Prophets and Profits edition

 

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ESOTOURIC NEWSLETTER

March 7th, 2014

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St. Vincent

Gentle Reader. . .

A new term has been coined by students of urban change: hyper-gentrification.

Ordinary gentrification is well understood, the process by which established communities are churned through by the arrival of wealthy newcomers who demand tidier amenities and improved civic services. The typical narrative has young artists and gay people discovering a run-down neighborhood with cheap rents and great bones, pouring love, energy and relatively modest sums of money into renovations and small business growth, then seeing themselves priced out as the now-polished gem is "discovered" by developers, politicians and would-be Bohemians. Such gentrification leaves scars, but is a natural urban process, part of the ebb and flow of city life.

But what's happening in New York, what's happening to New York, isn't gentrification. The familiar process has been sped up so that changes that once took decades are squeezed into months, the wheels greased by policies coming down from a City Hall that was, until very recently, ruled by a billionaire who never met a REIT he didn't like.

Jeremiah Moss, a pseudonym for a prescient New Yorker who has been chronicling his city's heartbreaking losses for years, calls these policies sociopathic, and the resulting environment diseased. And we have to ask, is a New York which no longer can provide studio space to working artists truly the city that we think it is?

But one bright spot amidst all of this relentless change is that hyper-gentrification hatches dragons worth slaying. A small group of moms, bloggers and bibliophiles have rallied strong support for their unfunded campaign to halt the planned demolition and redevelopment of New York libraries, including author Jonathan Lethem's poignant plea: "great public institutions. . . can't be entrusted to the stewardship of real-estate developers, corporate synergists, media barons, and other ostensibly well-intentioned, deal-drunk one-percenters. Instead we need to tend our own commons, large and small — individual libraries, and the city itself."

In this seemingly one-sided battle, the wee Davids are finding their voice. Maybe they'll win the war yet, or build up some powerful muscles trying.

It may be too late for New York, at least the New York of memory, film and Joseph Mitchell stories. Too much has already been lost. Great cities are the sum of a billion tiny parts, dreams manifested from every corner of the earth, establishments that bear the gravity and grime of generations of practical labor, fortunes built on recipes perfected at four in the morning by driven people whose names are forgotten, hidden things, found things, the places where we connect and are transformed. Great cities are not immortal. Athens died, and Rome and Detroit. The culture moves on, art finds a foothold in another wall.

Still, great cities deserve great obituaries, and we salute Jeremiah Moss for having the stomach to chronicle the erasure of his home.

We're back on the bus next Saturday with a tour of the weird side of Pasadena, accompanied by our beloved Crimebo the Clown. This weekend, join us on Sunday for a free memorial reading celebrating Charles Bukowski, twenty years gone. Join us, do!

Upcoming Tours & Happenings

You are cordially invited to join with friends, fans and followers of Charles Bukowski on the 20th anniversary of his death for an evening of poems, toasts and memories. The evening will include readings from five notable Los Angeles poets and friends of the late writer: Dan Fante, S.A. Griffin, Suzanne Lummis, Joan Jobe Smith and Fred Voss. The location for this free event is the King Eddy Saloon, a location celebrated in the fiction of Bukowski's idol, John Fante, and located smack on The Nickel, where the young Bukowski came to learn about the world of men.

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. (Could you win a ticket? Yes, you could.)

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.

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!

  • A series of revealing guest posts on book blogs reveal the secrets of Kim's 1920s mystery The Kept Girl.
  • A behind-the-scenes tour of Union Station follows our recent expression of concern.
  • Not exactly a Hollywood ending (and good riddance to that bullying CRA).
  • A man and his linotype.
  • Proof Downey just doesn't get it: another space age relic is mothballed.
  • But in Paramount, the drive-in is coming back.
  • The curse of Chavez Ravine?
  • Hot-cha-cha, it's a Ziegfield Follies cattle call caught on film.
  • Here's a weird 'un: in-house promo ad for Fox Anaheim Halloween screening, circa 1960s. The Fox fell around 1979.
  • Sketchy non-profit shenanigans happily halted in Balboa Park.
  • Murder, spin and counterspin.
  • "I had a strange and hectic life and Bukowski told me I could write about it."-Joan Jobe Smith
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    yrs,

    Kim & Richard

    Esotouric

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