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.
Go East, Young Crime Fiend!
For years, the devoted and demented crime historians of Esotouric stockpiled hideous 20th century crime tales from the east side of the Los Angeles River, waiting for the perfect moment to spring them upon an unsuspecting world. That moment has arrived. On the EASTSIDE BABYLON tour you’ll discover fascinating, little-known neighborhoods and the grim memories they hold. Come visit Boyle Heights, where the Night Stalker was captured. Roam the hallowed lawns of Evergreen, L.A.’s oldest cemetery and home of some most unusual burials. Visit East Los Angeles, where a deranged radio shop employee made mince meat of his boss and bride–and you can get your hair done in a building shaped like a giant tamale. Explore the ghastly streets of Commerce, where one small neighborhood’s myriad crimes will shock and surprise. Visit Montebello, for scrumptious milk and cookies at Broguiere’s Farm Fresh Dairy washed down with a horrifying case of child murder. All this, and so much more on EASTSIDE BABYLON, Esotouric’s exploration of L.A.’s most horrifying forgotten crimes.
“Failed public space… a zone of repulsion… where retail goes to die.”
Such is the perceived wisdom about the Los Angeles Mall, an underappreciated and underutilized shopping, dining and public plaza development which is in the cross-hairs of the same City Council-driven redevelopment plan that calls for the demolition of Welton Becket’s Parker Center.
Join us for an afternoon exploring the history, integrated artwork and possibilities of a cultural landscape that is worth reconsidering – before it’s too late! This Sunday Salon and walking tour will be hosted by Richard Schave & Nathan Marsak with contributions from Joseph Young’s daughters, Cecily & Leslie Young.
The entire Los Angeles Civic Center, which includes the Los Angeles Mall, is being re-imagined, and the Civic Center Master Plan (PDF link) has just been approved. The Master Plan calls for the the Department of Cultural Affairs to produce a report on the public art in the Los Angeles Mall (The Public Art District Plan) which is sensitive to its history and comprehensive in scope. We believe this document should set a new bar for how DCA is to take the lead on advocating for and preserving public art throughout Los Angeles.
The goal of this Sunday Salon is identify and to advocate for the public art and landscape of the Los Angeles Mall, and for Joseph Young’s “Theme Mural of Los Angeles” (1955), slated for removal, restoration and relocation, in the adjacent, soon-to-be-demolished Parker Center.
The Los Angeles Mall was constructed between 1973 and 1975 and occupies 1.5 square blocks on the east side of City Hall, from Main to Los Angeles Street, running north to Aliso. Stanton & Stockwell were the architects, and the landscape architects were Cornell, Bridgers, Troller and Hazlett. The two plazas which make up the mall are surrounded by civic buildings. At Temple Street, a stunning 120’ cantilevered pedestrian bridge by the Mall’s landscape architect Howard Troller and artist Tom Van Sant connects the plazas.
The South Plaza, dominated by the Brutalist City Hall East, includes the Eleanor Chambers Memorial Fountain (also known as Dan-de-lion for its effect when running) designed by Howard Troller and Hanns Scharff. A sunken palm court features Jan Peter Stern’s stainless steel Cubed Square and arcing paths which lead off to retail and food court options in the subterranean North and South Malls. There are four levels of below-ground parking.
The North Plaza, called Fletcher Bowron Square after the reformer mayor (served 1938-53), is defined by Joseph Young’s neglected 60-foot-tall Triforium (1975) a free-standing computerized sound and light sculpture comprised of 1,500 blown-glass prisms synchronized to an electronic glass bell carillon. The adjacent sunken plaza has a food court, a collection of mature palms, and the Robert J. Stevenson Fountain, which consists of a carved and painted obelisk set in a tiled pool of centrifugal jets.
Doug Dunn is a specialist in legacy, enterprise, and proprietary computers. In practice, this really just means anything that is not a server, desktop, laptop, or phone – in other words, “weird computers”. Starting as an e-waste reseller in college, he turned a fascination with computing history into a career path. After an unsatisfying stint with a tech “start up”, he decided to start his own business focusing on support for the IBM AS/400 and z/System product lines. Legacy computing consultation is a very niche field, so he hopes to get some high-profile exposure from his first major project, the Triforium restoration. During the initial review, he found the original paper software tapes, and believe that the system can be made to appear functionally identical to its intended design.
Come explore a true time capsule of Imperial California and get to know this endangered landscape and its integrated artwork, fixtures and vistas while you still can.
“[This tour is] a poetic journey full of rare insight into the life of a man who’s come to represent the ghettoized contingency of the City of Angels.” – Tanja M. Laden, Flavorpill
This tour focuses on Bukowski’s great passions: writing, screwing and Los Angeles. We’ll take in the canonical locations of his life and myth: the Postal Annex Terminal where he gathered the material for “Post Office,” the De Longpre apartment where he briefly experimented with marriage and fatherhood, the cathedral-like Central Library, an iconic SRO apartment residence and many other spots. Along the way, we’ll explore the people and ideas that made up the warp and weft of Buk’s rich inner life. This Esotouric bus adventure is hosted by Richard Schave and spans Bukowski’s personal city, from Skid Row to once-genteel Crown Hill, to Bukowski’s favorite East Hollywood liquor store, the Pink Elephant.
Bungalows. Crime. Hollywood. Blondes. Vets. Smog. Death.
This was Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles, which resonated under deft and melancholy fits from his writer’s bow.
Join us as we go down the mean streets that shaped his fiction, and that in turn shaped his hard-boiled times, in a four hour tour of downtown, Hollywood and surrounding environs: The Los Angeles Athletic Club, the Larry Edmunds Bookshop, the Hotel Van Nuys, Paramount Studio’s gates, and much, much more, including a Chandler-themed gelato stop at East Hollywood cult favorite Scoops.
Through published work, private correspondence, screenplays and film adaptations, we trace Chandler’s search for meaning and his anti-hero Philip Marlowe’s struggle to not be pigeonholed or give anything less than all he has, which lead them both down the rabbit hole of isolation, depression, and drink.
Exclusive on this tour: the fascinating story of Raymond Chandler’s lost comic operetta The Princess and the Pedlar, a bombshell in Chandler studies, discovered by our own Kim Cooper in 2014.
Tour passengers will have the opportunity to purchase an autographed copy of co-host Kim Cooper’s mystery novel The Kept Girl, inspired by this tour and starring the young Chandler and the real-life Philip Marlowe on the trail of a cult of murderous angel worshippers, as well as the new Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles.
Tour preview: see host David Smay at the “In The Neighborhood” video shoot location in Echo Park.
About the tour: This is the definitive tour of Tom Waits’ formative creative life in Los Angeles, and the people, places and late night pastries that shaped it. Calling all rain dogs, gin-soaked boys and Gun Street girls! Climb aboard as your hosts David Smay (author of the 33 1/3 series book on Swordfishtrombones) and Esotouric’s Kim Cooper (a Zoetrope Studios intern who’ll tell how she used teenage subterfuge to arrange a private concert by Tom) lead you on a scrupulously researched ride through Tom’s epic misdeeds and shenanigans, from the Trashing of the Troubadour to epic nights at the Tropicana.
And oh, there are such tales to tell, from food fights with L.A. Punks and smackdowns with L.A. Police. We’ll crawl through the Sewers of Paris, tattle on the Ivar Theater, and get the lowdown on Tom’s legendary performances at the Wiltern and elsewhere. Before departing for points rural, Tom left his mark all over L.A., from Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios to Sunset Sound to Skid Row. We’ll show you where Tom found his true love and collaborator, Kathleen Brennan, and how all the pieces came together to transform a drunken, desperate singer into the multi-faceted, multi-media artist he’d become.
Raised near San Diego, Tom Waits launched his musical career in L.A., signing with David Geffen’s Asylum Records in 1972, living at the raunchy Tropicana Hotel (where he sawed off the kitchen drain board so his piano would fit), and building a reputation as a songwriter willing to risk his own health and sanity to get inside the sad sack characters that peopled songs like “The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me),” “On The Nickel” and “Pasties And A G-string (At The Two O’clock Club).”
By 1980, Tom was 31 and starting to feel the effects of his hard living. While scoring the music to Francis Ford Coppola’s “One From The Heart,” he met Kathleen Brennan, whose influence would completely transform his life and his art. After a whirlwind courtship the pair married and began a 28-year creative and personal partnership, beginning with the revolutionary album Swordfishtrombones, the subject of tour host David Smay’s book.
“Crawling Down Cahuenga” spans Tom’s personal city, from The Nickel (aka Skid Row) to once-ratty West Hollywood, favorite strip clubs and midnight diners, recording studios, night clubs, record labels and film studios, before rolling back downtown via the filming location of Waits’ “In The Neighborhood” video.
Click here to purchase David Smay’s book about Tom Waits.
Press clips: Leonie Cooper of The Guardian got an emotional weather report on the once-a-year Tom Waits bus adventure.
The 2013 edition of our once-a-year Tom Waits tour is L.A. Weekly’s Go >> L.A. pick of the week.
ABOUT THE HOSTS: Longtime collaborators David Smay and Kim Cooper co-edited the books “Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth” (“quite simply the most fun music book I have ever read.” -Bucketfull of Brains) and “Lost in the Grooves: Scram’s Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed” (“the perfect book for the advanced record collector” -Ear Candy) before penning their solo 33 1/3 series books on Tom Waits and Neutral Milk Hotel. Kim gives Esotouric’s rock history and true crime tours. David Smay lives in San Francisco, where he is working on a history of the Beats.
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.
Starting in the basement of Grand Central Market, Suzanne will describe the defining characteristics of this poetry, whose dark themes, atmosphere, and voice of cool detachment are inspired by the low budget black-and-white crime movies of the 1940s and 1950s. Then we’ll move across the street to the Bradbury Building for the Poem Noir readings, presented by a star-studded lineup of poets.
ABOUT THE SALON: On the last Sunday of the month starting at 2pm, LAVA welcomes interested individuals to gather in downtown Los Angeles for the Sunday Salon, featuring a presentation by a LAVA Visionary and opportunities to meet and connect with one another. Immediately after the Salon, a walking tour expands on the Salon theme. 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.
D. W. JACOBS is a playwright, director, actor and poet. He wrote R. Buckminster Fuller: THE HISTORY (and Mystery) OF THE UNIVERSE, a play based on the life, work and writings of Buckminster Fuller. This play has had over 1,000 performances in Southern California, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, Santa Fe, Boston/Cambridge, Washington, D.C., Asheville, N.C., Atlanta, Montreal and Poland. Jacobs has twice lectured on Fuller at the Wrocław University of Technology in Poland. He lives in Highland Park, Los Angeles, where he co-founded TEATRO ARROYO // Theater Stream (a performance division of the Arroyo Arts Collective.) He also co-founded San Diego Repertory Theatre, where he served as Artistic Director for 20 years.
BETH RUSCIO is part of a large working class family of artists, actors, writers and vaudevillians. She’s a poet, an accomplished award-winning actress (upcoming in the romantic comedy feature film The Unicorn) and a one-time playwright, co-writing 1961 Eldorado with husband Leon Martell. In 2016, her manuscript Hollywood Forever Cemetery won both Honorable Mention for The Two Sylvias Prize, and was a finalist for the Sunken Garden Poetry Prize (Tupelo Press). Her work has appeared in California Journal of Poetics, Tupelo Quarterly, Cultural Weekly, The Malpais Review, In Posse Review, Spillway, Speechless the Magazine, and is anthologized in Beyond The Lyric Moment; Poet’s Calendar; Conducting A Life: Maria Irene Fornes and upcoming in 1001 Nights. She will read from her newest manuscript on KPFK’s broadcast of Why Poetry on February 18 at 4:30PM.
SUZANNE LUMMIS (organizer) has for many years been one of the best-known poets associated with California and the Los Angeles region, and is among those poets exploring the “poem noir.” She created and teaches a class “poem noir.” She created and teaches a class for the UCLA Extension Writers Program, “Poetry Goes to the Movies: Writing the Poem Noir,” and her essays “The Poem Noir: Too Dark to be Depressed,” and “Never Out of the Past: Noir and the Poetry of Lynda Hull” were published by Malpais Review and The Los Angeles Review of Books respectively. They Write by Night, her video series produced by www.Poetry.LA, will debut in February. Lummis’ most recent poetry collection, Open 24 Hours, received the Blue Lynx Poetry Prize.
Fanny Daubigny is a writer, critic and translator. She is the author of numerous articles on Marcel Proust, J.M.G LeClézio and Marthe Bibesco and her articles have appeared in numerous literary reviews such as, Los Angeles Review of Books, French Forum, Bulletin des Amis de Marcel Proust. Her genre-bending essay ‘Proust in Black’ (Notes on LA noir) will be published in the Fall by SDSU Press. She is currently working on the translation of the poetry of Suzanne Lummis. She lives in Los Angeles.
RESERVATIONS: The LAVA Sunday Salon and walking tour are free, but reservations are required. There are no “plus ones,” so tell your friends to sign up individually. Please don’t reserve unless you plan to attend. To reserve your spot for this free event, click on the “Buy Tickets” button above.
First things first: this is not a tour about beautiful buildings, although they’ll be all around us. Nor is it a tour about brilliant architects, although we’ll gaze upon their works and marvel. What the Lowdown on Downtown is, is a deeply researched “warts and all” history, with a focus on urban redevelopment, public policy, protest and political power.
It is the revealing tale of how the New Downtown became an “overnight sensation” after decades of behind the scenes work by public agencies and private developers. This complicated story will fascinate and infuriate, break your heart and thrill your spirit. So get on the bus for the real Lowdown on Downtown, as no one but Esotouric’s Richard Schave, also the founding director of the Downtown L.A. Art Walk, can reveal it. Our tour begins in the corporate public spaces of Bunker Hill and Pershing Square, each the result of deliberate social engineering. Bunker Hill’s redevelopment displaced 9,000 people, the largest eminent domain land seizure in American history.
Down the hill, we find the formerly positive public space of Pershing Square paved over, rendering downtown’s “living room” into a place where even the indigent become architecture critics. In the historic core, we’ll explore the tragedy of St. Vincent Court, a thriving open-air restaurant district hobbled by the interests of rival property owners. Then down Broadway and Spring Street, where adaptive reuse and the monthly Art Walk have brought life to spaces which have been dead for decades, even as Broadway’s longtime Latino vendors are leaving in droves. The tour concludes in the Arts District, with the bold urban explorers who reclaimed vacant warehouse space at great personal risk, the public policy shift that legalized this creative community, the astonishing growth of the “new” Arts District and what it means for the artists who remain.
WHY “THE LOWDOWN ON DOWNTOWN?” – Having studied under architecture critic Reyner Banham in the mid-1980s, tour host Richard Schave has taken it upon himself to correct his teacher’s gross oversight of downtown Los Angeles, relegated to a dismissive coda in his seminal Los Angeles guidebookLos Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies. Richard and his wife Kim Cooper work extensively with the history and lost cultures of downtown in their bus tours, in their work placing Art Walk into a non-profit, on blogs including On Bunker Hill, In SRO Land and 1947project, and through public lectures on the subject. This tour has a significant walking component. It is broken up, but please be advised to be ready to stretch your legs.
Locations on the tour typically include the following (check the listing for the date you’re interested in booking for special additions):
- Angels Flight
- Pershing Square
- Bunker Hill
- St. Vincent Court
- Bradbury Building
- Grand Central Market
- Mercantile Arcade Building
- Bloom’s Square
- The Dutch Chocolate Shop.
This tour is just one of our California Culture tour series (formerly known as the Reyner Banham Loves L.A. series).
“This bus tour… has established itself as an L.A. classic.” -The Los Angeles Times
The Black Dahlia murder in 1947 is the most compelling unsolved crime Los Angeles has ever known. What Jack the Ripper is to London, the Torso Killer to Cleveland, the Black Dahlia is to L.A. And yet unlike those other cases, the name Black Dahlia refers not to the killer, but to the victim. What was it about Elizabeth Short that keeps her the object of obsessive fascination by writers, musicians, artists, filmmakers, cops and readers, more than sixty years after she was slain?
Esotouric’s The Real Black Dahlia Crime Bus Tour seeks to answer this question by intimately exploring the last weeks of Elizabeth Short’s life, asking not “who killed her?” but “who was she?”
The tour takes us from the human hustle of Main Street to the serene lobby of the Biltmore (the second-to-last place she was seen alive), to the newspaper offices and the Greyhound station where she checked her bags, and concludes at the site where her bisected body was found in Leimert Park and with a little known suspect who lived nearby.
From the few personal possessions she left behind to the friends who scarcely knew her, from the mass hysteria of the investigation with its fruitless leads, wacko suspects and false confessions, the tour reveals all that’s known about this enigmatic black-haired girl who reinvented herself at whim, and shows how she came to be the unfortunate symbol of her time and place.