Gentle Reader. . .
It wasn't much of a story, just a little blip in the 24 hour news cycle, somewhere between the Rolling Stones' tour being cancelled and a lost Faberge Egg found. The City of Los Angeles had settled with the Vasquez family, $500,000 for the death of their baby son at the Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk.
Time was, the Art Walk was our baby. This marvelous happening, which brought the streets of Downtown to life with creativity and surprise, was weeks away from being deep-sixed when we were asked, and agreed, to take over its management on a volunteer basis. We put a board together and developed a curatorial program (you know it today as LAVA, the free side of our cultural programming) and worked with LAPD to figure out a public safety plan, because it was clear, even in 2009, that something had to give.
That something, it turned out, was us. Powerful people Downtown didn't want the Art Walk to move its center west towards Broadway, even if that was best for the event and the people attending. After almost a year of hard work, and within a couple of months of incorporating, the Art Walk's board mutinied, telling us that we couldn't steer the ship, but they'd be darn glad to have us stay on and do all the grunt work below decks.
Well, no. With regret, we shoved off in our little rowboat, and wished the good ship Art Walk well. It was seaworthy. After all, we'd prepared a chart for the years to come, and the board had agreed to steer by it.
But the chart was forgotten, and Art Walk lumbered on, moving forward through inertia, running on old goodwill until all that was left was fumes. The crowds still came, the restaurants were packed, and the smart galleries still made their rent in one night. And when a lousy driver in someone else's car lurched for a spot and onto a crowded sidewalk, it was at once utterly expected, and horribly unreal.
It wasn't much of a story, just a little blip in the 24 hour news cycle. But, to us, it was the last wheezing sigh of a beast we tried, and failed, to tame. There's no point in wondering "what if?" All we can say is that we tried, and we're sorry.
(Marcello Vasquez, R.I.P.)
We're back on the bus this Saturday with a nearly sold out Weird West Adams tour. Join us, do!
Upcoming Tours & Happenings
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.
AND FINALLY, LINKS!
Slums of old L.A. (not including, mind you, anything on Bunker Hill).
Waugh among the loved ones.
Searching for Puddles.
Fireside chats with a most morbid man.
Always read the comments. Santa Monica trailer park residents win against developers? Maybe not.
Has the real Sherlock Holmes been sleuthed? (Dunno. Make ours Marlowe.)
Backdoor deals scuttle homeless housing in a stigmatized property.
More on Skid Row and gentrification.
And one artist's response.
If these bricks could talk.
KEEP THE TAGS AS THEY ARE FOR EMPHASIS SO THE SIGN OFF IS NOT LOST
Kim & Richard