Now Just Hold Your Horses edition





May 1st, 2014


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Painter restoring Rosslyn Hotel neon sign today in #dtla. #signage #signporn #signgeeks #skidrow by @

Gentle Reader. . .

Sometimes, as historic preservationists, we have the unsettling feeling that issues that appear clear as day to us are somehow just murkier to other people.

We had that sensation in April, when news of the discovery of a large section of the seminal Zanja Madre irrigation system at a Chinatown construction site was followed by the quick announcement that a private foundation would finance the partial demolition and removal of a portion of the massive brick structure, to be incorporated into the foundation's proposed art installation.

This sounded nuts.

For one thing, what was the rush? Down at the Zanja Madre's level in the soil, there must surely be many fascinating artifacts of life in early Los Angeles. How could they be properly cataloged and collected before the pipe itself was removed?

And as for removing it–why? Yes, it's in the way of a large commercial development, but this artifact is frankly far more important than any developer's construction timetable. There are small sections of the Zanja Madre down around USC and in the State Historic Park near the L.A. River, but nothing as magnificent as what was just unearthed. The City knew such a wonder might lie beneath, and required an archeologist to be on site during construction.

Yes, doing anything unplanned costs money, but why should the first private entity to show up with an open checkbook get to decide what happens to this piece of our collective past?

Now that the treasure's been dug up, it seems to us the time for transparent public discussion of the options and possibilities, not a quick and quiet deal between politicians, city agencies and rich (if well-meaning) private entities.

Yet that's apparently what we've got. And we're troubled to report that three separate emails to the office of Councilman Gil Cedillo asking for confirmation that the Zanja Madre would be cut up and removed last Saturday went unanswered. Nonetheless, a scheduled press conference was held on the site that morning and the media invited to watch a section of the Zanja Madre ripped out of its home of two centuries.

Only then, and to our great relief, did the editorial page of The Daily News erupt with outrage. Of course the Zanja Madre ought not to be moved–to do so was to rob all Angelenos of an essential piece of the city's history, in its original context. Moving it was foolish and short-sighted, akin to placing the past in a petting zoo. The problem was compared to how Paris handled the Roman/Medieval crypt discovered near Notre Dame during renovations in the 1960s. The artifacts remain on site, and plans were changed to accommodate them.

That's what a smart, urbane metropolis does with its history. It's what Los Angeles should do. And while some damage has already been done, it's not too late to turn back the clock and do right by our Mother Ditch. She, after all, gave life to our city. Surely we can all sit down together and talk about her future.

If you agree that the Zanja Madre is too important to be treated this way, please SEND A SHORT EMAIL to Tonna Onyendu (tonna.onyendu@lacity.org), the Downtown Area Representative for the Office of the Mayor, expressing your concern. We truly believe that your voices will be heard.

But on to newer things. Also of interest is the first public meeting to discuss new signage rules for Broadway, a chance to weigh in on such important policy decisions as the preference of Neon over LEDs. We'll be there; will you?

Fond of planning ahead? Our summer calendar is filling up, with August's tours, incuding the California Culture series, now posted. You'll see them on the right.

We've got news for those of you who don't read on the Kindle device: Kim's novel The Kept Girl is no longer digitally exclusive to Amazon. Click here to order an ebook direct from Esotouric Ink, or via one of the other retail sites that are coming online.

We're on the bus on Saturday, and have room for you to join us for a demented crime bus journey deep into the heart of the San Gabriel Valley, BLOOD & DUMPLINGS. Join us, do!

Upcoming Tours & Happenings

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.

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.

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.



  • Some concrete problems.
  • Bad night at the hollowed out L.A. Times compound.
  • When the Church wants to rob a grave, it's for science.
  • Squabbling over the rights to Bukowski's anecdotes. Read the lawsuit.
  • Digging deep into the Chandler marketplace.
  • Striking out.
  • Murderabillia of the 19th Century.
  • Thieving the blues.
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    Kim & Richard


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