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.
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.
Bus Tour Description
Get on the bus as Esotouric heads to the Palos Verdes Peninsula for an all-new one-time-only bus adventure, one of our 10th Anniversary special events.
On this excursion, we’ll delve into prehistory with recently-uncovered evidence of ancient cultivated plantations, explore the area’s Mid-Century Modern architectural legacy with a guided tour through influential subdivisions, get a tour of the Palos Verdes Art Center’s exhibition Aaron G. Green and California Organic Architecture from curator Alan Hess, explore the 1920s shopping center Malaga Cove Plaza with redoubtable architectural historian Ann Hugh, and wrap up the day with a tour of the local history research center of the Palos Verdes Library District Central Library with archivist Monique Sugimoto, who will also walk us through an exhibition on early 20th Century Palos Verdes architecture.
If you’re fascinated by the built environment and curious to discover secrets of the most beautiful corner of Southern California, you won’t want to miss this very special Esotouric bus adventure.
ABOUT THE ANCIENT AGRICULTURE PRESENTATION:
A special surprise guest researcher will join us at Friendship Park, San Pedro to share his findings. He says: “Before the Spanish claimed this land and named it Palos Verdes, it was sacred to the Gabrielino/Tongva people who according to archeological evidence, lived in the area for at least 15,000 years. Legend says they blessed the land and made it the most beautiful place on earth. I have found evidence of a plantation more than 9000 years old that once covered the length of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Join me for a guided tour of a small portion of this ancient man-made landscape.”
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION “AARON G. GREEN AND CALIFORNIA ORGANIC ARCHITECTURE” :
Aaron Green (1917–2001) was an internationally recognized architect and associate of Frank Lloyd Wright. Adopting Wright’s philosophy of organic architecture, Green had a thriving practice distinguished by his commitment to a harmonious relationship between site and structure, and a respect for the properties of the natural materials he utilized. This exhibition examines Aaron Green’s application of organic architecture to a wide range of projects, both public and private, throughout California.
Please note that this is a Special Event, and vouchers and discounts good on our regularly scheduled bus adventures are not accepted for this tour.
Check in for this tour is 9:30 am for a 10:00 am sharp departure. We will return around 5:00 pm. There are no paper tickets: your name will be on a list at the bus door. We will stop mid-day for a self-hosted picnic lunch, so bring something good to eat, and anything (non-alcoholic) you’d like to drink during the day. We will supply coffee and water. Please dress appropriately for our on and off bus adventures along the shoreline. This tour occurs rain or shine.
Please see below for parking information. We are recommending that all attendees park in the parking lot listed below because we are returning after dark. No other nearby pay lots will be open when the tour begins.
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.
Press clips: Los Angeles Times feature article on this tour.
On the east side the Los Angeles River, some of the most fascinating Southern California stories are waiting to be told. Join Esotouric, L.A.’s most eclectic bus adventure company, on a century’s social history tour through the transformation of neighborhoods, punctuated with immersive stops to sample the sites, smells and cultures that make our changing city so beguiling.
Voter registration, citizenship classes, walkouts, blow-outs, anti-Semitism, adult education, racial covenants, boycotts, The City Beautiful, Exclusion Acts and Immigration Acts, property values, xenophobia, and delicious dumplings—all are themes which will be addressed on this lively bus and walking tour.
THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY:
In the mid-1920s, Monterey Park was poised on the brink of becoming the Beverly Hills of the east. The Wall Street crash put an end to opulent residential development, but left some beautiful remnants of what might have been. In the 1950s, a thriving Italian-American community settled in the hills, and established some of the area’s most beloved landmark businesses. Since the 1980s, the communities of Alhambra, San Gabriel and Monterey Park have transformed themselves from sleepy suburban bedroom communities (bursting at the seams from a 1950s housing explosion) to the nexus of a pan-Asian megalopolis. Fueled by immigration and investment from Taiwan, Hong Kong and South-East Asia, these communities have found their 21st Century identity, and their economic base—but at the expense of aging long-time residents, who have seen familiar neighborhoods and retail zones become unrecognizable.
In the 1890s, Rev. Dana Bartlett ministered to and taught the Russian Molokons in the cramped riverside neighborhood known then and now as “The Flats.” Today, the area contains public housing projects–a belated mid-century solution to the social problems that worried Bartlett, and an ongoing challenge for residents and city planners. In the 1960s, the Chicano Moratorium emerged from the same streets where in the 1920s and 1930s Jewish activists helped change the face of labor in California and the nation. Using the organizing tools first honed by their Jewish neighbors, young Chicanos stood up and rejected the military machine that sent so many of their peers to die in Vietnam, and developed an empowered social identity that lead all the way to the Mayor’s office.
SO GET ON THE BUS:
This whirlwind social history tour of some of the most interesting and dynamic neighborhoods on the east side of Los Angeles will include stops at:
- The Vladeck Center
- Hollenbeck Park
- Wyvernwood Garden Apartments
- Evergreen Cemetery
- The Venice Room
- El Encanto & Cascades Park
- Divine’s Furniture
- Wing Hop Fung for a complementary tea tasting
This tour is part of Esotouric’s California Culture tour series (formerly known as the Reyner Banham Loves L.A. series).
This provocative Esotouric bus adventure begins downtown and works its way south through Vernon, Maywood, Bell Gardens, Santa Fe Springs and Downey, and through the past two centuries, exploring off-the-beaten path Los Angeles landmarks that have had enormous influence on the cultural life of the city and the world beyond.
Turning the West Side-centric notion of an L.A. architecture tour on its head, the bus goes into areas not traditionally associated with the important, beautiful or significant, raising issues of preservation, adaptive reuse and the evolution of the city. The locations all speak to the power, mutability and reach of Southern California as a creative engine. Some of the tour stops are:
Rancho San Antonio (1840). One of the oldest adobe structure in Los Angeles County, it was built by the Lugo family, whose rancho spread all the way to South Gate–the south gate of the property. This fascinating home sits smack dab in the middle of a 65-year-old trailer park on the banks of the Rio Hondo River in Bell Gardens. Between the layers of context at this site is the history of migration and growth in the Southland, from Spanish land grants to the dust bowl to the vast waves of stucco suburbs. Tour host Richard Schave will share his years-long efforts to reopen the California landmark property to the public
Canning Hardware and the Ed “Big Daddy” Roth studio (1950s). This modest stretch of Slauson Avenue was ground zero for Southern California high performance and hot rod culture. Come discover how aerospace, social mobility and teenage ingenuity transformed the automotive industry and created new modes of self-expression that spread worldwide.
The Clarke Estate (1920). A lost masterpiece by tilt-slab concrete architect Irving Gill, this Mission Revival (with a smattering of Mayan)-inspired dwelling feels like a time capsule from a simpler era, and offers insights into how the California style of architecture was born and popularized through Gill’s modernist fans Schindler and Neutra.
Harvey’s Broiler (1958/2008). One of the most prominent stops on the South Los Angeles cruising circuit, the teen culture promenade of the 1950s and ’60s that had enormous influence on fashion, automotive design, popular music and leisure, Harvey’s is also a cautionary tale about historic preservation. The beloved Downey diner with its landmark neon sign was illegally partially demolished by a renter who wanted more space to park used cars. The site was saved due to public outcry, and has been restored as a Bob’s Big Boy built to the original specifications.
Casa de Parley Johnson (1926). The Downey Assistance League is inviting us into the courtyard and grounds of this residence designed by noted architect Roland Coate. This two-story Monterey-style house is a classic design which exemplifies the Southern California lifestyle of the 1920s and 1930s.
This tour is just one of Esotouric’s California Culture tour series (formerly known as the Reyner Banham Loves L.A. series).
The Symbionese Liberation Army, an alleged left wing radical group, kidnapped newspaper heiress Patty Hearst in Berkeley in February 1974. Three months later in South Los Angeles, the kidnappers engaged almost 500 law officers in a standoff that was broadcast on national TV, culminating in a shootout and fire in which six members of the group were killed.
In this special bus adventure, part of Esotouric’s tenth anniversary celebrations, author Brad Schreiber (Revolution’s End) takes us to four significant SLA locations, revealing the incredible, true story of prison drug experiments, gun-running, undercover agents and the suppressed lover’s quarrel that resulted in the most famous kidnapping in US history. It’s a story that has waited forty years to be fully told, and which will unfold on and off the bus as we explore the radical culture of 1960s and 1970s South Los Angeles and beyond.
Please note that this is a Special Event, and vouchers and discounts good on our regularly scheduled bus adventures are not accepted for this tour.
ABOUT GUEST HOST BRAD SCHREIBER
BRAD SCHREIBER has written for all media. He has been a producer, executive, director, consultant and actor. His early-years biography Becoming Jimi Hendrix was called “fascinating” by the New York Times and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library. He was Vice President of Storytech Literary Consulting, founded by story structure expert Christopher Vogler, for 11 years. In television, he created the series North Mission Road, which ran for six seasons on tru-TV, based on his book Death in Paradise: An Illustrated History of the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner. He was a writer, producer and development executive for L.A. PBS affiliate KCET-TV, and director of development for TV/film director Jonathan Kaplan. Schreiber’s writing has been honored by the Edward Albee Foundation, the National Press Foundation, the International Book Awards and others. Schreiber has taught at the American Film Institute, the Directors Guild of America, writers conferences and universities in the US, Canada and Mexico and he is currently a visiting professor of Creative Writing at University of Wisconsin, Madison. His latest book, Revolution’s End, an exposé of the Patricia Hearst kidnapping, has been praised by three-time Edgar Award-winning crime novelist T. Jefferson Parker.
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).
Southern California 1931: Amongst the burgeoning urban sprawl built atop bulldozed orange groves and the bitter realization that you can’t eat the sunshine, recent emigré James M. Cain found a kernel of truth and his voice, which would eventually distill through his novels, ”The Postman Always Rings Twice,” “Mildred Pierce” and “Double Indemnity” and subsequent film adaptations into the unique American genre: Film Noir.
How did this East Coat sophisticate go from managing editor of “The New Yorker” to populist novelist accused of writing dirty books? The tour explores Cain’s L.A. from Hollywood to Glendale and along old Route 66, and includes illuminating visits to Forest Lawn Memorial Park (a Glendale institution and site of the funeral of Mildred Pierce’s “other” daughter, Ray), the Glendale Train Station where the “Double Indemnity” murder plot played out, and the punch line to a Billy Wilder joke so subtle, it’s taken 63 years for anyone to get. The tour will also cover the artisans who transformed Cain’s tales into film, including Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler, Joan Crawford and Lana Turner, each an important contributor to the Film Noir canon.