Bus Stop Serenade edition





July 31st, 2014

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Exploring Mrs. Ince"s castle above Hollywood. #LosAngeles #architecture by @esotouric


Gentle Reader. . .


It's a thrilling time to be a social historian. New archives seem to pop up like sun-spawned mushrooms, a public utility's here, a rescue mission's there. Just when you think you know a particular pocket of the past, some magician with a digital scanner whips out a seemingly-endless silk scarf, and tweaks you on the nose with it.

This week, The Atlantic pulled our sleeve to an exciting body of newly published street photography: Matt Sweeney's work along Hollywood Boulevard, circa 1980.

A high school drop-out from up north, Sweeney came to Los Angeles hoping to join the much-publicized Zoetrope Studios internship program. As it happens, Kim was a charter member of this strange consortium, which taught little about the cinematic arts, but was a wonderful primer in how stimulants and hubris can scuttle creative ambitions.

Happily for Matt Sweeney, he didn't become a Zoetrope intern and leave disillusioned. But he did fall in love with the Boulevard, and captured its long shadows, layers of signage, street weirdoes, lurid window displays, its thriving bus stop culture and those beautiful, dapper old people who were so much a part of the city in that golden moment, before Olympic hygiene sweeps, the Northridge quake and the bulldozers of gentrification.

Unseen for thirty years, these wonderful images are being shared on Matt Sweeney's Tumblr blog. We'll be staying tuned for more dispatches from the beautiful city that was, and suggest you do the same. (And his current work is nothing to sniff at, either.)

We're back on the bus this weekend with a rare Sunday tour of the rich and strange land called South Los Angeles, a riverside flat packed with adobes, hot rods, architectural and technological innovations and the ghost of a Downey girl called Karen who had an angel's voice. Join us, do!

Upcoming Tours & Happenings

This rare Sunday tour in our California Culture series rolls through Vernon, Bell Gardens, Santa Fe Springs and Downey, and the past two centuries, exploring some of L.A.'s most seldom-seen and compelling structures. Turning the West Side-centric notion of an L.A. architecture tour on its head, the bus goes into areas not traditionally associated with the important, beautiful or significant, raising issues of preservation, adaptive reuse, hot rod kar culture and the evolution of the city.

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 Lady in the Lake and The Little Sister, discover the real Philip Marlowe (Esotouric's exclusive scoop, and the inspiration for Kim's novel The Kept Girl), and be steeped in noir LA.

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.

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.



  • Will the Herald-Examiner ever be restored? With filming income like this, not likely.
  • In memory of a California original.
  • Mr. Van Nuys hops a plane.
  • Hours of delight from our friends at the Internet Archive.
  • A sleuth in the Jungle.
  • A Bob Winter milestone (his "L.A. on a 6 Pack" class inspired our tours).
  • Cameron at MOCA, kind of.
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    Kim & Richard



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