History

Pasadena Confidential (with Crimebo the Clown)

The Crown City masquerades as a calm and refined retreat, where well-bred ladies glide around their perfect bungalows and everyone knows what fork to use first. But don't be fooled by appearances. Dip into the confidential files of old Pasadena and meet assassins and oddballs, kidnappers and slashers, Satanists and all manner of maniac in a delightful little tour you WON'T find recommended by the better class of people! From celebrated cases like the RFK assassination (with a visit to Sirhan Sirhan's folks' house), "Eraserhead" star Jack Nance's strange end, black magician/rocket scientist Jack Parsons' death-by-misadventure and the 1926 Rose Parade grand stand collapse, to fascinating obscurities, the tour's dozens of murders, arsons, kidnappings, robberies, suicides, auto wrecks and oddball happening sites provide a alternate history of Pasadena that's as fascinating as it is creepy. Passengers will tour the old Millionaire's Row on Orange Grove, thrill to the shocking Sphinx Murder on the steps of the downtown Masonic Hall and discover why people named Judd should think twice before moving to Pasadena.

Richard's Birthday Bus Tour of Public Mausolea of Los Angeles & Orange Counties

A Special Event Esotouric bus adventure: Richard’s one-time only Birthday Bus Tour of Public Mausolea of Los Angeles & Orange Counties hosted by Nathan Marsak.

For Richard’s once-a-year birthday bus adventure, we invite you to climb aboard for a 7-hour excursion exploring some of the greatest buildings in the Southland that you’ve never seen—unless you go to a lot of funerals.

Lunch is included in the ticket price. This will be an Indian buffet, with vegetarian options.

The tour is hosted by Nathan Marsak, America’s wittiest historian of mortuary architecture. At each of the mausolea that we visit, Nathan will share the histories and structural secrets of these magnificent structures, revealing their compelling narratives through vintage photographs and insights into the architect, engineer and civic groups that funded each project.

During our on-the-bus portions of the tour, Nathan will argue a slightly more esoteric point: showing how the development of both these public mausolea and of Modernism in Los Angeles were concurrent and connected. They shared many of the same goals and tapped into the same revolutionary material: concrete, with its plasticity adapted to vernacular styles based on indigenous forms and innovative local building methods, and which also served the need for a durable and hygienic space. By tour’s end, Nathan will reveal these seemingly traditional structures as standing firmly within the West Coast Modernist canon.

Public Mausolea to be visited:

Forest Lawn (formerly Sunnyside Memorial Park) (Long Beach, 1922, Cecil Bryant, architect). This Spanish Renaissance gem is a showcase of ceramic tile design by the local CALCO Pottery headed by Rufus Keeler, later of Malibu Pottery. It contains unusually fine examples of pictorial stained glass, and its dome with its suspended Foucault’s Pendulum is a breathtaking architectural space.

Community Mausoleum (Anaheim, 1914, Charles E. Shattuck, architect). Constructed by the Pacific Mausoleum Company of Los Angeles. The interior tile and white Columbia marble is by Musto Sons-Keenan, and the cast iron & bronze grillwork by Pacific Ornamental. The proportions of the building are perfect Classic Greek Doric: narrowing shafts, triglyphs over the architrave, extending pediment. The ventilation, sanitation, and drainage are all patented designs of Charles E. Shattuck.

Fairhaven (Santa Ana, 1916, Charles E. Shattuck, architect). An Egyptian-Beaux Arts masterpiece conceived of by the visionary cemetery developer Oliver Linden Halsell, it is constructed of granite with thirty-two different kinds of marble and stone used on the interior floors and walls.

Calvary Mausoleum (East Los Angeles, 1936, Ross Montgomery, architect). The facade is Art Deco-Moorish-Hollywood, complete with processional columns capped with triumphant angels. The interior is inspired by Tuscan church interiors of the Quattrocento, rich with marble and stenciled faux wood. The mausoleum was financed in large part by Estelle Doheny, and is the final resting place for both she and her oilman husband Edward. For many decades, the bishops of Los Angeles reposed here, too, before being moved to the new downtown Cathedral in 2002.

Hotel Horrors & Main Street Vice crime bus tour

From the founding of the city through the 1940s, downtown was the true center of Los Angeles, a lively, densely populated, exciting and sometimes dangerous place. After many quiet decades, downtown is making an incredible return. But while many of the historic buildings remain, their human context has been lost.

Esotouric's downtown double feature tour is meant to bring alive the old ghosts and memories that cling to the streets and structures of the historic core, and is especially recommended for downtown residents curious about their neighborhood's neglected history.

The Hotel Horrors portion is a true crime and oddities tour featuring some of the wildest, weirdest, goriest and most memorable happenings in historic hotels like the Alexandria, St. George, Barclay and Cecil. Get on the bus to see inside some of these legendary locales and find out where Night Stalker Richard Ramirez liked to stay and the hotel that saw a visit from the Skid Row Slasher, and where two traveling chocolate salesmen laughed so hard they fell backwards out a window to their deaths. You'll also explore the fiery curse that repeatedly leveled the St. George Hotel. Included are some light hearted stories to help the blood and gore go down.

The Main Street Vice portion is a social history tour celebrating the ribald, racy, raunchy old promenade where the better people simply did not travel, but kicks were had by all who did. Burlesque babes and dirty picture parlors, mummified western outlaws and old time tattoo parlors, wax museums and pawn brokers, "professors" offering sex lectures and magazine peddlers with nudie Marilyn Monroe calendars under the counter, sophisticated steak houses and nickel donut dives -- these were the pleasures and the people to be found along Main during the first half of the 20th century, a street that every Angeleno knew offered more (yet less) of what could be seen anywhere else. On this tour, we'll visit the scenes of some more unforgettable debaucheries and share stories of crime, smut, passion and commerce.

Climb aboard for a time travel journey back to the downtown that's not there anymore, and the surprising amount of gems that survive.

Bruckman Rare Book Friends Talk: Kim Cooper and Richard Schave on "The Kept Girl"

Bruckman Rare Book Friends present Kim Cooper discussing and signing copies of her latest book, The Kept Girl, a 1920s mystery starring the young Raymond Chandler, his devoted secretary and the real-life Philip Marlowe all on the trail of a murderous cult of angel worshippers.

Accompanying Kim is her husband Richard Schave, her partner in Esotouric bus adventures and LAVA - the Los Angeles Visionaries Association, and the designer of this 1940s-inspired paperback, the debut publication of their L.A.-focused press, Esotouric Ink.

Kim's illustrated talk will draw on her years of research into the lost lore of Los Angeles, with a focus on the bizarre Great Eleven cult, which began just above the library on Bunker Hill and ensnared dozens of credulous Angelenos in their mystical rites before one disgruntled ex-believer brought the whole enterprise tumbling down. You'll hear about Raymond Chandler's pre-literary life as a downtown oil company executive, the idealistic L.A. policeman who is a likely model for Philip Marlowe, the real woman who inspired the character of Chandler's secretary Muriel, and the terrible secrets revealed by the fraud investigation in the Great Eleven's activities.

Richard will share insights into how he used cutting edge computing tools to evoke the look and feel of a mid-century book, and Kim will talk abut the deluxe Art Deco wraps created for the Subscribers, whose pre-publication support covered a big chunk of the print cost.  Copies of the paperback and deluxe Art Deco Subscribers' edition will be available for purchase after the talk.  

Read LAPL Librarian Robert Anderson's review of The Kept Girl here. Read Kim Cooper's love letter to Central Library here

Validated parking is just $1.00 with library card at Westlawn Garage, 524 South Flower Street. For ADA accommodations, call (213) 228-7430 at least 72 hours prior to the event.

Weird West Adams crime bus tour

On this guided tour through the Beverly Hills of the early 20th Century, Crime Bus passengers thrill as Jazz Age bootleggers run amok, marvel at the Krazy Kafitz family's litany of murder-suicides, attempted husband slayings, Byzantine estate battles and mad bombings, visit the shortest street in Los Angeles (15' long Powers Place, with its magnificent views of the mansions of Alvarado Terrace), discover which fabulous mansion was once transformed into a functioning whiskey factory using every room in the house, and stroll the haunted paths of Rosedale Cemetery, site of notable burials (May K. Rindge, the mother of Malibu) and odd graveside crimes. Featured players include the most famous dwarf in Hollywood, mass suicide ringleader Reverend Jim Jones, wacky millionaires who can't control their automobiles, human mole bank robbers, comically inept fumigators, kids trapped in tar pits, and dozens of other unusual and fascinating denizens of early Los Angeles.

There are even some celebrity sites along the route, including the death scenes of Motown soul sensation Marvin Gaye and 1920s star Angels baseball catcher Gus Sandberg. And the architecture too is to die for, as the Crime Bus rolls down the elegant streets of old West Adams, lined with gay mansions, adorable bungalows and signs of a century's decay which only enhance the neighborhood's charm.

The tour also offers an overview of the neighborhood's many early subdivisions, and a groundbreaking court case that helped end housing discrimination nationwide.

Passengers on this eye-opening, funny and informative tour will forever see the West Adams district in a new light. It is highly recommended for natives and newcomers alike, crime and history buffs and anyone who likes to seek out the unexpected.

Wild Wild West Side crime bus tour

For the first time, the true crime archeologists of Esotouric have set their sights on points west of Robertson, and the results are truly mind-boggling.

Originally offered in Esotouric’s 2008-2009 seasons, this newly revived crime bus tour spotlights some of the weirdest, most horrific and downright unbelievable crimes of historic West Los Angeles, Venice and Santa Monica. You’ll thrill and shudder to tales of teenaged terrors, tortured tots, wicked wives, evil spirits, cults, creeps and assorted maniacs.

Get on the bus to meet Weird Ward, the boy husband of the nefarious cult leader who compelled her followers to carry her departed victims all across 1920s L.A. (as featured in co-host Kim Cooper's acclaimed mystery novel, "The Kept Girl"), and the peculiar Helen Love, who nearly escaped justice when she willed herself into a coma during her very odd murder trial. Along the Venice shore, you’ll see where a pair of real life witches tortured their own Hansels and Gretels as neighbors pretended not to hear the tots’ cries, and marvel at the grand hotel that was formally a flop house for ex-junkies in the Synanon Cult. Come discover the real and terrible history of L.A.‘s westside, on a tour so wild, we had to say it twice.

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Lecture: Bones, death, and other fun stuff with Paul Koudounaris at the Brand Library

For the past decade, Dr. Paul Koudounaris has been documenting famous macabre sites and researching our cultural relationship with death, producing two books, Empire of Death and Heavenly Bodies, which have found great acclaim and a cult following. Those books were mostly confined to Europe, however. His forthcoming book, Memento Mori, will be his most ambitious, expanding his subject matter to a global level and presenting little known macabre sanctuaries in Asia, Africa, and South America. He will give a peek at the new material tonight in a special lecture for the Brand Library, taking the audience on a world tour, from burial caves in Indonesia to gilded corpses in Taiwan to skull festivals in Bolivia to decorated skeletons in Germany . . . the world's most spectacular macabre sites will be opened up to the audience with a spectacular slideshow of his own photos.

Pershing SquaReNew Announcement and John Parkinson walking tour

The Pershing Square Restoration Society invites you to attend an announcement from Councilman Jose Huizar and the Department of Recreation and Parks about a proposed new direction for Pershing Square and the former Pershing Square Task Force.

In 2013, the Pershing Square Task Force was formed with the intent of "Re-Envisioning" the historic park. Public response has overwhelmingly supported a different model: the restoration of the 1910 John Parkinson landscape design that was demolished in 1951 to put in underground parking. More than 1500 people have signed the petition asking for restoration and the campaign has been prominently covered by The Los Angeles Times, Which Way LA? and Curbed. 

Apparently in response to the popular support for restoration, the Pershing Square Task Force has changed its name to Pershing SquaReNew, and announced a new mission statement. It is now identified as "a non-profit dedicated to supporting and facilitating the park's revitalization--along with a number of efforts that will not only restore Pershing Square, but place Los Angeles on the map of inspiring, world-class public spaces." 

Please join social historians Kim Cooper and Richard Schave (LAVA, Esotouric) at Pershing Square to hear what sort of restoration Pershing SquaReNew is proposing. (Sorry, author Stephen Gee will not be able to attend.) After the announcement, these principals of the Pershing Square Restoration Society will lead a free walking tour of nearby John Parkinson buildings, including those around his namesake Square. All are welcome--please spread the word!

(Postponed) LAVA's 41st Sunday Salon

An important message from LAVA - September 9, 2014

Dear friends,

It is with no small amount of regret that we are putting the monthly LAVA Sunday Salon and Broadway on My Mind walking tour series on hiatus, effective immediately. Both events take place at Les Noces du Figaro restaurant, which is closing down for several months of renovations.

We will be working closely with Jonathan Mgaieth of Figaro to determine a relaunch date as soon as the restaurant reopens, hopefully in early 2015. So stay tuned, and we hope to see you at other LAVA events in the meantime.

Please know that your continued thoughts and good will are the rock upon which LAVA builds its house.

With thanks for your understanding, we remain,
Richard Schave and Kim Cooper
LAVA - The Los Angeles Visionaries Association

 

Join LAVA for our revived free monthly Sunday Salon series. We return to South Broadway, to the mezzanine of Les Noces du Figaro, which was recently opened by the family behind Figaro Bistro in Los Feliz. This handsome space was formerly Schaber's Cafeteria (Charles F. Plummer, 1928), and the mezzanine features wonderful views of the Los Angeles Theatre.

On the last Sunday of each month, LAVA welcomes interested individuals to gather in downtown Los Angeles (noon-2pm), for a structured Salon featuring formal presentations and opportunities to meet and connect with one another. If you're interested in joining LAVA as a creative contributor or an attendee, we recommend Salon attendance as an introduction to this growing community. We also recommend the eclairs.

Read about the original Sunday Salon at Clifton's Cafeteria.

Presentation One: Jean Harlow Part 2

The name resonates. Blonde Bombshell. Platinum Blonde. The labels applied by press agents during Jean Harlow's seven-year career still carry a charge seventy years later. Harlow created the mold: the first blonde sex symbol who captured the attention of a nation, then touched their hearts with her genuine warmth and candor. At a time when Harlow's star shone its brightest, Los Angeles and the movies gave birth to a district that exists as much in the mind as on the map. Hollywood historian Darrell Rooney is co-author of Harlow In Hollywood. He returns to the LAVA Sunday Salon to pick up where he left off at his January 2014 presentation, with Jean Harlow's story following the mysterious death of her husband Paul Bern.

Presentation Two: Preserving the Legacy of Wurdman & Beckett's Animal Hospital in West Hollywood

West Hollywood residents and area historians Kate Eggert and Krisy Gosney of Dead History Project fell into historic preservation activism when two 110-year-old bungalows on their street were threatened with demolition. Everyone said they wouldn’t win... until they did. Recently, they went to a West Hollywood Historic Preservation Commission meeting on a whim. The Commission discussed a 1938 Wurdeman & Becket streamline moderne animal hospital and a 1959 Barry Berkus mid-century modern office building, both slated for demolition and the site for redevelopment. They were told these buildings were a lost cause. But as a little research revealed the significance of the site, they knew they would fight. Their grassroots preservation campaign has garnered significant media attention and the support of the Los Angeles Conservancy, Art Deco Society, the family of architect Welton Becket and hundreds of passionate citizens. Responding to the rising community outcry, the developer has begun suggesting ways in which the Wurdeman & Beckett structure can be integrated into a modern building. This LAVA presentation is about the process through which Kate and Krisy are tackling the biggest preservation fight of their careers, the highs and lows, and the delicate dance of politics, ego, money and information that impacts any community when developers seek to build on an historic site.

Lowriting: the Photography of Arturo Meza

Art Meza was born and raised in Los Angeles. His photography infuses elements of his daily surroundings—his love for classic car and Lowrider culture, and pride of his Chicano upbringing—to produce images with “Chicano Soul.” Art will share images from his book, Lowriting: Shots, Rides and Stories from the Chicano Soul. The book also includes essays and poetry by contributors including Luis J. Rodriguez, Luis Alberto Urrea, Lalo Alcaraz, Gustavo Arellano, and Alvaro Rodriguez.

This free program is presented by Photo Friends LAPL and generously sponsored by Christy & Stephen McAvoy. Feel free to bring your lunch.