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SEEN ON OUR TRAVELS
A dream come true for your intrepid explorers as we ascended to the very heights of the Bradbury Building.
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Gentle reader... 

Last week, the community of Angelenos who dig cool, old things was all aflutter over an unexpected preservation crisis. 

The Formosa Café, the iconic West Hollywood cocktail lounge known for its deep red booths and ebony walls dotted with vintage celebrity photos, had been ruined, its jewel-box interior replaced by a generic beige motif with a side of tacky Hollywood mural art.

How had this happened? Wasn't the Formosa on the short list of official landmarks of West Hollywood, and thus protected from insensitive alteration? Shouldn't there have been some warning if it was at risk of such an extreme remodel?  

These questions nagged at our friends Kate Eggert and Krisy K. Gosney, the dedicated preservationists behind West Hollywood Heritage Project. So they started digging into the Mystery of the Mucked Up Formosa, and what they found was truly shocking. 

Because it turns out the Formosa wasn't quite the landmark that local preservationists--or even the city of West Hollywood--said it was. The previously-endangered building had been "saved" from redevelopment decades earlier, but apparently everyone involved in the preservation campaign was so busy celebrating their victory that they failed to actually file the paperwork required to codify the matter in law. 

Despite this lack of any official status, the city proudly claimed the Formosa as a treasured landmark. And so, it wasn't on anyone's radar as a place that needed to be watched carefully, lest foolish owners destroy the treasure in their care.

But still, how had none of the regular patrons, or any of the tens of thousands who drive by the building daily, noticed the destructive changes being wrought? Saws and drills must have buzzed loudly. Dumpsters must have been filled with familiar elements, and modern replacements carted inside.  

It shouldn't have been such a big shock when the Formosa reopened with its ugly new look. But because absolutely nobody was watching the store, it was.

Let's let the tragedy of this ruined gem serve as a reminder to never take a beloved place for granted, not to count your landmarks before they're formally protected (as we learned with the ruined Felix the Cat neon sign), and to always watch carefully for signs of unwelcome change. For even without official status, we're certain the Formosa could have been saved if the alarm had been sounded earlier. Next time, it could be your favorite watering hole--or ours. We'll keep our eyes open. You do, too.

Saturday's tour of Boyle Heights & the San Gabriel Valley has been postponed, and will return to the schedule in early 2016. November tours just posted: Raymond Chandler, Blood & Dumplings and Echo Park Book of the Dead. Also posted: our next historic forensic science seminar.  
We're back on the bus on August 15 with The Lowdown on Downtown, featuring a rare visit to the tiled Dutch Chocolate Shop and many other delights. Join us, do! 
COMING SOON
 
THE LOWDOWN ON DOWNTOWN - SAT. 8/15... 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, as guest hosts provide personal insight into life on old Bunker Hill, on the streets and in the lofts of the Arts District. A special treat will be a stop at the famous tile-drenched Dutch Chocolate Shop for the scoop on new plans to bring this stunning space back into public use. (Buy tickets here.)

RAYMOND CHANDLER'S LOS ANGELES - SAT. 8/22... 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.)

HOTEL HORRORS & MAIN STREET VICE - SAT. 8/29... 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 downtown double feature tour is meant to bring alive the old ghosts and memories that cling to the streets and structures of the historic core, and is especially recommended for downtown residents curious about their neighborhood's neglected history. (Buy tickets here.) 

THE BIRTH OF NOIR: JAMES M. CAIN'S SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NIGHTMARE - SAT. 9/12... 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.)

WEIRD WEST ADAMS - SAT. 9/19... 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.)
AND FINALLY, LINKS
 

Wrap that Tamale up--we'll take it!

File under: Loss Angeles.

Questionable judgement from the Los Angeles Times, or: this is why local media ownership matters.

Developers running amok on Hermitage Avenue.

Coming soon: a museum of L.A. crime history, curated by frequent LAVA forensic science seminar speaker Mike Fratantoni.

Saving the bad kids' home, by any means necessary.

The old Charnock Block has been reborn as the New Pershing Hotel. See video celebrating the opening of this low-income project here. Hear a You Can't Eat The Sunshine podcast about the architectural challenges of rebuilding a Victorian SRO from the inside out here.

If only more Broadway theaters had owners so susceptible to goosebumps.

And we think LA has historic preservation problems. Delhi candy shop closes after 225 years.

Pick an ecology, any ecology…

Some literary estates are so darn agreeable. 

Layers of Hollywood: behold, the Cloister Press.

As work begins at the Villa Carlotta, historic features are wiped away.

SUPPORT OUR WORK
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.
 
yrs,
Kim and Richard
Esotouric
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RECOMMENDED READING
Hot off the presses from our Joan Renner is The First with the Latest!: Aggie Underwood, the Los Angeles Herald, and the Sordid Crimes of a City. This is the companion book to the L.A. Public Library newspaper photo exhibition curated by Joan, revealing weird crime lore through select cases torn from one legendary reporter's casebook. Get your copy autographed at the opening reception, August 13.
A novel set in 1929 Los Angeles, 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, or direct from Esotouric Ink, from Amazon and for the Kindle.
A collaboration between illustrator Paul Rogers and our own Kim Cooper, featuring 50 iconic noir locations and packed with surprising lore and gorgeous artwork inspired by the vintage Dell Mapback mysteries of the 1940s. Available from Kim or Amazon, and on our tours. (Looking for Aaron Blake's out-of-print 1985 map? Click here.)
FROM THE VIDEO VAULT
Now on our YouTube channel, a virtual trip in one of the Bradbury Building's historic open cage elevators, once operated by that great heroine of historic Los Angeles, Miss Minnie Epp. Click here to ride, and here for Minnie's story.
FORENSIC SCIENCE SEMINARS
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 V is for Vice: Eight Decades of Sin & Scandal, from the Sunset Strip to Beverly Hills benefits graduate level Criminalistics research. Join us on Sunday, October 18. For more info, click here. To get on the waiting list for the sold out Serial Killer Summer Session (August 16), click here.
In the latest edition of You Can't Eat the Sunshine, we peel back the curtains to reveal a day in the life of Union Station, and learn how fast-acting Downey folk managed to save their beloved Googie diner from an illegal demolition. Click here to tune in.
PRESERVATION CAMPAIGNS
Help bring two L.A. icons back from the dead, when you join the campaign to restore John Parkinson's 1910 design for our greatest lost park, and sign the petition to return Angels Flight Railway to regular service.  
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? 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.
TOUR CALENDAR
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