We Don’t Dig It edition





July 4th, 2014


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Historic Sycamore Inn– Rancho Cucamonga #signgeeks #signage #signporn #neon by @esotouric

Gentle Reader. . .


When our tour guests ask us what they can do to help preserve L.A.'s history, we say that it helps to stay tuned to announcements from the preservation community, and to be prepared to send letters and emails when a crisis is brewing. But an even more effective tactic is to keep their eyes open, take photos and spread the word if they ever think they've seen something historic in peril, especially something nobody else has noticed.

It was amateur historians who blew the whistle on the city's unannounced destruction of the 200-year-old Zanja Madre in Chintatown in April, and now the same thing has happened at the old Los Angeles Times building site opposite City Hall. (And if you're wondering how this story came to the attention of the mainstream media, well, it started on our Twitter feed. So clue us in to your discoveries, dear urban sleuths!)

There are some questions about what exactly has been unearthed in this latest excavation, and it may well be that little or nothing on the site is worthy of study or preservation. But wouldn't it have been better if the city had called a halt to demolition when the unusual structure came up out of the soil, announced the discovery and gave historians the opportunity to provide some context and guidance before the claw machines tore the bricks from the walls? We think so. After decades in the dirt, what's the hurry?

We're off the bus this weekend, but heading into a season packed with special tours and talks, including our once-a-year Tom Waits bus adventure and the latest LAVA crime lab seminar. So check the calendar for something that sets your bells a-ringing and join us do!

Upcoming Tours & Happenings

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.

Join LAVA in the teaching crime lab of Cal State L.A. for our quarterly forensic science seminar. This time, we'll delve into cutting edge tools for analyzing blood at crime scenes, and the mysterious science of blunt force trauma. Techniques will be illustrated through real-world crime scene case studies, presented by the scientists and investigators who were there. And your ticket purchase supports the advanced research of the Criminalistics graduate department, where CSI breakthroughs are being made.

Please join us this evening at Vroman's Bookshop in Pasadena where Kim will presenting her new 1920s mystery novel The Kept Girl, the fact-based tale of the Great Eleven cult that escaped from the bus tours where it was originally featured to become something new. Kim will read from and sign copies of her book, and talk about her research into noir Los Angeles cult murders, civic vice and the young Raymond Chandler, all of which are folded into the fluffy noir omelette of the book.

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.

Join us on this iconic, unsolved Los Angeles murder mystery tour. Our excursion begins in the historic Olive Street lobby of the Biltmore Hotel and ends in time for you to take tea and crumpets where Beth Short waited out the last hours of her freedom before walking south into hell. After multiple revisions, this is less a murder 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 reserve your spot today.

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, we celebrate the culture and horticulture of old Los Angeles, as David Boule shares wild tales of the citrus industry and Brent E. Walker delves into the secret history of our town as revealed in early Charlie Chaplin comedies. Plus! instruction in digital mapping for would-be time travelers. After the Salon, Richard Schave leads one of his free Broadway on My Mind walking tours (free, reservations required).

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.

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.



  • Chandler wrote of such things.
  • A free speech victory for tour guides in D.C.
  • A trip to Fairyland.
  • Brand Bookshop is closing.
  • Knock, knock: is Hammett still there?
  • A sly new strategy for historic preservation in L.A.
  • {C}{C}{C}{C}{C}<!–


    Kim & Richard



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