic 1961 Bel Air fire. And now, with some time to research deeper, it's clear that neither this weekend's fire nor Bel Air were the city's biggest in acreage.

The biggest single fire on the LAFD's books was the Mountain Fire in November 1938. It started just inside the city limits close to Topanga Canyon and burned 11,720 acres of brush and ranchland in the city of Los Angeles — all the way to Pacific Palisades — and another 4,288 acres in county territory. (Bad year: 1938 was also the year of the massive flooding that gave us Sepulveda Dam and a concrete river.) "Approximately 24 per cent of the total area of the mountain district west of Cahuenga Avenue was burned over in this fire," the LAFD's chief at the time, R. J. Scott, wrote in his report.

The Bel Air-Brentwood fire that destroyed more than 400 homes in late 1961 has an official count of 7,270 acres in the LAFD reports. At the exact same time, in the same canyons burned by the Mountain Fire, the Santa Ynez Fire burned 8,560 acres of brush within the city limits. Some accounts argue that the two fires joined into a mammoth event that would rank as the largest single scorcher of Los Angeles acreage, but let's say they are taken separately. Either way, the weekend's La Tuna Fire is at worst the third (or fourth) biggest in terms of acreage burned in Los Angeles. And to be sure, when we limit the conversation to just acreage burned in Los Angeles, all of these fires rank as much smaller than the giant infernos in the San Gabriels and other mountains that Southern California is most known for.

As I observed on Monday, the recent fire isn't even the worst one in La Tuna Canyon in my lifetime — because no one died. All brush fires are bad, but we may as well be accurate for historic purposes, since at some point there will be a bigger and more destructive calamity that begs for comparison. By the way, I'm not sure how this is an "investigation," but NBC4's I-Team reports that an LAFD helicopter made an emergency landing on the athletic field at Verdugo Hills High School while fighting the La Tuna fire.

Separately, check out this aerial video of the La Tuna Fire fight.

Meanwhile: Terrazas announced Wednesday that the LAFD urban rescue task force that has been on flood duty in Houston started home, only to be turned around by FEMA and ordered to stage in Alabama in case they are needed to help areas hit by Hurricane Irma. Be safe out there.

2. Leslie Van Houten has not been paroled
leslie-van-houten-parole-hearing.jpg Many in the news media are off and running, again, with overheated headlines saying that former Manson family killer Leslie Van Houten has been "granted parole." Technically true, but not true enough for headlines. Parole for her requires a three-step process. Van Houten was deemed suitable for parole as a model prisoner last year too — it was the first time in 46 years she got that far. Now comes a 120-day review by another state panel, and if that level clears Van Houten for release, it goes to Gov. Jerry Brown. He stopped her release last year, and he might again. Every time a Manson follower comes up for parole, relatives of the victims and a number of officials, including Los Angeles DA Jackie Lacey, oppose the release.

Van Houten was not present at the infamous Sharon Tate murder scene in August 1969, but she did take part in the murders of Leno and Rosemary La Bianca on Waverly Drive. She was, at 19, the youngest of the killers who followed the directions of Charles Manson, and she is the second-longest serving female inmate in California prisons, behind another Manson follower, Patricia Krenwinkel. After the La Bianca murders, Manson left the killers to hitchhike home to the Spahn Ranch across the Valley. What the heck am I babbling about.

3. 'Veep' ending after next season
veep-dreyfus-hbo.jpgStar Julia Louis-Dreyfus broke the news today via Tim Goodman of the Hollywood Reporter. The HBO hit will end after an eighth season in 2018.
"It became clear that this season should be the last season," Louis-Dreyfus says. "We don't want to repeat ourselves or wear out our welcome. The story has a finality to it that feels end-of-series."

It wasn't a decision that came easily. "Let's face it, this has been a role of a lifetime," says Louis-Dreyfus, who knows something about good roles, having played Elaine Benes for nine seasons on "Seinfeld." She has won a staggering five consecutive Emmys for outstanding lead actress for Veep and is up for a sixth this year. The show has been nominated for best series six consecutive seasons, winning the last two in a row, as it heads into this year's ceremony on Sept. 17.

Separately, both Louis-Dreyfus and [executive producer David] Mandel say that as they mapped out the arc of the seventh season, not repeating themselves and staying true to the often daring twists of the story were paramount. "It was just a very natural thing," Mandel says. "We don't want to repeat ourselves or be boring. It's bittersweet but it's right."

4. Tyrus Wong doc premieres Friday on PBS
tyrus-wong-irene-poon-anderson.jpgThe film on the life of Chinese-born Los Angeles artist Tyrus Wong, who died last December, debuts Friday on American Masters on PBS. Tyrus will air at 9 p.m. Friday on PBS SoCal KOCE.

Wong, renowned for his work on the original "Bambi" for Disney and other Hollywood projects, as well as for his painting and kites, was 106 years old when he died. He had been the subject of many Gary Leonard photographs on his birthdays.

"Previously unseen art and interviews with Wong, movie clips and archival footage illustrate how his unique style – melding Chinese calligraphic and landscape influences with contemporary Western art – is found in everything from Disney animation (Bambi) and live-action Hollywood studio films (Rebel Without a Cause, The Wild Bunch, Sands of Iwo Jima, April in Paris) to Hallmark Christmas cards, kites and hand-painted California dinnerware to fine art and Depression-era WPA paintings," the flackage says. Pamela Tom wrote and directed the documentary.

Earlier this year on American Masters: Richard Linklater, Jacques Pepin, Alice Waters, James Beard, Julia Child, Patsy Cline, Maya Angelou and Sidney Lumet. Lol. That's just one year.

Photo of Tyrus Wong: Irene Poon Andersen

5. Speaking of public TV
KCET is expected to unveil the new season of "SoCal Connected" on Thursday. The award-winning show's eighth season will have Val Zavala back as anchor and a cast of reporters to include Nic Cha Kim, Vince Beiser, Deepa Fernandes and Stephanie O’Neill. Karen Foshay, a part of earlier seasons, previously rejoined KCET as executive director of news programming.

KCET this week announced a second season of "Town Hall Los Angeles," with Zavala leading conversations with Jeanie Buss, Barbara Boxer, John Ridley, Manuel Pastor and other Angelenos. They start up on Oct. 4 and will air on Wednesdays at 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, at PBS SoCal, the time has run out for "Studio SoCal," the local news and public affairs show hosted by Rick Reiff and Elizabeth Espinosa. Can't say I detected much of an impact in LA in its three years. "We will soon begin the development of a new locally-produced news and public affairs program," the station spokeswoman says. Unlike KCET, PBS SoCal still has the roster of national shows from PBS. Next week's NOVA on Wednesday looks at the Cassini space probe and a series from Valley PBS on Thursday looks at water in the San Joaquin Valley. The latest Ken Burns epic, on the Vietnam War, debuts Sept. 17.

6. Media notes for midweek
ladn-new-web-grab.jpgUsers of the long-suffering Daily News of Los Angeles website are in for a treat. The site has undergone a full redesign. Bigger pictures, navigation that appears to make sense at first glance, and fully adaptive to all your devices. Yay.

Facebook told congressional investigators on Wednesday that it sold political ads during the 2016 U.S. presidential election to a so-called Russian troll farm that was looking to target American voters. Dylan Byers for CNN Money... Mark Zuckerberg used Facebook Live to protest the DACA decision... State parks police don't care that OC Weekly reporters got assaulted on their watch, editor Gustavo Arellano writes... Former LA Times reporter Eric Lichtblau's removal from the CNN investigative unit over a story on Anthony Scaramucci, and the addition of ex-LAT Matt Lait to run the unit, is detailed in the New York Times... In another interview, this time with The Cut, the NYT's Maggie Haberman describes her very long days, her reporting style, her preferred technology — "I use QuickVoice Pro for interviews" — and what she listens to while writing: "I put on headphones and I either listen to a TV show that I’m playing on Amazon, or I listen to music. I have a rotation of shows that includes Homeland, Friends, and Private Practice. And more recently, Big Little Lies, which is a really, really well-produced show. It’s about tuning out the outside noise." Tweets TV critic James Poniewozik, "If I had to do @maggieNYT's job I would be dead in three days if I didn't get fired first."

CNN's Brian Stelter was in Hollywood today — "I'm here taping an interview with Chelsea Handler" — and did tonight's Reliable Sources newsletter as an LA edition... Mayor Eric Garcetti, who grew up in Encino, will make a cameo appearance as the principal of a fictional high school in a remake of "Valley Girl" that comes out next year... HuffPost's Michael Calderone is going back to Politico to take over the Morning Media newsletter. At the HuffPost, he reports that NYT op-edist Michelle Goldberg is joining the staff as only the third female full-time columnist (of 14 total) at the Times. She's a Clinton supporter described as a progressive... This year's honorary Oscars from the governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will go to actor Donald Sutherland, writer-director Agnes Varda, and American independent filmmaker Charles Burnett and cinematographer Owen Roizman...

"60 Minutes" has Steve Bannon this weekend with an interview by Charlie Rose. Hillary Clinton will do her first post-election interview with Jane Pauley on "CBS Sunday Morning"... TMZ founder Harvey Levin is getting a new show on Fox News Channel, "Objectified," that will feature Levin interviewing a newsmaker or celebrity "who will tell their life story through objects they have chosen to keep over the years." Subjects include Benjamin Netanyahu, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Martha Stewart and more... And TMZ veteran Mike Walters is starting his own rival venture, "The Blast," says the New York Times... Charges in West Virginia were dropped against a Public News Service reporter for calling out questions to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price... Lakers owner Jeanie Buss turned to her 257,000 Twitter followers for some urgent fashion advice.

Media obit: Jeffrey Tuchman, an Emmy and Peabody award-winning documentary producer, director and writer who also produced ads for Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton campaigns, died on September 3 at Cedars-Sinai Hospital from complications arising from treatment for pancreatic cancer. He was 62. Tom Teicholz does the honors for the Jewish Journal.

Molly Wood is the new voice of Marketplace Tech. Her introduction video:

7. Selected media tweet

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Biggest Los Angeles brush fire was actually in 1938. And more.
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