The top 22 Los Angeles Times stories of 2022

94th Academy Awards - Show
HOLLYWOOD, CA - March 27, 2022. Will Smith slaps Chris Rock onstage during the show at the 94th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood on Sunday, March 27, 2022. (Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times) (Myung Chun/Los Angeles Times)
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The top 22 most read stories of the year include pieces on the Will Smith slap, new-wave imperialism in Mexico, a horrific car crash that killed five people and the racist remarks that led to the downfall of an L.A. politician.

Readers spent a total of about 20,643,505 minutes, the equivalent of more than 14,335 days, reading the 22 stories below.

Instagram post of rapper PnB Rock at Roscoe’s may have led to killing, LAPD chief says

PnB Rock performs on Day 3 of the 2018 Firefly Music Festival at The Woodland
(Owen Sweeney / Invision via AP)

Our most read story of 2022 was about an Instagram post possibly leading to the killing of PnB Rock at the Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles restaurant in South Los Angeles. The gunman allegedly demanded jewelry and other valuables before getting into a struggle with the rapper and opening fire.

Rock, 30, whose real name was Rakim Allen, had been at the restaurant with his girlfriend, who had posted a location-tagged photo in a since-deleted Instagram post.

Concerns about Bruce Willis’ declining cognitive state swirled around sets in recent years

Bruce Willis attends a movie premiere
(Charles Sykes/AP)

According to those who have worked with Bruce Willis on recent films, the actor has exhibited signs of decline in recent years. In interviews with The Times earlier this year, nearly two dozen people who were on set with the actor expressed concern about Willis’ well-being.

These individuals questioned whether the actor was fully aware of his surroundings on set and filmmakers described heart-wrenching scenes as the beloved “Pulp Fiction” star grappled with his loss of mental acuity and an inability to remember his dialogue.

Leslie Jordan, ‘Will & Grace’ actor and ‘queer icon,’ dies at 67 after crash in Hollywood

A man with white hair smiles while resting his cheek on his palm
(Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

Leslie Jordan, the actor, comedian and musician known for his roles in “Will & Grace” and “American Horror Story” and for his uplifting pandemic Instagram videos, died in late October after a car crash in Hollywood.

Jordan, 67, won an Emmy in 2006 for his performance as the snide Beverley Leslie in the hit TV show “Will & Grace.” His co-stars and members of the LGBTQ community spoke highly of the actor following his death.

L.A. nurse who slammed speeding Mercedes into cars, killing 5, arrested by CHP

Nicole Linton appears in Los Angeles Superior Court
(Frederick M. Brown/AP)

Nicole Linton, a registered nurse, was charged with six counts of murder and five counts of gross vehicular manslaughter after slamming into traffic at a busy Windsor Hills intersection in August.

According to court documents, Linton had accelerated to 130 mph just before the crash, which killed five people, including a pregnant woman. Linton had reportedly been struggling with mental health issues around the time of the crash.

KTLA anchor Mark Mester fired after emotional on-air defense of Lynette Romero

Lynette Romero(L) and Mark Mester of KTLA

In late September, KTLA-TV Channel 5 fired news anchor Mark Mester, days after he was suspended following an off-script segment in which he criticized the station’s handling of his co-anchor Lynette Romero’s abrupt departure.

Mester spoke out after Romero, a longtime anchor of its popular weekend morning show, had left the station without saying goodbye to viewers, which provoked wide outrage and criticism. According to station sources who asked to remain anonymous, Romero no longer wanted to work weekends and had asked management to allow her to work a weekday anchor shift so she could spend more time with her family, but she was told there were no openings.

Racist remarks in leaked audio of L.A. council members spark outrage, disgust

Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León
(Martina Ibáñez-Baldor / Los Angeles Times)

Behind closed doors, former Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez made openly racist remarks, derided some of her council colleagues and spoke in unusually crass terms about how the city should be carved up politically.

The conversation remained private for nearly a year, until a leaked recording was uncovered in October and turned the focus of a sprawling metropolis toward Los Angeles City Hall. After facing widespread condemnation for her comments, Martinez stepped down from the City Council.

Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León also faced pressure to resign due to their roles in the controversial meeting, but both refused to step down.

The slap heard around the world: Will Smith really did hit Chris Rock at the Oscars

A man slapping another man on a stage
(Myung Chun/Los Angeles Times)

During the 94th Academy Awards in March, Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock across the face onstage in front of millions of viewers over a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith — then went on to win the lead actor prize for his performance in “King Richard.”

The "slap heard around the world" came after Rock likened Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald hairstyle to the look Demi Moore’s character sported in the 1997 movie “G.I. Jane.”

Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins dies at 50

Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters
(Getty Image)

In March, Rock and Roll fans took it hard after Taylor Hawkins, the hard-pounding drummer for multiplatinum rock band Foo Fighters, died at age 50. Hawkins had an assortment of drugs in his system when he died.

The news was announced on the Foo Fighters Instagram account. “The Foo Fighters family is devastated by the tragic and untimely loss of our beloved Taylor Hawkins,” the statement read. “His musical spirit and infectious laughter will live on with all of us forever. Our hearts go out to his wife, children and family, and we ask that their privacy be treated with the utmost respect in this unimaginably difficult time.”

Jerry Lee Lewis’ teenage bride speaks out: ‘I was the adult and Jerry was the child’

American singer Jerry Lee Lewis and his 13-year-old bride, Myra Lewis, in a hotel in London in 1958.
(Associated Press)

Following the death of Jerry Lee Lewis in late October, his former teenage bride spoke to The Times about her traumatic marriage to the rock legend.

Myra Williams married her cousin Lewis in 1957 when she was just 13 years old. Williams said that her life as a teenage wife and mother was "turbulent" and she was blamed for hurting Lewis' career.

“I was called the child bride, but I was the adult and Jerry was the child,” Williams said. “When I look back on it, how can you defend yourself when you’re 13 years old? I mean there’s no excuse good enough for that to be OK.”

Conservators ‘speechless’ that Kim Kardashian wore Marilyn Monroe’s dress to Met Gala

Kim Kardashian poses at the Met
(Evan Agostini / Associated Press)

Textile conservators and fashion curators were appalled that beauty mogul Kim Kardashian donned Marilyn Monroe’s iconic Jean Louis gown for the 2022 Met Gala in May. Monroe’s show-stopping garment became famous 60 years ago when the Hollywood legend wore it to sing a breathless “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy.

Kardashian, a pop culture phenom in her own right, became the only other person to slip into the historic garment for the gala, a “gilded glamour"-themed affair at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Churchgoers tackled, hogtied gunman after deadly Laguna Woods church shooting

A first responder grief counselor comforts a parishioner after a person opened fire during a church service
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

In May, a gunman attacked a lunch banquet at a Taiwanese church in Laguna Woods, killing one person and wounding five others before congregants tackled him, hogtied him with an extension cord and grabbed his two weapons.

The violence left the south Orange County suburb — home to the sprawling retirement community once known as Leisure World — reeling and in grief, coming a day after a racist attack at a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket left 10 dead.

“That group of churchgoers displayed what we believe is exceptional heroism and bravery,” said Undersheriff Jeff Hallock. “It’s safe to say that had they not intervened this situation could have been much worse.”

Tsunami from Pacific volcano hits California coast with small waves, scattered flooding

A surfer approaches the surf despite tsunami warnings
(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Many beaches and marinas from Orange County to the Bay Area were temporarily closed in January as a precaution due to an underwater volcanic eruption near the South Pacific nation of Tonga.

Authorities spent much of the day urging people to stay away from beaches and harbors due to the potential of a tsunami forming in the aftermath of the eruption. Kristan Lund, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Oxnard, said the advisory was “fairly uncommon” because it was due to a volcanic eruption and not an underwater earthquake, and because it extended to the entire West Coast. The entire coast was at risk, she said, including portions of islands that face away from the volcano, such as Avalon Harbor.

Blink-182’s Travis Barker rushed to hospital with wife Kourtney Kardashian by his side

Travis Barker attends his "Give The Drummer Some" press day
(Noel Vasquez/Getty Images)

Travis Barker, drummer for the rock band Blink-182 and husband of reality-TV star Kourtney Kardashian, was hospitalized for pancreatitis in late June.

It wasn't the first time Barker had a health scare in the last few years. In 2018, Barker was hospitalized and readmitted due to blood clots found in each arm, according to People. In addition to the clots, he suffered from a staph infection and cellulitis, a bacterial infection that can cause swelling, inflammation and pain. A few months after his hospitalization for pancreatitis, Barker contracted COVID-19.

More antisemitic hate seen in L.A. after Kanye West’s hateful rants

Kanye West wearing a black suit and a gold chain around his neck
(Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Kanye West's antisemitic comments have received ample coverage over the last few months, including this story about an increase in hate incidents following his remarks. In October, his bigoted rants drew a well-known hate group to Los Angeles for a demonstration of support on a 405 Freeway overpass, raising alarms from local officials and residents that the rapper’s rhetoric was inspiring more public prejudice.

West, also known as Ye, has attracted widespread criticism and was locked out of his social media accounts for comments online and in TV interviews espousing antisemitic conspiracy theories that have spurred hate and violence against Jewish people in the past — including that they have outsize power and influence in the media. In late November, West said "I like Hitler" during an interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

NFL punter Matt Araiza and two San Diego State football players accused in gang-rape lawsuit

San Diego State's Matt Araiza at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis in March.
(Steve Luciano / Associated Press)

A civil lawsuit filed in August accuses three past and present San Diego State University football players — including a top punter now in the NFL — of gang raping a 17-year-old girl last year at an off-campus party.

Matt Araiza, 22, whose powerful and precision kicking in college earned him the moniker “Punt God,” was accused of having sex with the minor outside the home and then bringing her inside to a room where she was repeatedly raped. The lawsuit alleges that the then-high school senior went in and out of consciousness but remembers moments as the men took turns assaulting her.

Officials recently announced that Araiza and the others will not face criminal charges in connection with the reported gang rape.

Californians and other Americans are flooding Mexico City. Some locals want them to go home

Quentin Cafe
(Celia Talbot Tobin/for the Times)

Mexico has long been the top foreign travel destination for Americans, its bountiful beaches and picturesque pueblos luring tens of millions of U.S. visitors annually. But in recent years, a growing number of tourists and remote workers — hailing from Brooklyn, N.Y., Silicon Valley and points in between — have flooded the country's capital and left a scent of new-wave imperialism.

The influx, which has accelerated since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and is likely to continue as inflation rises, is transforming some of the city’s most treasured neighborhoods into expat enclaves.

Tropical Storm Kay breaks heat and rain records across Southern California

People enjoy the stormy weather during the morning hours
(Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

In September, rain and heat records in parts of Southern California were broken as Tropical Storm Kay helped firefighters battling the Fairview fire near Hemet. Rob Roseen, a spokesman for the Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department, said that a community of 18,000 homes could have been affected by the fire if the storm hadn't come.

Still, Roseen added, the heavy rains presented certain hazards for firefighters, “as far as possible downed trees.” The storm also caused power outages throughout the Los Angeles area, affecting tens of thousands of people.

Suspect booked on murder, kidnapping charges after Merced family of four found dead

Jesus Manuel Salgado was arrested in October on suspicion of kidnapping and murdering four members of a Merced family whose abduction was captured on surveillance video. Salgado, who had worked for the company of one of the abducted men, allegedly kidnapped the family at gunpoint.

Salgado was arrested after allegedly attempting suicide in the nearby town of Atwater.

Winning ticket sold in Altadena for record $2.04-billion Powerball jackpot

Joe Jr, left, in blue shirt and his father Joe Chahayed, middle, holding a check for $1,000,000
(Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)

One lucky winner bought the nation’s only matching Powerball ticket worth more than $2 billion at an Altadena gas station, becoming California’s first billionaire-by-lottery in early November.

Joseph Chahayed, the owner of the service station that sold the winning ticket, received a $1-million bonus check for selling the jackpot-winning ticket. The 75-year-old owner of Joe’s Service Center, now an ExxonMobil franchise, said he plans on sharing the money with his 11 grandchildren and the rest of his family.

“I’m happy for California; I’m happy for L.A.,” Chahayed said. “I’m more happy for Altadena. There are a lot of poor people here; they deserve it.”

Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson split after nine months — and plenty of drama

Pete Davidson and Kim Kardashian
(Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson’s whirlwind romance came to an end in early August.

Kardashian and Davidson met in 2019 and began dating in November 2021, shortly after the “Kardashians” star made her “Saturday Night Live” hosting debut. During her “SNL” gig in October, Kardashian appeared alongside Davidson in an “Aladdin"-inspired sketch where the two shared a kiss.

Getting their relationship off the ground wasn’t without drama, especially from Kardashian’s ex-husband Kanye West, who shares four children with the Skims founder. In March, the rapper debuted a disturbing music video for “Eazy,” in which West kidnapped, buried and decapitated a figurine in the likeness of Davidson. West, who gave the comedian the nickname “Skete,” harassed him so much that Davidson upped his security detail amid the drama.

Johnny Depp wins more than $10 million in defamation case against Amber Heard

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in court
(Steve Helber / Associated Press)

Following a long and memeworthy trial, Johnny Depp won his defamation lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard in June.

The decision — from a jury of five men and two women — came after nearly 13 hours of deliberation spanning three days. The turbulent defamation trial, which started April 11 and lasted six weeks, saw Depp and Heard trade disturbing allegations of domestic violence and abuse against a background of social media chatter that tilted heavily in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star’s direction.

The jury also awarded $2 million in compensatory damages to Heard after finding one of her points valid: that former Depp attorney Adam Waldman had defamed her when he told a tabloid that she and her friends created a hoax that included roughing up her apartment to look worse for police.

The man who played Hollywood: Inside Randall Emmett’s crumbling empire

Collage of Randall Emmett
(Lizzie Gill / For The Times. Photos by Getty Images and NBCUniversal.)

For years, Randall Emmett had flourished on the margins of Hollywood, producing films that featured cameos from big-name stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone and often went straight to DVD. But by 2019, he was flirting with Hollywood glory. He’d produced a couple of genuine blockbusters, and was in line to claim an Academy Award as one of the producers of Martin Scorsese’s Oscar contender “The Irishman.”

A year later, the walls were closing in. A review of hundreds of court filings and internal company records, as well as interviews with three dozen former associates, depicts an empire that is crumbling. The once-high-flying producer faces lawsuits and mounting debts, as well as allegations of abuse against women, assistants and business partners.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.