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Sassony Arcade, 724 South Broadway, Los Angeles. Immortalized in a poem by Charles Bukowski. Closed, a victim of gentrification, December 2014.
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Gentle reader...

As we slam the door on 2014, it's time for that annual Esotouric tradition: our very opinionated list of the past year's Top Los Angeles Historic Preservation Stories. Because preservation is never as simple as buildings being lost forever or rescued from the brink, the list is split into three sections: the Gains, the Losses, and those Bittersweet moments that hover somewhere in the middle, and keep us up nights. We hope you find the list by turns thought-provoking, infuriating and inspiring, and that 2015 will see a much bigger Gains section than 2014's meager showing.

Los Angeles Historic Preservation Gains of 2014:

G1. Tower Records finds a Simpatico Tenant: When Sacramento-based independent retail chain Tower Records filed for bankruptcy in 2006, it spelled the end for the beloved Sunset Strip record store, a Mecca for several generations of L.A. music fiends. An attempt to landmark the otherwise nondescript structure failed, as did a campaign to turn it into a music history museum, and it seemed inevitable that the low-rise structure would be demolished for yet another WeHo hotel development. So what a cool surprise to hear that guitar company Gibson had signed on to lease the site, with plans to turn it into a musical showcase venue celebrating the history and culture of the Strip.

G2. Don't Dunk Our Donut: After international chain Dunkin Donuts announced its plans to compete in the Long Beach market with a takeover of the independent Daily Grind coffee shop on PCH, locals lamented the loss of the enormous pink glazed donut that had towered above the little stand since the 1950s. But thanks to vocal community activists from nearby Retro Row and a lively social media campaign, the big guy blinked, not just retaining the beloved giant donut, but giving it a chocolate and sprinkle-dipped makeover.

G3. Kenton Nelson's Lost Mural Found: We're big fans of Pasadena painter and muralist Kenton Nelson's WPA-noir work, and make a point of seeking out his public projects. But one especially interesting commission had long eluded us: the politically-charged "City Hell," in Roger "Waldo" Kislingbury's former Rite Spot restaurant on Colorado Boulevard. Kislingbury is a colorful Pasadena character (and author) whose precise recreations of vintage drinking and dining spaces are unforgettable to anyone lucky enough to experience them. "City Hell," with its pointed digs at local government, was too "hot" for new tenant Louise's Trattoria, and the barely-dry work was painted over in 1994. But time cools all tempers, and when the 800 Degree pizzeria moved in, they made the restoration of Nelson's mural part of the plan. Happily, the artist still lives in that dirty old town, and did the work himself

G4. Time Enough at Last: Kudos to Los Angeles city councilman Mitch O'Farrell, who introduced the newly-adopted (and, we think, long overdue) city ordinance 13-1104, requiring public notification whenever a demolition permit is pulled for a structure more than 45 years old. It's not an outright ban on the destruction of historic properties, but this advance notice will provide a little time for preservationists and neighbors to raise a ruckus the next time something wonderful is at risk.

Los Angeles Historic Preservation Losses of 2014:

L1. Lights Out in Pico Rivera: One usually doesn't worry that a thriving vintage steakhouse might be on the verge of a preservation loss, but that's exactly what happened when the second-generation owners of the Dal Rae in Pico Rivera unexpectedly ripped out their historic 1950s neon signage and replaced it with backlit plastic replicas. Contrary to what the LED lobby would have you believe, it's really not cheaper to ditch old neon, though it certainly is less charming.

L2. An Architectural Snuff Film:  When a structure is named an official Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, as Koreatown's San Marino Villa (Banfield & Welch, 1923) was in 2006 (PDF link), it's meant to be afforded some protection from insensitive renovations and, it's usually safe to presume, from demolition. But there's not a lot that can be done when some jerk shows up with a backhoe and goes Godzilla on the building, without any city permits and while the electricity is still flowing. The new owners of the property, which suffered a mysterious fire in 2013, will be disappointed to learn that the city takes a dim view of anyone who willfully destroys a declared landmark: nothing can be built on the site for five years. That probably was not part of their calculations when they bought the vacant building a month prior to their illegal demo for $2,400,0000, but their loss doesn't bring the San Marino Villa back. If you can stomach the sight, a neighbor filmed the whole ghastly incident. Next time, buddy, call the cops!

L3. Flipper Flattens Favorite: And speaking of illegal demolitions, developer Gil Charash wasn't dissuaded when architect Cliff May's Miller House was placed on the agenda (PDF link) of the Cultural Heritage Commission for consideration as a city landmark, nor when the Office of Building and Safety posted a stop work order outside the property. His workmen knocked the gorgeous gem down over a weekend, to the horror of the neighbors who had proposed the property be landmarked. The Miller House was doomed not just because Gil Charash has no respect for the law or beauty, but because it sat on a large, flat lot in a desirable neighborhood. With the insane profits to be made from teardowns, we can expect to lose more important mid-century houses, unless the penalties for illegal demolition become severe enough to make even a property flipper blink.

L4. No Way To Treat Your Mother: In spring 2014, the developer Forest City, at the direction of Councilman Gil Cedillo, arranged for a 40-foot section of the 19th Century Zanja Madre (Mother Ditch) aqueduct in Chinatown to be cut free from the whole and removed from the construction pit by a heavy equipment moving company without archeological supervision. The historic artifact was offered to Lauren Bon's private foundation Metabolic Studios for use in an art project, and Bon financed the rushed and secretive removal. During this process, construction workers were photographed walking on top of fragile historical material, including glass bottles removed from inside the Zanja. Much of the artifact-filled dirt was sucked into trucks and sent to the landfill. Then, as soon as the large section of the Zanja was lowered to the ground, the unsupported brick tube collapsed and broke into four large pieces. It was a heartbreaking sight to anyone who cares about Los Angeles history, yet somehow a fitting finale to such opaque and arrogant behavior by an elected official. 

L5. Nothing Gold Can Stay: When the construction tarps came down at the commercial structure at 735 Broadway in March, we couldn't wait to see the handsome Art Deco marble and gold leaf facade shining bright, after being cleaned for the first time in decades. But instead, we saw that the developer had chosen to smear the building's lovely face with ugly beige stucco. The Department of Building and Safety is now investigating the non-permitted alteration, but that's small comfort for such an aesthetic loss in the National Register Broadway Theater District.

L6. Pay Attention, People: When Mole-Richardson, a venerable Hollywood motion picture lighting manufacturer, shut down its shop on La Brea, nobody took much notice. Nor did the erection of construction fencing around the gorgeous Art Deco structure (Morgan, Walls and Clements, 1930) raise alarm bells within the preservation community, despite tens of thousands of people driving by every day of the week. Demolition permits were filed and granted, without comment. It was only when the bulldozers arrived and began ripping the building to bits that complaints were heard. But then, of course, it was too late. It will, naturally, become a mixed use development. 

L7. Diner No More: Did you ever belly up to the counter and enjoy a plate of eggs and stuff at that cute little '50s-style diner at the Police Academy in Elysian Park, surrounded by cops and law enforcement collectables? No? Well, it's too late now: someone in authority thought the charming spot was out of fashion, and it vanished with nary a whimper.

L8. Too Late for Tears: Confidential memo to modernist architect William Krisel: if it's important that your greatest residential project be preserved, you're supposed to landmark it while you still own it, and not take the word of a prospective buyer that they love it so much you should sell at a discount so they can restore. Yeah, you can imagine how that worked out.  

L9. El Dorado Gold is Mud: For years, there have been uncomfortable whispers in the preservation community that something had gone terribly wrong with the conversion of Downtown's grand old El Dorado residency hotel into high-end condos. The marketing language touted the lobby's priceless Ernest Batchelder tiles, but the whitewashed columns inside didn't look like any other Batchelders in town. Curbed National reporter Liz Arnold dug deep into the L.A. tile underground to reveal the true and terrible story of how Spectra, one of most active historic restoration firms in the Southland, destroyed the exquisite tiles, and what happened after. Distressing reading, but necessary.  

L10. Hydra-headed Development Monster: A.C. Martin is a storied Los Angeles architect, best known for his work on large scale civic and commercial projects, including City Hall. So when a charming arts and crafts cottage from early in his career popped up on the landmarking agenda of the Cultural Heritage Commission, it suggested a more whimsical, personal side to his work. Unaccountably, the CHC board voted the structure unworthy of preservation, amid troubling claims that politics were playing a role in the decision. A second round of voting meant to address claims of Brown Act violations also came up snake eyes, and a local news crew was on the scene to witness the inevitable demolition. Sadly, we can expect more such losses as developers snap up old houses on large lots. Nobody who wants to live in an old house can compete in the bidding process with a developer who stands to profit handsomely by knocking it down and erecting a half dozen little houses on the site, under L.A.'s Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance.

L11. Cathedral of Commerce RIP: 2014 was the year that the old Robinson's department store in Beverly Hills, a masterpiece of mid-century glamour designed by William Peirera and Charles Luckman, with interiors by streamline moderne mastermind Raymond Loewy, came unceremoniously down. It will be replaced, naturally, by a mixed-use development.

Los Angeles Bittersweet Historic Preservation Moments of 2014:

B1. Oddball Bow Redux: Southern California is the birthplace of the programmatic restaurant--those daffy structures shaped, often, like what they serve (among them our beloved, and endangered, East L.A. Tamale). But many of them, typically small and erected quickly from cheap materials, haven't survived into the 21st century. The Idle Hour, shaped like a beer barrel and formerly a flamenco joint and private residence, was in pretty poor condition when bar owners 1933 Group snatched the city landmark up at auction. Restoration is nearly complete, and when the Idle Hour re-opens, it will be with a companion structure: the small-scale replica of Downtown L.A.'s lost Bulldog Cafe, built as part of the Petersen Automotive Museum's incredibly cool, and recently destroyed, first floor exhibition celebrating Southern California automotive culture. It seems the Petersen has decided to reinvent itself, with Californiana no longer part of the program. We're disappointed, but plenty pleased that the little pup will live on. 

B2. Slipped Through The Cracks: The twin Rosslyn Hotels at 5th and Main Streets are distinguished by their heart-shaped neon roof signs, pointing east to the old train terminals, and symbolizing the original owners, the Hart Brothers. The Annex, the southernmost structure, has recently emerged from scaffolding showing off a handsome restoration, signaling the fresh start SRO Housing Corporation offers to their formerly-homeless tenants. While the building and repainted blade and roof signs look great, we're heartbroken to report that in the construction flurry a wee surviving gem of old Main Street appears to vanished. We sure do miss seeing the historic Sunlan menswear neon sign when cruising up Main Street on our bus tours.  

B3. Private Property, Keep Out: For nearly a century, the Ruskin Art Club provided a space for Angelenos—ladies at first, later a mixed crowd--to gather for the discussion of fine art, poetry, music and literature. But after decades of deferred maintenance on its Spanish Colonial Revival clubhouse, the club's officers found a way to ensure the landmark structure got the care it needed. Unfortunately, they did so by selling the property to someone who restored it, then put it back on the market as a $2.4 Million private residence. The privatization of any community space pains us, all the more so since no effort was made to fund the restoration of this unique gem before choosing to sell it off.

B4. The Charnock Block is Dead, Long Live The Charnock Block: A rare and delightful remnant of Victorian Los Angeles, Main Street's bay-windowed Charnock Block, home to the notorious 1920s freak show attraction The World Museum, is no more. The ancient interior, a warren of halls and stairways, has been gutted, the walls propped up with girders, and a new building erected inside the old one, to serve as low income housing and social services. And while the marvelous facade survives, the finished project has been painted a jarring brownish-purple, which is neither historically accurate, nor what was promised in the architectural renderings. It's a huge disappointment, but nothing a couple of coats of paint can't fix. Please!!

B5. Wings Still Folded: Although not threatened with demolition, the continued lack of an operating permit makes Angels Flight Railway, Downtown's beloved on-and-off-again funicular, little more than a nostalgic photo op. While the non-profit that runs Angels Flight has invested in a new electronic brake system and addressed the problems that resulted in a non-injury derailment, the California Public Utilities Commission and NTSB are demanding expensive and historically inaccurate changes to the tracks and cars before Angels Flight can roll again.  Here's hoping the new year, with a new commissioner heading the PUC, sees a break in the conflict that has stalled Olivet and Sinai since 2013.

B6. To Cool To Lose: Welton Becket's Parker Center (1955) is more than just a very jazzy modernist civic building. It's the rock-solid symbol of Chief William Parker's mid-century LAPD reforms, and a large piece of the puzzle when seeking to make sense of our city's history. Presently, it stands vacant, awaiting the verdict: adaptively reuse or demolish? Many folks, including us, would to see it saved. Chime in if you agree. 

B7. Preservationists Unite, You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Losses: West Hollywood, with its pro-development City Council and weak historic preservation policies, has seen more than its share of architectural loss. Now, a committed cadre of social media savvy preservationists have emerged, fighting to protect endangered landmarks like Plummer Park's WPA-era Long Hall and Wurdeman & Becket's 1938 streamline moderne pet hospital. The wrecking balls ain't swinging... yet. Get involved and let's keep it that way.  

B8. No Cocoa Today: Wither Ernest Batchelder's whimsical Dutch Chocolate Shop, a tiled and vaulted century-old fantasia that's been only infrequently accessible as lease-holder Charles Aslan struggled to find a way to make the wee landmark profitable as an old-timey hot cocoa emporium? With year's end comes the unexpected news that Charles is no longer involved with the space. We await news of future stewards, and their plans, with baited breath. (For our video tour of this astonishing landmark, click here.)

B9. Bringing Back Broadway?: Last year, we reported that we were thrilled to see signs of new life come to downtown's grand old boulevard, the re-lit (if crooked) Rialto marquee advertising Urban Outfitters, the high fashion and jewelry lines, the reactivated United Artists Theater, even Ross Dress for Less. But while additional investment has been slow to appear, mom and pop businesses are losing their leases as long-derelict buildings are flipped.  Meanwhile, a provisional Streetscape Master Plan sets the stage for a half-baked one-way streetcar loop that may never be built, but which could still result in permanent changes to our beautiful National Register Broadway Theater District. It all seems too fast and too speculative. Visit our free walking tour series page to learn more about what's there, and how to preserve it.

B10. Waiting for Clifton's Cafeteria: In February 2012, the 1960s-era metal grate covering Clifton's Cafeteria was removed (video), revealing the heavily damaged 1935 facade; it was promptly tagged by vandals. But 39 months after the beloved forest-themed cafeteria and community landmark closed, and 34 months after the grate came down, the historic restaurant remains shuttered, with no reopening date in sight. Clifton's, we love you. Please come back! 

And that's our report on the state of Los Angeles preservation for 2014. To see the 2013 list, click here. And to stay informed all year round, like our preservation page on Facebook, and visit the Los Angeles Historic Preservation Hotspots map, where you can find nearby trouble spots, and add your own.
If you enjoy all we do to celebrate and preserve Los Angeles history and would like to say thank you, please consider putting a little something into our digital tip jar. Your contributions are never obligatory, but always appreciated.
Kim and Richard
We get giddy each time we enter a special collections library, but it's hard to recall a more exciting research experience than our day at the Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills, reading the diaries of Charles Brackett, longtime writing partner of Billy Wilder and fearless chronicler of the real Hollywood. Insightful, shocking, sad, inspiring, hilarious, and now compiled in print, his daily musings are essential reading for anyone fascinated with the sausage factory of cinema. 
The Kept Girl by Kim Cooper is a fact-based mystery set in 1929 Los Angeles, and starring the young Raymond Chandler, his devoted secretary and the real-life Philip Marlowe in pursuit of a murderous cult of angel worshippers. Available on all Esotouric tours, autographed on request. You can order the paperback (with or without the deluxe foiled art deco wraps) direct from Esotouric Ink here. Also available from Amazon and for the Kindle--free with Kindle Unlimited!
The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles is a collaboration between illustrator Paul Rogers and our own Kim Cooper. Featuring 50 iconic noir locations, the map is packed with surprising lore and gorgeous artwork inspired by the vintage Dell Mapback mysteries of the 1940s. It is available online from Kim's website and Amazon, and on our tours. (Looking for Aaron Blake's out-of-print 1985 Raymond Chandler map? Click here.)
Four times a year, we gather in the teaching crime labs of Cal State Los Angeles under the direction of Professor Donald Johnson to explore the history and future of American forensic science. Your $36.50 ticket to the Where There's Smoke presentation from arson investigator Ed Nordskog benefits graduate level Criminalistics research. Join us on Sunday, January 18. For more info, or to reserve, click here.
Now on the Esotouric blog, a virtual visit to Clifton's Cafeteria, circa 2010. Click here to see.
In the latest edition of You Can't Eat the Sunshine, we shine a light on Long Beach's endangered mid-century architectural legacy, and tune in to the concept of Cosmic Los Angeles. Click here to listen.
Help bring an L.A. icon back from the dead. Join the campaign to restore John Parkinson's 1910 design for our greatest lost park.
The LAVA Sunday Salon is our monthly cultural clearing house of new ideas presented by LAVA Visionaries, the most fascinating folks in town. After a brief hiatus, the Sunday Salon resumes on February 22 with Dr. Paul Koudounaris speaking about Demonically-Possessed Cats. Free, reservations required.
We discovered Raymond Chandler's most delightful literary secret. Now we need your help to stage his comic operetta in Los Angeles!
Need an L.A.-centric gift in a hurry? If shopping on Amazon, visit The Esotouric Emporium of L.A. Lore, our curated guide to the best in regional books, films and artifacts. How about a gift certificate for a bus adventure into the secret heart of Los Angeles, a solo 6-Pack or shareable 12-Pack? We also carry vintage photos of lost Bunker Hill as well as earlier scenes, Charles Bukowski-inspired fine art prints, Raymond Chandler maps (vintage) or (contemporary) and 76 ball antenna toppers.
THE REAL BLACK DAHLIA - SAT. 1/10... Join us on this iconic, unsolved Los Angeles murder mystery tour, from the throbbing boulevards of a postwar Downtown to the quiet suburban avenue where horror came calling. After multiple revisions, this is less a true crime tour than a social history of 1940s Hollywood female culture, mass media and madness, and we welcome you to join us for the ride. (Sorry, sold out. Tour repeats in April.) 

CHARLES BUKOWSKI'S LOS ANGELES - SAT. 1/17... Come explore Charles Bukowski's lost Los Angeles and the fascinating contradictions that make this great local writer such a hoot to explore. Haunts of a Dirty Old Man is a raucous day out celebrating liquor, ladies, pimps and poets. The tour includes a visit to Buk's DeLongpre bungalow, where you'll see the Cultural-Historic Monument sign that we helped to get approved, and a mid-tour provisions stop at Pink Elephant Liquor. (Buy tickets here.)

LAVA'S FORENSIC SCIENCE SEMINAR: WHERE THERE'S SMOKE - SUN. 1/18... Gain insights into the real work of arson analysis as Ed Nordskog, top Los Angeles Sheriff Department investigator, walks us through two of his most fascinating recent and adjudicated cases, provides hands-on experience with incendiary devices and answers all your questions. It's sure to be a fascinating afternoon, and your attendance supports cutting edge graduate-level Criminalistics research. (More info here.)

PASADENA CENTRAL LIBRARY TALK: KIM COOPER AND RICHARD SCHAVE ON "THE KEPT GIRL" - THURS. 1/22... We're delighted to have been invited to speak at the DRW Auditorium of the Pasadena Central Library, a National Register building and a great place for literary conversations. At this evening presentation (7-9pm), Kim will discuss and read from her 1920s mystery, The Kept Girl. 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 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 an 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 book and the new Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles will be available for purchase and signing after the talk. The event is free, and we'd love to see you there! (More info here.)

RAYMOND CHANDLER'S LOS ANGELES - SAT. 1/24... Join us for a journey from the downtown of Chandler's pre-literary youth (but which always lingered at the fore of his imagination) to the Hollywood of his greatest success, with a stop along the way at Tai Kim's Scoops for unexpected gelato creations inspired by the author. We'll start the tour following in the young Chandler's footsteps, as he roamed the blocks near the downtown oil company office where he worked. See sites from The Lady in the Lake and The Little Sister, discover the real Philip Marlowe (the inspiration for Kim's novel The Kept Girl) and get the skinny on Chandler's secret comic operetta that we discovered in the Library of Congress nearly a century after it was written. (Buy tickets here.) 

THE BIRTH OF NOIR: JAMES M. CAIN'S SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NIGHTMARE - SAT. 1/31... Ride along on a very pulpy path on a wide-ranging tour that digs deep into the literature, film and real life vices that inform that most murderous genre, film noir -- from Double Indemnity (where Raymond Chandler's Hollywood career intersects with Cain's) to The Postman Always Rings Twice to Mildred Pierce and beyond. The tour rolls through Hollywood, Glendale and old Skid Row, lost lion farms, murderous sopranos, fascist film censors, offbeat cemeteries -- all in a quest to reveal the delicious, and deeply influential, nightmares that are Cain's gift to the world. (Buy tickets here.)

SOUTH LOS ANGELES ROAD TRIP: HOT RODS, ADOBES, GOOGIE & EARLY MODERNISM - SUN. 2/1... Due to the red-tagging of the storm-damaged Irving Gill Clarke Estate, we are unable to give this tour as planned. It will repeat in August, so stay tuned.

BOYLE HEIGHTS & THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY: THE HIDDEN HISTORIES OF L.A.'S MELTING POTS - SAT. 2/7... Come on a century's social history tour through the transformation of neighborhoods, punctuated with immersive stops to sample the varied cultures that make our changing city so beguiling. Voter registration, citizenship classes, Chicano Moratorium, 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 excursion. This whirlwind social history tour will include: The Vladeck Center, Hollenbeck Park, Evergreen Cemetery, The Venice Room, El Encanto & Cascades Park, Divine's Furniture and Wing Hop Fung. (Buy tickets here.)

ROUTE 66 ROAD TRIP: ROADSIDE ARCHITECTURE, CITRUS, DRIVE-INS & CEMETERIES - SAT. 2/14... A Valentine's Day treat for lovers, or those who are in love with urban exploration, and back by popular demand, it's our Route 66 bus adventure. Join us on a time travel trip due east along California's Mother Road to explore the building of its dream, from citrus ranches to oddball roadside attractions, sinister sisters, an ancient hidden graveyard (perhaps the most remote and haunted site we visit on any of our tours) and the many mysteries of the northern San Gabriel Valley. (Buy tickets here.)

THE LOWDOWN ON DOWNTOWN - SAT. 2/21... Come discover the secret history, and the fascinating future, of a most beguiling neighborhood. This is not a tour about beautiful buildings--although beautiful buildings will be all around you. This is not a tour about brilliant architects--although we will gaze upon their works and marvel. The Lowdown on Downtown is a tour about urban redevelopment, public policy, protest, power and the police. It is a revealing history of how the New Downtown became an "overnight sensation" after decades of quiet work behind the scenes by public agencies and private developers. This tour is about what really happened in the heart of Los Angeles, a complicated story that will fascinate and infuriate, break your heart and thrill your spirit. Come discover the real Los Angeles, the city even natives don't know. (Buy tickets here.)

WILD WILD WESTSIDE - SAT. 2/28... For the first time, we've set our true crime sights on points west of Robertson, and the results are truly mind-boggling. Originally offered in our 2008-2009 seasons, this 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 Kim's 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. (Buy tickets here.) 

WEIRD WEST ADAMS - SAT. 3/7... 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. (Buy tickets here.)

PASADENA CONFIDENTIAL WITH CRIMEBO THE CLOWN - SAT. 3/21... 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. (Buy tickets here.)

HOLLYWOOD! - SAT. 3/28... A brand new bus adventure! Climb aboard the Esotouric crime bus and discover the unwritten history of the sleepy suburb that birthed the American dream factory. From literary lions to criminal masterminds, terror plots to teenage thrill seekers, music mavens to abiding mysteries, the neighborhood is packed to the rim with with fascinating lore and architectural marvels. You won’t see the stars’ homes or hear about their latest real estate deals, but we’ll show you where some colorful characters breathed their last, got into trouble that defined the rest of their lives and came up with ideas that the world is still talking about. So for unforgettable stories you won’t hear on anyone else’s Hollywood tour, climb aboard and discover the secret heart of the city we love. Tour stops include Crossroads of the World (Robert V. Derrah, 1936), the Château Élysée (Arthur E. Harvey, 1927) and the sites of the legendary Garden of Allah hotel and Schwab’s Drugstore. (Buy tickets here.)

SPECIAL EVENT: CRAWLING DOWN CAHUENGA: TOM WAITS' L.A. - SAT., 5/16... In our very occasional guest tour series, a delightful excursion that only comes around once a year, the Tom Waits bus adventure hosted by acclaimed rock critic David Smay (Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, Swordfishtrombones). This voyage through the city that shaped one of our most eclectic musical visionaries starts in Skid Row and rolls through Hollywood and Echo Park, spotlighting the sites where Waits was transformed through the redemptive powers of love and other lures: the Tropicana Motel, Francis Coppola's Zoetrope Studios, the raunchy Ivar Theatre and so much more. Join us for a great day out in 1970s Los Angeles celebrating the music, the culture and the passions of Tom Waits. (Buy tickets here.)
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