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.
Wilshire Boulevard is an iconic Los Angeles thoroughfare—from its prehistoric origins as a path forged by extinct megafauna to the spectacular Art Deco monuments of the Miracle Mile. It’s also ground zero for some deeply strange, only-in-Los Angeles crimes and oddities that played out against the backdrop of the boulevard.
Esotouric is proud to present a brand new crime bus tour whose deceptively simple route contains a multitude of mysteries. For cruel plots, divine inspiration, historic preservation, love gone sour, lucky breaks and weird tales, join us on the Wilshire Boulevard Death Trip, a dark day’s out among the city’s most glittering architectural gems.
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.
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. This tour aims to revive the ghosts that cling to the bricks and alleyways.
The Hotel Horrors section 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 dumped his blood-soaked clothing and where Canadian tourist Elisa Lam fell off the map, see the hotel that saw a visit from the Skid Row Slasher and the one 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 one building. Included are some light hearted stories to help the blood and gore go down.
The Main Street Vice section celebrates the social history of 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. We’ll visit the scenes of some more unforgettable debaucheries and share stories of crime, smut, passion and commerce.
This “downtown double feature” tour is especially recommended for residents curious about their neighborhood’s neglected history, and anyone fascinated by grim crimes and gorgeous architecture.
“[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.
New from the deranged minds of Esotouric, an historical crime bus tour meant to honor the lost souls who wander the hills and byways of the “streetcar suburbs” (Echo Park, Silver Lake, Elysian Park, Angeleno Heights) that hug Sunset Boulevard. Climb aboard to see seemingly ordinary houses, streets and commercial buildings revealed as the scenes of chilling crimes and mysteries, populated by some of the most fascinating people you’d never want to meet. Featured cases include Edward Hickman’s kidnapping of little Marion Parker and the bizarre “Man in the Attic” love nest slaying, plus dozens of incredible, forgotten tales of Angelenoes in peril. Guests will also see some of the most beautiful historic architecture in Los Angeles, including a visit to Sister Aimee Semple McPherson’s exquisite Parsonage, her one-time home, now a museum.
“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.
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.
Come take a time travel trip through Elmore Leonard’s Hollywood, in a new bus adventure hosted by Gregg Sutter, the writer’s loyal assistant and researcher of 33 years. You’ll get the skinny on Elmore’s great Hollywood novel turned film Get Shorty, meet the real life inspiration for Chili Palmer, trace Elmore’s evolution as a commuting screenwriter and visit the locations that inspired some of his most memorable scenes.
Whether you’re an Elmore Leonard super-fan or just love Get Shorty and Jackie Brown, you’ll dig this affectionate tour celebrating a most unusual Hollywood career and some of the colorful characters who Elmore Leonard encountered while working on this coast. The cast includes: Randolph Scott, Felicia Farr, Glenn Ford, Van Heflin, Paul Newman, Martin Ritt, Ryan O’Neal, Burt Lancaster, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Menahem Golan, Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman, Bruce Willis, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, John Travolta, Danny Devito, George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Robert Deniro, James Woods, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton and Dennis Farina.
ABOUT ELMORE LEONARD IN HOLLYWOOD
Fans and critics know Elmore Leonard as a hard-working western and crime writer who, in 63 years, wrote 45 novels and 40 short stories. Lesser known is his career as a Hollywood screenwriter. Over two decades, beginning in 1969, Elmore wrote two dozen screenplays for producers and studios. He would adapt his own work and write original scripts for film and television. Often, the lines between novel and screenplay were blurred. But Elmore’s goal remained clear: get the Hollywood money to support his novel writing back home in Detroit.
Elmore had a legendary Hollywood agent–H.N. “Swanie” Swanson–who aggressively pitched his stories to big name actors and producers. But Elmore soon learned that once Hollywood bought his work, the stories often came out mangled beyond recognition, even when he was adapting them himself. There were too many people involved with the power to cross out his words for their own.
Elmore’s novels read like movies already; written in scenes, with vivid characters and shifting points of view. Producers loved this, and snapped up nearly everything he wrote. But their efforts to bring Elmore’s novels to the screen often lost the very elements that they’d found so appealing. As screenwriters adapting his work learned, you change Elmore Leonard at your peril. As for Elmore, he learned to settle for the big Hollywood “blood money” and be content that his books lived on the shelf, just as he’d written them.
As his book sales took off in the mid-1980s, Elmore no longer relied on Hollywood screenwriting work. He quit the screen trade for good in 1993. But as was often the case, Elmore relied on his own experiences for inspiration. So in 1988, when he began work on a new novel, he set it in Hollywood. The result was Get Shorty (1990), a novel told from the point of view of Chili Palmer, a Miami loan shark and gangster who becomes a Hollywood producer. It was a good natured jab at the industry that had fed Elmore for all those years. In 1995, the film version of Get Shorty starring John Travolta, Danny Devito and Gene Hackman was #1 at the box office.
With Get Shorty, Hollywood finally “got” Elmore Leonard’s tone and attitude on film, thanks to the combined efforts of director Barry Sonnenfeld and screenwriter Scott Frank. They ushered in a mini golden age, with Get Shorty (1995), Jackie Brown (1997) and Out of Sight (1998.). It’s through the lens of period that we’ll tell the fascinating story of Elmore Leonard in Hollywood, how twenty years of hard work in the screenwriting trenches contributed greatly to his ability to kick back and write his books, which is all Elmore Leonard ever wanted to do.
ABOUT TOUR HOST GREGG SUTTER
Gregg Sutter first met Elmore Leonard in the summer of 1979 in Birmingham, Michigan. Sutter and his friend Russell Rein shared an interest in hard-boiled American fiction and the film noir. They planned to publish a zine called Noir with an Elmore Leonard interview in the first issue. The zine never happened, but in January 1981 Leonard called Sutter and asked if he wanted to do research for him on a controversial program of the Detroit Police Department. Sutter said yes. Over the next 33 years, Sutter would visit many locations to do research for Leonard’s bestsellers: from Cape Girardeau, Missouri to Havana, Cuba and Rapallo, Italy. Sutter was profiled in The New Yorker in 1996 for his research work. In 2004, he was editor for The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard, wrote the introduction and found a long lost story. In 2007, Sutter produced the illustrated book of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing with illustrations by Joe Ciardiello. Most recently, Sutter was editor on The Classic Crime Novels of Elmore Leonard, a Library of America three-volume, twelve-novel set. Today, Sutter lives in Los Angeles and continues to research the life and career of Elmore Leonard.
Curse of the She-Devil: A True Story of Revenge, Betrayal, Bombs and Real Estate in 1919 Los Angeles – Saturday, September 22nd
In this special event bus adventure, a sequel to his popular tour about the 1910 Bombing of the Los Angeles Times (see the paper’s feature article about that tour), arson and bomb detective Mike Digby takes us on a scrupulously researched journey through early Los Angeles, exposing a brazen conspiracy to kill, maim or terrorize anyone who stood in the way of a beautiful young woman inheriting the fortune of her estranged husband. While following the forensic leads of the unfolding case on a route rich in time capsule crime scenes, Mike will compare and contrast the historical investigation to the modern crime analysis methods he has used in his law enforcement career.
ABOUT THE CRIME: Maud Myers was a beautiful young woman shopping for a house in turn-of-the-century Los Angeles. William Kafitz was an established real estate developer, reeling from the tragic recent deaths of his wife (natural causes) and two sons (murder-suicide).
Maud and William found love, and perhaps brief happiness, together. But the much younger bride had a wandering eye, which eventually pushed William to his breaking point. She shot him – he lived – filed for divorce – and changed his will. And that was just the beginning of the most outrageous revenge plot Los Angeles had ever seen.
With one devoted boyfriend, a dangerous little black book, a fascination with explosives and a long list of enemies, Maud set out to avenge the loss of the fortune she believed she’d earned the hard way. And as the detectives working the case would discover, catching the criminals might be more dangerous for the health of the city’s civic life than leaving them on the loose.
You won’t want to miss this time travel trip on the dark side of Los Angeles history, featuring the original She-Devil, the beguiling Miss Maud.
Included in your ticket purchase is a copy of Mike Digby’s new book about the case, A Bombing in the Wilshire-Pico District: The True Story of a 20th Century She-Devil and Her Plot to Murder, Terrorize and Steal a Real Estate Empire in 1919 Los Angeles.
Please note that this is a Special Event and no discounts apply on this tour.
ABOUT OUR GUEST HOST: After serving seven years in the United States Army, Mike Digby joined the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department where he served proudly for more than 34 years. For the last seventeen years, he was assigned as a Detective Bomb Technician in the Arson/Bomb Squad where his duties included rendering safe and disassembling improvised explosive devices, examining and disposing of military ordnance and conducting post-blast investigations. A self-proclaimed “bomb nerd” and decorated detective, Mike has spent years studying the motives of bombers, their methods of attack and the bombs that they built. He has served as technical advisor on BBC and Discovery Channel programs. In December 2016, Mike published The Bombs, Bombers and Bombings of Los Angeles, a book which documents several dozen bombing events that took place in the Los Angeles area over the past hundred years.