1922 Los Angeles–the biggest boomtown in the history of the United States, a city growing so quickly that residents can't even agree on how to pronounce its name. (To the old guard, it is "Loce Ahng-hail-ais," to others "Loss An-jy-lese," "Lows An-y-klyese," or "Loss An-jy-lus.) Fifteen-story skyscrapers line Spring Street, the so-called "Wall Street of the West." Dazzling electric signs proclaim L.A.'s next goal–"2,000,000 Population by 1930!" On a typical workday, some 260,000 cars jam the intersection of Adams and Figueroa, making it the busiest in the world. Every day the intraurban Yellow and inter-urban Red lines move another half a million people through downtown. "All of the talk was `boom,' `dollars,' `greatest in the world,' `sure to double in price,"' marveled the author Hamlin Garland, who visited L.A. in 1923. "I have never seen so many buildings going up all at one time. . . There are thousands in process in every direction I looked." And no wonder. The city (to say nothing of its underworld) was a carnival. In downtown Los Angeles, the theaters and movie palaces that lined Broadway attracted thronging crowds to motley performances that mixed vaudeville performers, singers, dancers, chorus girls, acrobats, even elephants, with silent films by stars like Buster Keaton, Fatty Arbuckle, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford. Then as now, starstruck tourists could sign up for "star tours" that took them past the homes of their favorite celebrities. Streetcars packed with bands and draped with advertisements crisscrossed the city, announcing new towns every month. "If every conceivable trick in advertising was not resorted to, it was probably due to an oversight," wrote one early philanthropist. In 1922, two extraordinary figures arrived in downtown Los Angeles. The first was a 17-year-old from Deadwood, South Dakota, named Bill Parker. The second was young hoodlum named Mickey Cohen. Parker was working as a movie usher; just around the corner, Cohen was commencing on a career of violent crime. Five years later, Parker would join the LAPD while Mickey moved into the world of professional boxing and the rackets. In the 1930s, the two men would serve as top lieutenants to the Chief James "Two Gun" Davis and mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel. Siegel and Cohen were determined to organize Los Angeles "on Eastern lines." Parker was determined to break the hold of corrupt politicians and the underworld on the LAPD. In the 1950s, Parker and Cohen clashed directly, in a struggle for control of the city. Now Esotouric and John Buntin, the author of L.A. Noir: The Struggle for Control of America's Most Seductive City, have teamed up to explore the haunts, hits and harems of the L.A. underworld where Parker, Davis, Cohen and Siegel waged their deadly struggle. Fasten your seatbelts and prepare to duck-and-cover. It's an explosive ride.
John Buntin's L.A. Noir tour debuts on Saturday, September 19. Seats are going quick, so reserve your spot today. Or meet John for a cocktail party and celebration of Jack Webb, Dragnet lore and historic L.A. crime at Morton's the Steakhouse in Downtown L.A. (Friday September 18, 6-8pm, free admission/happy hour pricing). Click for more info.