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Billiken sighting! Lucky weird creature, from the crime bus window.
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Gentle reader...

We're thankful for the many kind responses to our first newsletter of the year, the historic preservation survey for 2014. It means a lot to us that so many people read, shared and care about these issues.

Compiling the yearly list is something of an emotional thrill ride, as we revisit and contextualize the grim demolitions and last-minute reprieves, the dastardly developers and clueless corporations, with the stakes nothing less than our civic identity.  

But preservation never sleeps, and just two weeks into a new year, we've already seen the surprise teardown of Ray Bradbury's home of fifty years, the original Taco Bell #1 in Downey surrounded by chain link, and an application pulled to demolish the flagship Googie-style Norms restaurant on La Cienega.

And while it's always upsetting to hear of things of cultural and architectural merit destroyed or in danger, we're encouraged by the passionate support that quickly gathered around the grassroots "Save Norms" campaign.

The Los Angeles Conservancy, which had just prepared a landmarking nomination, announced the demolition threat on its website and asked the community for support.  

Once upon a time, it would take months of dedicated effort to raise awareness about a preservation crisis. But through the power of social media, the threat to Norms spread like a case of cooties in kindergarten, with thousands of likes, shares and tweets. Wall-to-wall local news coverage followed. 

And this morning, as the Cultural Heritage Commission voted unanimously to consider Norms La Cienega for landmarking, the property owners' attorney told the Commission that it had all been a misunderstanding, and that redevelopment was just an option they were considering, somewhere down the road. (Suuuure it was.) 

And for the next couple of months, at least, Norms is safe. Stay tuned, for this and other preservation crises, in a year that's come in like a lion, and promises to keep us hopping. 

Slip your eyes south to the upcoming tour calendar, and you'll see that we're booked through May, including our brand new Hollywood! tour and the once-a-year guest-hosted Tom Waits bus adventure. We hope you'll save the date(s) for one or more trips through the city in our tender care. 

We're back on the bus this Saturday, with a bookish Charles Bukowski tour through the writer's Downtown and East Hollywood haunts. On Sunday, we'll be in the teaching crime labs at Cal State Los Angeles for a forensic science seminar hosted by L.A.'s top arson investigator, Ed Nordskog. Then on Thursday, a free '20s noir and Raymond Chandler talk at Pasadena Central Library. Join us, do!
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.)
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.
Joan Jobe Smith has lived the life, and now at last she's ready to reveal her astonishing adventures in the 1960s Los Angeles skin trade. These are the stories that her friend and mentor Charles Bukowski urged her to write, and you, too, will be beguiled by these dark, elegant, strange and powerful tales of sex, power, love and loss in the city of Angels. 
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 visit a pair of endangered modernist gems in Long Beach, and play a tile lovers interlude. Click here to tune in.
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.
This week, in cranky literary estate news, Paul Rogers' wild On The Road gets the boot. 

The way some people died: sleuthing the homicides of old Los Angeles. 

In historic preservation, one size does not fit all.

In dreams begin responsibilities.

This used to be a neighborhood. Redevelopment kills.

In the clay, boys, in the clay.

Let's make Mildred--production code be, uhm, darned!

Miss Mitford KOs Bennett Cerf, and it's wonderful to watch.

Paul Rogers' stunning design for Kim's The Kept Girl comes in 2nd in the Rap Sheet's poll of best crime fiction cover art.

On our Raymond Chandler bus, Tyler Dilts is "struck by how thoroughly and effectively the tour has deconstructed Chandler the writer and replaced him with Chandler the man."

A powerful plea to save a Hollywood bungalow court.

Of literary shrines, and what happens when a book-loving Danish journalist puts herself in our hands.
Kim and Richard
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