John Fante’s Bunker Hill and Downtown Los Angeles Literary Time Machine On-demand Webinar

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Before Jack Kerouac, before Charles Bukowski, there was John Fante, author of “Ask the Dust” (1939) and three other novels featuring Downtown Los Angeles and Arturo Bandini, his outspoken, hot tempered, sentimental, ambitious and unforgettable alter ego.

Join Esotouric, L.A.’s most eclectic sightseeing tour company, for a celebration of the great L.A. novelist John Fante, and the historic neighborhoods and offbeat characters that inspired him. Our special guests are the author’s children Vickie Fante Cohen and Jim Fante, Pershing Square public artist Barbara McCarren, Fante scholar Matteo Cacco and Bunker Hill native son Gordon Pattison.

In this webinar, which includes virtual visits to many Downtown landmarks extant and demolished, we’ll hear from Vickie and Jim about growing up as John Fante’s children, and their work protecting his literary estate and archives. Barbara McCarren will walk us through her Fante-inspired Pershing Square public art installation “HeyDay” (1994), which is presently threatened by park redevelopment. Matteo Cacco will join us from Germany to talk about his academic thesis on Fante’s conflicting Italian/American identity and the importance of the Bunker Hill community to his writing. Kim and Richard will take you into the King Eddy Cellar speakeasy beneath the King Edward Hotel and show you remnants of this lowlife pleasure palace and talk about nominating the corner of Fifth and Grand—outside the Central Library where Fante read and where Charles Bukowski would discover “Ask the Dust”—as John Fante Square. And Bunker Hill native son Gordon Pattison will share his experiences growing up in that lost Victorian neighborhood, with the kinds of people who populate Fante’s fiction.

John Fante (1909-1983) was born in Denver, a first generation American profoundly affected by his attempts to reconcile his parents’ old world Italian sensibilities with his yearning to become a great American writer.

In Depression-era Los Angeles, Fante found his voice and stories worth telling, surrounded by the lost and lonely people of the Bunker Hill boarding houses, soaking in the cultural melting pot of Grand Central Market, skipping from the ancient Mexican Catholic world of the Plaza Church to the subterranean speakeasies of the Main Street sin zone, hearing the soap box orators in Pershing Square and the familiar tinkle of the organ grinder’s box. With great compassion, humor and self awareness, Fante-as-Bandini gives us an unforgettable view of a cultural outsider desperate to be something he is not, and a fascinating city that no longer exists.

“Ask The Dust” was a great American novel, and well received, but the fates toyed with Fante and cast him adrift in Hollywood, where he found success as a script doctor and author of unproduced screenplays. Still, he yearned to be a great writer. Decades later, blind and ill and living in Malibu, he went back in his head to the place where he had been so inspired and dictated “Dreams from Bunker Hill,” a final Bandini novel to his wife, the poet Joyce Smart Fante.

This webinar is an illustrated lecture packed with original research, photographs and archival material that will bring John Fante’s Bunker Hill and Downtown Los Angeles to life on your digital device. And you’ll find the look of an Esotouric webinar is a little different than your standard dry Zoom session, with lively interactive graphics courtesy of the mmhmm app.

After the presentation, Kim, Richard, Vickie, Jim, Barbara, Matteo and Gordon will answer your questions, so get ready to be a part of the show.

Can’t join in when the webinar is happening? You’ll have access to the full replay for one week. Please note: the 2-hour running time is just an estimate, and we often run long because the stories take on a life of their own. You can always come back and watch the last part of the webinar recording later.

So, tune in and discover the incredible history of Los Angeles, with the couple whose passion for the city is infectious.

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About Esotouric: As undergraduates at UC Santa Cruz, Kim Cooper and Richard Schave inexplicably hated one another on sight. (Perhaps less inexplicably, their academic advisor believed they were soul mates). A chance meeting 18 years later proved much more agreeable. Richard wooed Kim with high level library database access, with which she launched the 1947project true crime blog, highlighting a crime a day from the year of The Black Dahlia and Bugsy Siegel slayings. The popular blog’s readers demanded a tour, and then another. The tour was magical, a hothouse inspiring new ways for the by-then-newlyweds to tell the story of Los Angeles. Esotouric was born in 2007 with a calendar packed with true crime, literary, architecture and rock and roll tours. Ever since, it has provided a platform for promoting historic preservation issues (like the Save the 76 Ball campaign and the landmarking of Charles Bukowski’s bungalow), building a community of urban explorers (including dozens of free talks and tours under the umbrella of LAVA) and digging even deeper into the secret heart of the city they love.

Rights and permissions: By attending an Esotouric webinar, you acknowledge that the entirety of the presentation is copyrighted, and no portion of the video or text may be reproduced in any fashion.

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