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Veteran producer Suzanne Todd does a lot of living in here | My Favorite Room



With films grossing more than $3 billion at the box office, producer Suzanne Todd has made a career out of bringing stories to the silver screen. The living room of her Pacific Palisades home, shared with her teenage children, pays homage to her lifelong inspirations — family, books and the magical world of Disney.

Although the modern interior of her 4,480-square-foot home boasts a Marie Kondo level of organization, “fun, energy, creativity and joie de vivre” still prevail through the objects that inhabit the space.

“The only thing that overtakes this house — and frankly every house I’ve lived in — are books. There are books everywhere, but to go with my OCD, they’re all in sections,” said Todd, whose films include “Memento,” “Across The Universe” and the “Austin Powers” and “Bad Moms” franchises.

Naturally, Hollywood and the craft of filmmaking command one section of the library, while another focuses on design and style. There’s even an area devoted solely to Disney.

“I just always loved Disney and Disneyland as a kid because it was a place of imagination, celebration, lights, music, shows and fantasy,” Todd said.

“It’s interesting that I grew up to be a storyteller and a filmmaker, and that I have made so many movies for Disney,” she said. “It’s the storytelling and the characters that were at the heart of it all for me.”

Five black-and-white photos of Disneyland circa 1964 by Renie Bardeau (the park’s staff photographer of 37 years) hang on the wall, birthday gifts from her best girlfriends. One is a famous shot of Walt Disney standing in front of the castle in an empty park.

For her 40th birthday, Todd said, she “had the great privilege” of staying at Disneyland’s exclusive Dream Suite, “and took a version of that same photo but at night, all alone in the park, sitting on the ground in my pajamas.”

She gets to revisit her childhood with video-game duels against her three kids — Dash, 17, Serena, 14, and Hunter, 20 (currently away at Sarah Lawrence College) — on their Arcade Classic game table.

“I will never be as good as Dash at ‘Frogger,’ but no one can beat me at ‘Ms. Pac-Man’ or ‘Centipede,’” Todd said.

Why is your living room your favorite room?

We come together here. Sometimes we play video games; we’re all obsessed with board games. The cabinet is full of everything from Bananagrams to Apples to Apples. Sometimes we watch movies or sometimes we just have the fire on and snuggle with our pets, catch up and have good conversations.

What’s the design inspiration in here?

Function over form. We have a modern aesthetic, and the kids all love that, but I just love things that are clean and that I can keep very organized because I’m super busy with work, kids and all the pets and everything else.

What attracted you to the Pacific Palisades?

I’m very affected by living by the water, and we drive on Pacific Coast Highway and see the ocean every day, which is very grounding and calming. I feel incredibly grateful and I joke with the kids that that’s why we pay more to live in California.

Tell me about the photo of your grandmother.

My grandmother, Joi Lansing, was an actress and was in a lot of movies with Dean Martin and the Rat Pack crowd. That still is from the movie “Marriage on the Rocks,” and the photo below it is of me as a teenager wearing my grandmother’s fancy dress from the photo. She was in the movie “Touch of Evil” very famously in the opening tracking shot. She was a contract player at MGM, which is where my original love of movies, and musicals in particular, came from. She died when I was 10.

Favorite memory in here?

I sound like a terrible person, but there were a couple of days where both Dash and Serena were sick and home from school. I made matzo ball soup and both of them were snuggled on the couch with the pets. Anytime we all spend together is my favorite time. As they get older it becomes less and less, and they’re busier doing their own things, so time that we all get to be together is fun.

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Black Friday 2019: Holiday retail workers see ups and downs



For many shoppers, the Black Friday weekend means finishing a hearty meal at home before venturing out to their favorite stores to try to snag the latest deal.

But for retail employees, the official kickoff of the holiday shopping season means their own holiday plans get cut short as they brace for the rush of sometimes cranky people.

“I’m kind of used to it, in the sense that I already know that I have to leave my family,” said a supervisor at a Best Buy store in Southern California, who like all the workers interviewed, spoke anonymously out of fear of repercussions from employers.

Over half of her family works in retail; to accommodate everyone’s working schedules, her Thanksgiving dinner has become a lunch. “Everyone has to leave to the stores,” she said.

The stresses of the season compound what is already a difficult way to make a living.

Over 140,000 people in Los Angeles work in retail, and eight in 10 of them must deal with schedules that vary drastically from week to week, according to a UCLA Labor Center Study. Haley Potiker, from Fair Workweek LA, an initiative to secure better working conditions for retail employees, notes that women of color comprise a large part of this workforce.

Some retailers go out of their way to make their employees feel more welcome working away from home on Thanksgiving, such as arranging special lunches for workers or offering extra pay.

One general manager at a Best Buy store, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, said he understands the sacrifices that his employees have to make when working the holiday.

Managers try to provide a festive meal for their workers — bringing turkey, ham and other Thanksgiving staples — as a gesture that recognizes the sacrifices workers have to make to be there. Employees partake in the break room feast during their 45-minute lunch break.

“It’s like leaving one family to come to another,” he said, describing how closely his employees work together.

A collegial atmosphere among employees doesn’t mean that workers are shielded from the stress of working Black Friday. Gigantic crowds, often filled with shoppers primarily focused on securing a deal, make the holiday the most stressful day of the year for workers behind the counter.

The sheer number of shoppers makes the usual encounters between customers and cashiers relatively brief, but interactions with impatient or angry consumers can leave cashiers feeling shaken.

“Customers really do think that front-line retail workers are sort of a stand-in for the corporation as a whole, sometimes, and so they’ll really let loose on those workers,” Potiker said.

In addition, working hours on these days can be grueling.

One cashier working the counter at a big-box retailer said her Thanksgiving shift began at 4 p.m. and lasted until 12:30 a.m. Workers are sometimes held back to make sure workflow can resume normally after they clock out. Leaving punctually or not, she had to report back to the store before 8 a.m. for her next shift.

Still, she says this isn’t the longest Black Friday shift she’s had to work: At Walmart a couple of years ago, she started work at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving and didn’t stop until 5 a.m. the next day.

Though workers get compensated overtime for the hours they work past their set schedule, the extra time can be rough.

“It doesn’t matter in a sense” what the overtime rates are, the Best Buy supervisor commented on working past her shift. “Because my body doesn’t know that it’s overtime. It just knows it’s not gonna get enough sleep from today until tomorrow.”

Many retail workers find themselves with no choice but to accept this schedule. Throughout the year, employees are often uncertain of the number of hours they’ll work a given week, Potiker said. Even after these hours are posted, they’re subject to change.

The UCLA Labor Study reported that most workers have faced last-minute changes or cancellations to their hours even after they had been posted.

This uncertainty leads to an unstable source of income and added anxiety for workers who rely on that pay. According to the study, one in two retail workers are late in paying their bills. Potiker noted that despite the intensity of Black Friday shifts, workers sometimes think that “at least they’re finally working full time and earning enough in overtime wages to start getting ahead.”

“Is it selfish to say the money helps?” one employee at Best Buy joked on Friday morning. He didn’t really have a choice as a new hire about whether to work Black Friday, though neither did more veteran employees.

Many big-box retailers employ an all-hands-on-deck scheduling plan when it comes to Black Friday. At one Best Buy, employees say there are nearly a hundred workers on the floor during the Thanksgiving rush, either retrieving items for customers, working every cash register or making sure that nothing gets stolen.

They say it’s difficult giving an exact number of customers that they serve, but one guessed that at least a thousand people flow in and out of the store. The Best Buy supervisor explained how last year, for example, the rush of people coming into her store started at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving and didn’t slow down until 1 a.m.

The supervisor said she wished customers would be more empathetic and patient when interacting with retail workers. “We’re already giving our time and our time with our families just to be here.”

Another Best Buy cashier echoed a similar sentiment. Rude customers “don’t realize that we’re people and what they say is obviously going to affect us.”

She, too, wants customers to recognize the time that employees are spending away from their families; working Thanksgiving this year means that she won’t be able to spend time with her godparents, whom she doesn’t see for months at a time.

“Something that really bothers me is when [customers] say, like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry you have to work on Thanksgiving, that sucks,’ ” she said. “But they’re literally the reason that you’re working on Thanksgiving.

“If you really cared about the fact that we’re working on Thanksgiving and we’re away from our families, why would you come into the store?”

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Home of the Week: Bel-Air contemporary can handle a party crowd



This contemporary residence by architect Mark Rios was designed as a series of ledges that extend outward from a sloping hillside. Open-concept living spaces on the main level feature glass doors that seamlessly blend the interior and exterior space. On the top floor, a screening room opens to the party deck — an oversized terrace set up for outdoor entertaining.

Location: 833 Stradella Road, Los Angeles, 90077

Asking price: $32.5 million

Year built: 2014

Living area: 11,000 square feet, six bedrooms, 11 bathrooms

Lot size: 0.97 acre

Features: Open-concept floor plan; floor-to-ceiling glass doors; stone, wood and glass wall finishes; chef’s kitchen; spa/steam room; library; screening room; rooftop deck; swimming pool; Japanese-inspired gardens

About the area: In the 90077 ZIP Code, based on 17 sales, the median price for residential sales over the last month was $1.93 million, a 22.7% decrease year-over-year, according to Redfin.com

Agents: Linda May and Drew Fenton, Hilton & Hyland

To submit a candidate for Home of the Week, send high-resolution color photos via Dropbox.com, permission from the photographer to publish the images and a description of the house to neal.leitereg@latimes.com.

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Black Friday 2019 kicks off a short season of holiday shopping



Dressed in a magenta track suit, 21-year-old Long Beach resident Maria Viguerias waited on the curb with her little brother.

The two had been shopping at Citadel Outlets since 6:30 a.m. Friday — and they had 12 shopping bags to prove it. Their mother was still at it, contending with winding lines to get into the outlet mall’s most popular stores, and more lines to pay for their products.

Viguerias took care of all her Christmas shopping this Black Friday. “Now I can just relax,” she said. But what most delights her is the present she bought for herself: two pairs of Ugg boots.

“Normally,” Viguerias said, smiling, “they cost $150 per pair, but since they were 50% off, I bought myself two.”

Legions of shoppers like Viguerias are at the top of every retailer’s holiday wish list.

Black Friday’s significance as the bellwether of the holiday shopping season has waned in recent years, as more shoppers take their holiday dollars to online retailers and bricks-and-mortar stores stretch out sales and promotions over the weeks surrounding Thanksgiving. But the season is still crucial for American retailers, and in turn the entire U.S. economy.

Sales over the final few months of the year can account for up to 40% of retailers’ annual revenue, and consumer spending on goods accounts for more than 20% of the nation’s economic activity.

Despite record low unemployment and resulting wage growth over the course of 2019, many Americans are worriedly scanning the horizon for signs of a recession. As a result, some believe that total spending could slip this year, which runs the risk of tripping up the economy as a whole.

More than a third of Americans believe the U.S. is headed toward a recession, according to a survey conducted by the Harris Poll for NerdWallet, and a little less than a third say they’ll be spending less this year as a result. Consumer confidence, as reported by the Conference Board, has fallen for four months in a row, and a survey by Deloitte found that 44% of respondents see the economy weakening in the coming year, up from 37% in 2018.

But shopping so far this year has been strong.

Online shoppers had already spent $57.2 billion from Nov. 1 to Thanksgiving Day, according to Adobe Analytics, up 15% from the same period in 2018. On Thanksgiving itself, shoppers spent a record $4.2 billion on e-commerce — with almost half of those purchases happening on smartphones — and are forecast to spend an additional $7.5 billion on Black Friday, and $9 billion more on Cyber Monday.

This year, the holiday shopping season is six days shorter than in 2018. That means customers will have less time to find what they need, and merchants will have less time to get them in the doors.

Even as e-commerce grows from year to year, shoppers still prefer to spend most of their money at bricks-and-mortar stores. The National Retail Foundation predicts that total holiday spending could hit $730 billion this year, with more than three-quarters of that shopping taking place at stores.

Why? Shoppers — even those who work for e-commerce giant Amazon — like seeing what they buy before they buy it, and knowing that they have it on hand instead of waiting for a package to make it to their homes.

Mario Ruiz, who works as an associate driver for Amazon, and his three friends were the first to arrive at Best Buy in Atwater Village for this year’s Black Friday event.

It’s become a tradition for Ruiz, 21, who remembers visiting Best Buy with his family during his childhood. Now, he camps with his friends to snag the door buster deals before they’re gone.

“We got here at 4:30 am and we were the first ones in line, but it was still dark and really cold,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz planned to buy two Instax film cameras as Christmas presents and a TV for himself. Then he impulse-purchased a $199 PlayStation 4 set that knocked $100 off the console and included a controller and three games that normally sell for $60 apiece, he said.

Even as the novelty wears off from Black Friday, Ruiz said, he prefers shopping in person rather than online.

“I like picking stuff up,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t know if packages are dropped off or they’re stolen.”

Younger shoppers like Ruiz and Viguerias make up the bulk of in-store Black Friday shoppers, according to Brent Schoenbaum, a partner at Deloitte, and L.A. tends to draw a higher proportion of bricks-and-mortar shoppers compared with parts of the country with harsher late November weather.

“Those that seem to be out in greatest volume are really your Gen Z and millennials,” Schoenbaum said, noting that the under-40 crowd treats shopping as a social activity to do with friends. “Those demographics spend a little less than your Gen X, which accounts for the bulk of spending, but they create more traffic in stores.”

For some, snagging deals in person is worth a bit of work.

Two shoppers from Hawaii were spending their L.A. vacation crisscrossing the region in search of sales. Angela and Jayme Bolan, 51 and 49, estimated that the Walmart in Pico Rivera was the 15th store they had visited on their shopping marathon, after starting their Black Friday at the Camarillo outlets Thursday night and then hitting the Citadel twice.

“We haven’t really thought about a budget,” Jayme said. “It’s more like, what can we bring home?”

They came with two suitcases, but can check six suitcases without paying extra, Jayme said. They usually fill all six.

On the other side of town, Westfield Century City was trying a new tactic to lure shoppers who might otherwise just order from the comfort of their screens: a sprawling Christmas village, complete with hot chocolate and food stations, a life-size steam engine replica and a photo station with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Brent Ramos, 22, woke up at 6.a.m. to leave his home in Watts and go shopping across Los Angeles. After dropping his father off at work, he drove to Westfield Century City to see what it had to offer.

Ramos made the trek to Century City specifically for the mall’s higher-end stores. As he exited the Apple Store, he said he didn’t want to spend too much, but wasn’t afraid to buy what he wanted — especially new clothes.

“I don’t want to get into debt,” Ramos said. “I’m only going to spend what I know I can make back.”

Another new tactic for attracting holiday dollars was on display at the Target at the South Bay Pavilion in Carson. At 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, a man in a Santa suit rode through the parking lot in a sleigh pulled by two reindeer, with Bullseye, the Target mascot dog, at his side. The stunt was meant to advertise the new drive-up service at the big-box retailer, which lets customers order online and pick up their products curbside.

Also known by the acronym BOPIS (“buy online, pick up in-store”), this hybrid of digital and physical retail has been gaining traction this year, according to Adobe Digital Insights manager Vivek Pandya.

“BOPIS has been a strong sales driver; we’ve been seeing 40% growth there” compared with 2018, Pandya said. “We’re expecting impulse buyers to ratchet that number up,” he added, since the option for immediate pickup could save the day for last-minute shoppers.

But if the deals aren’t good, even an army of promotional Santas won’t be able to make cost-conscious consumers reach for their wallets.

Elsewhere in the Carson mall, a man with a diamond earring and a gray fedora sat alone in front of Daniel’s Jewelers waiting for his wife to finish shopping. William Johnson, 66, said he had been unimpressed with the deals stores are offering.

“They’re not giving a discount on hot commodities,” the South L.A. resident said.

He was hoping to find a Nintendo Switch for his granddaughter, but found that adding in the games she wants would bring the total cost up to $400.

He said he might have to tell her to pick something else as a Christmas present — something a little more affordable.

Times staff writers Erin B. Logan, Jennifer Lu and Emmanuel Morgan contributed to this report.

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Black Friday frenzy goes global, and not everyone’s happy



People don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in France, or Russia, or South Africa — but they do shop on Black Friday.

The U.S. retail phenomenon has spread around the world in recent years with such force that it’s prompting a backlash from some activists, politicians and even consumers.

Near Paris, climate demonstrators blocked a shopping mall and gathered in front of Amazon’s headquarters to protest what they say is overproduction that is killing the planet. Workers at Amazon in Germany went on strike for better pay. Some French lawmakers want to ban Black Friday altogether.

Consumer rights groups in Britain and some other countries say retailers use Black Friday as a slogan to lure in shoppers, but it’s not always clear how real or big the discounts are. Other critics say it hurts small businesses.

“The planet burns, oceans die, and we still want to consume, consume, and therefore produce, produce — until we eradicate all living things? … We will not betray our children for a 30% discount!” reads a manifesto by groups holding “Block Friday” protests around Paris.

Shoppers pass a promotional sign for ‘Black Friday’ sales discounts, outside a store on Oxford Street in London.

(TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Globalized commerce has brought U.S. consumer tastes to shoppers around the world, from Halloween candy to breakfast cereal and peanut butter, sometimes even supplanting local traditions.

To many activists, Black Friday is the epitome of this shift, a purely commercial event designed to boost U.S. retailers ahead of the Christmas holidays, the symbol of capitalism run amok.

In Britain, where the big winter sales have traditionally been held on the day after Christmas, companies have adopted Black Friday marketing campaigns since about 2010. After a rise in business on the day in the first years, the volume of shopping has leveled off, with most of it happening online over multiple days.

Research by a U.K. consumer association found that 61% of goods advertised in Black Friday deals last year were cheaper or about the same price both before and after the event.

That echoes similar warnings in other countries. Russia’s consumer watchdog published detailed tips on how to avoid getting fooled, like checking whether prices were raised before Friday to make deals look good or whether delivery costs are inflated.

The Black Friday push has also extended to Cyber Monday. And retailers in several countries have gone even further by spreading sales across “Black Week.”

A couple walks next to a Black Friday advertisement in front of a shop in Prague city center, Czech Republic.

(MARTIN DIVISEK/EPA/REX/Shutterstock)

In the Czech Republic, one electronics chain encourages shoppers — in English, of course — to “Make Black Friday Great Again,” in an ad featuring a suited man wearing the distinctive red cap used by U.S. President Donald Trump’s election campaign.

Broadcasters in South Africa, one of the world’s most socially and economically unequal nations, showed people waiting in line to shop. The respected weekly Mail & Guardian newspaper decried in a scathing editorial how Black Friday is used to enrich big retailers.

“Like no other day, this Friday shows how broken the world we have built is,” it said.

Black Friday has meanwhile had to adapt to cultural norms. Egyptians, for example, have taken on all aspects of the occasion — except the name, because Friday is a sacred day of worship for Muslims. Rather than scrap the event, many retailers decided to rename it White Friday or Yellow Friday.

The term Black Friday comes from an apocryphal retailers claim that it is the day when, because of the volume of sales concentrated in the period, their balance of accounts for the year shifted from being in deficit, or in the red, to a profit, in the black.

Among other concerns is that Black Friday could hurt small businesses that do not have the vast marketing budgets and online presence of big retail chains or multinationals.

In Italy, for example, Black Friday falls outside the season’s strictly defined schedule for when the winter sales can be held. This year, sales cannot be held from Dec. 5 until Jan. 4, when stores are allowed to clear out stock. The fashion industry has warned that can hurt smaller retailers in a country that relies heavily on them.

A French legislative committee passed an amendment Monday that proposes prohibiting Black Friday because it causes “resource waste” and “overconsumption.” France’s e-commerce union, whose members have been aggressively marketing Black Friday sales throughout November, has condemned the measure.

Dozens of French activists blocked the Amazon warehouse in Bretigny-sur Orge on Thursday, spreading hay and old refrigerators and microwave ovens on the driveway. On Friday, climate activists took aim at Black Friday, blocking shops and setting up heated exchanges with consumers who had been hoping to find a good deal.

“We need to stop telling ourselves that, ‘It’s Christmas, I need to go shopping,’” says Théophile Pouillot-Chévara, a 17-year-old climate activist in Paris.

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ILWU may face bankruptcy due to a feud over two jobs



A feud that could wind up bankrupting the powerful West Coast dockworkers union began like a scene from a B-grade gangster film, when two men met over a calamari lunch.

According to federal court testimony, Leal Sundet, a burly blond union leader, introduced himself in a Portland, Ore., restaurant to Elvis Ganda, a gray-haired port terminal executive, with the words: “I’m the guy that can f— you badly.”

At that time, in 2012, Sundet held the second-highest position in the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which handles every shipping container that crosses West Coast ports. Sundet pressured Ganda to help the ILWU wrest control of the jobs of two dockside workers from a rival union, according to court testimony. The terminal manager told Sundet that he felt as if a gun were being held to his head.

The ILWU, whose 15,000 dockworkers make an average of $171,000 a year plus free healthcare, pursued the two jobs relentlessly for the next four years, staging slowdowns at the Port of Portland and flouting federal court orders. The resulting chaos caused international shipping lines to abandon Portland, ending Oregon-based cargo service for exporters as far inland as Idaho’s Snake River.

Ultimately the longshore union prevailed in the jobs dispute, as it often does — a hollow victory, considering the terminal had been forced to close. But the menacing tactics backfired so dramatically that the ILWU may face bankruptcy, according to U.S. District Judge Michael Simon, who presided this month over a two-week Portland civil trial that led to a $94-million award to Ganda’s company, ICTSI Oregon Inc.

“The amount of damages found by the jury is quite high and may result in the bankruptcy of a union that traces its beginnings to at least 1933 and arguably into the 19th century,” Simon wrote after the ILWU and its Portland chapter were found liable for unlawful labor practices. He plans to hear arguments Feb. 14 on whether he should uphold or trim the award.

It might seem far-fetched that a dispute over two jobs could financially ruin a union so powerful that all West Coast ports shut down for days when its contract talks break down. But as automation reduces work, the ILWU has sought jobs through turf battles, quitting the AFL-CIO labor federation in 2013 and wrangling with the machinists and other unions.

Electricians in contested jobs at the Port of Portland tend containers in 2012.

(Beth Nakamura / Oregonian)

The Portland jobs tending refrigerated containers were coveted by San Francisco-based leaders of the old-style union, whose members still line up daily at hiring halls, many in the footsteps of fathers and grandfathers. Robert “Big Bob” McEllrath, who retired last year as union president, said he saw precedent in the two contested Portland “reefer” jobs held since 1974 by members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

“If I let those jobs go and demanded that they be set aside or whatever, it would bleed up and down the whole entire West Coast,” McEllrath said in a deposition.

In some ways Sundet, 63, whom McEllrath assigned to pursue the jobs at Portland’s Terminal 6, embodies the proudly militant approach of the union founded by the late Harry Bridges, a Marxist who won respect championing civil rights and equality. But Sundet’s scorched-earth tactics stymied judges, confounded three Oregon governors, increased costs of trade and affected his reputation among fellow union members, who in 2015 voted him out of his $307,000-a-year post.

Sundet, who did not return phone messages seeking comment, started as a dockworker in the 1980s. He faced skepticism, having come from the Pacific Maritime Assn., the longshore employers’ organization. But he worked his way up, gaining attention in 2004 when he addressed a Democratic National Committee panel in Portland concerning homeland security.

“The Republican Party views workers as little more than chattel necessary to enhance corporate profits,” Sundet said. He recommended boosting port security with multiple measures that would have also increased longshore work.

As a coast committeeman, Sundet served on the panel overseeing the West Coast collective bargaining agreement covering the 29 ports from San Diego to Bellingham, Wash. He stayed in touch with the Portland chapter, where he’d served as president.

According to facts presented to the jury by Judge Simon, Sundet told a Portland terminal manager in 2012 that he might as well tell shipping lines to depart “because we’re going to send them packing.” Sundet guided the local chapter as members drove trucks and cranes slowly, took indirect routes around the container yard, parked vehicles to block in reefers and faked mechanical problems, the judge said.

Trucks back up outside the Port of Portland’s container terminal in 2012.

(Brent Wojahn / Oregonian)

Teamsters fumed as hundreds of trucks backed up outside the port. Container ships spent costly extra days in port, or skipped calls on Portland.

Legal gridlock also ensued. While the ILWU pressed ICTSI Oregon to give it the two jobs under terms of the union’s West Coast labor contract, company managers said the positions weren’t theirs to give. They said that according to their terminal lease, the jobs were controlled by the Port of Portland, which refused to break its contract with the electricians to reassign the work.

Either way, in 2014 the National Labor Relations Board called the ILWU’s conduct unlawful. Simon ruled the union had violated his latest injunction.

The next year, shipping lines Hanjin and Hapag-Lloyd decided to leave the port for good, leaving only Westwood, a smaller carrier. As Hanjin’s final vessel prepared to go, Mike Radak, a manager at the shipping line, begged employers to get the union to load the ship at a normal pace: “We did what the union wanted and we left; now they need to repay the favor.”

In 2017, ICTSI Oregon paid $20 million to exit its 25-year lease to operate the terminal, an expense included in the $135 million in damages the company sought from the union. Portland dockworkers displaced from the terminal regained much of their income through a “pay guarantee program” in the coast contract. Containers they would have handled went to other West Coast ports, where union members got the work.

In her closing argument, Amanda Gamblin, an attorney for ICTSI, mocked dockworkers who said they were devastated when the terminal closed. “It is like stabbing someone with a butter knife 1,000 times and then being devastated when she dies,” Gamblin said.

Susan Harriman, an attorney for the union, blamed the closure mainly on ICTSI, saying workers “were treated like donkeys and belittled and fired without cause.” She said that the company decided to make money on the lawsuit instead of making the terminal a success.

The jury took just 3 1/2 hours to return the verdict and $94-million award, with the ILWU liable for 55% of the damages and Portland Local 8 the other 45%. The union has about $20 million in assets, and Local 8 has $150,000, according to federal filings. Longshore workers at a recent caucus meeting in San Francisco reportedly preferred bankruptcy to assessing members.

A union spokesman declined to be interviewed or to discuss the practical effects of a bankruptcy, which could expose the fiercely independent, private organization to unaccustomed outside influence and scrutiny.

Cargo vessels at Terminal Island await longshore union workers skilled at operating cranes that load and unload shipping containers.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Sundet returned to the Portland chapter for work. On May 24, 2016, he joined a longshore “gang,” or work group, dispatched to load the last vessel sent by Westwood, which by then had also decided to give up on Portland.

Sundet entered a cab high above the 45,000-ton ship and began operating a crane. “Sundet was observed moving slowly and inefficiently,” ICTSI manager Jon Lusk wrote in a shift report. “At 13:30 he had loaded only six containers.”

As the departure deadline approached, the dock foreman told Sundet that a manager wanted to replace him with an experienced operator. “Tell him to go f— himself,” Sundet replied, and refused to leave the cab, according to Lusk’s report, which Sundet subsequently confirmed.

Out of time, the Westwood Columbia departed for Asia with 141 Portland containers aboard. Forty-seven containers remained stranded on the dock.

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Vintage SoCal: A haute spot for Francophiles in Hancock Park



Faubourg St. Denis is a French Normandy-style building in Hancock Park originally designed as apartments.

When it was constructed in 1928, composer George Gershwin premiered his orchestral piece “An American in Paris.” Romantic notions of the French countryside and the bustle of its cities captivated the public’s imagination.

Architect James N. Conway laid out the building in a symmetrical H shape in keeping with the dictates of the style. The central courtyard is accessed by a gated archway adorned with scrolled wrought iron work. The shape recalls Louis XIV’s triumphal arch, La Porte Saint-Denis, along Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis in Paris.

A wide walkway leads past formal gardens to the double-door entry. Quoin stones anchor the corners, dormers punctuate the slate tile roof, and balconies with balustrades add a decorative effect to the exteriors.

Initially, each lavish apartment spanned an entire floor. Today the structure, which is designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, has been reconfigured to house four condominiums per floor.

A four-bedroom, four-bathroom unit currently for sale has hardwood floors, a working fireplace and other period details throughout its 2,154 square feet of living space. The foyer, with elegant marble floors, leads to a living room with beamed ceilings. The dining room retains its original cast plaster medallions.

The master bedroom features a dressing room, a walk-in closet and a marble bathroom. A center island kitchen, a laundry area and a maid’s suite complete the floor plan.

Amenities include a recently redone swimming pool, gardens and secured underground parking for two vehicles.

Unit 402, at 308 N. Sycamore Ave., is priced at $2.199 million. Jill Galloway of Compass is the listing agent.

This occasional feature celebrates Southern California’s architectural heritage through residences built before 1960. Submit candidates for Vintage SoCal to lauren.beale2@latimes.com.

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My gift to businesses: How not to be racist, insensitive and reckless



It’s Black Friday, holiday shopping once again has transformed into a Darwinian struggle, and as a public service, I’m here with a helpful suggestion for business leaders.

It’s time for all large companies to create a new position: vice president of you-can’t-be-serious.

All ideas for new products and marketing campaigns would be vetted by the vice president of you-can’t-be-serious, who would be empowered to tell colleagues, “You can’t be serious.”

For example, luxury fashion house Loewe decided to offer a striped ensemble that closely resembled a Holocaust concentration-camp uniform. The company apologized last week “to anyone who might feel we were insensitive to sacred memories” and removed the product from its website.

A model wears a creation as part of the Gucci women’s Fall/Winter 2018-2019 collection, presented during the Milan Fashion Week. Gucci, which designed this face warmer, reminiscent of blackface prompted an instant backlash from the public and forced the company to apologize publicly.

(Antonio Calanni/Associated Press)

Earlier this year, Gucci introduced (and subsequently pulled) a sweater year that resembled minstrel-show blackface.

Before these astonishingly stupid blunders made their way to store shelves, a vice president of you-can’t-be-serious at each company would have told colleagues, “You can’t be serious.”

That, in turn, could have prevented costly recalls and public-relations disasters.

I’ve been mulling this idea for a while. It returned to mind the other day when World Against Toys Causing Harm, a.k.a. Watch, a consumer safety group, released its annual list of dangerous toys.

The list includes Hasbro’s $53.99 Nerf Ultra One gun, which can fire foam Nerf darts up to 120 feet. “The darts provided can shoot with enough force to potentially cause eye injuries,” Watch says.

There’s also the $14.99 Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog from Learning Resources, which Watch says is for kids as young as 18 months and includes “12 removable, rigid-plastic ‘quills’ measuring approximately 3.5 inches long” that pose a choking hazard.

Let’s not overlook the $8.99 Nickelodeon Frozen Treat Slime from LaRose Industries, which Watch notes appears to come in flavors such as “mint chocolate chip,” “berry smoothie” and “soft serve.” Yet the package says “harmful chemicals” are present and warns: “Not real food — do not eat.”

And my personal favorite: the $19.99 Power Rangers Beast Morphers Electronic Cheetah Claw, also from Hasbro. Small children are encouraged to “take on enemies” with retractable plastic claws designed “for slashing action.” Yet Hasbro’s website says kids shouldn’t “swing or jab at people or animals.”

It’s no secret that kids like playing with dangerous objects. Is there a kid alive who wouldn’t love receiving a set of lawn darts for the holidays?

But that doesn’t mean responsible parents should give such things to their young ones — or that responsible companies should make them available.

I can state with absolute confidence that if I served as Hasbro’s vice president of you-can’t-be-serious, and the company’s designers approached me with plans for a wearable claw that offers “slashing action” for kids as young as 5, I’d say without hesitation, “You can’t be serious.”

The Toy Assn., an industry group, issued a statement dismissing Watch’s worries.

“By law, all toys sold in the United States must meet 100-plus rigorous safety tests and standards,” the group said. “On the other hand, Watch does not test the toys in its report to check their safety; their allegations appear to be based on their misrepresentation or misunderstanding of the mandatory toy standards.”

Watch says it relies on common sense in issuing its warnings, which may not be scientific but strikes this parent, who is no stranger to toy purchases, as a reasonable approach.

Times change. When I was a kid, I had a toy called Creepy Crawlers from Mattel. It consisted of a handful of metal molds of insects into which I’d pour “Plastigoop.”

What made Creepy Crawlers (a.k.a. Thingmaker) both totally cool and incredibly unsafe was that the kit included a hot plate you’d use to cook the Plastigoop and create your rubbery little bugs.

The fact that I never burned myself or destroyed our house speaks more to dumb luck than good design.

Apparently, Mattel’s lawyers didn’t bat an eye in the 1960s when the company sold kids an exposed hot plate. Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine any such toy passing legal muster.

Instead we have plastic claws that offer hours of good, clean fun — as long as you don’t “swing or jab at people or animals.” Maybe a warning such as that from the manufacturer provides safe harbor from lawsuits, but, I mean, really?

You can’t be serious.

In fact, the beauty of a vice president of you-can’t-be-serious is that the job basically pays for itself. Those four words can save millions in legal and PR costs.

Remember a couple of years ago when Pepsi thought it was a good idea to feature Kendall Jenner in a commercial that appeared to be using the Black Lives Matter movement as an excuse to sell soda pop?

“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding,” the company said after pulling the ad a day after its debut. “Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize.”

It was reported that this spectacularly bad TV spot cost Pepsi $2 million to produce.

The company’s vice president of you-can’t-be-serious could have put that money to much better use.

That’s my Black Friday present to you, corporate America.

You’re welcome.

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Business

Black Friday 2019: ‘Frozen’ and ‘Star Wars’ help fuel toy industry



As this summer wound down, Hasbro Inc. was feverishly ramping up for the winter holidays.

The toy maker added air-freight services and shifted its warehousing operations to get toys based on two new Walt Disney Co. movies, “Frozen 2” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” to retailers in time for the holiday shopping season.

The toy launches were “critically important,” and the company hustled to “ensure shelves were stocked” ahead of the opening of “Frozen 2” in theaters last Friday and the “Star Wars” opening Dec. 20, Hasbro Chief Executive Brian Goldner told analysts last month.

Hasbro’s effort illustrates the central role movies and TV shows play in shaping which dolls, action figures and other toys hit the shelves. But licensing of others’ intellectual property, or IP, is now spreading beyond films and TV to include toys tied to video games, home video streaming, music, YouTube and other platforms that are increasingly part of kids’ free time in the digital age.

“We’ll continue to see a proliferation of licensing in the toy industry based on the content kids are watching,” said Juli Lennett, vice president for toys at the research firm NPD Group. “There are so many different places where kids can go now” for entertainment.

Star Wars Hans Solo Mighty Muggs, by Hasbro.

(Richard Drew/Associated Press)

Conversely, the toy makers also are licensing their popular in-house toys to film studios and other entertainment platforms to bolster sales and otherwise generate more revenue.

Mattel Inc. has a live-action Barbie film in the works. There have been Lego movies. Hasbro is paying $4 billion for the studio Entertainment One, and Hasbro teamed with Paramount Pictures a year ago on the movie “Bumblebee,” based on the Transformers character. Spin Master, the Canadian company that makes Hatchimals and “Paw Patrol” toys, has produced six TV series around its brands in the last decade, including “Paw Patrol” on Nickelodeon.

Mattel Chief Executive Ynon Kreiz repeatedly has talked about transforming the El Segundo firm into an “IP-driven” toy company whose strategy includes licensing Barbie, Hot Wheels and its other popular brands to others while also licensing outside IPs.

Case in point: Kreiz has said its toys based on “Jurassic World” from Universal Pictures “exceeded all expectations in 2018.” Mattel also has licensing deals with Sanrio’s Hello Kitty and Disney’s Pixar Studios, including the “Toy Story” and “Cars” franchises, among others.

“They realize that building these IPs brings immediate brand recognition, builds licensing revenue and is essential to help a toy company grow,” said Jim Silver, chief executive of TTPM, a toy review and research website.

Hasbro, Mattel and others also keep designing new toys they hope will catch fire, including some that merge physical toys with the digital world. Mattel, for instance, this year rolled out Hot Wheels ID, which enables kids to use an app to track how their Hot Wheels cars perform, along with a new line of gender-inclusive dolls called Creatable World.

MGA Entertainment Inc. in Chatsworth, the privately held creator of the popular L.O.L. Surprise! dolls, takes a different route, preferring to create its own toys while eschewing making toys based on movies and other outside IPs.

But MGA aggressively promotes its toys on digital media to attract kids and their parents. L.O.L. Surprise! has a YouTube channel with 1.2 million subscribers, and fans can watch L.O.L. Surprise! on Amazon Prime’s streaming service. There also are teasers on YouTube for a new MGA toy doll, Na Na Na Surprise, due for release Dec. 1.

“We understand how to create a teaser campaign to create that fandom” for a toy, said Hailey Wu Sullivan, MGA’s chief marketing officer.

All of the toy makers’ various strategies are playing out in the face of two overarching trends.

First, although toy makers and some analysts reject the oft-repeated notion that kids are ditching toys for tablets, smartphones and streaming video at ever-younger ages, they do agree that those technologies heavily influence what toys will be popular and how those toys are marketed.

“Kids are now so influenced by entertainment” they consume not just in theaters and on TV, but on a variety of platforms such as streaming, video games, YouTube and elsewhere on the internet, Silver said. “All these IPs on different platforms greatly affect purchases” of toys, he said.

For instance, two popular toy lines are based on video games: Jazwares’ “Fortnite” and Lego’s “Minecraft.”

Second, U.S. toy sales overall have been relatively flat for years, ranging from $20 billion to $22 billion, according to NPD. That puts pressure on the toy makers to have hit products — including products based on movies and other outside IPs, or by licensing their own IPs to outsiders — to take market share from competitors because the total market isn’t growing much.

Yet the industry’s consistent sales also point up that although technology has changed how kids spend their leisure hours, it hasn’t severely disrupted overall demand for non-electronic toys. Barbie remains a $1-billion business. Monopoly and Uno games are having strong years. L.O.L. Surprise! dolls have been one of the top-selling toys since their debut three years ago.

Sales of conventional toys such as dolls and action figures also reflect some parents pushing back against their kids’ growing use of tablets and smartphones.

“We’ve seen it in our research; parents are very conflicted with children and technology,” Lennett said. “They have greater concerns about technology than before, including the solitary nature of technology,” and they’re seeking toys that are “important to the social, emotional and physical development of kids,” she said.

L.O.L. Surprise! exemplifies both sides of the changes swirling around the industry. The toys feature several layers to unwrap — with each layer having its own surprise — and finally there’s a small, wide-eyed plastic doll at the center.

Yet this physical doll “was born on the internet” because “we were watching what kids were watching, and they loved unboxing,” that is, watching videos of kids taking toys out of their packaging, Sullivan said. “We delivered what they wanted without them asking explicitly what they wanted.”

Toys based outside of IPs — movies, TV and other content sources, or what the companies call their “partner brands” — amount to less than 25% of the total sales at Hasbro and Mattel. But those toys still accounted for $1.7 billion in combined sales for the two companies last year, and thus they remain key to their growth.

In the case of movies, the toys get a sales bump not only when the movies are released in theaters, but also when the films enter the home video and streaming markets. “Frozen 2” and the new “Star Wars” movie are expected to reach those markets next spring. In the case of “Frozen 2,” that will benefit not only Hasbro, but also other toy makers such as Lego and Jakks Pacific Inc. in Santa Monica that also are licensees.

That’s when kids will “be binge-watching” those movies and other favorite programs, and then “they get connected to the content and the characters they’re watching,” Lennett said. “The next step is they’ll buy a toy of one of these licensed characters.”

Deborah Thomas, Hasbro’s chief financial officer, told the analysts last month that when it’s making toys tied to “movie releases coming so late in the year, we tend to see the benefit of that continuing into the next year.”

The toy makers need the benefits because they’re grappling with a variety of problems.

Mattel, for example, has suffered from falling sales at its Fisher-Price and American Doll brands while also operating with heavy debt and operating costs.

Hasbro posted disappointing third-quarter results on Oct. 22 — and its stock plunged 17% that day — in part because the U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports disrupted retailers’ orders and Hasbro’s supply chain in the period.

Lego also has struggled. Excluding currency fluctuations, its sales fell 7% in 2017 but rebounded 7% last year, and the company has been trying to integrate its lineup of familiar block toys with more technology. Lego also heavily relies on its outside IP, with toys based on Disney characters, Harry Potter, Batman, Spider-Man and others.

But one problem largely is behind all those problems: the demise of Toys R Us, which liquidated last year after filing for bankruptcy. Its failure was a huge disruption for toy makers as they scrambled to place their goods with other retailers and was one reason why U.S. retail sales of toys slipped 2% last year to $21.6 billion, according to NPD.

Sales fell another 5.5% in the first nine months of this year, NPD said. But it’s the fourth quarter, with the holidays, that is critical for the toy industry, and NPD said it expected an unspecified fourth-quarter gain that would enable overall 2019 sales to show an increase, even though there are six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year compared with 2018.

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Business

What $700,000 buys right now in three Orange County cities



Here’s a look at what roughly $700,000 buys right now in Anaheim Hills, Santa Ana and San Juan Capistrano in Orange County.

ANAHEIM HILLS: This cul-de-sac home with curb appeal boasts direct access to a 103-acre wilderness preserve with hiking and horseback riding trails.

Address: 287 S. Raspberry Lane, Anaheim Hills, 92808

Listed for: $699,000 for four bedrooms, two bathrooms in 1,457 square feet (7,500-square-foot lot)

Features: Half-timbered exterior; dining room with bay windows; kitchen with wine fridge; trellis-topped patio

About the area: In the 92808 ZIP Code, based on 14 sales, the median price for single-family homes in October was $825,000, up 0.9% year over year, according to CoreLogic.

2014 West Camden Place, Santa Ana.

(Realtor.com)

SANTA ANA: Down more than $65,000 from its original asking price, this bright five-bedroom home opens to a landscaped front yard and a back patio with a pool.

Address: 2014 W. Camden Place, Santa Ana, 92704

Listed for: $698,500 for five bedrooms, two bathrooms in 1,775 square feet (5,900-square-foot lot)

Features: Open floor plan; hardwood floors; living room with wall of stone; two-car garage with workshop area

About the area: In the 92704 ZIP Code, based on 21 sales, the median price for single-family homes in October was $580,000, down 0.7% year over year, according to CoreLogic.

26512 Paseo Belardes, San Juan Capistrano.

(Realtor.com)

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO: Shades of salmon and blue adorn the exterior of this 1970s spot complete with multicolored living spaces and an attic.

Address: 26512 Paseo Belardes, San Juan Capistrano, 92675

Listed for: $698,900 for three bedrooms, two bathrooms in 1,452 square feet (3,800-square-foot lot)

Features: Charming courtyard; vaulted ceilings; porcelain tile floors; master suite with backyard access

About the area: In the 92675 ZIP Code, based on 16 sales, the median price for single-family homes in October was $858,000, down 0.7% year over year, according to CoreLogic.

7925 East Saffron St., Anaheim Hills.

(Realtor.com)

ANAHEIM HILLS: Upgrades to this 1980s single-story home include quartz countertops, custom maple cabinetry, tile backsplashes and Italian black marble floors.

Address: 7925 E. Saffron St., Anaheim Hills, 92808

Listed for: $724,888 for three bedrooms, two bathrooms in 1,310 square feet (5,000-square-foot lot)

Features: Clay tile roof; living room with brick fireplace; patio with fire pit; fenced backyard with views

About the area: In the 92808 ZIP Code, based on 14 sales, the median price for single-family homes in October was $825,000, up 0.9% year over year, according to CoreLogic.

1021½ South Cypress Ave., Santa Ana.

(Realtor.com)

SANTA ANA: Two homes, each with two bedrooms and one bathroom, occupy this gated lot with a private yard.

Address: 1021 ½ S. Cypress Ave., Santa Ana, 92701

Listed for: $699,000 for four bedrooms, two bathrooms in 1,600 square feet (6,085-square-foot lot)

Features: Covered front porch; tile floors; bonus room in front house; covered parking

About the area: In the 92701 ZIP Code, based on 11 sales, the median price for single-family homes in October was $510,000, up 13.3% year over year, according to CoreLogic.

27433 Paseo Fiesta, San Juan Capistrano.

(Realtor.com)

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO: An abundance of landscaping surrounds this hillside home with sweeping city views.

Address: 27433 Paseo Fiesta, San Juan Capistrano, 92675

Listed for: $749,900 for three bedrooms, two bathrooms in 1,486 square feet (2,650-square-foot lot)

Features: Whitewashed common spaces; sky-lighted living room; scenic breakfast nook; wraparound yard with planters

About the area: In the 92675 ZIP Code, based on 16 sales, the median price for single-family homes in October was $858,000, down 0.7% year over year, according to CoreLogic.