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ESOTOURIC NEWSLETTER

June 12th, 2014

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Mezzanine angels at the Alexandria Hotel. #dtla #losangeles #history by @esotouric

Gentle Reader. . .

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Once upon a time in Los Angeles there was a funky hillside neighborhood tucked between Downtown and the River. It was the kind of place where the folks were poor but proud, where the kids walked to school across hillside paths and everyone knew each other.

When Don Normark, who died this week, stumbled upon Chavez Ravine as a teenaged photography student, he saw beauty and sadness, a timeless place that existed outside of the go-go-go Los Angeles of postwar expansion. He gained the trust of the inhabitants, and he photographed their community in the waning days before the sheriff's deputies came and dragged the ladies, kicking and spitting, off the porches they'd swept ten thousand times. He didn't even know their world was about to be ripped to pieces; he simply saw something wonderful, and preserved it in light and shadow.

Because Don Normark was there with his camera, we can see Chavez Ravine as something more than a textbook case of racial cleansing, of community sold out for big money interests, of red-baiting, broken promises, heartbreak and loss. His photographs are priceless.

This is a time of Chavez Ravines, of old places teetering on the brink of the economic knife. You might know them as Wyvernwood, Grand Central Market or El Batey No. 2. Maybe it's your apartment, or your favorite little taco joint. Chavez Ravine is everywhere.

As neighborhoods change, sometimes with lightning speed, it can be an overwhelming, sad and confused experience. So we're grateful for the Don Normarks of the world who stand firm in the midst of everything and document the moment before the deluge. But the difference between 1949 and what's happening in Los Angeles today is that everyone has a camera and the equivalent of a printing press. Gentrification is unfolding in real time, in contentious message board comment threads and angry words exchanged on the sidewalk, in hashtags and Craigslist ads and crowdfunding campaigns.

Don Normark's photographs of Chavez Ravine sat forgotten in a box for two generations, emerging when they were a nostalgic reminder of a lost world. The community members who are documenting what's happening in Boyle Heights, Downtown and Echo Park are saving something for the future, but also shaping the conversation in the present.

Whatever happens tomorrow, these gentrifying places, their people and their stories matter. The least we can do is listen. The most we can do is entirely in your hands.

We're back on the bus this Saturday, with a Pasadena Confidential crime bus tour featuring a few new stories about one of the Crown City's most colorful characters. Join us, do!

Upcoming Tours & Happenings

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.

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.

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 spirit of otherworldly creativity in Los Angeles. Speakers include Craig Berry, an initiate of Ordo Templi Orientis, who will take us on a journey through the magical world of Jack Parsons, rocket scientist and mystic. And Milt Stevens of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, which for many years met at Clifton's Cafeteria and counted Jack Parsons among its members, will take us on a guided tour of 20th Century science fiction. After the Salon, Richard Schave leads one of his free Broadway on My Mind walking tours (free, reservations required).

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.

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.

  

AND FINALLY, LINKS!

  • Patt Morrison says we need a museum of Los Angeles, and old man Lummis' Southwest is just the spot.
  • Southland theatres lay fallow. (Psst! Wanna buy one of your very own?)
  • The end of the line for the Red Car (video).
  • Whose River, exactly?
  • Some other Figueroa.
  • What a mensch; what a loss.
  • Caltrans-owned landmarks may sell, but to whom?
  • Streetcar? What streetcar? Tungsten steers the street.
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    yrs,

    Kim & Richard

    Esotouric

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