A Friend In Need edition





May 15th, 2014

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Dutch Mill Dairy, 20320 Norwalk Blvd. Lakewood #signporn #signage #signgeeks #neon #vintage #retro by @

Gentle Reader. . .

We do most of our work Downtown, in that rich, rewarding, beautiful, weird, complicated corner of the city.

We love the fine old buildings, the way their time-scorched details surprise us when glimpsed from an unfamiliar angle, the ghost signs on their flanks, their unlikely permanence in this ephemeral place.

In the archives of Los Angeles, we find stories of the colorful characters who walked these streets before us, and whose names and lore we thrill to speak aloud. They are alive, these vanished souls. We hardly have to squint to see the old folks riding Angels Flight down from their sweltering Bunker Hill single rooms, to sit with friends under the dense trees, they too now ghosts, in Pershing Square.

And as more people come Downtown, to dine and explore and even to live, we're privileged to share the knowledge we've accumulated about this fascinating neighborhood and its varied people.

But for all its gems, Downtown is and always has been a tough place. Those pensioners coming down the hill were poor, and the poor have lived in the city's heart since it began to beat. The CRA tore down all those mansions on the hill, displaced 9000 people in the largest eminent domain action this country has ever seen. Down in the flats nearer the river, hundreds of small hotels were demolished, too. By the early 1970s, there were more parking lots than cheap places for people to live. But somehow, folks got by.

Then came crack, and a couple of economic bubbles gone bust, and a gutted mental health system, and fractured families, and gentrification, and the result of all of that is that there are more people living on the streets of Downtown Los Angeles than anyone wants to think about or knows how to handle.

This week, the city announced a few million dollars in aid, meant to provide more access to restrooms, more trash collection and places where those without a lock or a door can safely stash their stuff. It's certainly not enough, but it's a start, and we applaud any compassionate effort to improve conditions for these Angelenos who have it so rough.

But also this week, we happened upon a fascinating document, a report on transients in California during the Great Depression. The section on Los Angeles describes an almost unrecognizable Downtown.

That Downtown, too, was teeming with needy folks, hungry, dirty, sick, frightened and alone. But their options for comfort and care were comparatively vast, including all-night movie theaters that doubled as shelters and sprawling car camps covering the hills. There were missions, too, with beds for those who asked, or a few bucks given so a person could book a room. The only people sleeping on the street during those brutally hard times were drunks who'd soon be scooped up for County road crews.

We don't claim to have all the answers for "fixing" 21st Century Skid Row, though building more affordable housing is certainly high on any list. But we think looking backwards can reveal a great deal, about the problems that keep raising their heads in our city by the sea, what's worked and what hasn't, and what has yet to be tried.

We're back on the bus this weekend with RAYMOND CHANDLER'S LOS ANGELES, and a stop at Scoops gelato for moody flavors inspired by the master. Join us, do!

Upcoming Tours & Happenings

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.

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 devote the entire Salon program to the theme of Electronic Music and Circuit Bending, the intentional creative mis-use of electronic devices intended as children's playthings, presented by Andy Ben, Jeff Boynton and Mona Jean Cedar. Plus, Fanny Daubigny with an interlude on translator Louise Varese and her work with 19th century French poetry.

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.

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.

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.



  • Book people, all gone.
  • Gacy's place.
  • The Times says YES to historic preservation.
  • He Man Book Lovers' Club.
  • Survey L.A. on the national radar, where they think Hancock Park was founded by Eastern European immigrants.
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    Kim & Richard


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