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The Palace Theatre ablaze, from @esotouric on Instagram
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Gentle reader... 

Last Saturday, we stowed our tour guide gear away after a delightful day spent exploring Film Noir in the footsteps of James M. Cain and hightailed it for Broadway. 

As part of the public relations juggernaut surrounding the CD14 City Council campaign, CM Jose Huizar had called in favors from several property owners, and arranged for seven of the historic theaters along the boulevard to be open, with their neon signs aglow and stages activated with musicians, dancers, acrobats and films. 

For a few precious hours, Broadway thrummed almost as it did in our grandparents' time. There were vintage cars, live painting exhibitions, street vendors, choreographed dancing in the street and non-stop stage shows. There was even a brand new neon sign on the still-shuttered Clifton's Cafeteria.

The sidewalks teemed with excited Angelenos, their faces hidden behind mobile phone screens as they sought to capture the flickering gaseous light, then dashed off hoping to see inside all the theaters before closing time.

We dashed, too. We were eager to check in on these rarely opened landmarks, to see what, if anything, had been done to them since the last time we'd crossed each threshold. Some were clearly cared for, with historically sensitive updates. Others smelled musty, and sought to hide decades of neglect and decay behind frenetic light effects. But each one was an old friend we were happy to be reacquainted with. 

It was a strange and bittersweet evening, like a soap bubble that wobbles just before it bursts. For we knew that if any one of the performers who had trod a theater stage during this manufactured moment were to call the theater's owner on Monday morning and ask to book the venue for a short run, the answer would be no. 

For decades, the owners of these theaters have made most of their revenue from filming, and have no interest in clogging up the calendar with small fry events that might conflict with a commercial shoot. Oh, maybe a nightclub could obtain a multi-year lease, but for the vast majority of creative players in this most creative of burgs, there is simply no chance to "play the Palace" unless an election is on the horizon. 

And this is a pity, because while the Broadway theaters are real estate holdings, they are more than that, as well. We sincerely believe that any performance space that is kept dark and mothballed is like a corpse, propped up and rotting in the heart of the city. Theaters are meant to be activated with laughter, tears and melody. They're supposed to be a place of inspiration and transformation, to feed the souls of the people and send them home with new ideas that spread and mutate. A closed theater is an abomination, and our National Register Broadway Theater District is lousy with them. 

Even before midnight last Saturday night, beautiful Broadway turned back into a pumpkin. We hope we don't have to wait until the next election cycle to see it come alive again.

We're back on the bus this Saturday with a tour that reveals the parallel paths of culture and development of the Eastside neighborhoods of Boyle Heights and Monterey Park. From 1920s real estate fantasias to multi-generational civic activism, magnificent parks bisected by highways to the best tea in town, you'll find all that and more. Join us, do!   
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. Featured on this edition: Dutch Chocolate Shop historic tile tour with Brian Kaiser, sculptor Health Satow studio visit, Gelateria Uli gelato tasting, Bunker Hill native son Gordon Pattison, old school Arts District lore from Carlton Davis and the real Pershing Square experience from Amos of Streetwise LA. (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.)

HOTEL HORRORS & MAIN STREET VICE - SAT. 4/11... 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 REAL BLACK DAHLIA - SAT. 4/18... 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. This tour always sells out, so do not delay. (Buy tickets here.) 

ECHO PARK BOOK OF THE DEAD - SAT. 4/25... 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. (Buy tickets here.)

CHARLES BUKOWSKI'S LOS ANGELES - SAT. 5/2... 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.)

RAYMOND CHANDLER'S LOS ANGELES - SAT. 5/9... 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.)

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.)
Kim and Richard
All through February, the marriage memoir Kim wrote with her grandmother Barbara "Cutie" Cooper is on sale in ebook form. If you'd like to Fall in Love For Life yourself, or vicariously, we recommend it! 
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 Hot Lead and Hot Leads presentation benefits graduate level Criminalistics research. Join us on Sunday, March 15. 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 celebrate the fantastical architecture of old Los Angeles, from the fragile coral reef of Hollywood's legendary Villa Carlotta apartments, to the retro/Victorian gems found in City Terrace Park. 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? 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.
What's happening in the Villa Carlotta is a crime. A developer bought it, but this landmark belongs to Sam Fuller. (For more images, click here.)

As rediscovered time capsules go, this one's a pip!

A relic of the cold war reveals the venality of the American funeral industry.

And still we ask: "Where's Rufus?" 

The house on the hill has many masters.

Ambitious redevelopment plans for Hamburger's Department Store announced. (The rooftop views are worth waiting for.)
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.
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