Last Call edition





August 21st, 2014

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Milla Motel just south of Garvey, off Atlantic in Monterey Park. #signgeeks #signporn #signage #neon by @esotouric

Gentle Reader. . .

When Barbet Schroeder was hustling for funding to make Barfly, his delightful film of Charles Bukowski's tales of alcoholic love and fisticuffs in the low rent districts of East Hollywood and Crown Hill, he filmed a number of short interviews with the writer, collectively known as The Charles Bukowski Tapes.

We are particularly enamored of Number 5 in this series, in which Buk laments the civic destruction of the sleazy, but powerfully alive, culture at Hollywood and Western (vintage 1970s video link), with its evening parade of sex workers, rummies, pimps and oddballs.

The coming of the '84 Olympic Games spurred the city to "clean up" these marginal spaces and their politically powerless denizens. Bukowski had already decamped for a quiet retirement in San Pedro, but he mourned them nonetheless. The neighborhood was never the same. Yet even without the colorful characters with mustard dripping down their chins, the modest corner of Hollywood and Western retained a sense of history and scale, and provided sustenance to half a dozen small business owners. Until lately, anyway.

While development-happy CIM Group pursued plans to demolish these shops and replace them with a Marshall's and Petco, just a few blocks south Target erected a massive commercial complex soaring twice as high as local zoning restrictions allow for non mixed-use developments. Nobody stopped them; instead, City Council rubber stamped the project. It seemed as if they were saying that the rules don't apply when corporations want to build tall in Hollywood.

But not so fast, Target and City Council! Responding to a suit by land use attorney Robert Silverstein, a Superior Court judge just put the brakes on these plans, calling for an immediate halt to construction. Demolition of the unfinished project might be next.

It won't bring back the lost Hollywood culture lamented by Charles Bukowski, but maybe this ruling will slow the breakneck push to knock cool old things down and replace them with the same colorless corporate shopping centers that can be found in every American town. Because so long as zoning restrictions like the 35-foot height limit are observed, there's little incentive to erect these massive corporate projects, and more chance that we'll be able to keep the little things that distinguish Los Angeles–like Thai joints with giant hot dog sculptures on their roofs, and storefronts that figure in great Los Angeles literature, and the funky little bits of local color that for each of us define the city. We think that's all worth saving, worth talking about and yes, sometimes worth suing over.

We send this one out to the memory of the Big 20 bar, closed up in the 1980s like it was some malaria joint, and demolished without notice on our watch. Long may its spirit of open-minded good fellowship survive.

We're back on the bus this Saturday with a tour (quickly filling up) of The Lowdown on Downtown, featuring a rare visit to the Dutch Chocolate Shop, with its stunning Ernest Batchelder tiles. Join us, do!

Upcoming Tours and Happenings

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.

You are invited to be part of a transformative downtown experience. The Sunday Salon is the free monthly gathering of our creative consortium LAVA – The Los Angeles Visionaries Association. From noon to 2pm, at Les Noces du Figaro on Broadway, we hope you'll join L.A.'s most innovative artists, writers and performers to enjoy good company, hearty comfort food, and presentations from fascinating LAVA Visionaries. This month, Sean J. O'Connell, author of Los Angeles's Central Avenue Jazz, talks about Charlie Parker's descent into L.A.'s 1940s jazz world, and Soror Lilya of the Ordo Templi Orientis shares insights into how to live a Magickal life. After the Salon, Richard Schave leads one of his free Broadway on My Mind walking tours (free, reservations required).

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.

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.

Go East, young ghoul, and visit Boyle Heights, where the Night Stalker was captured and a mad dad ran amok. Roam the hallowed lawns of Evergreen, L.A.'s oldest cemetery and home of some memorable haunts and strange burials. Visit East L.A., where a deranged radio shop employee made mince meat of his boss and bride–and you can get your hair done in a building shaped like a giant tamale. Explore the ghastly streets of Commerce, where one small neighborhood's myriad crimes will shock and surprise. Visit Montebello, for scrumptious milk and cookies at Broguiere's Farm Fresh Dairy washed down with a horrifying case of child murder.

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. (Please note that, due to circumstances beyond our control, Crimebo the Crime Clown will not be joining us on this edition of Pasadena Confidential. The tour will contain all the same crimes and stops, but there will be no clowning around.)

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

For Richard's once-a-year birthday bus adventure, we invite you to climb aboard for a 7-hour excursion exploring some of the greatest buildings in the Southland that you've never seen–unless you go to a lot of funerals. The tour is hosted by Nathan Marsak, America's wittiest historian of mortuary architecture. Come discover the beauty, secrets and unexpected modernism of Sunnyside Long Beach (1922), Community Mausoleum Anaheim (1914), Fairhaven Santa Ana (1916) and Calvary East Los Angeles (1936). Lunch is included and much merriment will be had. Visit the tour page for more information on this one-time-only event and reserve your spot today.



  • Not much of a celebration.
  • The past is a foreign country. Cyriak shows you what's really happening at the Food Taint supermarket.
  • The Cliff May ranch house on the latest landmarking agenda (PDF link) was illegally demolished despite a stop work order. Gil Charash is a fink.
  • Cheapness will out.
  • On the dawn of a new James Ellroy quartet.
  • Save Old Torrance!
  • Crowdsourcing a Route 66 sign restoration.
  • Wither Grand Central Market?
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    Kim and Richard


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