Gentle Reader. . .
A special announcement for noir fans with Kindle e-readers: Kim's book The Kept Girl is on sale at Amazon through March 17, with the price currently just $1.99. If you've been wanting to pick up this mystery of 1929 Los Angeles that was developed on our Wild Wild West Side and Raymond Chandler tours, act now — and please, pass it on!
Almost two years ago, we created a digital map of Los Angeles historic preservation crises, to help interested citizens discover issues in their communities. The preservation map is only as useful as the information we receive, and despite subscribing to hundreds of local blogs and news feeds, there remains a troubling gap in the center of the city. Landmarks may be crumbling in Huntington Park, Compton, Lynwood, Gardena, Vernon, Carson and South Gate, but you won't find them on our map.
So we were interested to see the L.A. Conservancy's updated "preservation report card" for Los Angeles County. Municipalities are rated on a numerical scale, with credit received for having a preservation ordinance or commission, Mills Act tax breaks, dedicated preservation staff and other factors.
Scanning the data, we find many unpleasant surprises — who would have thought that San Marino, home to the Huntington Gardens and so many exquisite early 20th Century mansions, would score an F?! — but also encouraging signs from cities that "get it" and are ensuring their landmarks survive into the future. Please have a look at the results, and if your community comes up lacking, tell your elected officials that preservation matters to you.
On Tuesday, we attended a lecture at USC by preservationist Ned Kaufman, who spoke about the need to adapt the language of preservation so that it doesn't alienate people who are uncomfortable with the formal terminology used by academics and government agencies. He described psychological studies of families displaced by the urban renewal campaigns of the 1960s which revealed that losing one's neighborhood can result in lifelong trauma, and shared disturbing statistics suggesting that today, four times as many people are being displaced by economic forces than are refugees from wars.
Most people who suffer displacement and lose their landmarks are poor and voiceless, and the big empty spot on the Los Angeles map, largely coinciding with the poorest parts of our city, reminds us that we need to do better, not just for our landmarks, but for each other.
We're back on the bus this Saturday with a nearly sold out tour of the weird side of Pasadena, accompanied by our beloved Crimebo the Clown. On Sunday, we'll be in the LAVA crime lab for a program on the Clark Rockefeller case, and other San Gabriel Valley crimes and mysteries that haunt reporter Frank Girardot. 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.
Join us at LAVA's latest forensic science seminar at Cal State Los Angeles hosted by Professor Donald Johnson and benefitting graduate research in Criminalistics. This program features San Gabriel Valley crime reporter and author Frank Girardot on the fascinating case of a murderous impersonator's wild ride across American high society, plus insights into the local crimes that have haunted him for years. Plus a visit to Dr. Johnson's crime reconstruction lab, where something ghastly will be on view.
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.
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.
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, historian Tom Sitton, author of The Courthouse Crowd: Los Angeles County and its Government, 1850-1950, takes us on a tour of a rogue's gallery of early L.A. politicos. Then the focus turns to 1929 Downtown and Kim Cooper's new mystery novel starring the young Raymond Chandler, The Kept Girl. Kim will discuss the process of transforming real true crime stories into fiction, and ace cover artist Paul Rogers will share how he discovers remnants of L.A. history in the landscape and turns them into contemporary illustrations.
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.
Ride along on a very pulpy path on a wide-ranging tour that digs deep into the literature, film and real life vices that inform that most murderous genre, film noir — from Double Indemnity (where Raymond Chandler's Hollywood career intersects with Cain's) to The Postman Always Rings Twice to Mildred Pierce and beyond. The tour rolls through Hollywood, Glendale and old Skid Row, lost lion farms, murderous sopranos, fascist film censors, offbeat cemeteries — all in a quest to reveal the delicious, and deeply influential, nightmares that are Cain's gift to the world.
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, in celebration of National Poetry Month, Suzanne Lummis, Cece Peri and Dale Raoul will present a series of Poem Noir readings, exploring the themes of crime, decay, anonymity, hauntings from the past and a palpable sense of place and feel unique to Los Angeles. The architectural historian Nathan Marsak, author of Los Angeles Neon, will give an illustrated talk on the revolutionary cemetery architecture of Southern California, from Garden Cemeteries to California Crazy to Modernism, and beyond.
Forget Hollywood, babe, 'cause the quintessential LA town in definitely El Monte, its history packed with noirish murders, brilliant thespians, loony Nazis, James Ellroy's naked lunch and the lion farm that MGM's celebrated kitty called home. See all this and so much more, including the Man from Mars Bandit's Waterloo, when you climb aboard the daffiest crime tour in our arsenal, and the only one that includes a dumpling picnic at a landmark playground populated with fantastical giant sea creatures!
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.
Go East, young ghoul, with our newest crime bus adventure. Come 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.
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.
- PASADENA CONFIDENTIAL (WITH CRIMEBO THE CLOWN) – Saturday, 3/15
- NAME DROPPER: INVESTIGATING THE CLARK ROCKEFELLER MYSTERY – Sunday, 3/16
- WEIRD WEST ADAMS – Saturday, 3/22
- CHARLES BUKOWSKI'S LOS ANGELES – Saturday, 3/29
- LAVA SUNDAY SALON – Sunday, 3/30
- THE REAL BLACK DAHLIA – Saturday, 4/5
- THE BIRTH OF NOIR: JAMES M. CAIN'S SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NIGHTMARE – Saturday, 4/26
- LAVA SUNDAY SALON – Sunday, 4/27
- BLOOD & DUMPLINGS CRIME BUS TOUR – Saturday, 5/3
- RAYMOND CHANDLER'S LOS ANGELES – SAT. 5/17
- EAST SIDE BABYLON – SAT. 5/31
- CRAWLING DOWN CAHUENGA: TOM WAITS' L.A. – Saturday, 7/19 (note changed date)
AND FINALLY, LINKS!
Revisiting Bukowski, 20 years on.
And the view from his memorial bash.
Free at last.
The boy who loved silents.
In search of The Sand People.
A feature on our Sunday crime lab host, Don Johnson, aka The Sultan of Spatter.
Those who pass on the rails.
They put Mattoon in the spittoon.
A bridge, but not for long.
KEEP THE TAGS AS THEY ARE FOR EMPHASIS SO THE SIGN OFF IS NOT LOST
Kim & Richard